By Pastor Glenn Pease
Basil Matthews tells of being in a little Arabian village and seeing a tall Arab boy playing a flute in the dusty streets. He was surprised and asked the boy if he could examine the instrument. He discovered it was made out of an old gun barrel. The boy had found it on a nearby battlefield. He had filed it down, drilled holes in it, and out of a weapon designed to inflict misery he created a instrument of music.
Creative people are always taking something worthless and turning it into something worthwhile. Many can take trash and junk and turn it into trinkets and jewelry. No one can match the creative ingenuity of Jesus, however. He can even make a mountain out of a molehill. We are using an old cliche in a positive way when we say this, for we mean that He can take something minor and minute and turn it into something major and magnificent.
Ordinarily this saying is used as a negative remark about those who turn trifles into tragedies, and who exaggerate minor miseries into monstrous malignancies. Every gas bubble is made into a bleeding ulcer; every minor pain is the onset of cancer; every storm is expected to be a rerun of Noah and the Ark. The worry wort and the hypochondriac are experts at making mountains out of molehills, but very few can persuade themselves to appreciate this awesome ability because it is all negative. There is a positive side to this cliche, however. G. K. Chesterton points out that if you can see the tremendous in trifles, and find wonder in the commonplace, then you are making mountains out of molehills, and he can think of no more productive form of manufacture.
When we look at the life of Jesus we discover He was a Master at making mountains out of molehills. He was always finding the sublime in that which was simple. He used the insignificant over and over for the basis of inspiration. A poet put it-
He saw the world in a grain of sand,
and Heaven in a wild flower,
Held infinity in the palm of His hand
and Eternity in an hour.
You will search the Scripture in vain to find Jesus speaking of the 7 wonders of the world. The common people heard Him gladly because He spoke of commonplace things. All of His illustrations were from everyday life that all men were familiar with. He spoke of the birds of the air; the lilies of the field; the grain white unto harvest; the sheep and the shepherd, the fishermen and his nets, women baking, men plowing, and all the commonplace facts of life. Ninety nine per cent of all Jesus said was plain bread and butter talk. When He came to the last night of His life in the flesh He did not change His life style. In fact, if it is possible, He specialized even more in life's commonplace basics. He took a towel and a basin of water to wash His disciples feet, and that is about as commonplace and down to earth as you can get. Now we want to examine His instituting the memorial by which His church will remember Him all through history, and again we see His love for simplicity.
He does not leave to his church some elaborate ceremony with complex ritual that only the well trained could participate in, but instead he takes a cup and he takes bread. Cup and bread, no big deal. The lowliest peasant has a cup and some bread. The condemned prisoner in the dungeon has his cup and bread. What kind of memorial is this for a king? Look at the Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln memorials, and then you will see honor. For Jesus there should be a crown with glorious jewels, and a long shiny jewel-studded sword, or at least something that is lasting. Anything but a perishable piece of bread that can be thrown to a dog, or left to mold and decay in a day.
What madness is this? A king whose hand can grasp the constellations, and he takes a cup. A Master whose marvels and miracles could astound the world, and he takes a piece of bread as the basis for his memorial. Where would the Pharaohs be today if they had taken a piece of bread and a cup instead of building the majestic pyramids? They would have been forgotten completely. Jesus does not want His disciples to forget Him either, but He does not insure their remembrance with anything elaborate or complex. If He can build a perpetual memorial to His name out of these commonplace things, then He is making a mountain out of molehill, and turning the trivial into the tremendous.
The fact that we are here today ready to obey His request to do this in remembrance of Him, proves that He was successful in making the simple sublime. Joy Romans wrote,
Tuck me in a cozy shanty,
In some unique, secluded place.
Wind a lane, all twisty slanty,
Up to her unpainted humble face.
Happiness comes to those it seems,
Who seek out truth, in simple things.
We want to seek out truth in simple things by examining the significance of the bread and cup, these mere molehills which Jesus used to make a mountainous memorial.
I. THE BREAD.
Here is the ultimate in the commonplace. It is the universal food, and just because of that, it is an excellent symbol of life and what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. The cross becomes a source of life for all men who will look to the Christ of the cross who is the bread of life. In John chapter 6 the word bread is used 16 times. Jesus makes it clear, as He compares Himself with the manna of the Old Testament, that He is the true bread of God from heaven. He is the living bread that can nourish, sustain, and give growth and life in the wilderness of this world.
