Presentation on theme: "Presentation 44. Introduction Though out history many artists have in their own way tried to capture the scene of the last supper. Many of their paintings."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction Though out history many artists have in their own way tried to capture the scene of the last supper. Many of their paintings create a dreamlike quality of brotherly kindness and blissful comradeship. These paintings became a sort of religious flag to wave in public. There is no indication in many of these paintings of the deep-seated tensions, the pride and petty jealousies that superimposed that great occasion when the disciples were still squabbling about who was the greatest... No one was prepared to take on the lowly task of foot-washing... And Jesus had announced that one of their number would betray him. This could not be described as a blissfully relaxing meal.
Presentation 44 Introduction Perhaps for this reason other artists like Salvador Dali have tried to imply that the event itself is one that we are not meant to take too seriously. He presents the scene as a dreamy figment of imagination and paints the last supper with the table floating in the air and with a transparent Christ. His painting shouts out ‘unreality.’ But the last supper was a very real event in history! All the characters were real and not simply figments of an artist's imagination. These were men with families and friends, men with ambitions, men with problems. They knew what it was to have toothaches and sore throats and fever. When we scratch the paint away we make some surprising discoveries.
Presentation 44 Introduction A famous churchman of C20th has written that, ‘the sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper, are becoming stranger and stranger and less and less meaningful to those who share in them. People are less and less able to say what a sacrament is and how they can best benefit from it’. He goes on to say that there are many, ‘who have assumed that the sacrament with its dramatic re-enactment of simple truth is better for the simple mind than preaching to the intellect. But the weakness of such a claim is that the sacrament only becomes effective when it is preceded by the fullest and most careful instruction. Without instruction the Lord's Supper either degenerates into formalism or superstition’.
Presentation 44 Introduction On the one hand people automatically and unthinkingly go through the motions of a religious rite, while on the other they endow it with all sorts of magical properties. This explains why a great many people who do not come regularly to church make a point of coming to the communion services. The sacrament is viewed as a sort of insurance policy. They think, "As long as I take communion I am keeping the gate of heaven open ". This is wishful thinking. Nowhere in the N.T. do we read that by taking the sacrament we will qualify ourselves for heaven. What then is the significance and importance of the sacrament?
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction Jesus carefully planned the first communion service to coincide with the most important Jewish sacrament, the Passover Supper. In order to understand his reason for doing so we need to remind ourselves of what the Passover Supper was. About 1500 years before Jesus was born the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt- conditions there have been compared with that of a Nazi concentration camp. They were worked to death and often killed at the whim of their taskmasters. Into that situation God sent Moses to be the deliverer of his people. A series of nine plagues failed to persuade Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to release the Hebrew people.
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction Finally, God provided a way of escape. The only way that the Egyptians could be persuaded to let the Hebrews go was by sending the angel of death over the land of Egypt. The life of the eldest son in each family was under threat. Deliverance from death was possible but only by adhering to the instructions God passed on to Moses. Each family was to take a perfect lamb and tether it outside their home for 14 days. They had to ensure that it was without any blemish. The chosen animal was then to be killed and on the same evening the blood of the sacrificed lamb was to be applied to the doorposts and lintels of their homes.
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction The lamb was then to be roasted over a fire and eaten as they awaited the signal to escape. The firstborn son of every family died except in the houses that had applied the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. The sons of those who had applied the blood were safe but only because they had trusted in the means of escape that had been provided by God. As a result of this tenth plague, the Hebrews were ordered by Pharaoh to leave Egypt. The people were then told by God to institute an annual feast that would commemorate their great deliverance. They were never to forget the connection between the dying lamb and the living son!
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction God had provided Israel with a wonderful picture which looked forward to an even greater act of deliverance which his Son would bring about. As the Passover lamb was a sacrifice without blemish, so too Jesus was without blemish - he had no sin. As the Passover lamb died to secure life for others so too Jesus died to secure eternal life for the people he represented. Those living in Egypt who trusted in God's provision found God to be faithful to his promise. In the same way men and women of every nation who place their trust in Jesus, as God's sacrifice for sin, will find God to be faithful to his promise to bestow forgiveness and eternal life.
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction The Passover meal was used to introduce the sacrament of communion in order to throw light upon the significance of Jesus’ death. Note that the disciples were to take bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus’ death. Jesus didn't say, "I have a sacrament which will help you remember my teaching," or, "I have a sacrament which will help you remember my miracles" but, "I have a sacrament to help you remember my death". As far as Jesus was concerned his death was the pinnacle of his mission on earth. It was the great work he had come to accomplish and therefore it was its significance is what he wanted his disciples to remember.
