The Spirit of Communion
23 Feb 2008, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNION
The scene in the upper room has been often described as one that was simple with vibrant solemnity. I want you to imagine this morning the King of the Universe kneeling and washing feet. I want you to hear His words of courage and admonition as He moved from one disciple to the other. Remembering always that this was being done in the spirit of love (Campbell, 1972: 25).
This spirit of love, which was to be the spirit of communion, made God the Son lay aside the independent use of His divinity, come to this earth, and we see Him now washing the feet of Peter and Judas. In was in this spirit that He was to become a brother to all men (Ibid).
The attitude shown by Jesus in the upper room was later referred to by the Apostle Paul in Rom 8: 9 where he says: 'Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.'
We need to understand that brotherliness, service and worship all go hand in hand and, by His example in this upper room, Jesus was making this relationship understood.
His highest moment of worship was to be found at the shrine of service. It was to be in these hours just before His death that Jesus was seen to reach the climax of His struggle in service for His fellowman. Yet, these hours were also seen as a high point of His spiritual experience. This was worship at its best and God Himself acknowledged it.
When Jesus uttered those fateful words, 'It is finished', justice and mercy were able to fully blend, and God, as He watched this scene could also say, 'It is finished'. (White, 1900) God, the Father, was now able to make known to all humanity the supreme love that was exemplified in Jesus.
Jesus' words, uttered on the cross, were now to ensure that the seal of surety involving our salvation had been placed on every heart (Ibid: 26).
Author, Ellen White, says that: 'Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied (White, 1893).
Jesus, throughout His short life, had renounced self, served all men, and manifested brotherly love and friendship to the lost. This was to be the high point of acceptable worship.
We need to learn from Jesus' life that our worship will only be acceptable when we learn to manifest this same attitude of service. We need to be reconciled to each other before we bring our sacrifice to the altar. Jesus made this clear in Matt 5: 23 when He said to His disciples, '…if you are offering a gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.'
This unusual approach to all he came in contact with was a shock to the Jews and left His disciples amazed.
Jesus was a friend to sinners, a friend to publicans and a friend to harlots. He was a brother to Peter and Judas and, yes, He even washed their feet (Ibid: 26).
But how different was their reaction to this offer of love. We know that Judas was touched by this offer, but he let resentment and pride be a barrier to the pleading of the Holy Spirit. Judas had the desire to possess the love of Jesus, but he could not accept it without changing his way of thinking and, it would seem that he was too proud to do so. Jesus was offering him all the love He could give in order to save him, but it was refused.
Even Peter, found it hard to comprehend the love his Master was showing him. However, there was nothing he wanted more than to be like Jesus in spirit and in deed, even while He was washing feet. We know Peter was struggling because of Jesus' words in John 13: 7 where He says to him, 'You do not understand just now what I am doing, but you will understand it later on.'
Much later, Peter did understand and became a servant to man for Christ. He learned that 'The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matt 20: 28).
As history and tradition records, Peter's obedience led him to worship his master and follow Him, even to the cross; where we are told that he was crucified upside down (Ibid: 27).
Jesus became Peter's servant, and in turn, Peter became a servant. He suffered for his Lord in order to reign with Him and we know that this will eventually bring him to glory eternal, for he belongs to Christ, both in spirit and, in deed.
Jesus was the supreme example of spiritual greatness, allowing Him to serve with spiritual dignity. As we have already noted, service and spirituality cannot be separated.
It is only when we see in the Lord's Supper a symbol of service for us and in its preliminary ceremony of foot washing a symbol of service by us will we begin to understand the depth of spirituality in both these occasions of high importance.
As we happily gather around the Lord's Table and partake of the emblems we need to remember their significance. If the service becomes a mere form, the effect on us is of no value.
The washing of the feet is not and end in itself, but an introduction to loving service. If it does not remind us to continue our loving service for others it has lost it's meaning.
The bread and the juice of the grape represent Christ's death.
If we drink the cup without realizing that in a new way we have become of one blood, we drink in vain.
If we eat the broken bread and think only of Christ's death without noting the significance of His life, we have missed a real blessing.
Nothing Jesus did was without significance. Every act of His life had meaning.
When we wash one another's feet, we pledge to serve one another always.
In partaking of the bread and juice of the grape, we pledge our allegiance to one another and to defend one another's life and joy with our very lives. Thus we show forth the Saviour's death and life until He comes.
All these things and more are represented in the emblems of the Lord's Table.
Let us enter this time together by showing that we have the spirit of Christ indicating that we belong to Him.
We have been reminded this morning by the example of Jesus that the true spirit of communion and worship is found in the love and friendship we give to those around us.
Dear friends, Jesus never stops being a servant. He serves the universe and all heaven. He served the disciples in the upper room, and we will enjoy His serving us throughout eternity. This will only take place if we have learned to serve one another while here on earth.
Luke 12: 37 reminds us that 'Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.'
My prayer for each and every one this morning is that we will be among those who will be finally blessed by His presence.
Campbell, P. O. (1972) The Water and the Spirit. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association
White, E. G. (1893) The Signs of the Times, June 5
White, E. G. (1900) It is Finished. Youths Instructor. June 21
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