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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Lamb Slain

Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-20

No other passage in Scripture has evoked the devotion and commentary of the Lord’s Supper. In this lesson, I hope to show that Jesus is indeed, as John describes Him, the “lamb slain from the creation of the world.” The theme is present at the initial Passover; it remains in the Lord’s Supper, and continues to the end of the age at His coming again.

(Mat 26:26-30 NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." {27} Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. {28} This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. {29} I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." {30} When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(Mark 14:22-26 NIV) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." {23} Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. {24} "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. {25} "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God." {26} When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(Luke 22:14-20 NIV) When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. {15} And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. {16} For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." {17} After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. {18} For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." {19} And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." {20} In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Passover as picture

It is clear from any number of pictures that Passover is a forerunner of the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus, at this supper, transforms the Passover meal into what we now call the Lord’s Supper. In so doing, we can see many things which were in the Passover which are shown in His sacrifice at the cross:

·         The lamb to be eaten at Passover was to be “without defect.” Jesus was our sinless sacrifice, as John has it, the Lamb of God.

·         The house was to be purged of yeast, a symbol of sin. This is also symbolic of our Lord’s sinlessness.

·         Blood was to be applied to the door posts and lintel so that the angel of death would “pass over” that house. We know that it is by the blood of Christ that we are saved, that judgment “passes over” us. Interestingly, it was applied using hyssop, which was also used during the Crucifixion.

·         Only the circumcised (whether Jew or alien) could partake of the Passover. Similarly, only the baptized believer should partake of the Lord’s Supper – but it is open to all such.

·         The Jew was instructed not to break any bones of the lamb – just as none of Christ’s bones were broken.

·         Interestingly, the Jew was instructed to leave none of the meat until morning – he was to burn it up if necessary. Just as Christ stayed on the cross only for the one day, Good Friday.

·         All the people were to participate, with no exceptions. It was not sufficient for the religious rulers to condemn Christ; they had to get the crowd with them. Remember how they said, “His blood be on us and on our children?”[1]

·         They were to eat the meal in haste, clothed for a journey. We are to eat it until he comes again – a coming about which we are warned to be ready.

·         And like the ancient Jew, God “passes over” us in judgment, not for our merit or good works, but because of his grace.

Present Tense – the Lord’s Supper

All the above is history, but it shows that God had planned the cross long before it happened. Indeed, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and the triumph thereof, is a central theme of the Bible. It imposes upon us certain things today. I submit that we may see our present reaction in three things: preparation for the Lord’s supper, discernment of the presence of God, and proclamation of the Lord’s death.

Preparation

Paul tells us that we are to come to the Lord’s Supper by examining ourselves.[2] This is very much parallel to the search for the yeast in Passover. We are to look at our lives, and throw out that which is sinful. Jesus did that at the Last Supper. Do you not recall that just before he broke bread and shared the cup he sent Judas on his way? Indeed, he in addition washed the disciples’ feet so that all would be clean. It is a powerful picture of the repentance we should have before taking the Lord’s Supper.

Note also that Jesus began by giving thanks. Often we come repentant but seldom do we come thankful to the Lord’s Supper. And yet God is so generous to us! Our preparation should include a grateful acknowledgment of what the Lord has done for us.

Our cleansing has one particular point: our brother. The principle proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount is that we should not present our gift at the altar if our brother has anything against us. Indeed, then, should we take “communion” with him in such circumstance? Richard the Lionheart did not take communion for the last years of his life for fear that he would be compelled to forgive King Philip of France. Only on his deathbed would he take communion. Do we take our obligation of peace towards our brothers as seriously?

Lastly, we must remember that this is not just ritual but acted symbolism. An empty ritual carries a deadly reward.[3]

Presence

Do you believe that the Lord is present at the Lord’s Supper? I do. Do you believe he is present in the Lord’s Supper? I do, for he told me so. “This is my body” means He is present or it means nothing at all. How can this be?

First, we must understand that (at the least) it means that he is present symbolically. Symbols are the most powerful form of communication known to man. A wedding ring is not just gold, it is the woman you love. A flag is not just cloth, it is the nation you venerate. In making this a symbol he has indeed made this a powerful communication, or, as John might have put it, he made the Word become bread and wine.

There is something more. Until the Protestant Reformation, all Christians were taught to discern the “real Presence” of Christ. I am not a transubstantiationist in the crude sense, but do understand that the essence of Christ (as Thomas Aquinas would have understood it) is present. Just as the essence of a rose may be found in an exquisite photograph or painting of one, so the essence of Christ is found in the emblems of his sacrifice. There is much to chew on in that.

We are to see His body in the Lord’s Supper, and in one very real sense we do: the body of Christ is all around us, the church. This is the meal that separates us from the world and to God. If we cannot see (as the Corinthians could not[4]) that this means we are to care for each other, then we have been blind indeed.

You are what you eat, and this applies spiritually as well as physically. We are the body of Christ, so this is our proper food. It is interesting to note that after the Resurrection Christ performs no more miracles – but the body of Christ does. As we are his body, we do his work. So watch your diet.

Proclamation

We also proclaim his death until he comes again. Note that it is not his Resurrection we proclaim, we proclaim his death. It is the reminder not of the triumph but of the sacrifice. The sacrifice is the foundation of all.

In proclaiming his sacrifice, we proclaim his grace. To take the Lord’s Supper is to proclaim that I am a sinner, in need of grace – and I have found it. Some scholars suggest that the hymn sung might have been Psalm 136 (others suggest Psalm 81) in which each verse ends with “for his mercy endures forever.” The repetition is worth noting; taking the Lord’s Supper is partaking of the mercy that endures forever.

Future Tense

Of all the Gospel writers, only John uses the phrase “Lamb of God.” Peter and Paul use it occasionally, but it recurs most frequently in the book of Revelation. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we pronounce our agreement with the coming Lamb of God. In particular, we announce the Lamb of God to be:

·         Worthy. He is worthy to open the seals of the future[5]; he is worthy to be called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[6]

·         Source of Salvation. We are explicitly told that salvation belongs to the Lamb and to God,[7] and that the saints overcome Satan by the blood of the lamb.[8]

·         Judge. The evil will fear the wrath of the Lamb,[9] and the test of heaven and hell is whether or not your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.[10]

·         Glory to come. The redeemed sing the song of Moses and the Lamb;[11] and it is said that He will be our Shepherd.[12] We are to be the wedding guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb,[13] and in the New Jerusalem there is neither Temple nor light, for God and the Lamb are Temple and Light.[14]

All this is, by various theories, yet to come (or at least was when John wrote it). This awesome Jesus, the Lamb of God, is coming in power and might, and we proclaim all this every time we take the Lord’s Supper. He is worthy to hold the future, to be Lord and King of all. He is our source of salvation, by his blood we overcome the world. He will judge the living and the dead, separating sheep from goats, heaven from hell. And at his return all things will be made new, by the power of Him through whom all things were made – the Lamb of God.


[1] Matthew 27:25

[2] 1 Corinthians 11:28-29

[3] See Luke 13:26

[4] 1 Corinthians 11:20-22

[5] Revelation 5:8

[6] Revelation 17:14

[7] Revelation 7:10

[8] Revelation 12:11

[9] Revelation 6:16

[10] Revelation 13:8

[11] Revelation 15:3

[12] Revelation 7:17

[13] Revelation 19:7

[14] Revelation 21:22-23

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