Friday, April 20, 2012

The Communion Table: Looking Ahead

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 15, 2012

1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Several years ago I received a card on my birthday from a friend of mine.  The man who wrote the card was old enough to be my dad, and had himself been in the ministry for many years, so he knew at least a little about what I’m up to and the things I struggle with.  Inside the card, he and his wife not only signed their names, but, at the bottom, he wrote me this interesting and thought-provoking note: it went something like this: “Remember, David, the best is yet to come…” 

The best is yet to come.  Today we come to the fourth in our five-part study of the Lord’s Table and the Lord’s Supper, and this time our focus is not so much on looking back or looing up or looking within, but looking ahead.  I don’t know if  you noticed it or not, but the very last line in the passage we just read indicates that “as often as we eat this bread, and drink this cup, we are proclaiming – showing forth – the Lord’s death till He comes…” 

The BEST is yet to come.  Today our study focus moves from the historical perspective, the look back, and the heavenward perspective, the look up, and the heart-ward perspective, the look within, to the hopeful perspective, the look ahead.  Now, let me ask you to contemplate something with me, to try to figure something out with me.  How is it that something so deeply rooted in the past, an undeniable historical event, the death of Jesus, what we celebrated just a week or so ago on Good Friday, how is it that that past event, which took place two thousand years ago, has anything to do with our future? 

I mentioned it in very quick fashion last Lord’s Day, but perhaps you didn’t catch it, so let me state it one more time.  Why did we gather so early, left our homes while it was still dark, began to pray and sing and worship before sunrise last Sunday?  Was it because on that day, once a year, we meet extra early to acknowledge the anniversary of Someone’s death – sort of an annual funeral replay?  No!  The reason for the joy, even though it was so early, the reason for the season, and the special service has everything to do with the Resurrection, doesn’t it?  Jesus’ death was not the end!  Our time at this Table is not just a weekly memorial of what our Savior did for us at Calvary, a weekly ‘funeral meal’ so to speak.  No, listen, remember Jesus’ words?  John 14:19 – He said, “Because I live, you also shall live.”  This weekly gathering, around a Table inscribed with the words, “Do this is remembrance of Me…” this weekly communion service, with Jesus Christ at the very heart of it, also has everything to do with our HOPE!  Because He lives, here’s the reason for our joy, because He lives, my friend is right, the best IS yet to come!

Two passage of Scripture to bring to your attention just now, two additional texts to have you examine with me for a moment, as we study out this subject.  First of all, Acts 3 & 4, zeroing in on 4:1ff.  Take a look with me at the passage, would you, please?

The context, chronologically speaking, is not many days or weeks after the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the day upon which our crucified and resurrected Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, having laid down His life for our sins, having conquered death, having ascended to His Father’s right hand into heavenly glory, on Pentecost, what does Jesus do?  He pours out His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God upon His apostles, Peter and all the rest, to empower them with wisdom and boldness to testify, to proclaim, to show forth Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and ascension, they, having been eyewitnesses of all those things.  And testified they did, and 3,000 souls responded to the message, repented of their unbelief and rejection of Jesus, were baptized into Him for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that day were added to the Church.  The church was ‘born’.  That’s Acts chapter two in a nutshell.  Next comes Acts 3 and 4, right? 

