************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Days 28-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 11, 2018
Lord's Days 28-30
"The Lord's Supper"
People today want churches to promote Christian unity and cooperation. This has reached new heights in the Netherlands where Reformed and Roman Catholic congregations have actually had church union. Over here it is popular among mainline Protestant churches to have an ecumenical service in which Roman Catholic priests are invited to take part. It is also increasingly popular for Protestants to attend Roman Catholic worship and even to partake of the Mass.
In Q & A 80 the Catechism warns us against the Roman Catholic Mass. To be more specific, the Catechism tells us the Roman Catholic Mass "is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry." Meaning what? Meaning that we cannot join Roman Catholics in worship. Meaning that we don't invite Roman Catholic priests onto our pulpit.
Now remember our theme as we look at the Catechism this time? Our theme is sound doctrine. Sound doctrine, I keep telling you, is doctrine that is based upon the Bible. Therefore it is reliable and trustworthy and believable. What we have in the Catechism is sound doctrine.
The New Testament warns us there is truth and error in this world. Again and again we are warned about false teachers and false doctrines. Again and again elders and pastors are told to keep watch over themselves and the flock. In line with this, the sound doctrine of the Catechism identifies truth for us but it also identifies error. This is not a popular approach, especially today. Many pretend that heretics, false teachers, and false doctrine are problems only of the past. But that is not the case.
Today, before we eat and drink from the Lord's Table, we look at what sound doctrine has to say about the Lord's Supper.
I The Institution of the Lord's Supper
A We start with the institution of the Lord's Supper. It is popular to believe that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper at the Passover Feast. This is said by more than one of the commentators I read while I was studying for this sermon. But this is not technically correct. This cannot be technically correct. It cannot be correct because we all know that Jesus died on the day of the Passover, that He died the same time the Passover lambs were slaughtered, that He died before the Passover Feast.
So how are we to understand what is written in our Scripture reading? The disciples, we are told, "prepared the Passover" (Mt 26:19). And, Jesus and His disciples were "reclining at the table" (Mt 26:20).
Let me try to explain this by saying Who Jesus is. Remember how Jesus upset the Pharisees when He healed on the Sabbath and allowed His disciples to pick heads of grain on the Sabbath? At that time Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Mt 12:8). As Lord of the Sabbath Jesus is not bound by the rules of men. Scripture doesn't use the phrase but we can also say Jesus is "Lord of the Passover." Jesus is not bound to dates and times and regulations. So, as "Lord of the Passover" it is perfectly acceptable for Jesus to celebrate the Passover a day early. We all know why: because it was not possible for Him to celebrate the Passover the next day. And, notice, Jesus celebrated the Passover without eating the meat of a lamb because He was the Passover Lamb.
Jesus broke with the old covenant rules and institutions. Jesus broke with the old covenant rules and institutions and established something better in their place. Scripture teaches us, sound doctrine tells us, that the Lord's Supper is a fulfilment and replacement of the Old Testament Passover much as baptism is a fulfilment and replacement of the Old Testament circumcision. Jesus could have instituted the Lord's Supper at any time but He waited to do so until the time of the Passover.
B The Passover and the Lord's Supper have similarities but they also have differences so we must not confuse the two.
The Passover was a full meal. According to Exodus 12 it was designed to nourish the Israelites for their flight from Egypt at midnight. According to Luke's gospel, it was after eating this full meal that the Lord and His disciples ate the Lord's Supper (Lk 22:20).
The main dish at the Passover was roasted lamb. The Israelites selected a male lamb without blemish and killed it in the Temple. Its blood was drained and it was roasted whole. With the lamb was served unleavened bread -- that is, flat, hard bread without yeast. And the sauce was a mixture of bitter herbs. These herbs reminded the Jews of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt. Into these herbs the people would dip bread.
The Lord's Supper, on the other hand, had no meat, no lamb, no bitter herbs. It was not a full meal -- an error made by the Corinthians for which they received a strong rebuke (1 Cor 11:20-22).
