For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
This is Maundy Thursday. Today we remember the night when Jesus was betrayed. The last night that He spent with His disciples, enjoying Passover meal and showing them His love, taking up the role of a slave and washing their feet. And we also remember the wonderful gift that Jesus left to His Church.
Of course, we are talking about the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, or the Holy Communion… there are many different names to this gift. And this evening I would like simply to meditate upon this wonderful gift together with you.
The Scriptures call it mystery. Mystery is something that we can’t comprehend. Something that we can’t control with our minds. Something that we can keep exploring and contemplating upon endlessly, but can never grasp fully.
So let’s take one more look at what the Lord’s Supper is and does and this time let’s try to see why would Jesus give to His Church such an unusual gift. I said unusual because for many the Lord’s Supper doesn’t make any sense.
Therefore, many even among Christians wonder, – why bread and wine, why do you believe that this ordinary food is somehow a spiritual thing? And not only a spiritual thing, but even something … much, much greater.
The reason why the Lord’s Supper doesn’t make much sense to so many is because our perception is shaped by many different ideas. One of the ideas that has shaped the whole Western civilization comes already from Ancient Greeks.
We are talking about a certain view on what is spiritual and what is not. According to this ancient idea the spiritual and the material are the very opposites. It is not that material stuff would be necessarily bad, it just is not as good as the spiritual.
Therefore, if someone tries to be a really spiritual person, they sort of need to move away from material things. They need to try to get higher, to attach to spiritual realities, instead of being attached to this material world.
And if your thinking is influenced by this idea, then the Lord’s Supper can’t make much sense. What is this business about eating bread and drinking wine and pretending to be spiritual people? Doesn’t make much sense.
The thing is, that the Bible reveals to us a totally different worldview. It reveals to us Biblical worldview where spiritual and material are not the opposites. In fact, it reveals the worldview where the material, the creational stuff is very, very good.
The Triune God is spirit, of course. But what did He create? Sure, He created hosts of spiritual beings as well, but then He created this material Universe. He created this planet Earth and prepared it for all living beings.
Then he created hundreds of thousands, millions different species of living beings. He filled waters and sky and land with life. And then He created something unique. He created human beings, male and female, in His own image and likeness.
And He looked at the work of His hands and what did He say? Not as good as spiritual things? No. The Creator looked and what He had made and said with deep satisfaction and joy: “It is good, very good.”
The eternal God created this world and rejoiced in its goodness. However, Genesis 3 tells us what happened soon afterwards. Sin and death came into this world thanks to the disobedience of God’s favorite creature.
As the result the goodness of God’s creation was spoiled. What did He do? Did He abandon it? Did He destroy it? No, He promised to restore the goodness of His creation.
He promised to purify it from all evil and to restore it in its goodness. How did He do it? What did God, who is spirit, do? Something incomprehensible. He became flesh. The Creator become a creature. He became one of us, Jesus of Nazareth, He took on our flesh, our creaturely nature.
You see how important this material created world is for our God and how highly He values it. To save and restore His creation He Himself became a part of His created world, a human being.
And now think about this, – what happened after the resurrection? The Son of God had accomplished His mission of salvation, His days in human body could be behind, but no, what happened, what did He do?
How did He rise? In body. In human body. In material, created body. You see, God the Creator loves His creation, He cherishes His creation, He delights in His creation, He thinks it is very good, and He will restore and renew it to dwell with His little creatures, with us, forever.
Christianity probably is the most materialistic, most creational of all religions and belief systems. And it also sheds light into dealings of our God. As He loves His creation and delights in it, He is also happy to use elements of creation to deliver to us His spiritual blessings.
In Biblical understanding spiritual is not the opposite to material. Spiritual is where the Spirit of the Living God is present. Spiritual is whatever God uses as vessels for His Spirit, as means to share His Spirit with us.
Thus, in the Old Testament times, when God wanted to be with His people and bless them, He gave them worship. The same that we have inherited. And in this worship He Himself came to be with His people and to bless them.
Do you know how He did it? He blessed their sacred meals and He communicated His holiness, His divine blessings to them by means of … yes, by means of fellowship meals in His presence.
He used elements of His good creation, bread and meat, and oil and wine to bless His people. By His presence He made these elements of creation spiritual gifts and blessings for His people.
The bread was still bread and the meat was still meat, but God used them to feed His people with His spiritual blessings. Now let’s move to the New Testament time. What did Jesus do on this last evening when He instituted the Lord’s Supper?
He continued the same practice that the Creator had been doing already before. He chose elements of His very good creation to use them so that He could bestow to His people His Spiritual blessings.
In the Old Testament times God said that He will share His holiness with His people in His holy meals. Jesus Christ, the Son of God said that He will unite Himself, that He will give Himself to His people by means of His holy meal.
That in His holy meal, using ordinary bread and ordinary wine, He Himself will come to us and will unite us with Himself, thus bestowing us His Holiness, His Spirit, forgiveness of all our sins, and eternal life.
Remember, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has life in Himself, and if He feeds us with His body and blood in His holy meal, it means that He gives us the very source of life, the source of eternal life.
What Jesus has given to His Church is as simple and profound as it is wonderful. God the Creator gives and sustains our life here in this age by means of food. We often call it simply bread, our daily bread.
And now He has decided to give and sustain eternal life again feeding us with bread and giving to us drink of joy, wine. Remember, for this God spiritual is where His Spirit is present.
The Lord’s Supper, the bread and the wine in the Holy Communion are the most spiritual things that there are. For Jesus Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit are present in these elements of God’s good creation. This way holy God gives Himself to His chosen people.
God is spirit and doesn’t have body and blood. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh, has body and blood. In man Jesus God united inseparably two natures, His divine nature and our human nature.
Now, all the abilities and qualities of God’s divine nature are true also for Jesus human nature. This is, why He can be everywhere. This is, why Jesus, the Son of God can share His body and blood, the very source of eternal life where and when He desires.
And He desires to share it with you. He desires to feed you with this food of eternal life. With this bread, which is also His body, with this wine, which is also His holy and precious blood.
It is God’s mystery. We can never stop marveling at this gift of Jesus. But at least we can see and understand and appreciate that this is how the Creator deals with us. Using good element of His good creation.
Giving us Himself and His Spirit through these elements. So that we could feel and smell and taste His goodness. So that we could feel how forgiveness of all our sins and eternal life is placed in our mouth and becomes truly ours.
We have God who loves His creation. We have God who loves His little creatures so much. We have this God who respects who we are and deals with us accordingly … giving us to eat, giving us to drink, coming Himself and sending His Spirit to dwell in us and with us.
This is what this evening is about. To joyfully meditate upon our God’s wonderful gifts that He gives to us through His very good creation, and to rejoice that for this God and for His beloved, for each of you, truly spiritual things are where Jesus and His Spirit are present, – in the Lord’s Supper.
This is what Jesus prepared for you on the last night, this spiritual food and spiritual drink. Eat it, drink it until Jesus comes again in His glory and takes you to Himself to continue this feast that will never end.
Eat it, drink it! Remember, this is a very strong stuff. It takes away your sins, it grants you God’s forgiveness and eternal life, it protects you from all evil and fills you with God’s Spirit.
Therefore, prepare well. Follow God’s prescriptions! Come with repentant heart, empty hands and humble spirit that longs for forgiveness, and Jesus will fill you with His spiritual blessings. Come, for everything is prepared!
And the peace of God which surpasses all our understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Amen.