It is called many things: Some call it the Eucharist; some call it “mass”; some call it “Holy Communion.” The Bible called it the “Feast of Love.” Others just call it the Lord’s table. Whatever you call it, we would all admit that it may seem a little curious. So as we, on this Palm Sunday, celebrate the heart of the Christian faith, I want to take some time to explain what all of this means.
You may say, “Great, Rusty, but I already know what it means,” and I am sure that may be true with many of you. Or you might say, “I didn’t come here for an education, I came here to worship.” Well, I understant that too, but I really encourage you to listen this morning.
You see, this whole experience is meant to be life changing. Celebrating communion and really understanding what it means can do some wonderful things in your life. Yes, it can! It can open your eyes to who your really are. It’s impossible to consider the great sacrifice of Christ without getting a glimpse of yourself. Some of us really need that in our lives. We’ve been lying to ourselves about what’s going on in our hearts, then wondering why we can’t get things together. I’ll tell you why: It’s because you’re really not in touch with yourself the way God sees you. Communion can be an eye-opening experience.
And it doesn’t just open your eyes. Communion can open your heart to what Christ freely offers. You may have arrived here today knowing that forgiveness is a major issue in your life. Whether you need to forgive or be forgiven, connecting with Christ through communion becomes a catalyst to release forgiveness into your life.
And it doesn’t just open your eyes to who you really are and open your heart to what He freely offers, Communion can also open your will to where He powerfully leads. These next few moments could really launch your life in a totally new direction if you are willing to grasp what’s about to happen here and what this signifies.
So this curious little ceremony with the bread and the juice can really be powerful. How? How can what we are about to do change your life? Well, it can happen when you understand three things this teaches you about God. In the first place, Communion teaches us that
DIV 1: THE HOLINESS OF GOD DEMANDS PERFECTION
When I was a child, my father was an all-consuming presence in my life. For one thing, I knew he loved me completely. I never had any doubt of that. In fact, I understood that he loved me too much to let me get away with anything. In fact, my dad didn’t even have to speak to me to correct me. Anybody else have dads like that? All you needed to straighten you out was . . . “The look.” Now, if things ever went beyond “the Look” I was about to get it. If Dad had to actually speak to me, I was probably already in trouble. To be honest, I never even remember him having to speak to me twice. If he called me, and I didn’t come, O my goodness! I don’t even know what would have happened because I never remember that even happening!
Now as strong as my Dad was and as much as I respect him, I must tell you that God is much stronger. God is more just. God is more loving. God certainly has more authority. I don’t know if God looks at us the way my Dad used to look at me and correct me, but I certainly know that He speaks. When God says something once, that’s enough! God never has to repeat Himself. What He says, goes.
Yet, there are times when God does repeat Himself. To get through to our thick brains and to jar our wills He might say something twice. When Jesus was here on this earth, there were times when He would use a curious phrase. In your KJV Bible it is “Verily, Verily.” If you read it in an NIV, it reads “Truly, Truly, I say unto you.” When Jesus said that, He was saying what I am about to tell you is very very important. Write it down and underline it in red. Type it into your blackberry. Put it at the top of your to do list. This is very important.
Saying it once is all God needs to do. Saying it twice means that we had better always remember and never, ever forget it. But there’s only one thing that gets said three times in regard to God. There’s only one characteristic of God that gets so emphasized. You find it in Isaiah 6. There, Isaiah is given a glimpse of the living God and the angels who announce Him do not say, “Holy is the Lord;” They do not say, “Holy, Holy is the Lord.” They say that the Lord is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” They raise it to the third degree and by that they tell us that of all the things God is, the one characteristic that towers above everything else is this one: God is Holy, Holy, Holy! You see, Holiness is a Person. God is holy.
But holiness is also a Place. On the screen you see something you may or may not recognize. It is a replica of the Jewish temple. The temple contained three sections: There was the courtyard where the people would gather to worship. There was the Holy Place where the priest went to carry on the duties of worship. Then there was the Holy of Holies, or, as the book of Hebrews renders it, “the Holiest of All.” In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat. It was here where God, the Father, manifested Himself to the Jewish people. It was the physical place of God’s dwelling on this earth.
