03-29-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Today I’d like to look at a very special feast with very special meaning. When you’re talking about feasting, you know most feasts signify something. They hold deeper meaning. For instance, I think you understand the meaning behind eating crow…eating your own words…eating humble pie…eating dirt…biting the dust…swallowing a bitter pill…or eating your hat.
The “Feast of Truth and Grace” also has deep meaning and significance. We’re wrapping up a series of messages that began by looking at two verses of Scripture:
- John 1:14 says that when Jesus came into the world, he came “full of grace and truth.”
- And 1 Pet 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”—literally, the multi-colored grace of God.)
Imagine a rainbow spread across the sky with its myriad of colors. God’s grace comes in multiple ways—like a rainbow full of an infinite number of colors. He has a different color of grace to match each and every need.
We think Baskin-Robbins has a lot of flavors with 31 flavors. But grace comes in far more flavors…
Grace in its most basic sense is simply a gift—the undeserved favor of God. Everything good in this world—food to eat, someone to love, a gentle breeze, a majestic mountain, a beautiful painting, an inspiring song, a glowing sunset, a sweet baby’s smile—these are what some call “common” grace. You’ll find common grace in all cultures and peoples and times all over the world.
The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17) God distributes his good gifts all over the world to all people, all races, rich and poor, male and female—everyone.
More than common grace, there is also “saving” grace or “redeeming” grace. It’s another dimension of grace available to sinners who open their hearts to receive God’s gift of redemption.
No matter who you are or what your need, God’s grace is available for you today. Grace flows from God’s unlimited supply to fill all the empty places in your life.
Paul, in the NT, said he’d learned God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9)—it’s enough; it’s all we need.
So redeeming grace brings God’s love to your deepest needs (not only your sin—but also your hurts, habits, handicaps, and hang-ups).
Grace lifts you to a better place. David wrote in the Psalms that God lifted him out of the pit and out of the mud and set his feet on a rock—a firm place to stand. (40:2)
Over the last couple of weeks, Fred and Jeff shared a couple of stories from the Bible showing how Jesus extended grace to those around him—people broken by life, people paralyzed by sin, people needing a helping hand.
They also reminded us that we can follow in Jesus’ steps and extend grace to people in our lives. We can be instruments of grace in our society.
Jesus said we’re to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Matt 5:13-14)
When God’s grace shines—a beacon of forgiveness and hope into your soul, you can shine a light into a dark, hopeless world. Don’t hide your light, Jesus said. (Matt 5:15-16)
When you get a taste of grace, you can be like salt—preserving and flavoring society. Paul said we our conversations should always be “full of grace, seasoned with salt” so we would know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)
But when we talk about grace, there is also that tricky issue called truth. Right and wrong. Justice. Jesus brings grace to the world, but he also brings truth.
From a human perspective, we often see grace and truth as opposites. We tend to think if we’re going to show grace to someone, we have to overlook truth—the reality of his sin.
Or we think telling someone the truth means we have to be direct—so brutally honest that we’re ungracious.
From a human point of view, it’s hard to see how grace and truth can be wrapped in one package. And yet—Jesus came “full of grace and truth.”
In a few minutes we’re going to receive Communion together. We do this on a regular basis.
Communion has been called various things—the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Breaking of Bread, Holy Mass, Blessed Sacrament…but just for today I’m going to call it a “Feast of Truth and Grace.”
Why? Because Communion is about both grace and truth. It’s intended to remind us of both—the truth (or reality) of sin but also the grace of God which defeats sin.
Communion is a time to remember what Jesus did. It’s a “Feast of Truth and Grace.”
Let’s read what happened when Jesus first established this feast. It was just before the crucifixion on Good Friday, just before the Resurrection on Easter. It’s in Luke 22:7-20:
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 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 from 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.
Remember: Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover—a feast commemorating the deliverance of their Jewish ancestors out of oppression and slavery in ancient Egypt.
So before we look at the meaning of Communion, let’s take a moment to look at what Passover had meant to generations of Jews. Let’s go back and see how it all began.
The Jews had been oppressed and abused for many years—forced into hard labor. The Egyptians were afraid if they didn’t beat down the Jews, they might rebel and take over the land.
You’ll find the story in the OT, in Exodus 12. After years of oppression, the Jews were desperate to be free. God sent Moses to lead them out from under Pharaoh’s control. Through a series of amazing, miraculous displays of power—each one revealing the impotence of the Egyptian deities—Pharaoh was finally persuaded to let the Jews go. [Also see Ps 105:27-37.]
But not until the last big plague when God sent death throughout the land.
On that horrible night, the oldest son in every household died, from Pharaoh’s house on down—even to the animals in the pens.
The Jews would have suffered the same fate, except for one thing: God gave them a substitute to take the place of their oldest son. Each family was to take a 1-year-old, male lamb without any defect, sacrifice the lamb, and paint its blood on the doorframe of their house. So when the Lord saw the blood, he would “pass over” that house.
Each family was then to roast the meat and eat it “in haste,” wolfing it down—with their cloaks tucked in their belts and their staffs held in hand—ready to leave Egypt behind.
So for centuries, they ate the Passover to remind them of God’s salvation. When their children asked, “What does this mean?” (v 26) then they could explain the significance of the meal.
We were slaves in Egypt when God rescued us and brought us out by his strong hand…
- The blood on the doorframes (v 7,13) was a “sign” for them that death would pass over their house.
- Roasting the lamb in the fire (not boiled! a crock pot would not work) reminded them of the fiery trials they were escaping.
- Eating “in haste” (v 11) showed they were prepared—ready to receive deliverance.
- Leaving no leftovers (v 10) suggested they were leaving all their suffering behind, all of their old life of slavery.
- Unleavened bread showed (1) they had no time to wait for the dough to rise. Passover required no yeast in the house for one week (v 18-20) because (2) yeast symbolized sin—something that grows and affects the whole loaf of bread (1 Cor 5:7-8).
Today people give up something for Lent as a sign of commitment and sacrifice; the Jews for Passover gave up yeast for a whole week.
So they ate Passover every year to remember—to commemorate and celebrate (v 14)—how God brought them out of Egypt (v 17). [Check out the Jews for Jesus presentation tomorrow night at St. Paul’s.]
When Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples, they were celebrating Passover. It was a feast about truth—they had been enslaved and oppressed. But it was also a feast about grace—a substitute lamb made it possible for them to be set free.
And then Jesus infused Passover with new meaning and significance, as he fulfilled God’s promises.
This feast reminds us of our ancesters’ slavery, bondage, and bitter lives in Egypt. The red wine reminds us of the blood of the sacrificial lamb that set us free. The unleavened bread reminds us of God’s timing—the haste in which our ancesters escaped from Pharaoh.
But from now on, whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, I want you to remember something else. Breaking this bread is to remind you of my body, which is broken for you. And this cup of wine is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Just as Egypt enslaved our ancesters, sin enslaves our world. People are in bondage to sin, but I am the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world and sets people free. The blood on the doorposts deliverance from Egypt, but my blood on the cross brings deliverance from sin.”
They were set free to enter the Promised Land; now people are set free to enter God’s promises and experience new life.”
Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” So we begin this holy week…remembering.