He Took the Cup
18 Nov 2006, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
He Took the Cup
As Jesus came to the last hours before His crucifixion He stood at the point of transition from the old Jewish rituals on the one hand to the new forms that were now to be associated with Christianity on the other.
For centuries the life of the Jewish people had centred on the sanctuary and the temple services recognising that the sacrifices and worship carried out there had pointed to some phase of the coming Messiah's ministry. Now the true sacrifice, which all others had foreshadowed, had been revealed and was about to be made. Type was soon to meet anti-type. The old forms and ways of doing things would now effectively pass away and new ones would take their place.
At this point of time Jesus was to introduce a new ordinance that was to be celebrated by His followers in commemoration of His death and also in anticipation of His return. Following the apostle Paul's example, we call it 'The Lord's Supper' and in association with this supper was the Lord's special service to His disciples when He washed their feet.
However, it is interesting to note that when we read the Scriptures, none of the Gospel writers gives a complete account of this first Communion Service.
Matthew's report was to give us the meaning of the bread and wine whereas the apostle John, in his writings, describes the foot washing. By combining these two short reports we are able to gain a more complete picture of this beautiful service.
These eyewitness accounts are able to provide a wonderful opportunity for the imagination to grasp each scene and, in so doing, enable us to find new beauty and meaning in this sacred service.
Let's begin our story this morning with the foot washing.
John 13: 4 tells us that 'He (Jesus) …took a towel' (KJV).
This simple act is in contrast to the fact that Jesus could have taken a crown. We know from our knowledge of the Scriptures that the multitudes were ready to crown Him king not long after He had fed the five thousand. At this time He could have ruled the people.
He could also have taken a sword. In the garden, when Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant, the Saviour responded in Matt 26: 53 'Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Coming back to the upper chamber, we find the disciples still arguing as to who will have first place in the kingdom. Jesus had talked to them many times, trying to inspire within them the spirit of humility that he himself possessed. Unfortunately, it would seem that every effort to this point had failed.
It is now that Jesus takes a towel.
It would seem that this action on the part of Jesus was to teach the Disciples more in a few minutes than He could have ever done by talking to them. It is interesting to note that from this point on there are no records of any discussions or quarrels over who would be first in God's kingdom.
I want you to imagine what it would have been like to be there with the disciples and to have Jesus come to you. To have Him bathe your feet with the cool water, wash the dust off your feet and dry them with His towel.
As He continued to wash the disciples feet, He now come to Judas the betrayer. As He stops to wash his feet some of the deeper questions of the drama of the universe are now to be better understood. While Jesus kneels at His feet you could imagine the conflict of emotions going through this man's mind as he recognises the love that Jesus has for him. I could imagine that Judas would still thrill to the idea of forgiveness and true communion, but the demon of self-seeking now comes through the doorway and takes full control of his life.
Peter, in watching this drama being acted out before him, hardly knows what to think or feel. The Ruler of the universe has a slave's towel about His waist and the servant's basin in His hands. Peter's first thoughts were to be a mixture of astonishment, shame, affection and embarrassment. And yet there were still some elements of pride as he sees the King of heaven bowing on His knees before him.
Peter's quick response to Jesus as found in John 13: 8 was to exclaim that 'You shall never wash my feet.' In love Jesus responds by saying, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me'.
As this particular drama unfolds we see an important difference between Peter and Judas. While we recognise that Peter was always seen to be weak, impetuous and erring in many things, he still chooses to respond to this wonderful gesture of love. In John 13: 9 he enthusiastically exclaims, 'Then Lord…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.'
Jesus does for Peter what He does for all those who accept Him. He goes ahead and washes his feet.
Christ lived to serve. His whole ministry outlined in the Scriptures was marked by acts of kindness, blessing and loving service. But the Saviour never rose higher in service than when at the close of His earthly ministry He was to wash the feet of these twelve men who had not yet learned the lesson of unselfish service.
In a short space of time from this special moment, this water would now illustrate what His life-blood would do for all on the cross, with God 'in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…' (2 Cor 5: 19).
It is then that Jesus moves on to the bread and the wine.
As the Disciples received the bread and the wine symbolising Christ's broken body and spilled blood we could imagine the solemnity of that Communion scene in the upper chamber. It was here that Jesus gave thanks and then broke the bread giving it to them saying 'Take eat, this is my body' (Matt 26: 26). Then He took the cup saying drink from it all of you (Matt 26: 27). This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26: 28).
The best known and most concise description of what took place at the first communion service is to be seen in Paul's directions to the early church found in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26. While Paul had not been present with Jesus and His disciples, it was now, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he was directed to establish this sacred ordinance. This special service would then be followed by Christ's followers for all time, '…until He comes' (1Cor 11: 26).
Jesus took the cup for you and me so that we would never forget the wonderful sacrifice that the God of Heaven was prepared to go through for all sinful human beings found on planet earth.
The breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup are regarded as symbols commemorating Christ's sacrifice for us. The eating of the bread is an expression of faith in the Saviour who died for us and who will return according to His promise. The benefit from the Lord's Supper comes to every individual through the Holy Spirit as He impresses more fully on our hearts the meaning of Calvary and leads us into a closer relation with the Saviour.
It is only by looking upon the crucified Redeemer that we are more fully able to comprehend the magnitude and meaning of the sacrifice that was made by the majesty of heaven. As the Plan of Salvation is glorified before us, the thought of Calvary should awaken the sacred emotions of our hearts. Consequently, we cannot help but be elevated in thought, purified in heart, and transformed in character, as we behold the love God has for each and every one.
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