The Supper

March 11, 2018 ()

Bible Text: Matthew 26:17-30 |

Series:

The Supper | Matthew 26:17-30
Brian Hedges | March 11, 2018

All of us know that meals are one of the most important things that we do as human beings and one of the most important social things we do together. You have to eat, of course, to survive, so this is one thing that we do every day, but also, sharing meals together is one of the most important things we do to build relationships. Families that eat meals together tend to be closer. We build friendships when we go out for coffee or for lunch or we invite a family over into our home. We even enjoy fellowship meals, as a good Baptist church, we eat these potlucks together on a regular basis. These are all ways in which we build relationships.

And meals are actually very important in the whole fabric of Scripture. So, at the very beginning of the Bible, human beings are plunged into the darkness of sin and death because of a wrong kind of meal, right, when they eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. Then there’s a theme of hospitality that runs through the Old Testament that’s very important, and some of the most important events in the lives of the children of Israel were celebrated with a meal.

And then when Jesus comes on the scene, Jesus comes eating meals with sinners. There’s a church planter and theologian in the U.K. named Tim Chester, and he has observed that the words in Scripture, “The Son of Man came,” are followed with three different statements. “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” and, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Jesus came to eat meals with sinners, and it’s through the sharing of these meals with sinners that he brings about his kingdom. And then, the story of Scripture ends with a great banquet, doesn’t it, a wonderful feast, in Revelation chapter 19, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Right at the center of this story of this story of Scripture is a meal. It’s a meal that Jesus gave to his disciples, to his followers. It’s a meal that has abiding significance in the Christian church; in fact, it’s a meal that unites believers across all denominations. We all share this meal together. This is one thing that all Christians do. They come to the Lord’s table, they eat this sacramental meal together, and today we’re going to look at the origin of that meal, the holy supper of the Lord.

So, turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 26. Today is the beginning of a five-sermon series (five sermons in four weeks) as we look at Christ’s holy passion. We’re looking at the passion narrative, as found in the gospel of Matthew. And we’re really just going to dig into the final hours of Jesus’ life in St. Matthew’s gospel, chapters 26 through 28. So we’re going to look at the supper today, and then next Sunday we’ll be looking at the garden, the story of Jesus in Gethsemane’s garden; and then the Sunday after that we’ll look at the trials of Jesus, in Matthew 26, 27, and then on Good Friday we will look at the cross, and then we’ll conclude on Easter Sunday with the tomb.

So, this morning we’re looking at the supper, Matthew 26:17-30. Hear God’s word.

“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’ And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so.’ Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.’ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

This is God’s word.

So, three things to notice about this simple account of the first Lord’s supper:

I. The Setting of the Supper
II. The Meaning of the Supper
III. The Practice of the Supper

So I want us to understand something about the historical context, and then dig into the theological meaning. Why is this so important? Why do we do this? And then we’ll end on the practical note of, how do we practice? What should be our heart? What should be our mindset as we come to the table every week, because we practice the Lord’s table here weekly. So these three things.

I. The Setting of the Supper

First of all, the setting for the supper, and you see that in verses 17 through 19. There are just two things I want you to observe about this:

(1) And the first one is the setting in the life of Israel. The first thing you notice, in verse 17, is that this is the first day of Unleavened Bread, so this is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed Passover. Oftentimes, it’s all described together as Passover, and when you read the passage you see the mention of Passover three times in these verses, verses 17 through 19. It was also mentioned in verse 2, so four times. These are the only mentions of Passover in the gospel of Matthew.

It’s important for us to just note that this was a crucial national event in the life of Israel. It had deep historical roots in their story, particularly in the story of the Exodus. You remember this story; it’s recorded in Exodus chapter 12. You remember that the tenth plague of Egypt was the death of the firstborns. So this angel of death was going to come through the whole land and strike down every firstborn of man and beast, and God made a provision for the children of Israel.

He told them to kill a lamb, and they were to take some of the blood of that lamb and spread it on the doorpost and on the lintels of their doors, and God said in Exodus 12:13 that “the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

So the Passover meal, the Passover celebration that was celebrated annually in the life of Israel, was a reminder of that crucial event. This was their historical salvation event; this was their redemption. This was when they were set free from slavery, and it was a vivid reminder of God’s gracious provision and his redemption for the people of Israel. And this was something that was really crucial for every family in Israel. It wasn’t just a national event; this was a family event. This was something that families would come together to celebrate.

Just think about the richest, most significant times that you experience as a family. You might think about your Christmas traditions, you might think about the meals that you share together, you might think about doing family devotions together.

