The Pot-Luck Communion
Is anyone hungry right now? Or thirsty? As warm as it is lately, it's easy to build up a thirst. Perhaps you didn't get to eat this morning, and you can't wait for dinner.
You know, I hate to make matters worse by dwelling on food, but the Bible has a lot to say about food and drink. I couldn't help but notice that the issue of food is mentioned as early as the first chapter of the Bible: In Genesis 1: 29 (and technically the 11th verse). Also, just four verses from the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22:17, a thirst-quenching water is spoken of.
If you look through the index in the back of your Bibles, for words like "food", "drink", "water", etc., you'll find that if any books don't mention food, there are only a hand-full. Most of them DO.
Why does it mention food so much? Why is food and water so important?
If you will, imagine a man staggering through the desert, thirsting to death, hoping beyond hope that he finds an oasis somewhere, longing for one drop of water.
He falls repeatedly as he journeys toward his uncertain future, finally collapsing flat on his face - out of energy - giving up, - numb - even to his own fate.
(Perplexed) But when he fell, his arm landed in something that seemed to be wet.
He looked up, - found a stream of water welling up from an spring. He drank the water and was satisfied! He regained his strength, and continued on his journey.
Why was food - or in this case, water - so important to this man?
Because it was the only thing that could keep him alive, the only thing that could satisfy his want and his need. Food keeps us alive and gives us strength to go on. Sometimes; especially these times; it tastes good too!
Food is something we all can understand. And since we can understand it so well, God sometimes uses food and water as a metaphor or illustration. In Scripture, he used our need and desire for food to help us understand other things that He knows we need and desire.
There are a few passages I would like to look at in which God used food to teach something to His people. The first is in Exodus, chapter 12.
(Ex 12) Now what is the background here? The book of Genesis ended with Jacob and his sons, the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, living in Egypt. His son, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, now showed compassion on his family and gave them a new home in Egypt. Eventually, Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph's brothers died; but their family's descendents remained there, growing in number.
The rulers of Egypt eventually became unfriendly to the descendents of Jacob, because they had grown too numerous. The king of Egypt felt threatened, and threw them into slavery. Their numbers still grew, as their oppression grew worse, and into their numbers, God added a child named Moses.
Moses was a deliverer. God was going to use him to deliver the people of God out of the hands of slavery. God used Moses as an intermediary and sent many plagues upon Egypt, but they still would not release the Israelites - then God said he would send a plague of death upon all the firstborn, both human and cattle.
This is where Exodus, chapter 12 comes in. Now, before the final plague comes, before anyone dies, God PROPHESIZES to Moses and Aaron, saying:
This month will for now on be the first month of your year. And on the 10th day of this month, you are to take a year-old, flawless lamb - one for each household - enough for you to eat. You are to take care of them for 4 days and then slaughter them at twilight.
Then you are to take some of the blood and put it on the top and the sides of the doorframes where you are eating the meat. You are to eat all the meat, or else burn it that night. Also with the meat, eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
(Notice the hurriedness here: Their bread will not have leavening, for it will not have time to rise. And God tells them to eat the meal with their shoes on, and dressed to leave. "Eat it quickly, it is the Lord's Passover."
God says that when they do this, he will pass over those with the lamb's blood on their doorframes. And he told them to COMMEMORATE this day as a festival to the Lord - a lasting ordinance - for generations to come.
Now, to bring this passage into perspective, let's go back to my earlier statement about food: God sometimes uses our need and desire for food to help us understand other things that He knows we need and should desire.
God told the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect lamb and spread its blood onto their doorframes, AND TO EAT the sacrifice.
Not only did the blood of the lamb serve as a sign for the death angel to pass over; but the meat of the sacrifice filled their stomachs and gave them sustenance, and satisfied their hunger. By eating the sacrifice, they associated themselves with it (1 Cor 10:18).
