Summary: The threat of religious ritual is ever looming for church goers. There are many things that we have done hundreds of times, but we must always take the time to remember their significance, as it is with Communion. Lest we forget...
A little girl asked her mother one Sunday morning as she was preparing lunch, “Mommy, why do you cut off the ends of the ham before you cook it?” The girl’s mother turned and looked at her and said, “Oh, sweetie, I’m not really sure why, but I suppose you cut the ends off of the meat so that the meat can better absorb the juices and spices and make it more tender. Maybe you’d better ask Grandma since she was the one I learned it from. She always did it that way.” The little girl called her grandmother later that day on the phone and asked her the same question, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends off of the ham before you cook it?” The little girl’s grandmother responded, “Oh, sweetie, I’m not really sure. I think it is so that the juices will be absorbed better. Call your Nana. She is who I learned it from.” The little girl began to get a bit frustrated with the whole idea, but decided to call her great-grandmother anyway. “Nona, mom was preparing lunch the other day and she cut the ends off of the ham before she cooked it. I asked her why and she said that she did it because the juices would absorb better, making it more tender. She told me to ask Grandma to make sure since she learned it from her. Well, I called Grandma and she said the same thing about the juices and all, but that she learned it from you and I should ask you. Nona, why do you cut the ends off of the ham before you cook it?” There was a long pause in the conversation and then the little girl heard what sounded like muffled laughter coming from the other end of the line. “What’s so funny, Nona?” “Oh, sweetie, I cut the ends off of the ham before I cooked it because my pan was too small!”
One of the most dangerous things that we can do in the church is to do things only because that’s they way they’ve always been done, but nobody knows why. Many of you have come to Communion services hundreds of times, in fact you have probably memorized that part from the Bible where it says, “this do in remembrance of me.” I remember Communion ever since I was a boy growing up in church. I remember thinking what a great idea it would be for the crackers to come with some peanut butter or something. Needless to say I have done it many times, but each time I take it I must take the time to reflect on its purpose, lest we forget, which is what we are going to do this morning.
1. To Remember (vs. 23-25)
A. Paul is recalling Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples.
Although Paul was not present, the Lord had revealed to Him what happened there. Paul’s life had been radically changed on the road to Damascus and so it was very important to him that the teachings of Christ, even Communion, be done according to how Jesus did it with His disciples. How and why must always be remembered lest we cheapen its significance.
B. Jesus was interpreting something OLD:
The Passover meal (Exodus 12) was something that the Jews were very familiar with and it had deep significance for this occasion.
1. This Passover feast included a lamb—Jesus is our Lamb who has been sacrificed for us (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7)
2. This Passover feast included unleavened bread.
3. This Passover feast included wine—though not specifically mentioned as a part of the original Passover meal.
C. Jesus was instituting something NEW:
The Communion of believers as described in our text was something new. This quickly became a frequent celebration in the church—not just something done once per year. Jesus was starting something new because what had been instituted before (the Passover feast) would now cease; it was not the stopping but fulfillment of the Old Testament feast. The whole reason God instituted the Passover feast was so that (Exodus 12:17, 24-27) they would remember the day that He delivered them from the Angel of Death and the penalty of disobedience. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come…Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” then tell them, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.” Jesus instituted the Communion meal for this same reason; to remember (vs. 24-25)