In our family, we’re trying this year to do more frequent family devotions, and we’re doing this as we work through the New City Catechism together. One of the most precious little things is my little girl Abby; she’s five years old, and she’s the one who’s reminding us over and over again. So this is what she’ll say almost every night, or at least several times a week; she’ll say, “Dad, can we do family demotions tonight?” And I just don’t have the heart to correct her; you know, family demotions!

So we have family demotions, and what she loves to do is ask the questions. She takes great delight in asking her older siblings the catechism questions. It’s a wonderful experience, as they’re all interacting with one another and engaged together. And then a couple of nights ago we were doing this together and they kind of turned the tables; they wanted to ask me the questions. Some of the questions that I had down pat a month ago I couldn’t remember very well, and so it really was family demotions for dad! It was kind of a humbling experience. So I need to do a little harder work.

Well, the Passover meal was a time of family worship, where the family came together. This is kind of how it went. New Testament scholar James Edwards chronicles what happened at a typical Passover meal. They would come together, and the head of the family would say a blessing over this gathering. And then a child, usually the youngest child in the family, would ask a question, and the child would say, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And the father would then recount the story of their deliverance from Egypt. He would pronounce a benediction over the various foods that they would eat; they would eat these various foods that symbolized their bitter captivity in Egypt. So there was unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and stewed fruit, and a roast lamb, and they would invite all their families and friends to partake of this meal together, and then they would conclude at the end of this meal with the singing of a psalm, one of the Hallel psalms, Psalms 113-118; and then they would have concluded that meal.

That’s what Jesus is now doing with his disciples. The disciples are like Jesus’ family, they are his inner circle, and Jesus will be presiding over this meal. This was a crucial event in the nation of Israel and in every Israelite Jewish family. So we have to understand that setting.

(2) And then we have to understand the special significance of this meal in particular, so its setting in the life of Jesus. You can see this in the text, where Jesus has prepared for this in advance, he’s prepared a place. They didn’t actually have their own place in Jerusalem, so Jesus either supernaturally has arranged this or he’s prepared it in advance with a friend in Jerusalem so that they have a house and they’re going to this place, which we now know as the Upper Room. This is where they’re going to celebrate this meal together, and Jesus says, “My time is at hand.” He’s longing for this.

In fact, in Luke’s gospel, he tells his disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” because his time is at hand, or, to use the language of the gospel of John, his hour has come. This is the hour for which he was born into the world. This is why he has come. This is the very climax of his mission. Jesus has come to die, and this meal will be the clearest place, in all of his earthly ministry before his crucifixion, where he explains the significance of what he came to do, and he’s earnestly desired it. He’s earnestly longed for it. So this meal has crucial significance in the life of Jesus.

II. The Meaning of the Supper

And that leads us right into an understanding of the meaning of the supper. The meaning of the supper; that’s our second point. You see the meaning spelled out in just three verses in this passage, verses 26 through 28.

It says, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

Now, there’s a lot going on in those three verses. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright explains it like this; he says, “Jesus’ last meal with his followers was a deliberate double drama. As a Passover meal of sorts it told the story of Jewish history in terms of divine deliverance from tyranny, looking back to the exodus from Egypt and on to the great exodus, the return from exile, that was still eagerly awaited. But Jesus’ meal fused this great story together with another one, the story of Jesus’ own life and of his coming death. It somehow involved him in the God-given drama, not as a spectator or as one participant among many, but as the central character.”

So everything Jesus says is meant to show his disciples how his story is being fused together with the story of Israel, the story of the Passover, which we’ve just considered. It is a double drama. And in fact, when you read this passage carefully and you trace the echoes and allusions to the Old Testament, there are layers of meaning here, and there are at least three Old Testament passages, in addition to the Passover story, that seem to be alluded to here in this passage, and I just want you to see what these are. As you look at these with me, we’re going to look at three passages, then we kind of add them up together and we will see the theological gospel significance of this supper.

So the first passage is Exodus chapter 24, and the crucial phrase is, “The blood of the covenant.” Jesus says, “This is the blood, this is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many.” He’s alluding here to Exodus chapter 24, when God had made a covenant with the nation of Israel, and that covenant is ratified through the sprinkling of blood.

Look at Exodus 24:6-8: “And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people, and said, ‘Behold, the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’”

So throughout Israel’s history blood has this crucial significance. This blood is what ratifies, what sealed the covenant. It’s a sign, it’s a symbol, of their consecration to God and of God’s provision for them in the forgiveness of their sins.

