1 Corinthians 11:16-34

 

Some of our most meaningful moments in life centers around food. Every culture doesn’t just eat it for sustenance but uses it as a means of celebration and community.

In my own culture:

Thanksgiving is about family getting together, but it isn’t thanksgiving until the turkey is served.

Birthdays are about celebrating a person turning a year older, but what is a birthday without a birthday cake.

In China:

Food is such a part of the culture that most weddings are held in restaurants.

When you think of Chinese New Year you think of dumplings.

When you think of Dragon boat festival you think of ZongZi.

When you think of Lantern Festival you think of TangYuan.

When Mid-Autumn Festival comes around stores will be flooded with mooncake

We see the importance of food all throughout the Bible:

The Passover Celebration is centered around a meal. Three items are placed in the ark of the covenant to remember God’s provision in the desert, and one of the three items was food. The description of the promise land involves food, a land flowing with milk and honey. The story of the prodigal son ends with a meal. The fall itself has at the heart of the story, food. Jesus’ first miracle centers around a wedding feast. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, involves food.

Food signifies fellowship and community, so it makes sense that Jesus would set before the church a regular food practice. City Church celebrates this event every month, in fact we will celebrate it next week.

This morning we are back in 1 Corinthians. We start a new series entitled: United. From here till the end of the book Paul will speak to the church about what their gatherings should look like. When you are united for worship, what do you do? How do you do it? And most importantly, why do you do it.

This morning we look at being united at the Table of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:23 

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

When we unite at the table it is:

1. A Time of Thanksgiving – v. 23-24

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

There are a lot of words we use to describe this act. Communion, The breaking of bread, The Lord’s Table, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist. That last word is from the Greek…When Jesus had Eucharisteo Eucharist (εὐχαριστέω)when he had given thanks – he broke it.

Depending on what tradition you come from, communion might be a somber experience, where you sit in silence and contemplate your sins. And there’s certainly a place for that, but the meal that Jesus gives us is much more than just that. When your family or friends gather together for a meal is it a time of somber contemplation or joyful communion? Is it a time of mourning or laughter? Your meals are usually expressions of joy.

This meal is also a time of joy, of celebration, of thanksgiving. There should be rejoicing from the body when we unite around the table of the Lord. For He has done great things for us. Even when we don’t feel like rejoicing, even when we are sorrowful, even when life is unbearable, when we gather around the table, with friends who love us and support us, with a Savior who sacrificed his life for us that we might have abundant life, we can’t help give thanks.

A. Consider the Occasion of Jesus’ giving thanks – (it was the night of betrayal) – The bread Jesus would soon give to Judas, his betrayer, who will dip into the same cup of Jesus; the bread that Peter would partake of, Peter the one who would soon deny him; the bread given to everyone around the table who would soon run away in fear; the bread that signifies his body that would soon be tied up, beaten, bruised, mocked, and ultimately crucified, this is the bread that Jesus doesn’t just bless but looks up to the Lord and in that moment is able to say, “Thank you.”

Joy and thankfulness transcend our circumstances. The table has a calming effect upon God’s people. Though the world sways in uncertainty the Lord is is stable. Though life is sour, there is sweetness at the table. Though the whole world forsake us, we are not forgotten by God. So come to the table and receive joy by recounting his wondrous deeds. Because that’s really what thanksgiving is, a recounting of the blessings bestowed upon us.

The table brings joy because when we are united at the table it is:

2. A Time of Remembrance – v. 24-25

24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

What are we to remember? His death? Certainly, but it’s more than just that. We are to remember the totality of Jesus’ life. We are to remember ALL that He has done for us.

During Passover, and it was during a Passover meal that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Jews would give thanks through an act called, Da-ye-nu (It would have been enough). So they would sing:

If the Lord had merely rescued us, but hadn’t judged our enemies

It would have been enough

If He had only destroyed their gods, but had not parted the Red Sea

It would have been enough

If He had only drowned our enemies, but had not fed us with manna

It would have been enough

If He had only led us through the desert, but had not given us the Sabbath

It would have been enough

If He had only given us the Commandments, but not the land of Israel

It would have been enough

The point to the Da-ye-nu is that God has given us more than we could ever hope or imagine.

He has rescued us not from slavery to some Egyptian, but from sin.

He has judged not some Egyptian god, but the god behind their god (Satan)

he has drowned not only chariots and rides in the sea, but our old self was drown in baptism and a new creation has been raised.

