Monday, March 19, 2012

The Historical Side of the Communion Table

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 18, 2012

1 Timothy 2:1-7, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

As most of you know, this past week several members of my family and I had the opportunity to travel with my mother to Arkansas to assist my mom in sorting through her mother’s possessions.  There, in a little town in Northeast Arkansas, at my grandmother’s home, we had the opportunity to sort of go back in time, for me, to recall many happy memories of visits to her home, and for us, especially my daughters, to learn a great deal more about the roots of my mother’s family.  The Lord willing, we will be continuing that process with my mother over the next several months, and certainly, we covet your prayers as we do.

Image credit: Allenscottwalker
We live in a world that is almost obsessed with the future.  Whether it be the Monday through Friday, nine to five crowd living for payday or for Fri-day and the weekend, or whether it be the younger folks among us, on the edge of their seats, awaiting no just the announcement of some new gadget, the latest technological advancement that will supposedly enhance their lives, but biting their nails in anticipation of the arrival of that gadget or gizmo in the retail stores.  Rushing off to be the first in line to have in their hot little hands.  As I said, we live in a world, a culture, that is almost obsessed with the future, with what will be.  And certainly, there’s some good to that interest, that fixation on the future.  I mean, anybody ever try to drive your car on central expressway, looking only, ONLY in the rearview mirror, and never out the windshield in front of you?  We have to look ahead, don’t we?  We have to have at least a little bit of interest in and concern about the future, right? 

But, listen, before we, as followers of Jesus Christ become too caught up in the future only mindset, I think there is also a great deal of wisdom bound up in the statement that goes something like this: to know where you are going, to accurately discern the present and the future, you must be sure certain, well-acquainted with where you have been.  Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to our time at this Table each Lord’s Day.  As Christians, living not days, not weeks, not months or even years, but over two millennia, TWO THOUSAND years after the events we celebrate each Good Friday and Resurrection Day season, as Christians living that far removed from the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s easy to forget that this Table, the Lord’s Table and what it stands for, what is represents to us as Christians has a history to it.  It has a ‘side’ to it that is visible to us ONLY as we look in the ‘rear view mirror’ of the Word of God.  Let me explain what I mean. Going back as we did last week, to my grandmother’s home in Northeast Arkansas, I did sort of relive many good memories from my past.  And that was a blessing.  But, listen, here’s what blows my mind: though, like you, I live in the present – you know, Sunday, March 18, 2012 – and though, my birth certificate tells me, my life in this world had a beginning on Father’s Day Sunday, June 18, 1961.  Listen, when you start uncovering, as we uncovered at my grandma’s home, your family roots, you realize that your life or what led to your being here today, goes back a lot further than that date listed on your birth certificate.  The same is true for us as Christians.  In our mind’s eye, we go back to the first Good Friday, and we see Jesus, our Savior carrying His cross, we see Him hanging on that cross, loaded down by our sins and our guilt and enduring our punishment, that we might receive the benefit of that incredible sacrifice of redeeming love.  And we’re humbled, and we praise God for what Christ did for us.  But, listen, have you thought about it?  Is that as far back, is 30 A.D. on a hill outside Jerusalem, as far back as the Saving plan of God, the redeeming work of Christ goes?  Is it? 

This ‘side’ of the Communion Table, the Look-Back, as some have called it – talk about blowing your mind!  Knowing what I know; what this Book helps me to know about what we celebrate each Lord’s Day at this Table, we realize or should realize, that the saving plan of God, the John 3:16-intention of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, goes back farther, way, way farther than you and I could ever dream!  Take a look with me, at this, will you? 

This side of the Communion Table, the ‘Look Back’, how far back do we have to go to find out about the ‘Roots’ of our Redemption?  Revelation 13:8 – What does the Scripture say there about the ‘history’ of the saving plan of God, in the mind of God?  It says simply, does it blow your mind, like it does mind?  It says simply that God’s plant to save lost sinners, in His mind, that plan goes back even further than Genesis one, one!  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in His Father’s mind, He was slain, crucified, put to death for us BEFORE the creation of the world!  Wow!  The apostle Paul, in our text we read a moment ago from 1 Timothy 2, tells us that the man, Jesus Christ, the One Mediator between God and men, gave Himself for a ransom for all, in due time (see Galatians 4:4ff), at the precise moment God the Father had planned going all the way back to before Genesis one, verse one.  Wow!

Before we move one, let me read for you from two other passages from Paul’s letters, to undermine this point. 