The second passage that’s being alluded to here is Isaiah chapter 53. Isaiah 53 is the fourth of the “servant songs” in the prophecy of Isaiah, and Isaiah 53 talks about this servant who will come and who will bear the iniquities, who will bear the sins of the people of God. Verses 11 and 12 are crucial for understanding this passage; let me read them, and you’ll see the allusion.

Isaiah 53:11-12, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death.” There’s the phrase: “He poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors. Yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Now, in light of things that Jesus has already said in the gospel of Matthew, it’s very clear that Jesus is alluding to this Isaiah 53 passage. He interpreted his own life in terms of Isaiah 53; he saw himself as this servant of the Lord who would come and who would suffer for others, and here he says that this blood of the covenant is being poured out. He’s pouring out his life. So he’s teaching them at the table what he is about to do in his passion.

And then there’s one other passage that’s important here, and it’s Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is the passage in the Old Testament that talks about the new covenant and explicitly uses that phrase, “the new covenant.” In Luke’s record of this supper, that phrase is actually used.

Look at what Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people, and no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

And Jesus says, as he gives them this cup of wine in this sacramental meal, he says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

So it’s really clear here, and when you take all these pieces together, the Passover story, the blood of the sacrifice that ratified the covenant with Israel, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who pours out his life for the transgressors, and the promise of a new covenant where people will know the Lord and their sins will be forgiven; you put all of that together, and it’s crystal clear that what Jesus is teaching through the supper is that he is the substitute for sinners. He is the substitute for sinners. He is the suffering substitute. He interprets his own death as a substitutionary sacrifice that will inaugurate this new covenant and will secure the forgiveness of sins for his people. He is saying, in effect, “This cup represents my life poured out for your sake, on your behalf, in your place. I’m about to die, and I’m doing it for you! I’m doing it for you; I’m doing it for your sins, and I’m doing it so your sins will be forgiven.”

This fits with what Jesus had already taught his disciples, Matthew 20:28, again channeling Isaiah chapter 53. He says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,” he’s the servant of the Lord, “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That’s why he came.

This is right at the heart of the gospel. This is why this meal is so important. This is why it’s worth celebrating every week, because every week we need to be reminded that Jesus is our substitute, that Jesus, in his blood-shedding death, secures the forgiveness of our sins. We hear the gospel weekly as the word is proclaimed, but we see the gospel weekly as the table is set before and as we take and eat and take and drink this meal. Jesus is our substitute. That’s right at the heart of the gospel.

You know those words of the contemporary praise chorus,

“Holy God in love became
Perfect man to bear my blame.
On the cross he took my sin;
By his death I live again.”

That’s the gospel. Or take those wonderful words of Bernard of Clairvaux,

“What thou, my Lord, hath suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.”

Or just one more, Philip Bliss:

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood;
Hallelujah! what a Savior!”

I mean, that’s what we celebrate in our hymns, it’s what we celebrate at the supper, it’s what we need to celebrate every week, it’s what we need to remember every week, that Jesus is the substitute; he’s the Savior. His death interprets the meal. The meal points to his death. The meaning of the supper is the cross, and the meaning of the cross is that this holy God who became man in the person of Jesus Christ has borne our blame, and on the cross he has secured the forgiveness of our sins, so that by his death we live again.

III. The Practice of the Supper

So we see here the setting of the supper, we’ve seen the meaning of the supper; now, let’s think practically for a few minutes, the practice of the supper. What should it mean for us, and how should we approach it as we come to this table week by week? How should we approach the Lord’s table?

I want to give you three answers to that question; three answers to the question, How should we observe or practice the Lord’s Supper?

(1) First of all, we need to look inward when we come. There’s a need for self-examination. I think that’s prompted from verses 21 through 25. Look at the text: “And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.’” Now, they all would have done that; that’s why it wasn’t clear to them who it was that would betray him. Then verse 24, “‘The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so.’”

So we read this story, and the shadow of Judas’s betrayal just looms over this meal. In fact, if you go back just a little bit in the text, verses 14 through 16, we actually learn that Judas has already sealed the deal. He’s already conspired to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. The passage here that we have just read shows us, first of all, Jesus’ full awareness of what’s going to take place. Jesus knows. Jesus has the foresight, he has the foreknowledge; he understands exactly what’s about to transpire. It also shows that this is to fulfill prophecy, verse 24, as it is written of him. Again, this is probably alluding to the servant songs in Isaiah, and perhaps other passages.

