Here is my discourse for tonight's memorial, perhaps some might appreciate it.
OBSERVING "THE LORD'S EVENING MEAL"
On this very night, some 3500 years ago, YHWH freed his people from slavery to Egypt. On this night the tenth and final plague befell those who did not believe in his promise and power. However, for those that followed YHWH’s instructions, the angel of destruction passed over their homes, and it was the sacrificial blood of a lamb that served for their salvation.
This event, known as the Passover, has been commemorated by Jews for millennia now, but tonight we are gathered to commemorate something infinitely greater. Notice what John the Baptist prophesied:
“Look! The Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29 (NIrV)
John the Baptist by holy spirit recognized that Jesus would be a greater sacrifice than the Passover lamb that had only saved one family, indeed his sacrifice was to be more important than any previous sacrifice under the law, he recognized in Jesus the fulfillment of the promise, the lamb of God, the hope of the world, the one who would free all men from the condemnation of sin.
Since Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, the Passover of the Jews and the covenant it represented were about to be done away with. They were to be replaced by a new observance and a New Covenant. And so on the night before his death Jesus prepared his apostles for this great change. After eating the regular Passover meal with this apostles, he arranged for his sacrifice to be remembered in a simple ceremony.
“Then Jesus took bread. He gave thanks and broke it. He handed it to them and said, ‘This is my body. It is given for you. Every time you eat it, do it in memory of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup. He said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. It is poured out for you.’” – Luke 22:19, 20 (NIrV)
Jesus was prepared give his life for his followers, even knowing the manner of his death would be torturous in the extreme. He was willing to be beaten, mocked, humiliated, brutalized and to slowly die upon a stake. As apostle Paul stated, “indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed.” It is this sacrifice, this unequaled act of love that we celebrate tonight by following his command to remember the Lord’s Last Supper, or Evening Meal.
One might ask why did Jesus have to die as a ransom sacrifice? Why was a ransom needed? A “ransom”, is something of value, given in exchange, thus satisfying the demands of justice.
When Adam sinned, he lost the prospect of living forever, and as his descendants all of us where likewise born in sin. What exactly does that mean for us?
“Because of Adam, all people die.” – 1 Cor 15:22a (NIrV)
And yet that scripture gives us the wonderful promise:
“So because of Christ, all will be made alive.” – 1 Cor 15:22b (NIrV)
“It is written, "The first man Adam became a living person."—(Genesis 2:7) The last Adam became a spirit that gives life.” – 1 Cor 15:45 (NIrV)
By giving his life and paying that ransom, Jesus purchased sinful mankind and became their new Father, a replacement for Adam. Think of what this means! Adam, a sinful father, spread death to all his descendants. Jesus, a perfect Father, bestows eternal life upon all obedient humans. Does that include you? What must each one of us do to receive everlasting life?
“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIrV)
We first need to believe in the Christ and then that belief will move us to action.
“So you see, a man is called righteous by the things he does, not just by his faith. The same thing was true of RaHab the prostitute. Wasn’t she called righteous because of what she did when she took the messengers in and then sent them out by another way? So, just as a body that isn’t breathing is dead, faith without action is dead. – James 2:24, 26 (2001 Translation)
What does everlasting life mean? What will eternal life be like? At Second Peter 3:13 the Bible promises a new heavens and a new earth. While Christendom has generally only promoted the hope of life in heaven; it would be rather pointless to have a righteous new earth if everyone was going to leave it and go to heaven.
Instead Jesus clearly spoke of an earthly hope for many while giving his sermon on the mount. During that sermon he promised that the meek shall inherit the earth. It is not for you or I to choose whether we wish to go to heaven or to live upon the earth, it is YHWH that makes the decision as to where each one will serve.