Presentation 44 Jesus' Instruction The communion service is not just a kind of solemn religious moment when believers hear beautiful music and have a warm spiritual feeling. We are intended to spend time thinking about Jesus' body which was broken for us so that we could have eternal life and enjoy God’s full and free pardon. We are to remember that he poured out his blood for us so that we could live with him and for him. We are meant to ask, “what do these symbols of bread and wine mean?” I want to provide you with five answers.
Presentation 44 A Work Of Representation First, the symbols do a work of representation. When the bread is broken and the wine poured out, Jesus' death is then represented and visibly portrayed to the eye of faith. The believing eye sees beyond the signs and symbols to the person and events symbolised. Christ is advertised. He is what Paul describes to the Galatians as being ‘publicly placarded’ [Gal. 3v1] before them. We are therefore able to witness afresh what it cost the Lord of Glory to make sinner man whole!
Presentation 44 A Work Of Representation Normally God communicates to us though what we hear but in the sacrament all of our senses are engaged the eye, the nose, the tongue and touch and also our minds. It is possible to touch and taste the elements and for our minds to be filled with everyday worries, concerns and plans. At communion we are symbolically handling Jesus. It is a hands-on experience. A hands on experience at a scientific exhibitions can open up a child’s understanding of science. In class they may have been taught lessons about sound waves, gyroscopes and periscopes but to get hands on experience brings these things alive to them – they have a new and fresh awareness. This is what the sacrament is designed to do, to give us a more palpable awareness of what Jesus has done for us.
Presentation 44 A Work Of Sealing Secondly, the sacrament does a sealing work. In other words, Christ and the benefits of his death are applied by the Holy Spirit to the believer, who is confirmed as Christ's possession. Associated with the idea of sealing is the use of the signet ring in the ancient world, carrying as it did the authority of the owner. Where the owner’s mark was to be found then there his power was exercised. The supper is such a mark and such a seal, of the covenant love of God with his own.
Presentation 44 A Work Of Nourishment Thirdly, involved in the sacrament is the work of nourishment. The supper is for the feeding of our spiritual life together. John Knox was succeeded as minister of St. Giles in Edinburgh by Robert Bruce who preaching on the Lord's Supper said: “This is the Lord's supper, not a profane and common supper, but a supper appointed for the increase of holiness, for the food of the soul in holiness, to feed the soul for the life everlasting...It is not called the "Altar" of the Lord but a table to sit at, not an altar to stand at, a table at which to take and receive, and not an alter at which to offer and present. At the Lord's table we can expect Jesus to minister to our needs and to pour out fresh and instant supplies of grace.” We feed upon Jesus as a branch feeds upon the vine.
Presentation 44 A Work Of Engagement Fourthly, there is the work of engagement. A sharing in Christ, a committing of ourselves to a new and deeper love for Jesus. But commitment to him and also means commitment to one another. We must not simply think personally, "What benefit can I get for myself " but corporately, "What benefits will the glorified Christ pour out on his church". In this way we mature as Christians and find our niche in the kingdom. We are "fellow citizens with the saints". Without this, a believing life is greatly impoverished. At the heart of the supper stand three great realities: Jesus for me, and I for Jesus, and for his people. Or, all of him for me, and all of me for him and for his people. “All for Christ and Christ for all”. The suppers most searching call is one to consecration.
Presentation 44 A Work Of Pledging Finally, in the sacrament there is a work of pledging. A pledge of things to come. A reminder that the believer is bound indissolubly and irrevocably to Jesus and therefore eternally secure in him. Children often ask, "Where is the safest place to be?" In a car, ‘where is the safest place to be, travelling by plane…by boat… etc. Self-preservation is a very strong instinct! Well where is the safest place to be in life? The safest place is to be united to Christ. He told his disciples, ‘none shall pluck you from my Father's hand’. When the believer gathers around the Lord's table he has pledged to him afresh the assurance that he will one day be will the Lord at the great marriage supper of the Lamb.
Presentation 44 Conclusion Guard against allowing the sacrament becoming either a ritual or a superstition. We do so by learning of its significance and by approaching it with faith in our hearts. The sacrament is only made effective to the person who exercises faith. The person who comes looking for and expecting to find God will benefit most from the sacrament. Two people sitting next to each other can have quite different responses to a communion service. One has brought faith and expectancy, while the other is engaged in ritual and is stretched to explain the joy and excitement of his neighbour. We benefit only in proportion to our faith. May God quicken faith in our hearts the next time we gather around the Lord’s table.