This passage is also a very solemn and sober testimony to the reality of hell, because Jesus says, “It would have been better for him if he had not been born.” That rules out universalism, the idea that everybody will be saved. They won’t. Not everyone will be saved. Not everyone will be in heaven. It rules out the idea of annihilationism, which is the idea that when the lost die they simply perish and cease to exist. You wouldn’t say it’s better for them never to have been born if they just cease to exist. It is a sober testimony to the reality of everlasting damnation.

And, it invites our self-examination. Every one of the disciples, they hear these words, every one of the disciples say, “Is it I?” The 11, “Is it I, Lord?” and Judas, “Is it I, Rabbi?” Did you know that Judas never one time is recorded in Scripture as calling Jesus Lord? Teacher; “Is it I, Teacher?” And the others ask, “Is it I, Lord?” To be sure, they will deny him, they will forsake him, they will sin against him, and yet he prepares this meal for them, he eats it with them, and he, in effect, says, “I know the sins you’re about to commit, and I’m going to die for them. I’m doing this for you.”

But it prompts our self-examination. We should ask ourselves, “Is it I, Lord?” We should search our hearts, and Paul tells us that we should examine ourselves in 1 Corinthians.

S. Lewis Johnson was a great 20th-century preacher, and in this sermon on this passage he tells a story about a name named Harold Senjen, who was a Bible teacher, a very effective Bible teacher, and something of an evangelist. He just had a knack for taking the opportunity, seizing the moment to share Christ with people.

And there was a time when Senjen was in Oxford, he was in one of the colleges in Oxford, and he was looking at this painting, by Holman Hunt, The Light of the World. He was looking at this painting. And he was alone in the room at the time, but while he was there observing this painting, thinking about this painting, a tour guide comes in, and he’s leading a group of people, and he’s all exuberant about the painting, and talking about the painting, and he says, “This is the painting by Holman Hunt, The Light of the World.” He says, “The original of this painting was sold for 5,000 pounds, and that was a lot of money back in those days."

And at that moment Harold Senjen spoke up, and he said, “Excuse me, sir; the original of that painting was sold for 30 pieces of silver.”

Everybody got really quiet and filed out of the room.

That should be the way that we think of Jesus, that we examine ourselves, and we recognize that though he was sold cheaply, for 30 pieces of silver, he bought us with the price of his precious blood, the blood of the covenant. So we look inward; self-examination.

(2) And then here’s the second thing; we look backwards. We look backward as we remember the cross. This meal is a memorial meal. It is a memorial meal. It is a meal that is a memorial of Christ, it points us back to what Jesus has accomplished for us. Jesus, in fact, says in Luke 22:19, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The meal is meant to stir our memory.

Now, in the Reformed tradition, I agree with Calvin and others; I think it does more than that, because Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10 that it is a “participation with Christ.” There is a real communion with Christ, but it doesn’t do less than that. It certainly is there to stir our memory, to remind us of what Christ has done, and to affect our hearts with the memory.

Let me give you another illustration, and I owe this one to Tim Keller. It’s a great illustration from The Lord of the Rings. This is from the third of the books, The Return of the King, and there’s a scene in that book where the city of Gondor is being sieged. There’s guy, Pippin, who’s one of the hobbits, and he’s there in the city, and he’s witnessing the siege of the city. I mean, darkness is just coming upon the city by the forces of evil, and they are confronted by this terrible figure; he’s one of the Black Riders, remember those from the movie? He’s one of the Black Riders, and he’s the leader of the Black Riders; he’s the lord of the Nazgúl. His name is the Witch King of Angmar.

He comes there, and Tolkien says, “A great black shape against the fires beyond, he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair.” He’s there, and he’s confronting Gandalf, and he essentially says, “Gandalf, you’re an old fool. Don’t you recognize death when you see it? This is the end. This is the end!”

And right at that moment - I mean, they are on the brink of despair, and right at that moment they hear a sound, and it’s the sound of horns in the distance. The sound of horns. It’s the armies of Rohan who have now ridden to the rescue. These armies have come to the rescue, and they defeat the enemy there on the Pelennor fields, but at great cost, many lives are lost, including the king of Gondor, Theóden.

A couple of chapters later, the story picks up with Pippin, and this is what it says: “But Pippin rose to his feet as if a great weight had been lifted from him, and he stood listening to the horns, and it seemed to him that they would break his heart with joy.” Get this: “And never in after years could he hear a horn blown in the distance without tears starting in his eyes.” His memory was stirred because of the great sacrifice that was made to secure his liberation.