He has given us more than manna to feed our body, but Jesus, the true manna come from heaven to feed our soul.

He has and continues to lead us not just for forty years, but for as long as we shall live he leads us through the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.

He has given us the true Sabbath, eternal salvation, in which we rest in the work of Jesus on the cross

He has not only given us the commandments, but Jesus has come and kept the commandments on our behalf..

And He has promised not just a parcel of land on earth, but has given us heaven itself as His Kingdom invades earth and promises to one day be with us forever.

And we recount this and give thanks for this.

When we come to the table we hold two elements in our hands, bread and wine, these physical elements are meant to remind us of the physical historical reality of Jesus.

There are two ways of remembering. We can remember facts and figures and dates as if we are answering a history test, or we can enter into that past moment and experience afresh (right now) something that took place in the past. Have you ever had a smell or a taste or a song transport you back in time and conjure up not a memory, but an emotion?

When God calls His people to remember it is more than a mental exercise of recalling facts. To remember means to enter into a past event that, though you were not there, you were involved in and participated in it.

Passover was remembered by people who never left Egypt but the Bible says their story is your story. It’s you crossing the sea, it’s you hearing the law read, it’s you painting the blood on the door and in faith waiting.

When you take up the bread and the cup you are entering into the story of God. You are becoming an eyewitness to:

His incarnation –

You’re holding the bread. Jesus is the true bread come from heaven. The eternal God wraps himself in flesh, steps into our world, and walks among us. And in this moment we feel him, we touch him, we behold him.

[John 6:32-33 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”]

When you take up the bread and the cup you are becoming an eyewitness to:

His miracles and compassion

You’re holding the bread, the body. It was the body of Jesus that opened blind eyes, raised the dead to life, embraced those who were outcast and hadn’t experienced physical touch in years. It was this Jesus who looks with compassion on a hungry crowd and refuses to send them away hungry.

[Matthew 15:32 – “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”]

He is unwilling to send you away hungry. He is unwilling that you faint so he gives you himself to nourish and sustain your soul. This is what he does with us each time we come to the table.

When you take up the bread and the cup you are becoming an eyewitness to:

His sinlessness

The unleaven bread in your hand represents the sinless Christ who though tempted in every way never succumbed to temptation. This is why there’s hope at the table. Jesus was not mere man, he was sinless man, fulfilling on your behalf what you could never accomplish – the righteous requirements of the law. When you partake of the bread and the wine the Lord Himself is removing the leaven from you, removing the leaven from us.

[1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.]

When you take up the bread and the cup you are becoming an eyewitness to:

His teachings

You hold the bread, His body…that body which went around not just doing, but teaching and when we come to the table we come to remember his words. We come to hear from Him, for His words are life.

[John 6:35, 63 “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.]

When you take up the bread and the cup you are becoming an eyewitness to:

A New Covenant

You hold in your hand the wine, the blood of Jesus. It’s new wine…Jesus calls it a NEW Covenant. The Old Covenant was written on stone (the two tablets of the ten commandments) and the people couldn’t keep it the people didn’t have the heart to keep it, but the blood that we partake of is a covenant not written on stone, but on our hearts. He’s put His law not out here for us to look at, but in here for us to be.

[Luke 5:38 – But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Jeremiah 31:31-33

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.]

Thirdly, When we are united around the table it is

3. A Time of Proclamation – v. 26

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Lord has given the church two ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s supper. In Baptism you are proclaiming, “I Believe.” When you come to the Lord’s Table you are proclaiming, “I still believe.”

Recently one of our small group leaders wrote me and said, “many times I have to rethink what the cross has bought for me so as not to allow the enemy to play with my (mind and) life.”

This is why we so often come to the table. We are preaching and proclaiming to ourselves what the cross has done for us!

[A. Something Done – The Lord’s Death]

v. 26 says you proclaim the Lord’s death.

Jesus has died, there is therefore now no more condemnation. Jesus has died, guilt has been removed. Jesus has died, I can now boldly approach the throne of grace.

