14 – When the hour had come, He reclined AT THE TABLE, and the apostles with Him.
15 – And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
16 – for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17 – And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;
18 – for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 – And when He had taken some bread and 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.”
20 – And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
21 – But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.
22 – For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
23 – And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.
24 – And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.
25 – And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’
26 – But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.
27 – For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the One Who serves.
The week before last we went down to Norfolk to see Daniel and Ashley and of course the grandkids. That night we did what we always do about that time of the day. We gathered around the DINING ROOM TABLE—to enjoy a meal—specifically: tacos, salad, re-fried beans, chips, fresh salsa, and corn on the cobb.
But—before my first taco hit my MOUTH a special awareness hit my BRAIN. I realized how precious a time THAT TABLE GATHERING was. So—I kind of pulled back and looked around.
I saw Sue—that wonderful helpmate God guided me to nearly 38 years ago.
At the head of the table I saw Daniel, our firstborn—and next to him his amazing wife—the answer to the prayers we began the moment Daniel came into the world.
Of course, our grandkids Lydia, and Joel were there beside me munching on their food—talking and laughing—and making me do the same.
Then I heard a coo and looked down to see Nathan—contentedly rocking in his little infant bouncer chair deal.
Well, as I took all this in, I realized that this was not an ordinary meal—it was special. Do you get my drift? It’s always special when families who are separated by time and distance are able to gather around a table like that. I mean, the older we get—the less often those meals take place—so when they do they are precious.
And—I’m sure you know what I mean. You’ve had those same special meals with your family. In fact, I imagine many of you with kids home from college enjoyed just such a supper recently.
Wasn’t it good to have them back around the table after their two-semester absence? I bet some moms out there made some favorite foods for their returning children.
I share this—because whenever we gather around THIS table—we should each “pull back” and be reminded that even though we do it fairly regularly—it is FAR from ordinary. I mean, the Lord’s Supper—communion—Eucharist—whatever you call it—is not an ordinary “meal.”
- It’s not like the sack lunch we pack to take to work or school.
- This is not a fast-food value meal we pick up at the drive-through to devour as we drive on the way to a soccer game.
- When we eat together here—it’s not like grazing our way through the fridge for leftovers or thawing a frozen dinner to eat while we watch the NBA playoffs.
THIS IS NO ORDINARY MEAL.
Has that awareness hit your brain? This meal is SPECIAL—PRECIOUS—because even though the food on the table before us WON’T TAKE LONG to consume—just about 15 minutes—it’s meant to linger in our souls. This meal we are about to share holds NO GREAT VARIETY—it’s just tiny dry pieces of unleavened bread—and a cup with barely a swallow full of liquid—but—in spite of its size—it carries in it the eternity-impacting truth of God’s great love. It’s not the kind of supper that will FILL our stomachs but it reminds us of Someone Whose sacrifice fully SATISFIES a hunger and a thirst that is deep within each of us.
William Willimon recalls the first time he was asked to teach a seminary class about Communion. He went to an older colleague and said, “How shall I begin? What should I do?”
The older colleague said, “The first thing you must do is go to a kitchen and learn how to cook.”
Willimon said, “Why should I learn how to cook if all I want to do is to teach the meaning of Communion?” His older colleague replied, “You will never be able to understand the meaning of Communion until you know THE LOVE OF COOKING and the joy of those who are SATISFIED.”
That’s what we do this morning. The food we are about to eat and drink reminds us of the fact that Jesus came to SATISFY the longing we all have for God—the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we talked about a few weeks back.
Before we partake I want to borrow an outline from Wayne Brower and delve DEEPER into this truth by seeking an answer to this question: What else makes this an EXTRA-ORDINARY meal?
(1) First, let me remind you that our HOST is not ordinary.
I mean, our Host this morning is not a restaurant maitre d’—friendly, efficient, but aloof. Nor is He the chef of a buffet, some nameless guy in a puffy white hat lurking between counter and kitchen directing staff to keep the sternos going and the chafing dishes full. Neither is our Host a cafeteria server, ready to plop another scoop of hash on yet another plate.