So get this straight: The temple was God’s physical dwelling place on earth. If you were to commune with God, you had to come here. But there was something rather curious about this temple. Hebrews 9:6-7 explains it. “Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year . . .”
That’s kind of weird, don’t you think. Here you have the place where the physical presence of God on the earth was, but only one person, the High Priest, could ever go in there, and he could only go in once per year. Why? Well, it’s because not only is holiness a person and not only is holiness a place,
Holiness also presented a problem. Separating the Most holy place from the rest of the temple was a veil or a curtain, if you will. (Show pic) This curtain was huge. Not only was it tall, but the bible teaches that it was woven together with several pieces of cloth until it was 3 inches thick. Wow! Now God had given the instructions to Moses about how to make that curtain, so it was obvious that he was serious about separating Himself from man. Why? Well, it was because of His Holiness and it was because of our sin.
You remember the story: Adam and Eve were given the choice in the garden. They could follow God and receive blessing. They could follow God and have intimate communion with Him every day. There was no three-inch curtain separating them. They walked together, the Bible says, in the cool of the day. But Adam and Eve chose to follow their own way. They did what God said not to do. They rebelled and the curtain went up. And it’s been up ever since. No contact. No communion. No intimacy. No fellowship. Why not? Because the holiness of God demanded perfection. And not only did the holiness of God demand perfection, but because of His holiness and man’s sin,
DIV 2: THE JUSTICE OF GOD DEMANDED JUDGMENT
Look back at Hebrews 9:6 again. It says,
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;
Will you notice that the High Priest never went into the Holy of Holies without a companion. It says he went in once a year, not without blood. Why not? Because the blood was shed to appease the wrath of God against sin. To have come in without blood would have meant that he would have incurred the wrath of God.
But v 9 goes on to say something about the blood that the High Priest took into the Most Holy place. It says that the blood the High Priest took into the Most Holy place
was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience.
That sacrifice of blood only symbolized what was to come. And what was it that was to come?
Look at v 11:
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
The old sacrifice which was only symbolic was replaced with the new sacrifice because the physical blood of bulls and goats could not forgive your sin and make you holy. What the old could not do, Jesus did by His sacrifice. V12 says that His sacrifice was personal. It was not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place. It was personal.
And it was permanent. Notice that with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all. And notice that this personal, permanent sacrifice was powerful: It obtained eternal redemption. Hey Christian, that should make you shout! If you’ve not yet trusted Christ, today and you’re here, weighed down by guilt, that should give you hope. This sacrifice was personal and permanent and powerful. Just what do I mean when I say it was powerful?
Well, please listen carefully. When I say that Christ’s sacrifice was powerful, I mean that it erases your sinful guilt. VV 13 and 14 say
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
I tell you, that is what many of us need today! We need to be cleansed from dead works! All your life you’ve known that you didn’t measure up. All your life, you’ve carried around a vague awareness that you really didn’t want to face God like you were. You tried to rationalize your guilt away by comparing yourself to others who were worse than you, but it doesn’t work. If you died right there where you sit, you know that you would not want to face God with what you have on your conscience. You need to have your conscience cleansed from dead works. That’s the power of His sacrifice.
And this sacrifice also brings eternal life. Verse 15 says:
And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
When Jesus stretched His arms out on that cross and died for you, He opened up a way for you to be with God forever. The same hands that took the nails are the same hands that open the gates to heaven for you. Because of His sacrifice, an eternal inheritance waits for those who trust Him.
