Even as Jesus sat in the upper room with his disciples eating what we now call the Lord's Supper which we eat in memory of his sacrifice which took away our sins, in Jerusalem as many as three million Jews had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to sacrifice over a quarter of a million lambs (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 214). We read in Hebrews what was going on there. What was happening that night in Jerusalem was but a shadow of what Jesus was about to institute in the upper room with the disciples. As a quarter million innocent lambs were killed and had their blood drain out, no forgiveness of sins was occurring, but the Jewish worshipers were being reminded of their sin:
10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb 10:1-4)
In the Jewish sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. We find the Greek word which is translated here reminder used only three other places in the New Testament: All referring to what Jesus said in that upper room as he taught us to do remember him through the Lord's Supper. Imagine the futility and desperation that sacrifices would bring. Constantly being reminded of your sin but having no way to atone for it. The sacrifice is made and the sinner would have to return year after year making memory of his own sin, being reminded of how short he or she has fallen from Holy God; how the consequences for sin against God is death. The image of the lamb being slaughtered reminds the worshiper of what end he justly deserves because of his rebellion against God.
There is great similarity but an even great, more glorious difference between that sacrificial remembrance and the remembrance of the Lord's Supper. In contrast to the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lambs each year, Hebrews says, "But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God...For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12,14). No returning. Jesus' one sacrifice was sufficient to cover all of our sins.
So now we turn to Luke 22:19: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'" Let's notice two very profoundly simple truths in that phrase, "This is my body, which is given for you."
1. "Which is given for [us]." We have a need. If you have sinned - and the Bible assures us that there has not been one human being nor will there ever be one human being except Jesus Christ who has not - there is a debt to pay against the One and Only Just God. A body must be broken. As Jesus was speaking millions of Jews and the Gentiles watching were reminded of the reality of sin and the consequence of it. So in a sense, the remembrance that we do here is similar to the remembrance of sins that the Jews were doing at the Temple. But here is the profound, glorious, gracious difference that we must never forget:
2. "This is my body." Consider thoughtfully, carefully, thankfully and reverentially with me just who is saying these words, "This is my body which is given for you." The one whose body is given is the Sinless One (1 Peter 2:22), He is the Timeless One (John 1:1), He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, (1 Timothy 6:15), He is the Immortal One (1 Timothy 6:16), He Dwells in Unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), He is the Creator (Colossians 1:16), All things were created for Him (Colossians 1:16), He holds all things together (Colossian 1:17), He is God (Hebrews 1:8). It is this One who says these words, "This is my body broken for you."
This sacrifice does not merely remind us of sin, the sacrifice Christ made utterly demolishes sin. Just before the author of Hebrews wrote the verse we began with, he penned these words describing why Christ's sacrifice was once and for all, "He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:26b-28)
With that in mind we take the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him.
If your only hope to deal with your is Christ's death and you are eagerly waiting for Him, then take the bread and the cup and be reminded of your sin, but even moreso of God's grace and love for you. Let this drive you to confess you sin, repent of your sin, and live as if you truly have been forgiven a debt you could never hope to repay. Enjoy, savor this reminder of what Christ has done in the "sacrifice of himself" who conquered once and for all sin and death.
If you do not have your hope in Christ, what you have just heard, is the best news you could ever have heard. I have told you of your greatest need, maybe a need you weren't even aware of. You owe God a debt that must be paid and the great news that we have that the millions of Jews sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lambs didn't have is that the debt is paid. I beg you to consider this good news which we call the gospel and to respond to it. Please don't leave without grabbing me or one of the elders or whoever brought you. But if you, by your own admission, are hoping in anything other than Jesus Christ, if you are not a Christian, please let the bread and juice pass by.
So again, for those who have been saved, please take the bread and the juice and in the way that Jesus commanded us, remember and proclaim God's grace to yourself and to the world. The men will come forward. Please take communion on your own.