No—what makes our meal special is the fact that our Host this morning is Jesus Himself. It is He Who invites us to this table. And—the unique thing about Jesus doing this is the fact that He is not at all like the hosts at earthly banquets. I mean, He doesn’t supervise the waiters who bring us our food. Nor is He the kind of host who sits at the table with us while servers deliver our meal—servers who are careful to serve him and the rest of the head table first. No—Jesus comes and serves each of us Himself.
Do you remember what He did the night He hosted that FIRST last supper? After settling that dispute among the guests as to who was the most important—Jesus—the Host Himself—got up from the table—took a towel, wrapped it around His waist—and then, taking a basin of water, knelt to wash the muddy feet of His followers. Is that EXTRAORDINARY or what?!
Well, that’s the kind of HOST we have this morning. As Jesus put it in Matthew 20, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” It’s important for us to “PULL BACK” long enough to remember this—because having a Host like this—a Lord like this—inspires us to do the same. I mean, to “SOAR”—to grow to be more like Jesus—means focusing not on self—but on others.
Nik Wallenda is an American follower of Christ who has become the most-watched high wire artist and daredevil in the world. His two most recent feats were seen by a billion people across this planet. You may remember that in 2012 Wallenda walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls.
The next year he became the first person to high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon. Wallenda knows that he will be tempted by pride, so after the huge crowds and the media fade away—he engages in a simple spiritual discipline—he walks where the crowds have just stood and quietly picks up trash.
Wallenda recently wrote, “My purpose is simply to help clean up after myself. The huge crowd left a great deal of trash behind, and I feel compelled to pitch in. Besides, after the inordinate amount of attention I sought and received, I need to keep myself grounded. Three hours of cleaning up debris is good for my soul. Humility does not come naturally to me. So, if I have to force myself into situations that are humbling, so be it. I know that I need to get down on my hands and knees like everyone else. I do it because it’s a way to keep from tripping. As a follower of Jesus, I see Him washing the feet of others. I do it because if I don’t serve others I’ll be serving nothing but my ego.”
So—this is no ordinary meal—because we have no ordinary Host. Our Host SERVES us—and inspires us to do likewise.
(2) Another thing that makes this meal special is that we dine at no ordinary TABLE.
- It’s not one of those tables with fixed seats like the ones at MacDonald’s with a plastic top held firmly in place by individual tubes, and seats of welded steel that only seat one.
- It’s not some pressboard table covered with a plastic “cloth.”
- Nor is this a foldaway table like you use on an airline.
- It’s not even a beautiful oak table carefully crafted by a skilled carpenter.
No—the unique thing about THE TABLE Jesus calls us to—is that it EXPANDS and EXPANDS and EXPANDS. It has an infinite number of leaves to insert. There is no limit to its size. You see, this table expands with the selfless love of our HOST, and it grows with the grace of His invitation to sinners.
I mean, Jesus loves all people—in spite of our sin—and He invites all to come. Why, He even invited Judas to His table—knowing he was the one who would betray Him. To be clear, Jesus hates sin because He knows how much it hurts us. Jesus knows that the wells of this world don’t satisfy—so He lovingly, generously says, “If ANYONE—any sinner—is thirsty, let them [turn from their sin and] come!” (John 7)
And down through the millennia they HAVE come—sinners of all types—the thief on the cross—a woman caught in the act of adultery—murderers like Saul—deniers like Peter—lusters and liars—racists and abusers—the proud—the foolish—the selfish—Jesus has welcomed countless repentant sinners. Why—He even invites you and me to come to this table!
So—this is no ORDINARY table! As Brower puts it, “It expands with mercy, it lengthens with love, and it pushes to the ends of the earth with the gospel of peace.”
(3) That brings us to the final thing that makes this meal special: we dine around it with no ordinary PEOPLE.
We are eating with EXTRAORDINARY friends—friends who stick closer than a brother—because we are people who have each experienced our Host’s—our HEAVENLY FATHER’S love and grace—and have obeyed His command to do—to LOVE—likewise.
And in case you have forgotten, we ARE commanded—commissioned—to love each other as our Host has loved us. We are to take the love with which He has welcomed us to this ever-expanding table and love others no matter what their sin. That kind of love makes us stand out—it makes us far from ordinary.