O, but don’t miss this last one. This sacrifice erases sinful guilt and brings eternal life, but here’s the greatest thing it brings. You see it brings intimate access. If you go over to Heb 10:19, you read:
Therefore, brethren, (in other words because Jesus sacrificed Himself and has entered the Holy of holies to appease once and for all the wrath of God). Therefore having boldness to enter the Holiest (what does it mean when it says the “Holiest”? It means that we, you and me are able to enter the Holy of Holies) by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
And, my friend, that’s why the Bible says in Matt 27:50: And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; Before God was judging us; now God is accepting us. Before, we couldn’t even enter the temple; now we can come right into His intimate presence. Before, God and I were not on speaking terms, but now I can come boldly into His presence, by the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice erases my sinful guilt. His sacrifice brings eternal life. His sacrifice brings initmate access.
Where are you this morning? Are you and God on speaking terms? Are you living in the Most Holy Place, or are you so far away from God that don’t even know if He’s alive? Are you carrying around a guilty conscience over something you’ve done? Are you a Christian who’s out of fellowship with Jesus? Maybe you’re not a follower of Christ this morning and you’re carrying around a crushing load of guilt.
That was the case with Sarah. You see, Sarah was rich – very, very rich. Not only was her income a thousand dollars a day, but she had inherited twenty million. That's not bad?especially in the late 1800s. By today's standards, she could have been a billionaire. She was well known in high society. Just mention her name and everyone knew her. She was invited to every social event or party. And she had power. Her name opened doors and opportunities. She was sought after by boards, lenders, politicians. They wanted her support and money.
Sarah had it all?including misery. Her only child died at five weeks, and then her husband. Two losses, two potential crises. She was alone. She had her name, her memories, and her money. There was something else she had as well—quiet. To get away, she moved from Connecticut to San Jose, California.
She purchased an eight-room farmhouse as well as the adjoining 160 acres. But then a strange thing happened. She hired sixteen carpenters to work on her house, 24 hours a day, every day, for the next 38 years. The layout of the house, to put it in today's vernacular, was weird. Each window had 13 panes, each wall 13 panels, each closet 13 hooks and each chandelier 13 globes.
The floor plan was bizarre. Corridors were put in at random. Some led nowhere. A set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door, and one door opened to a blank wall. There were tunnels, trap-doors and secret passageways. The work on this mysterious mansion finally came to a halt when it covered six acres and had the following features: 6 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 40 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 467 doors, 10,000 windows, 160 rooms, and 1 bell tower.
What would drive a wealthy woman to become so eccentric, so driven, so compulsive? After all, she didn't need what she built. She lived alone. Or did she? A legend evolved that said Sarah Winchester had "visitors" every night. The story goes that a servant would go to the bell tower at night via a secret passage and ring the bell. Sarah would then go into the "blue room," which was reserved for her and her guests, and stay there until 2:00 A.M. Then the bell would once again ring and the visitors would depart, and Sarah Winchester would go to her room.
The visitors? They were ghosts. Now you understand I don’t believe in ghosts, but this is what the legend said. These ghosts were United States soldiers killed on the United States frontier. They were slain Indians torn apart by the bullets that struck them. Both soldiers and Indians were killed by that new invention, the repeating Winchester rifle. You see, Sarah was Sarah Winchester. The Heiress who inherited the Winchester fortune, but who was so stricken with guilt that every night she had to host all those whose death had given her family millions of dollars.
And some of us can identify with Sarah. We carry around the guilt of our sin and I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that what you’ve done wrong doesn’t matter. It does. It matters very much to God. It matters so much that He has excluded you from His presence. And what you need more than anything is to know this great forgiveness He offers through His powerful sacrifice. Wouldn’t you like to receive that right now?
PRAYER - SINNER’S PRAYER
COMMUNION - BREAD - SONG - THE GOSPEL SONG
DIV 3: THE POWER OF GOD PROVIDES CHANGE
When Jesus finished serving the bread to His disciples, He took the cup and, when He introduced it to them, He said something that sounds a little strange to us. He said: Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” He calls it the “blood of the New Covenant.”
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus, by that statement, meant to connect this ceremony to what the prophet, Jeremiah, had said. You remember the story. Jeremiah was the prophet who had prophesied that Israel would go into captivity for their sin, but even in the middle of his dire prediction, he includes this word of hope:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.