The bread of communion is to be a reminder that Jesus is the Resource for living. When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," it is a request, not just for the physical bread, but for the soul food supplied in Christ. Jesus was frequently engaged in making a mountain of blessing out of a molehill of bread. Some of the greatest miracles He performed were miracles with bread. He fed the 5000, and again the 4000 by the multiplying of bread. Bread was thereby made to represent His all-sufficiency in supplying our needs. Jesus was not the cake of life, but the bread of life. He has such a love for bread, and such a unique method of handling it, and giving thanks for it, that the two He met on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus after His resurrection until He broke the bread. When they saw Him breaking bread they suddenly were enlightened. Why should bread and the Lord be linked so closely so that even when we look back to the cross Jesus asks us to use bread as a reminder?
In spite of the fact that bread is very perishable, it is an ideal symbol of the Lord who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Times change, and a ceremony with meaning in one age can become completely meaningless in another. Had Jesus made foot washing the basis for His memorial, for example, the changing times would have made it irrelevant. It was a custom when sandals were worn by those who walked on dusty roads and needed their feet washed when they entered a home to eat. This is no longer the case. Jesus selected the eating of bread because He knew that for as long as history lasted, and however radical the changes of culture, every man on the face of the earth would be an eater of bread. Jesus selected the commonplace of bread for His memorial because it would be lasting and universal.
When we begin to emphasize the unique and complex, as theologians often do, we tend to make Christ exclusive and available only to the few. Jesus purposely majored on the commonplace so as to be inclusive, and to make it clear He is available to all men who will receive Him. Jesus and His life giving power are as available as bread. Someone has said, "Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he can get bread." The Gospel is really that simple. When we begin to ignore the insignificant and become careless about the commonplace, we will find ourselves fumbling with the fundamentals.
Everything connected with the Gospel is basic, simple, and appeals to the common man. A mountain top experience with Christ demands nothing that is not available to every man. Jesus was a carpenter by trade, for a carpenter deals in wood, and wood is universal. It is the common material available to most all men. From the wood of His crib to the wood of His cross Jesus was a specialist in the commonplace.
It was not a bolt of gold,
But only a cross of wood,
Yet the bliss can never be told,
When its meaning is understood.
The poet is saying in another way, Jesus made a mountain out of a molehill by using the commonplace to accomplish the plan of redemption. Wood, water, bread, and the cup are His tools. Where in all the Gospels is there anything of importance that is not common and available to all men.
Failure to see this has often led Christians in a vain search for the spectacular. They begin to dream that deep Christian experiences can be found in the unique. They feel the glory of Christianity is hidden mysteriously like gold in the hills. The result is that they become blind to the glory in the bread. They miss the meaning of grace in the commonplace. They are like a man on the desert wishing he had some sand for his hour glass. They are like researchers on the ocean wishing they had some salt water for their experiments. When Christians become bored and their spiritual life seems dull and flat, it is because they have become blind to the glory of the commonplace all about them. They need to learn how to make mountains out of molehills. They need to see how the commonplace realities of life can be magnified into meaningful adventures.
All the physical realities about us can become symbols of spiritual realities. All things lead back to God, even bread. The poet has written:
Back of the loaf is the flour
And back of the flour is the mill,
And back of the mill is the heat and the shower,
And the sun and the Father's will.
If we learn to relate all things to God, we will learn the amazing positive art of making mountains out of molehills. The secular and the material can be made into stepping stones which lead us up to the sacred and spiritual.
We look for better bread than ever comes from wheat, but the bread of wheat is so much a part of our daily lives that it becomes an ideal reminder of the higher bread for which we are to hunger. Jesus took bread to represent His body broken for us that we might never forget. If we forget to eat, we lose strength. If we fail to partake of the Bread Of Life, we become spiritually weak.
When I forget the death which is my life,
How weak I am! How full of fear and fret!
How my heart wavers in a constant strife
With mists and clouds that gather round me rife,
When I forget!
I will remember all thy love divine;
Oh meet thou with me where thy saints are met,
Revive me with the holy bread and wine,
And may my love, O God, lay hold on Thine,
And ne'er forget.