But remember the table isn’t just about you, it’s about us! In other words, you don’t just proclaim to yourself, but you proclaim to one another. This is where English fails us a bit. When Paul says you proclaim the Lord’s death, the Greek doesn’t say, “you…alone, by yourself, singular.” The Greek says, “you..plural, together, united, It’s given for you ALL…and you ALL proclaim to one another”

When you partake of the Lord’s Supper, yes, you proclaim something to yourself, but you also proclaim something to your neighbor. When you take the cup and the bread you are testifying to the goodness of God. You are testifying that following Jesus is worth it. You are testifying that He is the treasure you’re after. And your testimony is used by God to encourage your weak brothers and sisters.

So take up the elements and proclaim to yourself, he is worthy, proclaim to your neighbor, he is worthy. Proclaim His death.

But you’re not just proclaiming his death, but:

[B. Something to Come – Until He Comes]

the verse says, you proclaim his death until he comes.

Your proclamation is an anticipation of something.

As you proclaimed Jesus has died, You also proclaim Jesus will return. Each time you partake you are saying, though I die I will rise again. You’re holding the fruit of the vine in your hand, the sign of spring. Yes

there is the reality of winter

when fruit and flowers die,

but spring is coming soon

and I will not in the grave forever lie.

When spring arrives it resurrects that which was dead!

Here is how Luke records the meal: “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17,18).

Jesus is looking forward to the day when we all will sit at the table together and eat and drink in the New Kingdom. The traditional way to end a Passover meal is, “Next year in Jerusalem.” The Jews long for the day when the temple is rebuilt and they can celebrate Passover in the holy city with the holy temple.

Our family celebrates Passover every year, this is how we end the Passover: “Next year in New Jerusalem.” The true temple was destroyed, as predicted, and the true temple was rebuilt, as predicted, after three days. And that true temple made one other prediction/promise, that, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:3

This is our hope, this is what we long for, this is what we proclaim when we partake of the bread and wine. One day we will do this face to face with Jesus.

This is an ancient prayer, the early church’s cry at the Supper was, “Marantha” – “Our Lord, come.”

4. A Time of Examination – v. 27-28

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

To examine oneself speaks of the testing of metals, not to see how pure it is, but to see if it is genuine.

A diamond is a diamond regardless of the cut, clarity, or color. There’s gold and there’s fool’s gold, one’s gold, the other is not. 18 karat gold is gold. 10 karat gold is gold. 8 karat gold is gold.

When you come to the table and examine yourself it isn’t to see how good of a Christian are you, it’s to see that you are a Christian. That’s the examining that must first take place. Is this what I truly believe?

There are a great many people who think, “I’m not worthy to take the Lord’s Supper,” and so they they let the elements pass them by. The reality is that we are all unworthy to take the elements. The Scriptures don’t say, an unworthy person but an unworthy manner. Your faith may be weak, but it’s still faith, and “Faith, even if imperfect, makes the unworthy worthy1

There’s a story about the Scottish minister John Rabbi Duncan – that as he was administering the Lord’s Supper a woman came to the table weeping, convinced that she could not come to the Supper because of her sins, to which John Duncan set the plate with the bread under her nose and said to her, ‘Take it! It’s for sinners!

Pope Francis once wrote, “I would point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’”

Something powerful happens when we partake. When you eat of the bread and drink of the cup you are hearing the words of Jesus, “You’re forgiven.”

But there is an unworthy manner…It’s for sinners, but it’s for repentant sinners. Paul’s complaint was that they would partake of the meal which declares unity and oneness in Christ, but they weren’t united. They proclaimed his death with their mouths…but not their lives.

If you come to the table in sin the Lord Jesus stands before you compelling you to repent, compelling you to take and eat in faith. Jesus made a practice of sitting and eating with sinners, He doesn’t change his practice at this table, He still dines with sinners and as He dines with you He is transforming you. It was at a meal with Jesus that Zacchaeus said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

It was a meal with Jesus that changed his heart. This meal can have the same effect. It can restore relationship. It can renew faith. It can turn your heart away from some lesser god that has been biding for your affection.

Conclusion:

I began by talking about how much culture and the Bible centers around food, so much so that one of the first encounters with humans involves food.

In the garden Satan said to Eve..take and eat. This brought death.

In communion we have a picture of the cross and at the cross we see the reversal of Eden.

As we come to the table Jesus says to us… take, eat. And this brings life.

It is in this continual act that we are constantly reorienting our desires, reapplying the work of Christ, re-calibrating our heart, that that work of Christ might expand our love for Him and for one another.

So next week come ready to experiences the fullness of the meaning behind the meal.

1John Calvin

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