Not many days or weeks following the miraculous events of Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, Peter and John are on their way to the Temple to pray.  It’s about three o’clock in the afternoon, the time for the evening prayer at the Temple.  And there, at the Temple gate called Beautiful, and then, 3 o’clock p.m., these Apostles meet up with a  beggar, a man who as lame from his mother’s womb.  Have you thought about it my friends?  For this beggar man, crippled from birth, unable to walk, to run, to work, what a different a Resurrection makes!  If all we do, if all we CAN do, at this Table each week, is remember a DEAD MAN, eat a little meal in remembrance of a dead man, then listen, this crippled man’s still a beggar!  This crippled would have DIED a beggar!  But, think of it!  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, this man was told to get up and walk.  And, walk and jump and run and leap he did!  What a difference a Resurrection makes!  Because Jesus lives, this man’s crippled legs were able to live! Rejoicing, shouting, praising the Prince of Life, the Living One, Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want to join in that celebration?  Acts 4:1-2 – The Sadducees, that’s who!  The text tells us there that the Sadducees were grieved, deeply disturbed, that Peter and John, having been used of God to heal this crippled beggar, were now making the most of the opportunity to speak to the crowd that had gathered, and were telling the people that the reason for the miracle was not their own power or holiness – no!  What disturbed the Sadducees, what angered these influential leaders, was that Peter and John gave the credit for the miracle to a dead Man, who m God had raised from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Peter and John’s sermon was a proclamation not only of Jesus’ death, but of His resurrection victory, a fact that the Sadducees flatly denied!  And, yet, look, this beggar man, healed as he was, who could deny that?!  Do you see it, my loved ones?  The Lord’s Supper, our time at this Table each week, it’s not just a memorial meal, a funeral anniversary.  No!  It is an exceedingly GLAD, not SAD testimony, that the BEST is yet to come!  A proclamation, yes, even to the skeptics and critics of our day, that “because Jesus lives, we shall live also!”

Crippled beggars, lame from their mothers’ womb, this supper is a joyful proclamation to them, isn’t it?  But, do you know who else needs to hear and know this news?  Anybody that’s ever made a trip to the cemetery!  You and I need to know, to cling to the fact that the best is yet to come!  Why?  Because just three days ago, we went to the cemetery with our dear sister Peggy, to weep with her as she said goodbye to her beloved husband, Glynn.  The BEST is yet to come?!  How can that be?! 

Second passage of Scripture that springs forth from what we do, right here, at this Table, each and every Lord’s Day, 1 Corinthians 15.  The Apostle Paul’s divinely-inspired answer to the question, “How can it be that the BEST is yet to come?” his Holy Spirit-led insight and response to those who have been to the cemetery.  1 Corinthians 15, pick up the reading with me beginning at verse twelve. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Stop with me there at verse 19 and ask the question that, in effect, Paul asks: “Is the BEST yet to come?  If Christ is not raised from the dead, is the best yet to come?”  We know, by now, the answer to that question, don’t we?  There is NO hope, if Jesus is not raised!  There is nothing for us but pity, and sadness and shame, if Jesus is still dead!  But, listen, the text doesn’t stop at verse 19, does it?  The apostle, who had himself seen Jesus alive, raised, exalted to God’s right hand, remember Paul’s encounter with Him on the Damascus Road?  This apostle’s message to folks like us, folks who’ve been to the cemetery is what? 

1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The best IS yet to come, because Jesus lives, we will live also!  Every time we gather at this Table, whether we realize it or not, we are proclaiming this fact!  Jesus is the first-fruits!  What does that mean?  It simply means that His life, His victory after AND over death, is a promise and signal that more ‘fruit’ are on the way! 

1 Corinthians 15:21-23, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

The best is yet to come, because Jesus lives, we, who are in Him, will live also!  Do you see it, my friends?  Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we not only look back to the Cross, to the Empty Tomb, to our Crucified and Resurrected Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, no!  Each Lord’s Day, as we gather around to eat the unleavened bread and to drink of the fruit of the vine, we show forth, we proclaim the glorious news, Jesus is coming again!  The best is yet to come! 

So, what are we to do about it?  So, go and find someone, whose life is broken and bruised, and tell them about the Living One who can help and heal them!  Go, and find the sad skeptics, and tell them how the Risen One has made you glad!

Yes, you go to the Peggys you know and love and tenderly remind them that because Jesus lives, their loved ones will live also! 

The forward look, the hope-filled look, our regular, weekly observance of this Supper, declares what?  Proclaims what?  The Lord’s death, till He comes, the BEST is yet to come!

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