Luke 22:14–20 (NIV) 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.
My dear friends in Christ,
Our sermon series based on the different symbols in front of church has looked at 5 different symbols so far. We began with the theme verse carved on the altar, “Acquaint now thyself with him and be at peace” (Job 22:21). We learned that God is the source of peace, and the only way to tap into this peace is to know God better in his Word. The next symbol brought us to the beginning of God’s plan to rescue us. The prickly thistle reminded us how God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. Sin has made life miserable. We desperately need God’s peace! Then we looked at the next three symbols—a Seed, a crown of thorns, and a cross. All three pointed to Jesus as the one who paid for our peace. We saw the dove and three drops of water—symbols of the incredible change God works in us when baptism washes us with Jesus’ peace. Last week Pastor Gast showed us the rainbow—God’s sign that he always keeps his promises, no matter what!
Today we move to the symbol carved next to the rainbow. It’s a cup with a piece of bread above it. It’s the symbol for a special meal that we have been invited to attend. What would you do if you received an invitation like this in the mail? “The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to invite ________ to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, 9th July 2019 from 4 to 6 pm.” Along with the invitation comes a voucher for airfare, hotel, and meals good for a week of vacation in London. It would be hard to believe. “The Queen of England wants to meet me? I’m important enough that she’d fly me to London to meet her?”
Jesus offers us an invitation to a meal. It’s not tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. It’s a meal that began almost 2000 years ago. We heard a little bit about it just a few moments ago. Jesus had sent two of his followers to make preparations for the ancient Passover. During this meal, the Jews commemorated the day they were freed from Egyptian slavery. They needed supplies in order to celebrate—lamb, bitter herbs, bread without yeast, and wine. Once Jesus’ friends had gathered everything they needed, they sat down for the meal. Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 NIV). Jesus wanted to share this invitation with them more than they could understand—more than they could even imagine. He loved all these people reclining around the table with him. They had spent 3 ½ years together. They were his students and friends. He loved them, and he wanted to share this special meal with them.
That’s why Jesus sends his invitation out to us. You and I aren’t some faceless names on an invitation list. He knows us. He wants a chance to sit down with us and eat and drink this special meal. His deepest desire is for us to get to know him better so that we can share this meal with him. The invitation is ready and waiting. The Lord Jesus is eager to welcome us to his special meal!
After the initial shock at receiving the Queen’s invitation, I would have all kinds of questions. What am I supposed to wear? For all the other garden parties the queen has held, “Gentlemen wear morning dress or lounge suits, while women wear day dress, usually with hats or fascinators.” Now I have even more questions—morning dress? Lounge suit? What’s a fascinator? Then I need to figure out what kind of manners are expected when meeting the Queen of England. How should I address her? Do I need to bow? I think I would be extremely nervous, but excited to meet her!
What does Jesus expect us to wear as we come to this meal? Tie and tails, evening gowns? Business suits? Business casual? Jeans and a polo? Shorts and flip-flops? Even if we wore our fanciest clothes, they can’t hide who we are on the inside. Jesus knows what’s in here—in our hearts. He sees the shameful things we try to hide from everyone around us. He knows the heart that feels dirty and violated after being abused. He sees the heart broken by promises made and not kept. He sees the heart that was hurt by something a “church person” said. He sees the heart that doubts—can any of this Bible stuff be true? He sees the heart that is desperate for acceptance. He sees the heart filled with anger over injustice. He sees the heart blanketed in dark depression. He sees it all. We stand in shame and think, “I can’t accept this invitation. I am not worthy. I shouldn’t even be here.”
Jesus sees it all and still says, “I have eagerly desired that you come. Come as you are! Be honest with yourself. Admit your failures, your weaknesses, and your sins. Admit that you are hurting. Admit that you can’t solve your own problems, let alone the problems of the world. You need my help. Come! In this meal you will find the peace that you so desperately seek!”
The meal. At the Queen’s garden party it all sounds quite simple. Guests will enjoy tea, sandwiches, and cake. I would guess that the Queen of England doesn’t send out to the British equivalent of Wal-Mart for sandwiches and cake. I’m sure the food at her garden party is delicious!
Jesus’ meal appears too simple at first glance. Luke said, “[Jesus] 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.” 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” (Luke 22:19–20 NIV). Some unleavened bread—a cracker. That doesn’t sound very satisfying. A sip of wine—not even enough to enjoy. It doesn’t sound delicious, but this meal goes beyond delicious. It is divine! Jesus took the bread. He thanked his heavenly Father for this gift, broke off pieces and handed them to each of his friends. Then he said something shocking, something they had never heard before. “This is my body given for you.” He did the same thing with the cup of wine. He shared it with each of them saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Body? Blood? What could he possibly mean? It might help to remember the significance of this meal. The first Passover meal took place the night God delivered Israel from slavery. God told Pharaoh that he would take the lives of every firstborn in Egypt during the 10th and final plague. The Israelites were to eat their bread quickly because God would rescue them in a hurry. The lamb, which was also part of the meal, gave up its life and its blood as part of God’s rescue mission. Every Israelite was to take the lamb’s blood and paint the doorframe of their home. This blood was a sign to God’s avenging angel, and he would pass over that house and not take the lives of any firstborn in that home. Every time the Jews ate unleavened bread, lamb, bitter herbs, and drank wine, they would remember how God saved them!
Jesus’ words changed this meal. He made it more than a remembrance. This meal would save. It would save because of everything Jesus did on the cross. He gave his life to rescue us. Would the Queen of England sacrifice herself—her throne, her position, her wealth—for you or me? I seriously doubt it. Would the King of heaven and earth sacrifice himself—his throne, his position, his wealth—for us? It doesn’t seem possible, but that’s what he promised. This is my body. I gave it over to death on a cross for you. This is my blood. I willingly poured it out to cover every stain of sin in your heart. Every time one of Jesus’ believers eats this bread and drinks this cup, we know that Jesus saved us. He guaranteed it. “Poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins!” (Matthew 26:28 NIV). That’s how this meal fills us with peace!
Tea with the Queen of England would be something to remember. I think I would frame the invitation and hang it somewhere I could easily see it. I’m sure I’d take lots of pictures, hopefully even one with the Queen if that’s allowed, so that I can remember that special day.
Why in the world would we want to remember Jesus’ invitation? It’s not a fancy meal. It ends with suffering and death. What’s to remember? Jesus’ invitation is there so we remember him. Remember his love. Remember his sacrifice. Remember his promise to save. Remember Jesus when your heart feels too dirty for anyone to love. Remember Jesus when work seems impossible. Remember Jesus when a church hurts you. Remember Jesus when you wonder if all this can be true. Remember Jesus.
The next time you come up front, maybe it’s for the Lord’s Supper, or a children’s devotion, or just to look at the altar, look at the cup. Look at the bread with those three letters, I H C. Those are the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. Then remember. When you eat that little round wafer of bread without yeast, remember. When you sip a little bit of wine, remember. When your parents come back and you smell the wine when they sit down, remember. Remember everything that Jesus has done, and that this special meal fills us with peace. Amen.