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Communion Meditations (2015)

Prayer Never Prayed

Originally scheduled for May 3

Much of the prayer life of Jesus Christ is recorded for us in the New Testament. There is a sufficient biography of this that we may draw some conclusions from the things for which Christ never prayed.

For example, we know that Christ prayed fervently for his release from the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. It is obvious that Christ did not wish to suffer this way, was in great fear of the pain and agony of the Cross, and therefore asked his Father to relieve him of the anxiety and then the pain of the Cross. It is interesting to note that while Christ prayed frequently to be relieved from the dread of the Cross, but this was never contradicted by his Father. From that, we may assume that his prayer was in accordance with being fully human and not sinful. The pain of such prayer denied was amplified by the fact that his three best friends couldn’t stay awake long enough to be of any comfort to him in his hour of trial.

It is seldom remarked upon, but I think it is important: Jesus Christ never prayed about the Resurrection. He never asked God to give it to him; he confidently predicted it. You will recall his remark about tearing down this Temple and in three days he would build a new one — clearly prophetic of the resurrection. He regarded the coming Resurrection as a future fact. But, as we can see from his prayers, that fact was of utterly no consolation whatsoever. Sometimes people think that Christ must’ve known that he would rise from the dead, and therefore this wasn’t such a big deal, the Cross. That is utterly false. As the Scriptures make plain, he dreaded and feared the Cross. And not once did he make the light appeal of asking to be tided over with courage on the grounds the Resurrection would come so soon. So how does he overcome his fear? By his obedience to his Father. True courage consists of looking the fear in the face and deciding that you will do the right thing anyway.

At communion we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, we do not celebrate both the sacrifice and the Resurrection — just the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Even the elements of communion speak to the sacrifice, not to the Resurrection. The bread represents his body, broken. The cup represents his blood. There is no symbol of the Resurrection. Even in the Old Testament forerunner of communion, the Passover, there is no sense of anything being celebrated except the sacrifice of the Lamb which protects the ancient Jew from the angel of death.

The Resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. As C. S. Lewis once remarked, Christianity can almost be reduced to one fact and one doctrine. The fact is the Resurrection. The doctrine is redemption by grace. For this reason alone there is no reason at all for us to be prompted to celebrate the Resurrection. But we do need to be reminded to celebrate the sacrifice which made it possible. We have a tendency to focus on the warm and positive things and put behind our backs those things which are miserable and dirty. The sacrifice of Christ should not be relegated to a back room closet. We need to be reminded that Christ went to the Cross for us.

It is an exercise of memory; the string around the finger. We remind ourselves of those things which we are apt to forget — including the sacrifice of Christ.

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