According to Revelation 14:1 only 144,000 go to heaven, while a great multitude inherit the earth. It must follow then that the majority of God’s servants must be destined for an earthly reward. How do you know where you fit into god’s arrangement? I can’t tell you and no other human can tell you. Instead notice how YHWH makes it clear by means of his spirit:
“For, all who are led by God’s Breath are God’s sons! You didn’t receive His Breath to make you slaves to fear again, for when you received it, it adopted you as His sons… so by this Breath we can call out, ‘Papa! Father!’ And it’s the same Spirit (Breath) that testifies to the spirit within us that we’re God’s children… and if we’re [His] children, we’re also [His] heirs… yes, heirs of God and heirs with the Anointed One! However, we’ll have to suffer together so we can be glorified together. – Romans 8:14-17 (2001 Translation)
By means of God’s spirit there is no longer a reason to be a slave! There is no longer a reason to be in fear! And it is by means of that spirit that we can cry out with joy at the wonderful privilege or being able to call the almighty of the universe Papa! Father! Open your heart to YHWH and if not immediately then in good time he will reveal his purpose for you.
Does that fact that there are a relatively small number who are chosen to serve in the heavens make them special? NO! Should persons with differing hopes be privileged, counted, or viewed differently in any way? NO! Notice how Jesus illustrated this fact:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. They know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I give my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this sheep pen. I must bring them in too. They also will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.” – John 10:15, 16 (NIrV)
Jesus gives his life in behalf of all of his sheep, Jew and Gentle, male and female, destined for heaven or earth, we all enjoy the pasturage and leadership of the Christ, mingling, and becoming one flock together.
Likewise the Blessings that flow from the New Covenant, inaugurated by Christ Jesus, are not limited in scope. Its universal benefits were prophesied from 600 years earlier.
“‘Look… days are coming,’ says Jehovah, ‘when I’ll … conclude a New Sacred Agreement, that’s unlike the Agreement that I made with their fathers, in the day I took hold of their hands, to lead them from Egypt’s land. For, they didn’t keep My Sacred Agreement, so I let them go,’ says Jehovah.
‘This is my Sacred Agreement, which I’ll arrange with IsraEl in those days,’ says Jehovah: ‘I will write My Laws in their minds and their hearts. Then they’ll be My people and I’ll be their God. There’s no way they will teach their neighbors and brothers, and tell them that they should know Jehovah! For, all will know Me from the small to the great, and I’ll deal kindly toward their errors and sins… no way will I remember [their sins] anymore.’ - Jer 31:31-34 (2001 Translation)
What is different about this promised New Covenant or Sacred Agreement?
1. The Law of the promised New Covenant was to be written on hearts, not on stone or paper.
2. Everyone involved in the New Covenant, small of great, will have a personal knowledge of God, and enjoy a special relationship him.
3. Their sins will be forgiven. (Sin is the source of death, thus this is a promise of everlasting life.)
What Wonderful promises! No wonder the Jews were looking forward to the messiah. But would they follow through when he arrived? Unfortunately when Jesus first described how one became a member of the New Covenant, some of his listeners were appalled.
“Jesus said to them, "What I'm about to tell you is true. You must eat the Son of Man's body and drink his blood. If you don't, you have no life in you. Anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day. My body is real food. My blood is real drink. Anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood remains in me, and I remain in him.
The living Father sent me, and I live because of him. In the same way, those who feed on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Long ago your people ate manna and died, but those who feed on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:53-58 (NIrV)
Apparently some thought Jesus was promoting cannibalism and were repulsed by the idea so much so that left off from following him. So what did Jesus mean? His disciples did not fully understand this at the time, and Jesus did not explain it until his last night on earth. We can find the understanding in God’s word at first Corinthians 5:7,8 where Paul directed Christians that “Christ is our Passover sacrifice” and the manner in which they would eat it would be representatively by means of unleavened bread.
The second emblem would picture Jesus blood. Just like the law covenant of old the New Covenant had to be sealed with sacrificial blood, let’s see how the blood of God’s very son, the 'perfect lamb,' Jesus is represented.
“Then he took the cup. He gave thanks and handed it to them. He said, "All of you drink from it. This is my blood of the new covenant. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many.” – Mt 26:27, 28
Red wine represents Jesus sacrificial blood. It is Jesus’ blood which provides the basis for the new covenant and its benefits, especially the forgiveness of sins.
Given the loving ransom paid by Jesus, and the wonderful promises associated with the New Covenant , wouldn’t all want to partake of these emblems?
