One of the consequences of being a sinful, and therefore flawed, human being is forgetfulness. No matter what our age, all of us have what are known as “senior moments” when our memories fail us. I don’t know about you, but mine seems to be failing more frequently each year. Think of it. How many times have you met someone you haven’t seen for a long time-someone you know very well-but your mind freezes up and suddenly you can’t remember their name? Did that happen to any of you at the 40th anniversary last weekend? How many times did you have to slip your eyes down to read the name tag so as not to feel embarrassed at not remembering a name? Husbands, have you ever ended up in the doghouse because you forgot your wedding anniversary or your wife’s birthday? Wives, how many times have you caused your husband frustration because you forgot your purse at a restaurant 90 miles back down the road? Young people, have you ever forgotten a homework assignment or forgotten the answer to a test question in spite of the fact that you knew the material?
The truth is we all struggle with forgetfulness. One of the places that our flawed memories can cause the most damage is in our Christian walk. Perhaps this is why God spends so much time encouraging His people to remember in His Word. I’ve noticed this in our reading of the Chronological Bible this year. Over and over again, in the Old Testament God says to the people of Israel: “Remember! Remember that you were a slave in Egypt. Remember all the way that I, the Lord your God, have led you! Remember your Creator in the days of your youth! Remember and obey My commandments! Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy!”
Now one thing that helps us remember is what you might call a memory tool. For example, I purchased this stole in Bethlehem in 1994. Whenever I wear it I remember my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This robe covers my suit. In a sense it negates me as a person-and in so doing reminds me that no matter how nice my clothing-I am still just a simple vessel for Jesus to use. This robe symbolizes the fact that anything good that happens in my life is not because of me but in spite of me. It’s all from Jesus.
In the 15th chapter of Numbers, God gave the people of Israel a memory tool. God made a covenant with them. On his side of the covenant, God promised continued protection. On their side, they were to obey God’s loving commands, His tender commandments.
Well, God knew their weakness when it came to memory. So He ordered Moses to have the people make themselves a memory-jogging tool. Take your Bibles and let’s read about it together. Numbers 15 verses 37- 41
37 – The Lord said to Moses,
38 – “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.
39 – You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.
40 – Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.
41 – I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.'”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
In this text God told them to put tassels on their robes and to tie a chord around each one to help them remember their part of the covenant, in much the same way that you and I would tie a string around our finger to help us remember something important. Well, when God in the flesh-Jesus the Christ-was about to leave His first disciples, He knew that they too would soon forget His offer of grace and His call to discipleship so He also gave them a memory tool as well. I’m referring to communion, for like the tassels on the robes of the Hebrews, the bread and the cup are to remind us of vital truth.
Well, let’s review a bit. What is this memory tool supposed to remind us of?
(1) First of all the bread and the cup reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice.
You see, that night as they shared their last supper, they did so in the shadow of the cross. The disciples didn’t realize this, but Jesus did. Our Lord was keenly aware of what was ahead for Him that night. Remember? He said of Himself, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) And so one thing these elements are supposed to remind us of is this fact that by dying on Calvary’s cross, Jesus paid for our sins. He sacrificed His own life for each of us. He substituted His life for ours.
John Stott writes, “The concept of substitution lies at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.” And that is so true isn’t it! The bread and the cup are to remind us that when He hung on Calvary’s cross, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, was dying in our place.
About three weeks ago, October 2, 2006, a dark day dawned for the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. As I’m sure you know, that morning, a local milkman named Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School. He was armed with three guns, knives, and over 600 rounds of ammunition. When police attempted to intervene less than half an hour later, Roberts opened fire on eleven girls-all less than 14-years-old-killing five. After these brutal acts, he turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide. It was a dark violence-filled hour in the life of that peaceful Christian community, but as more news became available in the days that followed, a new story began to emerge-one full of courage, faith, and love.
According to two of the survivors, when 13-year-old Marie Fisher began to understand what Charles Carl Roberts intended to do, she made a request. “Shoot me first,” she said, “and leave the other ones loose.” As the oldest child in the group, she hoped that her death might somehow spare the other children or at the very least provide more time for their rescue. Immediately after this request, Marie’s younger sister Barbie said, “Shoot me second.”
Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe-and many people who knew the girls believe this as well-I believe these young Christian girls offered to die first inspired by the example Jesus set on the cross. They knew-they remembered-that He died for us. He died so we could live, and this memory motivated them to give their lives for their friends.