May God help us to make a mountain out of a molehill by letting this simple memorial with bread lead us to renewed participation in Christ, the Bread Of Life. Next, let's look at,
II. THE CUP.
Like bread, the cup is a universal symbol. There are few who have ever lived who did not have a cup. As far back as archaeology can trace civilization, men have used cups. Thirst is as much of a human need as hunger, and so Jesus uses both of these universal commonplace needs as a foundation for His memorial. Do this in remembrance of Me-do what? Eat and drink the bread and the cup. This memorial will be obsolete when eating and drinking have gone out of style.
Since the cup represents the blood of Christ sacrificed for the sins of the whole world, the cup of communion, by its simplicity, represents a profound and precious truth. Every man who can quench his thirst by drinking can also be cleansed from his sin by partaking in the blood of Christ. To put your trust in His sacrifice for your sins is to have them forgiven and removed. To be forgiven is as simple as having thirst quenched. Here is something so insignificant, yet it has power to do what no big and great thing in the world can do.
This principle of finding mountains in molehills has been important all through history. In the 19 the century Japanese sailors were dying with a disease called Beriberi, which means very weak. It kills yet today, even though the cure has been discovered. There is a molehill that can become their mountain of salvation very near to them. It was discovered by accident by a Dutch Doctor in 1896. He infected chickens with the disease and all of a sudden they got well. He was perplexed and began to inquire what was going on. He discovered the new hospital cook where he was doing his experiments was feeding the chickens, not the polished white rice fit for humans, but the unpolished with its unattractive brown hulls. Further study revealed that these hulls had a nutrient necessary for health, and it led to the defeat of the disease Beriberi. It also led men to realize that very minute elements in our diet make a major difference. A trivial change in diet can make a tremendous difference. It can be a molehill that becomes a mountain of blessing. So it is with this minute cup of the Lord. It is next to nothing, but it means everything in terms of a healthy soul that is cleansed and forgiven.
There are many Christians who do not partake of communion because of sin in their lives. A misunderstanding has become widespread because of the perversions going on in the church at Corinth. They were getting drunk and eating like gluttons at the communion service, and Paul warned them that this unworthy conduct would be judged, and, in fact, was the cause for some of them being taken in death. This has led many Christians to feel they ought not to come to the Lord's table until they get their sin problem solved. The folly of this is that there is no way to solve a sin problem except through forgiveness based on the blood of Christ.
The 12 who sat there with Jesus when He instituted the Lord's Supper were far from ideal saints, and this has ever been the case since. Communion is for the sake of reminding us that we are sinners, and that there is only one way to deal with this fact, and that is by bringing our sins and our needs to Christ. Remember Him and His death which was for sin. The cup of communion is a call to come with your sin to be cleansed, and not a symbol of dread we are to shun until we get cleansed by some other means. The Duke of Wellington was once taking a trip through England. He stopped at a small chapel to take communion. Kneeling at the rail, as was the custom then, he noticed a ragged peasant had recognized him and began to move away. Wellington reach over and laid his hand on his arm, and said, "Stay. He invited you, too."
All are equal at the Lord's table. There is one Master, and all others are sin stained servants needing His cleansing. If you let sin keep you from the cup, you have managed to turn a mountain into a molehill. You have taken the marvelous provision for hope and turned it into a thing of fear and despair. You are like the man who took his chest of drawers and made some old orange crates. You have reversed the very thing that Jesus intended.
Why do we tamper with the works of Christ? He meant His memorial as a means to keep us ever mindful of His victory over sin that we might take perpetual advantage of it, so we can keep on climbing to the heights free from the burdens of our sinful nature. We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under His table, but He calls us to sup with Him, and share His bread and cup. It is His table, and He does not shrink from eating with sinners. He did it frequently when He was in the flesh, for He alone had the answer to their need. The cup is an invitation to come to Him, and to quench your thirst, and to be cleansed from sin.
When John Wesley was asked who he invited to the Lord's table, he answered, "I invite to the table of the Lord every person whom I invite to the Lord, and upon the same condition: Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins." His brother Charles put it in poetry:
Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast;
Let every soul be Jesus' guest;
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.
Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
The invitation is to all;
Come, all the world! Come, sinner thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.
Let us climb this mountain memorial together, and find in Christ the forgiveness, the courage, the strength we need to live the victorious life. If you are hungry for more life, and thirsty for forgiveness and love, come now and eat this bread and drink this cup in remembrance of Him who is the Bread And Water Of Life.