A MOVING EXPERIENCE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
A beautiful temple was erected in ancient Greece. It was a masterpiece of architecture. When it was completed there was a vacant niche high up on the front for a sculptured work of art. The statue was to be selected by competition. On the appointed day there were two competitors for the place of honor. Both works were veiled. In the presence of the vast crowd it came to watch the ceremony, the smaller statue was unveiled first. It was indeed a work of art, and the crowd roared with approval. As the statue was lifted higher, however, it lost its appeal, and the praise of the crowd grew fainter. By the time it reached the niche the crowd was silent. It was of little value when raised so high.
It was brought back down and the other statue was unveiled. It was not as delicate and graceful on the first close-up look. The crowd was uncertain, but as it was lifted the crowd suddenly saw its value and charm, and they gave their shouts of approval. It was made for the heights. The artist of this work designed it to be seen from the heights where it was to be, and not up close, and so the result was that he won the place of honor.
When Jesus selected the Last Supper as His memorial, He did the same thing as that wise sculptor. He could have chosen something far more impressive when seen up close. He could have had a gorgeous marble monument erected, but only a fragment of His body, the church, would ever see it, and time would mar its beauty. So instead, He selected a simple act of breaking bread and sharing the cup together as His perpetual memorial. He chose this because from a distance of 2000 years it has the same simple and sublime meaning to His disciples as it did to those of His own day.
Jesus selected a memorial that was big enough for the kingdom He expected to build on earth. The result is we will be participating in the greatest supper on earth. There has never in all of history been a supper to which so many are invited. All over the world Christians meet to break bread and share the cup in remembrance of their Lord. It is the Lord's Supper, and no king, dignitary, or millionaire has ever had a supper so vast. This very night millions will meet at His table in remembrance of Him. It is the longest table on earth, for it goes around the world. There is nothing like it in all the world.
In memory of the Savior's love
We keep the sacred feast,
Where every humble, contrite heart
Is made a welcome guest.
Not only do we participate with millions in this great memorial supper, but with multitudes of millions in the past. The communion of the saints includes those who have entered His presence. It is a prelude to the day when we will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of our Lord. This supper is so simple, but as such sublime meaning because of its multi-directional implications. It has special meaning for a New Year's Eve service because it points our minds to the past, present, and future. We want to spend some time looking at each of these directions. The three fold value we are to gain by participating in this memorial supper are-
1. His pardon for the past.
2. His power for the present.
3. His promise for the future.
All of us need all three as much and more than we need food and drink. It is a supper for the soul to do for the inner life what our daily meals do for the body. Let your soul be filled and delighted with these three dishes of soul food.
I. HIS PARDON FOR THE PAST.
This supper is a commemoration of the finished work of Christ in our behalf. It is a celebration of His work and His words, "It is finished." He has paid the penalty for sin, and now there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We should forget our sins of the past that have been forgiven, but we should never forget why it is we are free to forget them. When we remember Jesus as He asked us to, we cannot help but thank Him for His love and grace. The Christian is one who can be thankful every time he looks into the past, for the best thing that ever happened to the Christian happened in the past. It happened first at Calvary where Jesus died for him, and then it happened personally when he received Jesus as his personal Savior. The past is always worth celebrating for the Christian.
Communion is to be something like going through a box of old pictures. They bring back memories of the blessings of the past, and they warm your heart with recollections for which you are grateful. The Lord's Supper is to be like a living picture that brings to your mind that greatest act of love ever done for you. We tend to think of it as a solemn ceremony, but the fact is, it is to be a celebration. Jesus is no longer on the cross in agony. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His suffering is completed, and so is our salvation. We can look back, not in sadness, but in gladness, for our pardon has been purchased, and we are free because of Jesus. So look back, rejoice, and be thankful. Secondly-
II. HIS POWER FOR THE PRESENT.
Communion speaks of a present experience. It is not just the past work of Jesus that we need. We need his present work in our lives, and this present work takes place as we thank Him in remembrance of His past work. Remembrance of Jesus keeps Him and His Spirit a present reality in our awareness, and this helps us live now as Jesus wants us to live. Our present remembrance of what He did in the past motivates us to seek His forgiveness for the present. Our contemporary sins are to be confessed, and are weak-hearted commitment is to be admitted. Communion is to be a present experience of renewal where we, in our Lord's presence, compare our lives and attitudes with His. We are to look at ourselves in the light of His love and compassion, and see how far we fall short, and then renew our original requests for Jesus to come into our lives and live in us. Only then can we gain the power to press on to be what He wants us to be. An unknown poet wrote,
O Master, through these symbols shared,
Thine own dear self impart,
That in our daily life may flame
The passion of Thy heart.
The Lord's Supper is a commemoration-we look to the pardon of the past and give thanks. It is a communion-we see our present need for power, and we stand in His presence, confess our weakness, and call upon Him to empower us anew to live for Him now. It does not stop there, however, for Paul says we show forth the Lord's death until He comes, and His coming speaks of-
III. HIS PROMISES FOR THE FUTURE.
We can look ahead with the same assurance as we look to the past, for the future is guaranteed by the past. Jesus went to prepare a place for all who trust Him, and when He is finished He will come again. We who are waiting will enjoy forever the paradise of His presence. Remembering the past thrusts us also into the future, for on the cross Jesus promised the dying thief that he would enter paradise with Him. That same promise is the hope of every believer. Again, an unknown poet put it-
Christ, forgive if I should break
This bread or of this wine partake,
Then walk the path of fear. Remove from us the spear
Of cringing, mocking unbelief.
Give us the faith of Golgotha's thief.
The thief said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." We also, as we remember Jesus, need to pray, "Lord remember me," and be assured that He does. This gives us hope. The very elements of the supper speak of future hope, for bread and the fruit of the grape both become what they are through suffering. They are excellent symbols of the body and blood of Jesus. Grain must be ground and broken until pulverized, and then baked in an oven to become bread. Grape juice must be pressed out by force. The elements speak of the painful process which leads to a precious product. They are symbols of the promise of Christ that it will be worth it all, for all our trials and suffering will be overcome and transformed into blessings beyond our dreams. A poet wrote,
Till we join the host of heaven,
Till we keep thy feast anew,
In thy courts above, be with us.
To thy promise ever true!
The Lord's Supper is a moving experience because in a brief time it takes us from the distant past through the present into the infinite future. That is, it can do this if we let it move us to look back at His pardon, look up to His power, and look ahead to His promise, and then praise Him who has put past, present, and future altogether for those who love Him. We look back and thank Him for His pardon. We look up and pray for His power. We look ahead and praise Him for His promise.