One of communion’s purposes is to help us never forget this astounding fact. This bread and this cup are not meant to feed us, but to remind us of Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, for in a way that we can never fully understand on this side of eternity, on Calvary’s cross, Jesus died in our place. His sacrifice paid for our sin. He died so we could live.
(2) And then, the Lord’s supper is also a reminder of the love that Jesus’ sacrifice expressed.
In the 15th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Well, that is what Jesus did for us on the cross. As someone put it, “It was not the nails that held Him to the cross. It was His love for you and me.”
One of my favorite movies is Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. How many of you are fans as well? We Adamses watch it every Christmas Eve! Do you remember how the main character of the movie, George Bailey, saved his little brother, Harry’s life? When they were boys, they were sledding down the hill one cold winter day, using coal shovels instead of sleds and Harry slid further than any of the other boys. But, he slid so far that he landed on thin ice and fell through into the freezing water. He was sure to drown but, his big brother, George didn’t hesitate. He jumped in and saved Harry but in so doing the icy cold water severely damaged his hearing in one ear. For the rest of his life scar tissue made him deaf on that side. But that scar tissue was much more than an auditory handicap. All his life, it was a constant reminder to Harry of how much his big brother loved him.
Well, as Christians we are God’s children-and because of our spiritual adoption, Paul refers to Jesus as our big brother Who showed His love for us by coming to our rescue on Calvary’s cross. Much like George Bailey’s scars, Jesus’ scars are visible reminders of Jesus’ great love for you and me. Communion points us to the cross. And we only need look to the cross to see how much Jesus loves us!
(3) And then the third thing the Lord’s Supper helps us never forget is Jesus’ future return.
In 1 Cor. 11, the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper and said, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death till he come.” You see, we observe the Lord’s Supper in the midst of history, but we do so with an eye to the end of history and our Lord’s triumphant return. This is our great hope as Christians: that the Christ Who was born in Bethlehem, Crucified on Calvary, and raised on that first Easter morning is coming again. The risen Christ with Whom we have fellowship here at this table is going to return to earth someday, visibly and in victory. And this is something we must never forget, for it is a promise that gives us bright hope even in the darkest hours of life. We know that a day will dawn when we won’t just taste the joy we experienced last weekend at our 40th anniversary reunion as we saw old friends. No! When Jesus comes back, He’ll take us home and we’ll all be together again with parents and grandparents and spouses and children and dear friends, never to be parted again!
A few years ago I read about a church building in Poland that had been reduced to rubble by repeated bombing in WWII. After the war, the congregation was too poor to buy new materials to rebuild the church, so they broke the rubble into smaller pieces, mixed in concrete and rebuilt the church with those recycled materials from the first building. When it was complete they wrote the following words over the door, “Lift up your hearts!”
Well, the Lord’s Supper is also a heart-lifting experience. It’s a time to lift up our hearts to the glad and sure promise of Christ’s return. Do you remember when Jesus’ first disciples stood looking upward-after having watched His ascension-angels came to them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand her looking into the sky? This same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” This is God’s promise! So, the Lord’s Supper reminds us as forgetful human beings of Jesus’ sacrifice, of His great Love, and of His promised return.
This morning before we partake, I want us to jar our memories even further so that we recall all we can about our Lord’s coming to earth. I want us to use all the tools we have at our disposal in this so take your Bibles and hymnals and let’s do this-for above all, The Lord’s Supper Is Remembering.
As we come now to partake in this memorial meal, let me invite all Christians present to join us.
Even if you are not a member of this church. if you are a Christian.if you are His. this is Yours.
Let us give thanks for all this bread symbolizes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-24 says,
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'”
Eat this and remember, Jesus’ body was broken for you and for me.
Let us give thanks for all this cup symbolizes.
1 Corinthians 11:35 says,
“In the same way, after supper, He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'”
Drink this and remember Christ allowed His blood to be shed so that our sins could be washed away.
Our service of reminders may have prompted you to respond. Perhaps as a Christian you feel the need to simply say, “Help me remember God. Help me never forget all You have done for me. Keep me near the cross. So I can live for You in light of it”
God may be leading you to join this church. Or it may be that this morning is the first time you heard of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on your behalf and your response is to decide to follow Him as Savior and Lord.
However God leads, won’t you come now and share your decision with me as we stand now and sing?
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly and whatever you do in word or in deed Do it all in the name of Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.