Christ’s institution of the Lord’s supper in the presence of Judas should lead us to a vigilant introspection as we regularly and actively remember Christ’s death and coming kingdom.
Download or Read Below
Prelude to the Cross-Part 3
God’s New Covenant
Pastor Mike Fabarez
So a businessman is pulling into a lot late for a business meeting, an important business meeting, and can’t find a parking space. He circles and circles and frantically is in desperate need of a parking space. So he breaks down and decides to make a deal with God. Out loud, he says to God, “Lord, I desperately need a parking space. I promise that if you give me a parking space, I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life. I will even stop drinking. Please, I promise. Give me a parking space.” Just as he finished saying that, a guy right near the front of the building pulls out, parking space opens up, he goes, “Oh! Lord, never mind, I found one.” So goes much of our human promise-making and promise-keeping.
Praise God that God is not a man that he would waffle on any of his promises. Matter of fact, much of the Bible is about the solid, faithful, strong promise-keeping of God. Matter of fact, the two sides of your Bible, they speak to that. You call the left side the Old Testament and the right side the New Testament. If you’ve been around the block a few times you know you speak of those as perhaps the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Well there’s a couple of words you don’t hear much outside the context of church: covenant, testament.
I mean you might hear some old guy talking about someone’s last will and testament or you might, if you’re in real estate or in the legal profession, talk about a piece of land, a parcel, having a covenant attached to it. Maybe, if you go to a wedding you still might hear a preacher talk about a marriage covenant and that’s a good thing. As a matter of fact, that is a helpful analogy to what’s going on in so much of the Bible. God entering into contract in a relationship with people, with agreements on both sides and promises attached to them. I mean, that’s a good picture of what we see throughout the Bible, a series of covenants, of promises of God making promises to his people. And, unfortunately, if you know much about the biblical characters starting with Israel and ending with you, you know that we can be a lot like a businessman looking for a parking space. Our side of the promises aren’t always kept to well. Matter of fact, it’s depicted in the most dramatic way in the Old Testament prophet Hosea who was out and told to marry a prostitute in the land of Israel. The ultimate example of a man trying to keep a covenant while his bride has no interest at all in keeping her covenant. And yet that is an underlying theme throughout the Bible, even in the New Testament, Second Timothy Chapter 2 verse 13 speaks of the fact that “Even though we’re faithless, he remains faithful,” and here it comes, “because he cannot deny himself.” He’s a covenant-keeping, a promise-keeping God.
We’ve reached a passage in our study of Luke, Luke Chapter 22, where Jesus is going to initiate and begin a practice that, if you’ve been in the church any length of time at all, you understand, you’ll recognize. What you need to see, as we reach this particular place in Luke 22, this is all about keeping a promise. God keeping a promise and having us remember that God is going to keep his promise. It’s all about a promise, matter of fact, the word covenant is right in the center of our text this morning.
I’d like you to look at it with me, Luke Chapter 22, as we learn something about, hopefully something new, about something we know of and speak of as the Lord’s Supper. Maybe you grew up in a circle where they called it Communion, the bread and the cup representing something that is so central to our doctrine as Christians that Jesus Christ gave his life to forgive our sins, to have the mechanism of our forgiveness paid for, to have the justice of God satisfied. You know these truths, I trust. And what you need to recognize is how this works in the life of the church based on what Jesus taught in this passage.
Now, hopefully you were with us last time, because I broke this apart in the foundational verses that preceded this, speaking of the Passover. The Lord’s Supper is predicated on an Old Testament practice starting in 1,445 B.C. known as the Passover celebration. That Passover memorial was to look back to the redemption that Moses granted through his leadership coming out of slavery from Egypt and that kind of physical redemption. We started to look at now, as we see the cross in view, that Prelude to the Cross is the name of our series as we’re moving toward that day, that Friday afternoon, when Jesus is crucified, we see in moving toward that, that it’s all about our spiritual redemption, which isn’t any less real, it’s just in a different dimension. It’s not that we’re physically liberated but that our debt, our sin, the sin before God that should rightly exclude us from his presence, is paid for, it’s settled. We’re bought back, we’re redeemed, we’re purchased by the death of Christ.
So let’s take a look at this text, remembering that they are celebrating the Passover as we’re reminded in the first few verses. We’re gonna study ten verses today, verses 14 through 23, Luke Chapter 22. Let me read it for us from the English Standard Version and it reads. “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and he gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup, after he had eaten saying, ‘This cup is poured out for you, it’s the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined.'”
That was the first message in our series and the first few verses of this passage. We talked about that determined plan. Even through the evil, God is working out his plan. “But woe to the man by whom he is betrayed.” But still, the culpable agents are still going to have to face the responsibility for their evil decisions. “They began to question one another.” Of course, we know it’s Judas, but all twelve are sitting around questioning one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this?
A strange combination of concepts here in our passage. The most familiar is where I’d like to start, versus 19 and 20, it’s something, I trust, you’ve heard the verbiage, the wording of, for years. That is that Jesus took bread. He gave thanks, which by the way, that word “Eucharisteo”, you might hear the word eucharist in that, that’s where we get some churches that like to call this the Eucharist, which simply means “thanks” he gave thanks, he gave thanks, then he broke the bread. So he gives thanks, he broke the bread, he gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you.” Now, you remember these words, often put on the front of that communion table in a lot of old-school churches, you’ll see that, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise, the cup. It’s not just the bread, it’s the cup. After he had eaten, he said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Remembrance, covenant. Remembrance, covenant.
