• Song #869 "We're Marching to Zion"

  • Song #144 "O Worship the King"

  • Song #578 "We Will Glorify"

  • Welcome

  • Song #1018 "Joy to the World"

  • Prayer

    If we had the ability to focus on Jesus' intentions when he took communion with his disciples for the first time on the evening just before his arrest, I am confident that all of us would be shocked. I think we would be shocked at the simplicity of Jesus' intentions.

    Through the ages, different churches have assigned many types of symbolism to communion. Sometimes those symbols are very Jewish in origin. Jesus was a Jew. All of his disciples were Jews. When Jesus ate his last meal with his disciples, the Jewish Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the temple as the Jewish people prepared for Passover.

    We rarely consider that the Passover was the Jewish people's most important spiritual memorial. Passover had great significance to them. It is certainly true that some symbolism between Jewish Passover and Christian communion are powerfully shared. But it is also true that many of the early Christians were not Jews. They were converted from idolatry. Their former worship of idolatrous gods symbolically shared almost nothing in common with the symbols of Jewish Passover.

    When Jesus took communion with his disciples, he knew communion was not just for Jews who believed in him. He knew his communion was for all people. It was for those who understood Passover. It was also for those who had no knowledge about Passover. What Jesus did in observing communion was extremely significant. It was also extremely simple.

    As Jesus the Jew took communion with his disciples who were Jews, he began in a way that devout Jews commonly began a meal. He blessed the bread and broke it. When devout Jews began a meal, the head of the household began by giving thanks: "Blessed are You, O Lord...Who brought forth food from the earth." With that blessing, the bread he held was broken and the meal began.

    The two basic survival foods at that time in their world were bread and the juice of grapes. It is not an exaggeration to say that physical survival at that time in that world depended on bread and the juice of grapes. In a very simple, real way that used simple, essential foods associated with survival, Jesus declared to his disciples that they should remember how essential he was to their survival.

    In communion we do many things. One of those things is to declare our awareness and understanding that we could not survive without Jesus. Without Jesus we cannot be forgiven. Without Jesus we could not come to God. Without Jesus we could not be in God's family. Without Jesus, we would spiritually die.

  • Song #176 "Lamb of God"

    I am deeply impressed by the simplicity of Jesus' words.

    According to Matthew 26:26 in simplicity Jesus said these words:
    While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."

    According to Mark 14:22 in simplicity Jesus said these words:
    While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body."

    According to Luke 22:19 in simplicity Jesus said these words:
    And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

    Why? The basic point was simple: when you eat this bread, remember me. Remember my physical body. Very soon that physical body would be killed in a horrible manner. Jesus' love for them and us took his body to the cross. Jesus' love for them and us kept his body on the cross.

    We remember Jesus' body for a lot of reasons. We remember he assumed a physical body like ours. We remember that he truly understands us because he had our real experiences in a physical body. We remember that he loved us so much that he endured the pain and suffering of that physical body dying. And each Christian realizes because he used his physical body to free us from sin's condemnation, we want to be part of his body on earth right now.

    Each Christian should say within himself or herself, "Because he sacrificed his body for me, I am. I can be part of God's family because he sacrificed his body for me."

    Remember Jesus' simple words: "Take, eat. This is my body."

  • Prayer for the bread

  • Taking the bread

  • Song #374 "There is a Fountain"

    Jesus' took a cup of grape juice (or wine), thanked God, and told all his disciples to drink from the cup. Just as the bread symbolized his body that soon would be sacrificed in crucifixion, the contents of the cup symbolized his blood that soon would be poured from his body to the ground.

    With the same simplicity, he made two statements about his blood. He said it was the blood of the new covenant. He said that it was his blood which would be sacrificed so that many could receive the remission sins.

    To the Jewish people the word "covenant" was a very important word. Israel came into existence as a nation which was to belong to God because of a covenant God made with Abraham. Everything that happened in Israel for hundreds of years was the result of that covenant. This new covenant was God's provision for all people to have opportunity to be His people.

    Years later Paul wrote this statement about Jesus' blood.
    Ephesians 1:7,8 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

    As you drink the grape juice, remember Jesus' blood. Remember it with joy and appreciation. Without Jesus' blood, you and I are guilty before God with no hope and no means of dealing with our guilt. With Jesus' blood, you and I are a part of God's family with hope because of the forgiveness of our guilt.

  • Prayer

  • Taking the grape juice

  • Song #429 "Oh, To Be Like Thee"

    Have you ever wondered what it was like to take communion among Christians in the first century? Have you always assumed their communion procedures were pretty much like our communion procedures?

    First, let's remember some basic circumstances. Early Christians were a small minority. If it was a Jewish congregation of Christians, if they were located among a large population of Jews, most of the Jews in that place did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or Christ that God promised Israel. Many times Jewish Christians were neither respected nor appreciated by the majority of Jews who rejected Jesus as being God's Christ.

    If it was a congregation in which most of the Christians were not Jews, they were still a minority and still unpopular. Many thought they were a threat to the Roman government. The Roman government despised new cults that drew people away from the traditional Roman gods, and Christianity was classified as one of those new cults. Since Christians honored the one living God and rejected all other gods, many people regarded Christians to be a dangerous threat to society and the economy. Many were convinced that Christians angered the gods by honoring only one God.

    Often early Christians were neither respected nor appreciated.

    They did not build church buildings. They lived in a world that considered Sunday the first day of the work week. Probably Christians meet either early in the morning or in the evening. They did not have communion trays for sharing the bread and the grape juice. They did not have refrigeration or our common forms of preserving food, so the grape juice was juice if it was near the harvest and wine if the harvest was long passed.

    What they did was so different that most of us would have felt awkward and out of place. From the information available to us today, this seems to be what they did, at least among Christians who were not Jews. They met in homes in small groups of believers. They shared a meal together to affirm their bonds of togetherness because all of them placed their faith in Jesus Christ. The meal preceded communion that came at the end of the meal when they joyfully remembered Jesus' body and blood.

    In the early Christian community, weekly communion did two things. Every week it remembered Jesus, Jesus who gave them salvation, Jesus who gave them hope, Jesus who loved them enough to die for them. As groups of Christians remembered Jesus, they affirmed their unity, their togetherness because all of them had one thing in common--they believed Jesus was the Christ.

    Today it is so easy for Christians to make communion a requirement we habitually keep in doing what we are supposed to do. The "spiritual magic" is in doing it. The benefit and the power is not in the remembering.

    When we remember, we appreciate.

    When we remember, we repent.

    When we remember, we renew our commitment to Jesus and to God.

    Do you believe Jesus is the Christ? Do you believe enough to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life? Do you believe enough to remember, and to let God and your memories of Jesus change the way you live your life?

  • Invitation Song #359 "I Love the Lord"

  • Prayer for the offering

  • Contribution

  • Song #674 "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"

  • Closing Prayer

    David Chadwell

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 18 August 2002

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