Jesus refers to that covenant and says this. “You may have wondered how this was going to happen; you may have wondered how your heart can be changed. You’ve been struggling to do the right thing on your own, but you find it very hard. The New Covenant promises that all of this is going to change. How is it going to change? Through the blood of Christ. He says, “This is My blood of the new covenant.” When I come to Jesus and I really get to know Him, my heart changes and something happens.
In the first place, I receive a new obedience that comes from desire. The promise is that God is going to write His laws, not on tablets of stone but on our hearts. We’re going to obey because we want to obey. He is writing His law on our hearts. Obedience is possible because, where I used to want to rebel, now I want to obey. I have a new obedience that comes from desire.
And I have a new intimacy that comes from forgiveness. He says He will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts, and then, He will be our God and we will be His people. But wait a minute, I thought Israel was already the people of God. They were called by His name, yes. They were obligated by their nationality, yes. But this goes beyond an obligation to a motivation. Through the blood of Christ and the forgiveness that it brings, we are regenerated and turned into people who can love Christ from the heart. I have a new intimacy that comes from forgiveness.
And I have a new knowledge that comes from fellowship. It says that None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. As I am able to obey because of a new desire and as I develop initmacy with God through the forgiveness I receive I really get to know Him. I don’t just know the law of God to quote, I truly believe it in my heart because I truly know Him and love Him.
You can sum it up like this: My life changes. It is not a change that is forced from the outside, it’s a change that is motivated from the inside. God writes His law on my heart.
And, you see, this is what Communion is all about. Communion is not about us getting together to have a solemn ceremony. It’s much more than that. It’s not even just about us remembering an historical event that happened thousands of years ago. It’s a lot more than that! Communion is a celebration of the sacrifice of Christ that truly and completely changes your life.
I know that might seem a little incredible to you. I know when I tell you that Jesus Christ can change your life, you may doubt a bit. You might ask, “How can a man who lived 2000 years ago do anything for me. Well, I tell you it’s because of Who that man was and what that man did.
You see, This man died for you. He was bruised to bring your healing! He was pierced to ease your pain! He was persecuted to bring you freedom! He died to bring you life! He rose to bring you power and He reigns to bring you Peace! I know the world doesn’t understand him, but their armies can’t defeat Him,The schools can’t explain Him, and the leaders can’t ignore Him.Herod couldn’t kill Him, The Pharisees couldn’t confuse Him, and The people couldn’t hold Him! Nero couldn’t crush Him, Hitler couldn’t silence Him,The New Age can’t replace Him, and Oprah can’t explain Him away! He is my Redeemer,He is my Savior, He is my guide, and He is my peace! He is my Joy,He is my comfort,He is my Lord, and He rules my life! I serve Him because His bond is love, His burden is light, and His goal for me is abundant life. His goal is a relationship with ME! He will never leave me, Never forsake me, Never mislead me, Never forget me, Never overlook me, and Never cancel my appointment in His appointment book! When I fall, He lifts me up! When I fail, He forgives! When I am weak, He is strong! When I am lost, He is the way! When I am afraid, He is my courage! When I stumble, He steadies me! When I am hurt, He heals me! When I am broken, He mends me! When I am blind, He leads me! When I am hungry, He feeds me! When I face trials, He is with me! When I face persecution, He shields me! When I face problems, He comforts me! When I face loss, He provides for me! When I face Death, He carries me Home! He is everything for everybody, everywhere, Every time, and every way.
His blood has ransomed me from my bondage to Satan
His blood has redeemed me from an eternity in hell
His blood has rescued me from the power of sin
His blood has restored me to a life of meaning
His blood has revitalized me with the joy of living
His blood has reopened the way into the presence of God
And on that day when I stand before Him and my accuser begins to remind God of all my rebellion, and my sins and my failures. I will simply say, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. I embrace His cross and I plead His blood!”