That’s how the table should work. We should never come to the table without our hearts being stirred. Now, I know that sometimes we do. I know that sometimes we do, and we need to pray against that, we need to ask God to work in our hearts to soften our hearts. As we’re approaching every Sunday we should be asking the Lord to fit and frame our hearts for worship and to make our hearts and tender and to help us see and feel once again the greatness of this sacrifice that Christ has made for us, so that when we come to the table we are moved with the memory of what Christ has done for us. He suffered for you! That’s what the table means, and so we should be looking, not only looking inwardly, but we look backward to the cross of Christ, to what he accomplished for us.

(3) There’s one more dimension to this look. We are to look not only inward and backward, but are also to look forward. We are to look forward as we anticipate the consummated kingdom of God.

Look at verse 29. Jesus says, “I tell you, I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And so, this meal is what we might call an eschatological meal. Eschatology; that’s the study of last things, and this meal points us to the end.

Do you remember how Paul says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until” when? “Until he comes”! “Until he comes.” So every week, when we come to the table, we’re remembering the death of Christ, and we’re looking forward to the coming of Christ. He’s coming again, and Jesus says, “I’m not going to drink the fruit of the vine until I drink it with you in the kingdom, in the kingdom, in my Father’s kingdom.”

There is coming a day, brothers and sisters, when we will sit at table with Jesus himself, when we will celebrate with him in his Father’s kingdom the glories of Calvary and all that he has done for us, and it will be as real and as tangible as the person sitting next to you. We will see him! We will be with him! We will fellowship with him; we will eat and we will drink with him.

John the apostle describes it in Revelation 19:9, “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

This table right here, this isn’t the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is the appetizer for the feast. You know how you go to the restaurant and you get an appetizer and it’s not the full meal. This isn’t a full meal; it doesn’t fill you up. It’s not the full meal. It’s a precursor. It’s an appetizer. It’s whetting your appetites. It’s setting our sights on what is to come, the consummation of the kingdom.

Perhaps the greatest description of this, again, comes from the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 25:6-8: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine; of rich food, full of marrow, of aged wine, well-refined; and he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Do you long for that? Don’t you long for the day when Christ will come and will swallow up death forever? He will wipe these tears from our eyes, the tears over our sins, the tears over our sufferings, the tears over the heartache of this world. He’s going to come. He’s going to come, he’s going to make all things new, he’s going to make all things right, he’s going to right every wrong, he’s going to vindicate his people once and for all, he’s going to banish this world of evil and wickedness and suffering and sorrow and shame. And that is our hope! That is our hope, and when we come to the table we’re coming to stoke the fires of that hope. We’re coming to put fuel on the fire of that hope so that it will burn ever brightly.

Brother, sister. Christian. I don’t know everything that you’ve been through in the last week. I know what some of you have been through in recent weeks, but I don’t know every burden of your heart. I know enough of the burdens to know that there are tears, I know enough of the burdens to know that there’s heartache, I know enough of the burdens to know that there is sorrow over the grief and the suffering in our lives, in our families, in the world. I know enough that there’s sorrow over sin, and I know enough in my own heart, in my own family, to know all of those sorrows as well. And I want to tell you that the meal that Jesus gave us, that meal is a standing testimony to the fact that the sins, they are forgiven, and the sorrows, they will be wiped away. The tears will be wiped away, the sorrows will come to an end; death itself will be swallowed up forever, if you trust in Jesus Christ.

So I ask you this morning, do you trust in Christ? Have you placed your faith in Christ? If you haven’t, let me invite you to do so now. Confess your sins, look to the Savior who died for you, and you will be saved. Let’s pray.

Gracious Father, we have so much to thank you for. Blessed Savior, words fail us as we consider what you’ve done for us. As that hymn writer said,

“What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend?
For this, thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end.”

So words fail us, but we pray, nevertheless, that you would work in our hearts, that you would humble us, that you’d help us examine ourselves, not seeking for perfection, but just to be honest with the sin and the weakness that is there so that we can bring it into your presence, so that we can confess and be forgiven.

We pray that as we take the bread and the juice this morning that the elements of the table would be sign and seal to us of our forgiveness according to the terms of this new covenant, inaugurated by Jesus Christ. May we look outward to what he has done. May we remember his sacrifice, his death, and his resurrection on our behalf, and may the deep wounds of our hearts be healed this morning. So draw near to us, we pray, through the ministry of your Holy Spirit, as we come now to the table. We pray it in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.