At the core of this practice that the church is supposed to do, it’s ordained by Christ, that’s where we get the word ordinance, it’s an ordinance of the church, that ordained practice of taking bread and taking this cup, is given by Christ so that we might remember the Covenant, the New Covenant. Now let’s think about this, that symbol. You go to a wedding, we talk about a marriage covenant, there’s a symbol that symbolizes the marriage covenant. It’s a ring that they exchange in most modern cultural weddings today and they take those rings and they put them on the finger of their bride and the groom and they then say this is a symbol and a sign of my covenant or my pledge to you to be your wife or to be your husband. And that ring then goes on after all the tuxes have been brought back to the tux shop, and the dresses are all boxed up and cleaned, and there is that ring that remains on the finger of the bride and the groom that reminds them of the covenant that they made. That’s the picture here in our passage. A covenant. A covenant. What kind of covenant? Let’s look at it, verse 20, a New Covenant. Now we need to understand that. We need to understand what that new covenant is. But before we even get into that, can you see that the point of breaking the bread and drinking the cup as a regular practice within the church is to call our minds back to remember, in a solemn way, remembering the solemnity of the redemption that we have in Christ.
Let’s start with that if you’re taking notes and I wish that you would, number one on your outline, if you just jot down “Solemnly Remember Our Redemption.” Certainly that should happen within the context of the bread and the cup, but it should happen all the time for Christians. You ought to be remembering as frequently as you can in a solemn, sober way, not just, “Oh yeah, Christ died for me. I didn’t forget that.” But a way in which you say, “No wait, let’s stop and think.” Let’s think about the high price of our redemption. Christ has done something that is analogous to Moses leading the people out of slavery, and Christ has done the same for us. He’s taken the guilt and the punishment that we should deserve, and he’s taken it upon himself.
Let’s look at the New Covenant, the New Covenant, as it’s described in Hebrews Chapter 8. Please go to Hebrews Chapter 8 and let’s just get the gist of this. I was going to take you to Jeremiah 31 but I thought, listen, Hebrews Chapter 8 is going to quote Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31 is one of the most succinct places that we find God talking about a New Covenant that he’s going to bring within the years of the Old Covenant. This is the 5th century B.C., Jeremiah, as God’s prophet, is speaking about a covenant, a promise, that is to come. And here in Hebrews, in the first century, here the writer of Hebrews is looking back and saying, “I just want to show you how much better the New Covenant is than the Old Covenant. I want to show you that the New Testament, if you will, is so much better than the Old Testament. I want to show you that the new promises are better than the old promises.”
Now, of course, we need the old promises, that was foundational for the new promises, but there’s no comparison in terms of how important the new one is compared to the old. Now they’re both essential, but one is way better, and that’s the whole argument here starting in verse 6. Take a look at this with your own eyeballs. Hebrews Chapter 8 verse 6. “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry,” this is Hebrews 8:6, “that is as much more excellent than the old, as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” So you’ve got a ministry that Christ ushers in, a service that Christ does, something that Christ accomplishes, and it is so much better. It is so much better than the old as the covenant itself is better than the old because it’s got better promises associated with it.
Now, “If the first covenant had been faultless,” if it had been adequate, if it had been enough, then “there would be no occasion to look for a second.” Why would they be saying, even when they were living under the Old Covenant, “We can’t wait for the New Covenant”? I mean, “If it was good enough, we would have left it at that.” But no, we find now, and he’s about to quote it, that there was an occasion to look for a second, verse 8, “He finds fault with them,” those promises, those old promises, “when he says,” he’s going to quote, now, Jeremiah 31 starting in verse 31, and here it comes, “Behold the days are coming,” this is the 5th century B.C., before Christ, and here’s the prophet saying God is saying this, “There are days coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant,” a new promise, a new set of promises. I’m going to give you those promises, and he says, it’s going to go first, it says, “to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
Now remember, it’s not just for them because Genesis Chapter 12 said very clearly, the blessings are going to move through them to all the nations of the world. So, we know that the benefits that we’re about to talk about in terms of the New Covenant are something that God is going to bring to all people, from every tongue, tribe and nation. Not all people without exception, not every last person, but all people without distinction. It doesn’t matter what background you’re from, it doesn’t matter what nationality you have.
Now is there a plan for Israel? Absolutely. God’s got a special plan he will enact and finish carrying out with Israel, but when it comes to the blessing that he’s about to underscore in this passage, all of that is available to the people in this room. That is the promise that we’re about to read about. Here it comes. “It’s not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” Now that’s what they celebrated with Passover. We’re taking you out of Egypt and we’re going to bring you to the Promised Land. Well what was the promise he made? When Moses brought the Mosaic Law. The promise was: “You do good, you do right, just you do what is obedient, and you’ll be blessed. You do what is wrong, you do what is sinful, you do what transgresses my law. Well, then you’re going to be punished.”
Clearly that’s the essence of it all. And there was a law. This was the rule and here’s how it summarized in the New Testament: it is the law of sin and death. “If you break my rules there’s going to be punishment.” That’s the Old Promise. Now you’re going to say, that’s not a very good promise. Why? Because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So to some extent, we all deserve punishment. That’s not very good. It would be better if we had a better promise than that. Well we do have a better promise than that and that’s what the New Covenant was going to promise here.
