Summary: This sermon was prepared for World Communion Sunday in 2007. The title reflects the Four Questions asked by the youngest child during a Passover Haggadah.
Why Is this Sacrament Different?
We all know that our sacrament of Holy Communion derived from the Last Passover observance Jesus conducted with His disciples on the night He was betrayed. Oftentimes I have observed an authentic, Messianic Passover on Maundy Thursday evening in which my congregation would experience a full Passover meal called the Seder.
During the sharing of the Seder meal the worship liturgy is called the Haggadah or “The Telling.” The Haggadah celebrates and retells the story of the Exodus of Israel from physical slavery in Egypt. In Messianic Judaism it includes praising God for the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins on the Cross, His deliverance of us from slavery to sin when we put our faith and trust in Him, and a recreation of how Jesus transformed the traditional Passover Service into our sacrament of Holy Communion as a memory of His death until He comes again.
Jesus was the Host at that last Passover observance with His disciples on that evening that would come to be called Maundy Thursday. Traditionally at all Passover observances the Host, the Father in a family setting, is asked four questions by the youngest child at the Table. If you ever get to see the movie IN REMEMBRANCE, a film that depicts the transition of Passover into Holy Communion, Phillip, as the youngest disciple, is the one who asks the four questions of Jesus.
In English, these four questions translate something like this:
Why is this night different from all other nights? On
other nights we may eat leavened or unleavened
bread, but on this night we eat only unleavened
bread. On other nights we eat all types of herbs,
but tonight only bitter herbs. On other nights we do
not dip once. On this night we dip twice. On other
nights we eat sitting or reclining but on this night
we recline. [SOURCE: Daniel Juster and Gloria
Eisen, Passover HAGGADAH for Followers of
YESHUA THE MESSIAH (Washington, D. C.:
The Messianic Vision, n. d.), 9.]
Therefore, today I paraphrase those four questions in the title of today’s message so it becomes, “Why Is this Sacrament Different?” I would answer that question by three words: praise, power, and rededication.
Today is World Communion Sunday. I always thought until last year that today was the Sunday worldwide when all Christians observed Holy Communion, but last year I discovered this is not the case. World Communion is an observance of the National Council of Churches in the United States, and is, as I now understand, only observed by Christians in this Country.
World Communion Sunday was originally called Worldwide Communion Sunday. It began in 1936 under the sponsorship of the Presbyterian Church USA and came under the auspice of the Federal Council of Churches, the predecessor of the National Council of Churches, in 1940. It does not seem to be observed by Churches in the United Kingdom or the rest of Europe.
As we gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ across our land today, we need to observe this Holy Sacrament in the spirit of praise. Another term for Holy Communion is the Eucharist, a term that comes to us from the Greek and Latin meaning “grateful, thankful.” In partaking of Holy Communion we should come first and foremost before God in grateful praise and thanksgiving that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” Receive the bread and cup today in the spirit of praise as expressed so gloriously by the hymn writer Horatio G. Spafford in the third stanza of His great hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
This sacrament it different because in taking it we praise Jesus for liberating us from sin so we are no longer slaves to sin or condemned by our sins.
We come with praise in celebrating Holy Communion today, because this Holy Sacrament is “a foretaste of glory divine.” It reminds us of the eternal feast we shall celebrate with Jesus in the Kingdom of God, especially in partaking of the cup, for Jesus told His disciples at His final Passover with them in Matthew 26:29, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Revelation 7:6-9 paints a glorious picture of that wonderful day: “I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’ Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ’Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’” At the Table of Jesus we praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that soon we will be drinking the cup anew with Jesus at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”