2 Timothy 1:8-10, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Titus 1:1-3, “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.”

The ‘Look Back’, this first side, this first ‘view’ or ‘view-point’ pertaining to the Lord’s Table, and the discovery that in His mind, God’s grace was given to us, in Christ Jesus, BEFORE time began!    Wow!  Wow! 

But, then, we look further into this subject, and we find out that not only was what we celebrate, today, at this table, prepared before time began, in God’s mind.  Listen, through His mouth, through God’s mouth, God’s saving plant was proclaimed to and through His prophets centuries – millennia – BEFORE Christ came to live and die and rise again. 

What do you mean, preacher?  Here’s what I mean: take for example, God’s promises made to Abraham, two thousand years before the birth of Christ.  (See Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7, etc. and Galatians 3:16).  Through His mouth, God spoke to His prophet, His servant, His human instrument, Abraham, and said, “In your Seed (through a Descendant of yours, Abraham) all the nations of the world will be blessed.”  Who is that ‘Seed’, that ‘Descendant’?  Jesus Christ!  He is the One all those dusty, old genealogies from the Old Testament were leading up to! 

2 Samuel 7:12 – The Covenant Promises of God, God putting His reputation on the line, this time the prophet, the servant of God, the human instrument is not Abraham, but a great, great, great, great… grandson of Abraham, a man by the name of David.  Again, spoken by the very mouth of God, the promise has to do with a future ‘Seed’ who would rule and reign.  Who is that future ‘Seed’?  Solomon?  I mean, he was tee one born, soon thereafter, to David.  No!  The ‘Seed’, the Promised Coming King of kings was not merely David’s son, but God’s Son, Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:21-38). 

Or, how about Isaiah 53 - Through His mouth, and human mouth-piece Isaiah, more than 700 years ahead of time, God foretold the coming of a Servant, a Suffering Servant Savior, who would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Who is that Suffering Servant Savior?  The nation of Israel?  Isaiah, the prophet? No!  Look again at His stretched out arms on that cruel tree, and you will see, the Suffering Servant Savior of Isaiah 53 is Jesus! 

What do you see when you look back from this Table sitting here in this room?  What do you see, what ought you to notice when you view this Table and what it stands for, from this ‘side’, this ‘camera angle’?  The mind of God, planning BEFORE He ever said, ‘Let there be light,’ planning for what we celebrated just a few moments ago.  The mouth of God, speaking to and through His prophets, His human instruments, about that plan, though it was still hundreds and hundreds of years before it came to pass. 

But, then, notice also, we see from this ‘side’ of the Lord’s Table, the movement of God, His mighty, hand at work in History!

Exodus chapters 14 and 15, the culmination of over 400 years of slavery in Egypt for God’s Old Testament people, the Israelites. The mighty hand of God MOVING, not only to persuade a stubborn ruler named Pharoah, to let His people go, but do you remember the account?  The record of that miraculous intervention of God at the Red Sea?  His people, Moses and the children of Israel, led safely THROUGH the Red Sea on dry land, but the Egyptians, the arrogant tool of the Arch Enemy of God, Satan himself – what happened to them?  No deliverance there, right?  No rescue and victory for the Egyptians there right?  No!  The same waters through which the Israelites safely passed God used to DESTROY the Egyptians!  Exodus 14 and 15 – What do we have here, my friends?  A mere glimpse into a highlight of ancient Israel’s past?  No!  No!  That watery deliverance, that incredible victory of God, for His people, what is it?  It is one of many, many pictures of the movement of God’s mighty hand in History, pointing forward to the ultimate victorious deliverance of God’s people at Calvary!  That’s what you see from this ‘Look Back’, this historical ‘side’ of the Communion Table. 

But, listen, there’s one more portrait or, we might say, THE focal point of this ‘portrait’ of the Lord’s Table, that we see or ought to see each time we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine.  What is at the center of this ‘Look Back’ side?  The mind of God?  Well, yes…  The mouth of God?  Well, yes...  How about this?  At the center, the focal point of this ‘portrait’ of the Lord’s Table is not a WHAT, but a WHO!  1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all…”  Whose Table is this? This is the Table of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Who’s supper is this?  The Host of this New Covenant Banquet is none other than our Savior, our Redeemer, our Mediator, the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus.  The Man of men, Christ Jesus!

The author of the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, states it this way in the second verse of the song: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.  Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing!  You ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus it is He, Lord Sabaoth is His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle!”

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