Take a look at it: “Not like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt,” verse 9, “For they did not continue in my covenant,” clearly they broke it, “and so I showed no concern for them,” I backed off. When God backs off his blessing goes with him and that’s a problem. Verse 10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds,” because that’s the problem. External obedience and being told to do right, unfortunately, it’s going to fail and that’s what happened because our hearts are sinful. And as Jeremiah put it elsewhere we have a heart like stone, we need a heart of flesh, we need a heart that’s going to beat in sync with God, it’s going to be a heart that wants to do the right thing. All of that is what people need, because a rebellious heart with a bunch of righteous rules is never going to accomplish an obedient life.
And so, here’s the problem. We’ve got to fix that. And God says, the promise I’m going to make is that “I’m going to put my law into their minds, I’m going to write my laws on their hearts, and then I will be their God, and they will be my people.” I’ll lead, they’ll follow. I’ll say, do the right thing and they’ll do the right thing. “They shall not teach one another as neighbors or each one to his brother saying,” middle of verse 11, “know the Lord.” You really need to know the Lord, you don’t know the Lord, you’re not following the Lord, you’re not loving God with all your heart. No, they won’t have to say that. “For they shall all know me.” Shall they? Yeah, all of them “from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, I’ll remember their sins no more.”
Now understand this: there is so much about the Old Covenant promises that make us grateful for the heart of the New Covenant promise, which is, “I’ll forgive them, I’ll remember their sins no more, I’ll blot out their transgressions.” But there’s a lot more to the promise than just that. And in that sense, you may ask, “Well, when Jesus came did he inaugurate and initiate the New Covenant. And the answer is yes and no.
Well, “yes” in the sense that the heart and crux of the New Covenant was offered to people, “I will forgive you.” You and I today can experience the benefit of the New Covenant right now. You repent of your sins, you trust in the finished work of Christ, forgiveness. We get the New Covenant benefit. But you certainly don’t have that in verse 11, that everyone that we bump into knows the Lord, loves the Lord, follows the Lord, from the least of the people in our culture to the greatest. As a matter of fact, you say, we’re the exception not the rule if we are Christians with a new heart. So, when is that all going to be done? Well not yet. As we read in Luke 22 and we’ll look at more closely in a minute, all these things that God speaks of regarding the promises are going to culminate in something called the Kingdom and the Kingdom hasn’t arrived yet. So the Kingdom is coming and that will be the fruition and fulfillment of the New Covenant. If you ask the question, “Are we living in the New Covenant times?” Yes, in the sense that the crux and the core of the New Covenant has been fulfilled in that you and I can get forgiveness now because Christ has died in our place.
But how about the fullness of the New Covenant? It hasn’t arrived yet. So in that sense, theologians like to talk about the reality of the New Covenant as “already,” we have part of it, “but not yet.” What part do we have? The most important part. Read it again, verse 12, “I’ll be merciful toward their iniquities and I’ll remember their sins no more.” Right now, before God, my sin is forgiven. It’s been pinned to the cross. So important. But when it comes to be living in a place where everyone knows God, where sin has been extracted, that hasn’t happened yet.
But when it comes to the law of sin and death, when it comes to the law of saying because I’m a transgressor, I deserve to be punished by God, I mean, that whole thing is obsolete and all the trappings that go with it. Verse 13, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” and certainly it was. In 79 A.D., which, of course, Hebrews was written before that time, referring to the temple often in this book, Titus would come in, the General, and tear it down and destroy the city.
So, you and I need to solidly remember our redemption. When it comes down to it, we know there is much to come, but what has been accomplished on the cross is the forgiveness of our sins. I want you to look afresh at our passage in Luke Chapter 22 at the core wording that is used regarding the bread, where it says that here is my body, middle of verse 19, which is given for you. “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this,” eat it, “in remembrance of me.”
“For you,” that word “for” a little Greek proposition “hyper” in Greek, hyper is a very important theological word in so many contexts in the New Testament. “For” means, “I’m going to bat for you.” If I were to say that as a pinch hitter in a baseball game, you’d know, instead of you having to bat, you sit in the dugout, I’m going to go bat, I’m going to do it “for you.” That’s the picture in the Bible. “Christ died,” here it is, “hyper you,” for you. What does that mean? In your place, he died in your place. Here is a piece of bread and it’s broken. Why? So that you don’t have to get broken. The picture is Christ’s body now goes through some trauma so that you don’t have to go through the trauma. It is broken for you. It’s given for you. It’s in your place.
That picture of substitution goes back to the Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was dying, this innocent lamb without any blemish, so that people who were sinful could be passed over from their judgment. That passing over, that forgiveness, was the picture of substitutionary payment. We call it a substitutionary atonement. They realize as sinners God should punish me. God’s going to punish someone else instead of me, that’s the essence of the Gospel. It’s all really summed up in that one phrase, that his body was given for you. That’s the picture of substitutionary atonement. It was looked forward to in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 speaks of him bearing the sins of many people, taking upon himself the stripes for those who deserve it, that he’s making intercession for transgressors as the one who is righteous, dying in the place of the unrighteous.