Do you remember our Host’s command? Jesus said, “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. … My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15) By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13) In other words, we will be KNOWN—we will stand out as EXTRAORDINARY if we love as Jesus loves.
This week I read an excerpt from an article in the New York Times by Nicolas Wade. The article is entitled: “Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Limits.” Wade reports that scientists have identified a specific, love-inducing, trust-building chemical called Oxytocin.
Psychologists refer to it as the “hormone of love.” When oxytocin is present in our brain, we want to reach out to help and bond with other people. However, research has shown that this “love hormone” has its LIMITS. Studies show that human oxytocin produces a brand of “love” that only extends to people in our “group.” In other words, in sinful human beings, oxytocin unleashes a narrow, ethnocentric kind of love—a love that extends only to “our kind of people.”
Scientists did an experiment. A number of DUTCH students were given doses of oxytocin and then presented with hypothetical dilemmas. In one scenario, students were asked “whether to help a person onto an overloaded lifeboat, thereby drowning the five already there.” In another scenario, they were asked whether to save “five people in the path of a train by throwing a bystander onto the tracks.” The five people who might be rescued were nameless, but the person who might be sacrificed was given a Dutch name. Students who sniffed oxytocin prior to these tests were much more likely to favor their own kind and sacrifice ethnic outsiders.
The study concluded that oxytocin only increases our love and loyalty for people of our in-group.
Conversely, it makes us more likely to exclude those who aren’t like us. Clearly, in our fallen state, our love doesn’t stretch very far.
Well, as I said, the love of our Host is not like that. Remember? Jesus told Nicodemus that His is a love that extends to everyone in this fallen world. I mean, our Lord healed, embraced, and then died for NOT just “insiders” but for blatant OUTSIDERS—including His enemies—the people who put Him on that cross. And that is what makes those of us at this meal special.
You see, as brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are called to love in that same EXTRAORDINARY way. Jesus calls us to love enemies and outsiders. And because of that, when we leave this table, we must no longer live like ordinary people. I mean, if we come to this table with the right attitude—open to what Jesus wants to teach us—something happens to us.
The ordinary is swallowed up into the extraordinary. The usual vanishes into the unusual.
The WORST OF US is crucified with Christ and the BEST OF HIM takes its place in our lives.
And when that extraordinary thing happens, other sinners notice and are drawn to Jesus.
Lewis Smedes tells of a woman who teaches with him on the faculty of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. He says that she USED TO BE an ordinary person, a contented unbeliever. She was typical—USUAL—-until one day she ran into a group of people who seemed very UNUSUAL. Yes—they were Christians, and they didn’t play the same games that she saw others playing. They didn’t push the same politically correct values that she was pushing for in her own life but they seemed loving, deep and real. She said to herself, “If Christianity were true, this is how I would expect Christians to live. These people DO live that way. So maybe Christianity IS true. Maybe Jesus is real.” She went to church, she read the Bible, and she learned about the love of God. She asked Christ into her heart and life. And in that decision, she learned that—as I have said—this is no ordinary meal, and Jesus is no ordinary host. She learned this is no ordinary table, and those who eat here are no ordinary people.
Smedes says that woman went back to school to earn a second Ph.D.—this one in theology.
Today, as I said, she teaches that theology at Fuller—because of the love of those extraordinary people—people like us who left this extraordinary table with a renewed commitment to love as our Host has loved us.
So with all this in mind—as we share this meal—I invite all Christians to join us—even if you are not a member of this church—because of course if you are His—this is yours.
THE ORDINANCE OF COMMUNION
This morning I want to remind all Christians present—that we are called by our EXTRA-ORDINARY Host to love others as He has loved us. But if you are here and have never experienced that love—if you thirst for more—then hear Jesus’ invitation to come. Leave your seat and come forward. Kevin and I would be so happy to tell you how you can become a Christian. If there are those who would like to join this church, leave your seat and come talk to us about that. This is the time we set aside to respond to the EXTRAORDINARY invitation of our EXTRAORDINARY HOST.