Some may not understand the communion service. What is it about? Perhaps you have curious friends but you're not quite sure how to explain what we are doing?
Lend yourself to a simple, three part explanation. Here come the three headings:
- The Life of Jesus (His humanity)
- The Death of Jesus
- The Life of Jesus (His divinity)
The Life of Jesus
Jesus was an actual human person who lived in Palestine about 2000 years ago. He was also God, but for the moment let's talk about His human life.
Jesus was a Jewish man who lived in a nation occupied by pagan Roman soldiers. He lived according to the Tanach--the Torah, the Naviim, and the Ketuvim (the law, the prophets, the writings), which most of us call the "Old Testament."
The Christian Bible is made up of these writings along with the 27 New Testament books. These documents were supernaturally written by humans who were inspired by God. They reveal many aspects of truth we cannot know from natural observation or science or reason. They are an accurate record of history. They tell us how God designed humans, and how He gave them free will but they misused that free will to rebel against their Creator.
Let's talk briefly about the life of Jesus.
Jesus experienced all the limitations and liabilities of fallen humanity. He grew weary, needed sleep, food, and was dependent on others. In His humanity He could be tortured and even murdered.
Jesus labored as a carpenter during His life and supported His widowed mother. At 30 He embarked on His Messianic ministry. His life was characterized by unselfishness toward others, intentional kindness, and living a life pleasing to God. A good way to bring insight in the teachings of Jesus is to quote Him. Jesus taught:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4 quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5 quoting Psalm 37:11).
I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17).
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny Himself and take up his cross and follow Me (Mark 8:34).
If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35).
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Luke 20:25).
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
Take these things away; do not make My Father's house a house of trade (John 2:16).
My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work (John 4:34).
We learn more when we add occasions where Jesus healed the sick, even the sick who had been guilty of sin. God delights to heal and restore and make whole. Without Jesus there is no pathway to wholeness.
The Death of Jesus
Not only must we understand His sinless life, but also the death of Jesus. There is something very different about Jesus' death compared to the death of every other person. Jesus, unlike all other morally-accountable humans, was sinless. He never chose to sin; He never did wrong to anyone. He never sinned against God or any person. He was innocent.
The Bible tells us not only that Jesus was so much like us, but also that He was "separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). He never sinned. While His humanity had human liabilities like our own, even hereditary tendencies to self-indulge, He never indulged. Death is a consequence of sin. Jesus never earned this consequence. He never joined Himself to sin by choosing rebellion or self-serving.
Yet He died on the cross. The religious authorities were determined to have Him murdered, but it was the Roman state in the person of governor Pilate, which declared Him innocent. Bur then, to satisfy the mob, Pilate turned Him over to be crucified anyway.
Jesus was the morally accountable innocent person who ever died. He never triggered that consequence for Himself by His own moral choices.
Yet still, Jesus, the most unselfish human ever to live, for sins in which He had no part, volunteered to die for guilty humans. He demonstrated a character like no other human who ever lived. Or died.
You would be shocked and humbled if any other person volunteered to die in your place. You would also know at some point in his life that person had done wrong. But if a sinless person volunteered to die for you, shocked and humbled wouldn't begin to describe your amazement. Rather, an enormous sense of unworthiness would descend upon you. You are unworthy of that kind of love.
But Jesus' love for you doesn't come to you because of your worthiness. It comes to you because of His unselfish, generous goodness. His affection is a gift to you, unearned, undeserved, unanticipated, unmerited in any way.
Jesus' death was not for Himself. He died for you. Because He never sinned, and because His life is the life of God (under our next heading), and because He lived without sinning in a human nature like your own, He can be your Substitute. His life can be offered in place of yours. His punishment can take the place of yours. His life can be given you in place of yours. The death of Jesus means life for you.
The Life of Jesus
Which brings us back round to the life of Jesus. That is, the life that is in Christ Jesus. Jesus is God and died but lives again. How can this be?
Jesus is God. He was fully human with a humanity like yours and mine, and, He is God. In that, He is very unlike us. We are not divine; we do not have life in ourselves. We have a beginning but Jesus had no beginning. John one tells us that He, Jesus existed in the beginning with God (John 1:1, 2).
God exists as one Being in three distinct persons. He has always existed in this way. God has life in Himself original, unborrowed, underived from others. God is one; He is also three: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit.
But this is particularly an introduction to Jesus, so let's keep focus. The first chapter in John's gospel helps us:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3, 14).
Jesus is God. He came down into is own creation, took a human body--a mortal human body, a sin-impacted, deteriorated humanity like yours and mine--and He lived in it and died in it. He did righteousness in it. He did not sin in it, ever.
Before we finish, let's look at a very insightful interaction. You'll find it at the gospel of Matthew, chapter eight. Jesus has just come down from the mountain where He laid bare the principles of God's kingdom. And then this happens:
When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.' Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' And immediately his leprosy was cleansed (Matthew 8:1-3 NASB).
Some might wonder. They know that God is good and loving and merciful. But they view themselves as too far gone, as offensive to God, and doubt that His mercy is meant for them. Satan provokes them to think they have gone too far and that God will not receive them. Their's is the question of the leper. The leper knew Jesus could heal. But would He heal him? Is God willing to heal? Hear these four sentences from Ellen White's book, The Desire of Ages:
In some instances of healing, Jesus did not at once grant the blessing sought. But in the case of leprosy, no sooner was the appeal made than it was granted. When we pray for earthly blessings, the answer to our prayer may be delayed, or God may give us something other than we ask, but not so when we ask for deliverance from sin. It is His will to cleanse us from sin, to make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life (The Desire of Ages, p. 266).
Maybe you have ignored God, and resisted your conscience. You felt hopeless and alone. But if you call upon God, then no sooner than your appeal is made, He will grant it! It is His will to cleanse you from sin immediately, make you His child immediately, and enable you to do what's right immediately.
You're not a leper. But if you were, Jesus would respond to your cry to Him right now, "I'm willing; be cleansed!"
Jesus lived a sinless life, and loved, and gave Himself for us. He took upon Himself our sins, in which He had no part, and bore our punishment in our place. He is not only our Example for how to live, He is our Substitute dying in our place.
In Him was life, the very life of God, and His Father accepted His sacrifice and called Him forth again from the grave. Jesus rose in a glorified humanity.
He returned to heaven to be our great High Priest. He lives today. He hears your prayers today. He intercedes for you today, forgiving your sins today and giving power to overcome today.
God is love (1 John 4:8). This is a selfless love, a self-sacrificing love, a self-giving love. This love is the love of God. He gave Himself for you.
Jesus was fully human. Jesus is fully divine. He is the Bridge, the Ladder, the Stairway, the Connector between God and man.
When we gather for communion we are worshiping God. We are declaring our connection with Jesus who died for us and made a way of escape for us. He is the Deliverer of all willing men. He is one of us. He is also the infinite God. Heaven is not separated from earth but joined with it. Jesus came to redeem and is finishing now this process of restoration. Earth waxes old but beautiful things are around the corner. Immortality is around the corner. I introduce you to Jesus, who alone has immortality. He gave His life to give you life. He was punished for your sins on a cross that was yours. He is ready to give you the life which is His.
Hail Him. He is coming again.
Deer Park WA SDA 2018-05-05
Chewelah WA SDA 2018-05-12