OK, well, all that’s great, but is it bread or is it his body? Because it says right there in verse 19, “This is my body.” Let’s read the whole verse. “He took the bread, he gave thanks, he broke it, he gave it,” the bread, “to them and he said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” Do what? Eat it in remembrance of me. “Likewise, the cup, after they’d eaten, he was saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'” So it looks like we got bread, that’s the body, and we got a cup full of this wine, that’s the blood. So, I know what’s being said here. The bread is the body and the cup is his blood.
I mean, is that how we’re supposed to understand that literally? That’s what it says in the verse 19, “this is my body.” Let’s think this through as carefully as we can and as biblically as we can. If God says that bread becomes the body, I’m all for it, let’s believe it, let’s do it, let’s affirm it, let’s do whatever we have to do to defend it. But that’s really the way we understand the words of Scripture, when it comes to this analogy that is not new, at the end of his ministry, he’s made this point repeatedly. The analogy that he makes regarding what people need is Christ, specifically, trust in Christ.
Let’s go back to the first time Jesus used this analogy in John 6. You don’t need to turn there, I can summarize it for you. They were looking for Christ. He had fed 5,000 people. They’d come to him. Jesus had crossed the sea of Galilee and he landed on the shores, they come to him and he says, “Listen, you’re not looking for me,” Mike Fabarez paraphrase, “You’re not looking for me for the right reasons. You’ve come and sought me out, not because you want to know the Son of God, not because of the signs pointing to who I am, not because you know I’m the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You’re seeking me because you had your fill of bread, your stomachs were filled with bread, and it was, guess what, all free. You got a free lunch and you want more free lunch, you want more bread.”
And Jesus said, that’s the first time we have this in the Gospels, Jesus says, “No, I am the Bread of Life. You’re coming because you want the meal that I served you, miraculously so, but you need to come to me for me. And so, just like you’re seeking lunch here and you want bread, you need me. Right? Now, he’s not saying, “Now lineup. Let’s have you start chewing on my forearm.” Clearly it is an analogy that he’s saying, as he explains in several verses, 20+ verses in the passage, saying, “Listen, you need to believe in me.” He uses that verb “Pisteuo.” “Trust in me. Come to me and trust in me. You have a sin problem. I can fix the sin problem and then I’ll satisfy any of your sense of unworthiness before God. You’ll never hunger again. You’ll never say I’m incomplete. You can stand before God and feel completely valid, completely righteous. You can be someone completely accepted in Christ. You just have to believe me, trust me.”
That is what’s going on with the analogy of the bread. We get into later chapters, Chapter 8, we have the analogy of the light. He says, “I am the light.” It doesn’t mean that he’s a set of photons. He then goes on in Chapter 10 and says, “I am the gate. I’m the gate to the sheep.” It doesn’t mean that he’s got hinges. He’s not talking about that in a literal sense. “You need to come through me, go back and forth and find pasture.” In that same chapter, Chapter 10, he says, “I am the shepherd. I’m the good shepherd.” It doesn’t mean that we’re sheep, not literally. He says we’re sheep but he means that in an analogy. It’s a picture of who he is and who we are in relation to him. He goes on to say that he is, for instance in John 15, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”
And I think every person in this room knows he’s not making a claim about literal branches or being a literal vine. It’s about the relationship between him and us. And so it is with bread. We need bread. We need to eat bread to have our lives nourished. We need to find life in bread and he’s saying, “Listen, you need to come to me and find life in me.” And the word and the verb is pisteuo which is the word to trust me, believe in me, put your confidence in me. You can’t stand before God and put your confidence in yourself. That’s what your neighbors think. That may be what some of you think. When you stand before God and he says, “Why should I not condemn you because you’re a sinner,” you’re going to say, “Because I wasn’t that bad of a sinner.” If you do say that, you don’t understand that Christ wants you to trust in him. He wants you to say, “I trust in Christ. I know Christ was worthy in my place. Christ was righteous in my place. Christ took my sin upon himself.” You need to not come to Christ thinking that you’re believing in anything that you’ve ever done that is ever good enough for you to be acceptable before God. That is what God wants of us. As it says in John 6, is the works of God that the Father wants you to do, to believe in the Son, the one he sent. That picture is what we have. And I think you could make the case throughout the New Testament that Jesus uses these analogies to teach a spiritual point. It doesn’t mean it’s not real, it just means it’s a point about something, an analogy about something, and therefore I don’t believe he’s a gate, literally. I don’t believe he’s a vine. I don’t believe he’s a shepherd, literally, and I don’t believe that he’s light, literally, and I don’t believe that he’s bread, literally, and I don’t think in this he’s bread. As a matter of fact, he’s made clear that this is still the fruit of the vine, even after he says, “This is the covenant in my blood,” which, by the way, he doesn’t say in this passage the cup is my blood.
He says it is the Covenant, the new covenant, in my blood. And I think when we read over this too quickly you’re going to say, “Well, wait a minute, he’s not being consistent.” If you read it carefully you’ll say, “He’s not equating the cup with blood. He’s talking about it being a promise in his blood.” Now think about that. We know it’s not a promise. I mean, I don’t care how you stack it. You can’t have the wine of the Passover become a promise, a promise is something you can’t materialize. A promise could be, I suppose, reflected in words on a page, but it’s certainly not some liquid in a chalice. So I understand this: that even in the second analogy here of the cup it’s speaking of the cup being a symbol, much like a ring is not my covenant of marriage, it’s a symbol of my covenant. And that’s the picture here, the picture in the bread and the picture in the wine.
