Consider the Bread and the Wine
15 Nov 2008, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
CONSIDER THE BREAD AND THE WINE
We need to be reminded this morning that none of the Gospel writers gives a complete account of the first Communion Service. Matthew's report tells about the meaning of the bread and wine. The apostle John describes the foot washing. It is only by combining these two descriptive pieces of writing that we obtain a more complete picture.
These accounts provide a wonderful opportunity to let our imaginations grasp each scene and enable us to find a new beauty and meaning for this sacred service.
Let's first look at the foot washing.
John 13:4 tells us that 'He…took a towel' when He might have taken a crown. The multitudes were ready to crown Him king not long after He fed the five thousand. At this particular point of time He could have easily ruled the people, as they were ready to place Him on the throne.
He could have taken a sword. You may remember the scene in the garden described by Matthew in Matt 26: 53 when Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant, and the Saviour asked, 'Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?' (NIV)
At the Last Supper, the disciples were still arguing about who should have first place in the kingdom. Jesus had talked to them so many times, trying to inspire in them the same spirit of humility that was so much a part of His life.
Every effort up to this point seemed to have failed.
Now, He was to take a towel.
Never again would the disciples quarrel over who should be first. His actions in that upper room were to teach them more in a few minutes than all that He had previously said to them.
What would it have been like to be there when Jesus washed their feet? What would you have thought if He had approached you to bathe your feet with the cool water, washed off the dust and dried your feet with His towel?
It was during this time that some of the deeper questions about the Great Controversy were to become better understood. Judas, who was an accomplice of the arch-betrayer was there and now is approached by Jesus with a basin and towel. Will He stoop in front of this man- a man who was once made in love for joyful fellowship with Himself? Will He touch these feet that will ultimately be going on an errand to betray Him? What will His touch mean to this man who is only interested in listening to his own selfish desires?
We need to understand that the hands of Jesus only speak love to this man. There was to be no careless splashing of water and rough touch. The fingers that soon would clutch at the nails in agony on the cross, and the palm on which Jesus was willing to have his name and ours engraved were to meet his soiled feet. They were feet that were soon to be placed under the cruel mercies of his new master.
Judas knew that he was loved. He could feel Jesus saying from His heart. How can I give you up? How can I let you go? Judas, it would seem, was filled with the desire to tell it all and to have forgiveness and true communion with his Lord.
However, pride was to take mastery over his other thoughts that day. If Jesus was to kneel He cannot be a King. Kings don't kneel. By remaining in God's kingdom Judas was to see himself in that same humble situation. Consequently, it was to be through the doorway of self-seeking that the demon was to come into his life and take full possession.
What about Peter? He is at the table too. He would seem to be confused, not knowing what he thinks or feels as he watches the drama being acted out before him. Here was the ruler of the universe with a slave's towel about His waist and a servant's basin in His hands. Peter's first thoughts were to be a mixture of astonishment and shame, affection and embarrassment along with an element of pride. His King is on His knees before him.
You may remember Peter's response in John 13: 8. 'You shall never wash my feet' and you may remember Jesus' call of love when He says: If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.'
Peter's final reply in verse 9 was to show the difference between himself and Judas. Weak, impetuous and erring though he be, Peter chooses to respond to an offer of love. He says: 'Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.'
Jesus then does for Peter what He can do for all those who accept in love what He came into the world to do.
He washes him. The water is to show what His life-blood will do for us all when He is finally placed on the cross with God '…in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…' (2 Cor 5: 19 KJV).
Consider next the bread and the wine.
Author Ellen White in DA 661 says:
'As we receive the bread and the wine symbolising Christ's broken body and spilled blood, we can in [our] imagination join in the scene of Communion in the upper chamber. We seem to be passing through the garden consecrated by the agony of Him who bore the sins of the world. We witness the struggle by which our reconciliation with God was obtained. Christ is set forth crucified among us…The thought of Calvary awakens living and sacred emotions in our hearts. Praise to God and the Lamb will be in our hearts and on our lips; for pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the soul that keeps fresh the scenes of Calvary' (White, 1940: 661).
What would have been your thoughts and feelings if Jesus had passed you the bread, explaining that it was represent His body?
What would have been your thoughts and feelings as you took the cup and heard Him say: 'This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'?
When you look at the intense interest of the disciples in the picture painted by that well known Christian artist, Harry Anderson, I want you to place yourself there and ask yourself what that service would have meant to you.
As we break for the washing of the feet, we should remember that we all need to be brought into a state of humility and love, to have our hearts cleansed before we are ready to take part in the after service.
In considering the Bread and the Wine, 'Our Lord says: Under conviction of sin, remember that I died for you. When oppressed and persecuted and afflicted for My sake and the gospel's, remember My love, so great that for you I gave My life. When your duties appear stern and severe, and your burdens too heavy to bear, remember that for your sake I endured the cross, despising the shame. When your heart shrinks from the trying ordeal, remember that your redeemer liveth to make intercession for you' (White, 1940: 659).
White, E. G. (1940) The Desire of Ages. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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