The original Passover was a provision of salvation from YHWH open to all who desired it, regardless of whether they were Egyptian or Israelite ( Exodus 12:38). And their, participation in the first Passover was a requirement for the lives of their firstborn to be spared. And by their continued celebration of the Passover, the Israelites were expressing their desire to continue to be included in his Covenant. Likewise, the New Covenant is the only means for the forgiveness of sins… and for life!
On the night before his death, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that the New Covenant was about to be inaugurated, and that; by their partaking of those emblems they would thereafter be party to it. So from that point on, the Old Law Covenant was fulfilled and retired, and instead a New Covenant was to begin with the shedding of his sacred blood! (Luke 22:17-20).
So, since that time, all true Christians who wished to have their sins forgiven, to have a true relationship with Jehovah, and to receive the ‘life’ that God promised, had to be baptized and then agree to be parties to the New Covenant. They were to cultivate its law of love in their hearts and display it in their lives. And only then were they to partake of the emblematic flesh and blood (bread and wine).
We have discussed the significance of this commemoration and the emblems we will use. At this time it would be appropriate to commence, following the pattern Jesus set.
“I passed on to you what I received from the Lord. On the night the Lord Jesus was handed over to his enemies, he took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it. He said, "This is my body. It is given for you. Every time you eat it, do it in memory of me." - 1 Corinthians 11:23, 24 (NIrV)
Before we pass the bread let’s likewise offer a prayer to God.
As we pass the bread representing Jesus flesh; we might think about the great physical pain that Jesus endured in his flesh, being stripped naked and beaten, whipped, forced to carry the implement of his death through the streets. To have nails driven through his hands and his feet, to then to have his weight pull upon those nails as he was lifted up, what must it have felt like to resist death for 3 hours until his heart and lungs eventually collapsed? What power he displayed. What courage, what strength. Many of his disciples had to likewise face a martyr’s death; what encouragement they must have received from Jesus outstanding example. Certainly that example can be a great strength to us as well.
Let’s continue by reading further in Corinthians
In the same way, after supper he took the cup. He said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do it in memory of me." - 1 Corinthians 11:25 (NIrV)
Again before we pass the wine please join me in word of prayer.
As we pass the wine representing Jesus blood, or life; we might think about that life. Jesus was perfect. No person could rightly make a negative accusation against him in any regard; and yet they did, they accused him of the worst thing possible, of slandering God. They said he was the same as Satan. But he did not become provoked. He knew he was going to be killed, but here the Jews, his own people, supposed worshipers of YHWH, they were the ones that were doing the killing. And yet he gave his life for them. Even his disciples, that he had spend every waking hour with had abandoned him. And yet he inaugurated a new covenant for their benefit. He was experiencing the wickedness of the heart of man first hand, and yet he still purchased them as his own, and provided them the hope of everlasting life. Could any man show greater love that this? Certainly not, his love is unparalleled in the history of man. Can we show such love? Would we be willing to give up our life for our fellowman? That is the pattern Jesus set for us. If anyone had reason to get upset it was Jesus, but he instead showed restraint and love.
How can we show appreciation for the loving provisions of God and Jesus that we have just memorialized? Also on the night before his death, Jesus gave this Law to his followers:
"I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you. If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples." - John 13:34, 35
Paul later explained at Romans 13:10, ‘Love is the Law’s fulfillment.’
Love fulfills the promise of Jeremiah, it is an internal thing, and it resides in our hearts, rather than in a book of laws. And if we fully apply this Law in our lives, it will govern us better than any written code of laws. So, by practicing love we show ourselves to be Jesus’ true disciples and participants in God’s new sacred agreement with his people.
Let us all continue to take in knowledge of God and build our faith in him, and as our faith grows, we will have strength to fulfill God’s simple requirements and serve him forever.
Let’s notice how Jesus concluded his last meal with his apostles:
“Finally, after singing praises, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” - Mark 14:26
Even though Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed and begin his torture and suffering that very night, and to finally die the very next day, how did he chose to end that celebration?
Let us likewise end our celebration on a happy note by raising our voices in song.