Now, if you grew up in a Roman Catholic Church and you can smile at me now if you grew up in a Roman Catholic Church, you were taught that this literally, in every sense, literally, becomes the physical body of Christ. They call it the physical presence of Christ. You grew up with it called the Eucharist, and the host, raised up by the priest, became literally the body of Christ and the chalice of wine became literally the blood of Christ.
Now they’ve got lots of ways to discuss that, but I want to prove to you that it is so real in their own minds that, though they’re not going to say, “Well, under a microscope, you’re not going to see human skin cells, I understand that,” but they have lots of ways to describe the reality. But they’re going to stand back and say, “However we describe it, we’re going to tell you it is the Lord.” And you can prove that by how the priest walks into the Roman Catholic Church, bowing and genuflecting to the box, the tabernacle, if you will, the host, and they worship that. And I’m not making that up, that’s not disparaging. Matter of fact, I got that written down clearly from sections 1378 of the most modern and up-to-date Roman Catholic doctrinal statement, the catechism of the Catholic Church.
This section is called “The Worship of the Eucharist,” the host. It says, “In the liturgy of the mass we express our faith in the real presence,” the real physical presence of Christ, “under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting and bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord.” This is the Lord. This is the body and blood of Christ. Now you’ve seen that in Roman Catholic masses. You may have grown up believing that because here’s the passage that says it, and you don’t take this as an analogy, you’ve taken it as literal.
Now that’s a problem, a problem that a lot of people got upset with when they looked at the Bible and saw what the Roman Catholic Church was claiming. They’re claiming a re-sacrificing of Christ every time they take the host and break it. This is a re-sacrificing of Christ that became a dispensary, a sacrament, to bring the treasury of the merits of Christ to your life. You do this as a work and you get this benefit. This is something the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely constant and firm on. I mean, not just from Trent, the Council of Trent on, it is consistent on this, and it starts with a real physical presence of Christ.
That’s the Roman Catholic view. It is not my view and it’s a view that was responded to by Martin Luther who said, “I’ve got a real problem with all this worship of the host. I got a real problem with the re-sacrifice of Christ, which contradicts clearly the rest of Scripture about the finality of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, and so, it must not mean that. So, Luther took the next step away from that and said, “Well it’s not the real physical presence of Christ but it is a real presence. A real presence that Christ is there, but he doesn’t become those things, which is the Doctrine of Transubstantiation. “Trans” – transformation, “substantiation” – the substance. It is not a changed substance, it is what we would call a con-substantiation. Christ becomes real there, physically with it. And as Luther liked to say, “It’s with it, it’s in it, and it’s under it.”
So the second view, which is now, we’ll just label it the Lutheran view, the Catholic view is that “this is the physical presence of God.” The Lutheran view, “it’s the real presence of God, but it’s not that it becomes that, it’s that Christ becomes present in it, in a real way.” The humanity of Christ present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
The Presbyterians, reformed folks, the Calvinists, following the Heidelberg confession and Calvin’s teaching and the Westminster Confession say, “Well, it’s not the real presence in that sense, it’s a spiritual presence they like to call it. I’ll read to you from the Westminster Confession, Question 170, about what this is that we are taking in the Lord’s Supper. They would say, “The body and blood of Christ, they’re not physically present, but they are spiritually present. They’re present to the faith of the participant.” You believe it, you trust it, and somehow in some special way it is spiritually there and those who participate “feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not in a physical manner but in a spiritual manner. And by faith they receive and apply to themselves, Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death.”
So there is still “a means of grace coming through the participation in the Lord’s Supper,” not in a physical presence, not in a real-with presence, but in a spiritual presence that’s more than just him being omnipresent. The humanity of Christ, somehow present, through the divinity of Christ. A very complicated explanation of this given by the reform crowd to say, here’s what’s going on, but I’m telling you Christ is present. Not in the same way the Lutherans would say Christ is present, and not in the way that Catholics say Christ is present, but he’s present. Four views: the Roman Catholic view, the Lutheran view, a Presbyterian view, and then I would just say the rest of us. Let’s call it that. The fourth view. The fourth view.
If you want to call it a “physical presence,” a “real presence,” and a “spiritual presence,” let’s call the rest of the Bible-believing Christians that take the view of a “symbolic presence.” In other words, Christ is present everywhere, always, we know that. And in church, he inhabits the praises of his people. But he’s only there present, just like my covenant is present in this wedding ring, it’s only symbolically present. It’s a symbol of Christ’s body and a symbol of Christ’s blood, which I think is consistent with all that Christ teaches. It’s a tactile means of remembering the covenant that God makes to forgive our sins because of the payment in Christ.
It’s still called, even in this session in Luke and in Matthew and in Mark and even in First Corinthians Chapter 11, this is still called the fruit of the vine and bread. It’s not to be understood, I don’t believe, in any physical way, in any real presence way, any spiritual presence, but in a symbolic way of view often associated with Zwingli, although he was swinging around with different views in his lifetime, but often called Zwingli and memorial view, if you’re familiar with the distinctions. That was more than you wanted to get on a Sunday morning at church, I realize, and the first point took forever. So, we’ll be done in two hours with the next two points here. Your Father’s Day luncheon reservation can be cancelled at this moment. I’m just kidding…, kind of.