C After eating the Passover meal Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. Jesus knew He was the Passover Lamb and in a few hours He would be sacrificed on the cross. Jesus took bread and wine from the table. Before this they were simply part of the Passover meal. But now He sets them apart to be holy signs and seals of His body and blood. He took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
D Did you notice the command? Eat, drink. It is not optional if you are a Christian. And in case we haven't caught on, Jesus adds "all of you." Not every person who walks into church is allowed to participate. The Lord's Supper is not meant for the unbelieving and ungodly, it is not meant for hypocrites and those who are unrepentant. But if you are a confessing believer, you are commanded to participate. "All of you." All who confess Christ before men as their Savior and Lord are commanded to eat and drink. All who are displeased with themselves because of their sins but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ are commanded to come to the Lord's table.
Eat. Drink. Not just eat as is done in the Roman Catholic Church where the wine is withheld from the people. Rather, eat the bread and drink the wine.
II The Symbolism of the Lord's Supper
A Our second point is that the Lord's Supper has both symbolic elements and symbolic actions.
The symbolic elements are the bread and wine. Let me emphasize that bread and wine are symbols. They symbolize the body and blood of Christ. We never want to go the route of the Roman Catholic Church which claims the bread and wine are changed into the real body and blood of Christ.
When Jesus identifies His body with the bread, He teaches us He is the Bread of Life. He further teaches us that He is necessary for our spiritual life: that just as bread nourishes our earthly life so too Jesus nourishes our spiritual life; just as we must regularly eat bread to remain alive so must we be regularly nourished by Christ for the maintenance of our spiritual life. We are taught that Jesus "nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life" (Q & A 75).
What about the wine? The Catechism states that wine also symbolizes nourishment. In that time and place, most meals included wine. Therefore, as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life (Q & A 79).
But there is another thing we can say about wine, one that is not mentioned by the Catechism. Wine in the Bible is a symbol of joy, abundance, and prosperity.
(Ps 4:7) You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.Wine is a good gift of God, to be used and enjoyed, but not to be abused. When the Lord includes wine as one of the elements of the Lord's Supper He teaches us that it is He Who brings us joy, the joy of salvation.
(Ps 104:15) wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
B The Lord's Supper not only has symbolic elements but also symbolic actions.
What do we do with the bread? We break it. Meaning what? Meaning that "his body was offered and broken for me" (Q & A 75). The breaking of the bread symbolizes the breaking of Jesus' body, the tearing of His flesh, the piercing of His side. The breaking of the bread is a symbol not only of all the suffering of Christ in His body but also the torments of Christ in His soul.
What is done with the wine? It is poured into a cup? Meaning what? Meaning that His blood was shed for me, poured out for me on the cross (Q & A 75). The red color of wine reminds us that blood poured out of Jesus as He was pierced by the nails and as His side was pierced by the spear.
C It is not enough, it is never enough, to simply see the bread and the wine. It is not enough, it is never enough, to see the breaking of bread and the pouring of the wine. What follows? We are to eat and drink. Meaning what? Meaning we accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Meaning we are united with Christ.
III The Promises of the Lord's Supper
We end with the promises of the Lord's Supper. Don't forget that sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see and understand more clearly the promise of the Gospel.
Listen to what the Catechism says about the promise of the Lord's Supper:
First,Notice, the repetition of the phrases "as surely ... so surely." Meaning the promise is a sure promise. We know we can depend on this promise. We know we can believe this promise. Because it is the promise of our Almighty God and Faithful Father.
as surely as I see with my eyes
the bread of the Lord broken for me
and the cup given to me,
his body was offered and broken for me
and his blood poured out for me
on the cross.
as surely as
I receive from the hand of the one who serves,
and taste with my mouth
the bread and cup of the Lord,
given me as sure signs of Christ's body and blood,
he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life
with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
Sound doctrine invites us to watch as the bread is broken and the wine is poured. Sound doctrine invites us to eat and drink. Sound doctrine invites us to believe His body and blood were given for you and me. Sound doctrine invites us to believe Jesus nourishes our souls for eternal life.
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