Verse 21 through 23. That should be enough for one sermon but let me tack these two things on. I hate to put it that way, but Jesus here in the middle of all that discussion continues his dialogue and says, “But behold, the hand of him who he betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it’s been determined,” all part of God’s good plan, “but woe to the man through whom he is betrayed. And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” Now, if you want to relieve the consciences of 11 guys in the room, just say, “It’s not you 11, it’s him.” Right? And then they don’t have to have the very uncomfortable experience of verse 23 questioning one another, each one of them saying, “Could it be me? Could it be you?” I mean, why do you put them through that? Why would you do that?
And here’s why Christ does that. I know he eventually tries to, like, finger Judas as the betrayer. But this is a very common and very healthy part of the Scripture from beginning to end, and that is, you and I, number two on your outline, learning to “Honestly Evaluate Your Heart.” Jesus could have avoided all this for the 11 guys who weren’t going to betray him. But he’s willing to have them sit there and struggle by saying, “One of you is going to betray me.” Why not just say, “He’s going to betray me. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know why I invited him here. Judas, get out. Hey, I’m just going to be here with my guys.” Well, he says the same thing about the church. “I’m going to let the wheat grow up with the tares. I’m going to let the weeds and the wheat grow up in the same field.”
Now here’s what I’m going to say, instead of us sitting there at the door and trying to read people’s hearts, were going to open up the doors and say, “Hey, everybody who makes a profession of faith, come on in and worship together.” But you’re “professing” your faith. Is it real? You’ll have to figure that out. Sometimes we can tell when you become a blatant, unrepentant person. But, short of that, we don’t know. And the angel said in that parable, “Should we go out and, you know, wipe out the weeds?” Nope. You might wipe out some real stuff, some wheat, so don’t, wait until the end of the age. Therefore, this is going to have to be a part of our regular practice.
And I would just say this: the combination of solemnly remembering the redemption, is a good time for us to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, where do I stand with all this? Where is my heart?” So I would challenge you that the connection that you see in Scripture is one that we should see all the time, not just in Communion, but whenever we sit there and really think about the high cost of our redemption. You need to say, “Where am I with that redemption? Where am I really at with God?” Second Corinthians Chapter 13, I quote it often and some of you don’t like it. Verse 5 says, “Examine yourself, to see whether you are in the faith.” I don’t apologize for that.
And I know some people write me and they leave the church and they’re upset, “Why do you keep questioning whether or not I’m a Christian?” We’re not in a one-on-one conversation, you realize. I’m preaching to the crowd. Right? You realize. I don’t know if it applies to you or not. I don’t know. But I do know this: Christ sets the pattern even in this very time. He says, “Listen, I don’t mind you guys sitting around asking, ‘Could it be me?'” And so when I say, examine yourself, see whether you’re in your faith, you think, “Well, you’re doubting my conversion.” We’re not having a one-on-one conversation here. I’m just preaching to you and I’m telling you, you need to examine yourself. And we all need to examine ourselves. I need to examine myself, “Am I real? There’s been some phony Christians. There’s been some phony apostles.
Judas was the treasurer of the twelve. It wasn’t until afterwards that John could look at, in John Chapter 12 verses 4 through 6, and look at the Excel spreadsheet and figure out he was pilfering from our money. He could realize that in retrospect but at the time you would never would let a person be your accountant or your treasurer in the organization had you known that he was breaking the rules. They didn’t know that, they trusted him. They thought Judas was a good guy. Matter of fact, when he left, as the other passages that depict this scene say, and he goes out, people thought he was just going out to do some good deed. He was a betrayer and yet he looked like everybody else. So it’s not a bad thing at all for us to search our hearts. It may not be that you fail that test, as it says in Second Corinthians 13, maybe you pass the test. You say, “No, I know I’m a Christian.”
I take it to the next level then whenever you really think about the cost of our redemption, I would ask you to evaluate your heart in terms of just your life with God, your sin life. How are you doing with that? Psalm 139, and I do quote this often as well, verses 23 and 24, gives me a verse here that if Judas just would have prayed this psalm and he certainly knows it, he knew it from his childhood, I’m sure. He would have been not able to sit there like a hypocrite participating in this Last Supper, you know, nodding his head when Jesus was teaching, and here’s what it says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” Of course, he already knows your heart but you’re saying, “God, I want to be an open book. I want to open up my heart. ‘Try me and know my thoughts!’
And, of course, if you’re knowing my thoughts and articulating my thoughts and exposing my thoughts and being the x-ray of my thoughts, maybe I’ll start to see my thoughts.” And he says, “And see if there’s any grievous way in me.” The implications here is “show it to me. Show me. Is there something wrong in my life, and then ‘lead me in the way everlasting!” Let me go on the right path.” It would be good for us, I think, every day in our Christian life to pray that prayer, wouldn’t it? “Search me God, know my heart, try me, know my thoughts. See if there’s any grievious way, anything that disappoints you, anything that makes you grieve, that you say that’s wrong.” “My children shouldn’t be doing that.” Honestly evaluate your heart.
It’s no surprise then when we get First Corinthians Chapter 11, one of the longest discussions of the Lord’s Supper in the Bible, we have the Apostle Paul saying, “You guys, don’t take this meal without examining yourself.” Let me read it for you. “Whoever eats and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself and then he can eat of the bread and drink of the cup, because anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
If you’re not willing to examine yourself, man, you’re not saying, “Oh it’s great to remember the redemption of Christ.” The Bible says you’re going to get God upset and he’s a father who loves you and because of that he’ll respond in discipline. The next verse, we don’t quote often, it’s not on many greeting cards in our bookstore. Here it is. Because you’re doing this, “That’s why many of you are weak and ill and have even died.” I mean, here’s discipline within the Corinthian church and they’re getting sick and they’re having fatigue, and some of these men died. And he says, “But if we had judged ourselves truly,” or honestly, then “we wouldn’t have to be judged.” But when we’re judged by the Lord, know this, we’re being disciplined, so we’re not condemned with the rest of the world. God loves you. He wants you to stop sinning. And it may be that you pass the test that you’re a real Christian but to be good for you, just every day, to say, “God search me, try me, know my heart.”
Because if you do that God will point these things out. He’s a good father. Just like if your child came to you and said, “Is there anything I’m doing that’s grieving you?” I think you would love to point those things out because you care about the relationship you have with your children. The discipline of God we can avoid. And whenever we see the focus on the redemption of Christ, particularly in the Lord’s Supper, there is a call for us to examine ourselves.
I know I took this out of order here but getting to the most familiar verses, in verses 19 and 20, leads us to remember that it’s all done in the presence of Judas, the betrayer, which leads them to question, which isn’t a bad thing, but let’s end at the beginning, verses 14 through 18. When he’s sitting at the table with his apostles he says, “I wanted to eat this with you before I suffer. But I tell you I’m not going to eat it again until it’s all fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Eat what? Eat the Passover. I’m not going to eat the Passover again until the Kingdom of God comes and it’s all fulfilled. “And he takes the cup, he gives thanks, he takes this and says, “Divide it among yourselves.” Drink. “And I tell you from now on I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.”
Now, Luke has made this crystal clear in his record and presentation of Jesus’ teaching. There are some that thought the Kingdom of God would appear immediately, and he says, it’s not, and he tells the story, Jesus does, of a king going away and then coming back.
So many of the parables of Christ recorded in Luke are about him leaving and coming back. That picture of Christ leaving and waiting and then coming back is a picture that should remind us that the Kingdom is not yet here, at least not fully. New Covenant, part of it, yes, the most important part, the crux of it, forgiveness. But the fulfillment of that covenant, it’s going to come. It’s going to come when Christ comes back. He says, I’m not going to eat the Passover until that happens and I’m not going to drink this cup until it happens.
Let me suggest to you that that is a forward-looking kind of celebration. When we think of our redemption, knowing that our redemption is not yet completed. So let’s put it this way. Number three, we need to, number three, “Joyfully Anticipate the Kingdom.” He is going to bring the Kingdom and when the Kingdom comes two things are going to happen and I’m going to suggest that these can be teased out and separated. He’s going to eat the Passover, and you’re thinking, “What in the world? The Passover?” Yes, I believe Christ is going to eat the Passover. Why? Because it’s promised that he’s going to eat the Passover in Ezekiel Chapter 40 through 45. There’s going to be a temple, there’s going to be a fulfillment of the promises, and Christ is going to have us celebrate the Passover.
Israel has a future, Romans 11 says. And that future is going to come to fruition when Christ comes and sits on a throne and there will be a prince, mentioned 14 times in those chapters, who is going to come, he’s named as David the prince, and David is going to be there as a regent of Christ, I believe, the resurrected David, and he’s going to be as a regent of Christ in this Kingdom and Christ is going to then see the celebration of the Passover. He says, “I’m going to do it again but not until the Kingdom comes.” For now, it’s the Lord’s Supper and the cup was the main feature of the Lord’s Supper. And in the feature of the Lord’s Supper, the cup, he says, “I’m not going to drink this fruit of the vine until the Kingdom comes.”
Well, when is that going to happen? Well we know this: the promise of the wine in the banquet of God, it’s called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Revelation Chapter 19, God, with all of his people, are going to celebrate in this time when Christ returns. Let me just suggest this is not only a future in the millennial Kingdom for God fulfilling all of his promises to Israel, but there’s a fulfilled promise that is coming when we get to see Christ face-to-face, when we are ushered into the presence of Christ in something called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Even the Apostle Paul, when he speaks of the Lord’s Supper, he says in First Corinthians 11 verse 26, “As often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death,” that’s looking backwards, “until he comes,” that’s looking forward. Yes, we solemnly remember our redemption, but we joyfully anticipate the coming Kingdom, because when he comes we’ll see him face-to-face and he’s going to have a very real banquet with us. That will be the time that he again celebrates with his people.
What stood between that last Passover and the coming Passover of the millennial Kingdom and the Marriage Supper of the lamb, as we enter into God’s presence, is the suffering of Christ on a cross, which we should solemnly thank him for. And remember that when we speak of the death of Christ it was because the crowds were jeering and calling for his crucifixion. Please remember that. Christ is not someone who was popular in our culture. Hebrews 13 puts it this way: he went outside the camp to be crucified, in other words outside the walls of Jerusalem, he got killed because they hated him. Jesus promised this, “Listen, they hated me, they’re going to hate you.”
The reality of your Christian life comes…, the full reality, but the full weight of the scope of the promises of God all come to fruition when he comes back. Therefore, we can’t expect to be mainstream. If you’re going to take Christ and put him on as a cloak and find all the great blessings and acceptance in our generation, you’ve got a heretical gospel. The real Gospel says we’re going to have to, as it says in the next verse in Hebrews 13, “go outside the camp and suffer the reproach with him.” In other words, we’re going to step outside the mainstream of our culture and they’re not going to like all that we say.
And in the best verse of all, one of my favorites in Hebrews, Hebrews Chapter 13 verse 14 says, well, here’s the logic, “For here,” in this world, “we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” See, we remember the redemption of Christ in a world that doesn’t even think they need redemption. We grieve our sins in a world that doesn’t even think it’s sinful. We recognize that we needed Christ’s redemption when the world says, if I need religion, it’s just going to be a crutch to help me save myself. And we look forward to a day, not in this world, but when Christ comes back and sets up the Kingdom, when we see the fruition of all of our heart’s desires, and at his right hand there are pleasures forever more. We’re looking for that.
They may claim that our eyes and our hearts are too heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. But the Bible says, it’s exactly where we ought to be. Setting our hearts on things above, seeing ourselves as aliens and strangers and sojourners in this life, and looking forward to the return of Christ. There’s not enough of that in the modern church, so I exhort you and myself to be looking forward.
The best thing that we are to remember is the redemption of Christ. A lot of people that when asked about why they have the things that they have in their lives, the good things that they have in their lives, are quick to credit themselves. Here’s a survey that ran that home in my own life and my own heart, my own thoughts about our culture, when they were asked to list, these top executives, why they have so many great things in their life and how they got the success that they got. Here were the top four on the list. They were told to list whatever they thought got them there.
99% of these top executives in our country said, “Because I work hard.” 97% listed “Because of my intelligence or my good sense.” 83% said on their list, “Because I have a higher than average IQ.” Humble group of people by the way. 62% said, “Because I do my best in every situation.” Those are the top four answers of why people think they have the good things they have. I think even as a commentator from a biblical perspective you’d see there’s a gaping hole in their list. I think you understand something about success that, even in this life, that comes from the hand of God.
But nevertheless, I can assure you that even if you assess your own life, the very best thing in your life has nothing to do with your efforts or your work at all. The best thing in your life, the very best thing in your life, has nothing to do with you, when it comes to your efforts, your hard work, your intelligence, your doing your best. It was all encapsulated in the verse you learned as a kid, I hope, Ephesians Chapter 2 verse 8 and 9. “By grace we’re saved through faith.” Grace, something given to us, that is not of your own doing, not something you did. It’s a gift of God. It’s not as a result of works or anything you can do to merit it, “No, that no one can boast.” No one can stand back and say, “Well, I’m working harder, I’m smarter, I’ve got a higher average intelligence, I do my best in every situation.”
That’s not where it stops. It stops in verse 10, the thought, by saying, even though we get this by Grace, we need to realize “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And I know this for sure: one of the good works he’s called us to do, that he has prepared and ordained beforehand, is for us to remember what God has done. One of greatest, most righteous things you can do is celebrate what God has done.
I put this on the back of your worksheet, Psalm 143 verse 5 for your discussion questions this week. It says, “I remember the days of old,” the Old Testament psalmist said, “I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the works of your hands.” Now all of that was thinking back to a variety of things that God has done, certainly including the redemption under Moses coming out of Egypt. But I’ll tell you what, from a New Testament perspective, you want to quote that verse, there’s not a godly person in the room who is going to see a verse like that and not think of, “Oh, the most important thing God has ever done, the biggest thing he’s ever done, is send his Son to die for me.
You want to add to that the works that you were created to do, being saved, not by your works but by Grace, is for you not only to remember those good things but to give thanks for those good things. It’s not without explanation that the Lord’s Supper is sometimes referred to as the Eucharisteo, the giving of thanks. It is a cup of thanksgiving, it is a bread that we give thanks for. And that picture of giving thanks is certainly, I hope, center to those who recognize the profundity of their redemption.
Without spiritual redemption and as Psalm 111 verse 1 says, we ought to “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord will all of our heart, in the company of the upright, and in the congregation.” Because God’s works are great, “Great are the works of the Lord, and they are studied by all who delight in them.” I hope that’s true of you. “Full of splendor and majesty are God’s works, and his righteousness endures forever.” It does, ours doesn’t. But he’s provided that for us. “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered.” Yeah, he’s caused that in our day by giving us something to remember it by. The practice of the Lord’s Supper is to remind us, as that verse ends, that “the Lord is gracious and merciful.” I hope you sit here today clothed in the righteousness of Christ because you trust in him and not yourself. And that you are caused by God to remember the greatest work of all, the death of Christ on your behalf. Let’s give thanks for that even now in our closing prayer.
Pray with me, please. God, let us be sincere as we’ve ever been, even right now as we give thanks to you and say thank you for your body and the blood that was shed, that was the absorption of all the punishment that we deserve. The infinite and perfect holy one suffering as though he were the sinner, as though he were the thief, as though he were the liar, as though he were the traitor, so that we could be forgiven. And God, just like that thief on the cross who transferred his trust in that last moment, may there be some here today who say, “I recognize my sin. I need your forgiveness.” And to have that transaction effected for their lives right now. God, may we test ourselves to see if we’re of the faith, and once we recognize that we are, if we indeed are, I pray that we’d be filled with remembering and thanksgiving. Make that the theme of our lives this week.
In Jesus name, Amen.