Later in the lives of these Israelites, as they headed toward their Promised Land; they became hungry and began complaining and grumbling for food. They weren't trusting in God to care for them. Then God sent manna down from heaven, which they ate, and they were satisfied. This manna was ENTIRELY the gift of God. They did not contribute to the table - they were forced to depend on God, and He and only He took care of them, providing ALL the food they needed (Exodus 16).
By waiting on God for their food, they were learning to depend on Him. They were learning that ultimately their need was not food, but rather God, for HE SUPPLIES THE FOOD and gives life.
Both with the lamb and with the manna, God was teaching them something; but let's look forward to the Gospel of John to learn more about what God was teaching ...
In John, chapter 6, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. Many followed Him, and there were at least 5000 people there.
Verse 4 says that the Passover feast was about to begin.
Jesus realized that the thousands of people would need to eat, and he had a plan for feeding them, but still he asked his disciple, Philip, where they would buy bread for so many people. Philip didn't know - and neither did any of the other disciples, for they gathered all the food they could find, and it wasn't nearly enough. They had found five loaves of bread and two fish.
In verse 11, Jesus gave thanks for the food, and continued passing out both bread and fish to ALL the people there, until they were all full. No-one went away hungry.
The Passover feast was still approaching, and Jesus returned to the other side of the sea of Galilee - to Capernaum. As our Responsive Scripture said (John 6:23-27a), the people sought out Jesus and found Him there, and they asked Him when He got there.
Jesus said, "you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. DO NOT WORK FOR FOOD THAT SPOILS, BUT FOR FOOD THAT ENDURES TO ETERNAL LIFE, WHICH THE SON OF MAN WILL GIVE YOU. On Him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
You see, the Israelites who complained about lack of food and received the manna were looking to be filled; they were not staying with Moses because of the signs and wonders of God, but because they were filled with food.
Once again, Jesus said, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." Typically, the people focused on the word "work" and they asked, "what must we do - to do the works God requires?" They want to know HOW TO EARN THIS FOOD that endures to eternal life.
Jesus answered, "THE WORK OF GOD IS THIS: TO BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE HAS SENT." So those who believe in Jesus should desire the food that endures to eternal life.
The people there said to Jesus (in verse 30), give us a sign so that we can believe you - like the sign of the manna that rained down from heaven for our forefathers who were starving in the desert."
If anyone hasn't been listening, THIS is a good time to start, for in verse 32, Jesus says to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from Heaven, but it is my father who gives you the TRUE bread from heaven. FOR THE BREAD OF GOD IS HE WHO COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN AND GIVES LIFE TO THE WORLD."
They said, "Sir, from now on give us this bread."
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
They wanted the Bread of Life to be given, but Jesus said they had to take it. They had to come to Him - they had to believe in Him. In verse 40, He says that all who believe in Him will have eternal life.
(In verse 51,) Speaking of the time of His birth, Jesus says, "I AM THE LIVING BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, WHICH A MAN MAY EAT AND NOT DIE."
"THIS BREAD IS MY FLESH, WHICH I WILL GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD."
(again) "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Looking back at Exodus, remember what God had the Israelites do? They had to take a perfect lamb, sacrifice it, and put its blood on the doorframes. THEY HAD TO EAT THE LAMB. They were consuming the instrument of their deliverance from Egypt, and deliverance of the firstborn from death.
God was using this meal to illustrate a greater meal - the Lamb that delivers us from condemnation. Now, in Jesus, we have this TRUE perfect Lamb - the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus was sacrificed by his Father on the cross, and we associate ourselves with His sacrifice just as the Israelites did with their lamb:
- We consume our Savior.
Of course, we are using some symbolic language here - metaphors that help us understand the role of Jesus. He is not a lamb - He is a man, and He is God. BUT HE WAS SACRIFICED JUST LIKE the Passover lamb; yet not to deliver us from Egypt, but for a far greater deliverance: deliverance from death.
And just as God sent manna down from heaven for the hungry Israelites, God has sent Jesus down from heaven to permanently satisfy our spiritual hunger.
So, feeding them the manna was an illustration for the TRUE manna that God gives, which is Jesus Christ. He satisfies our hunger and quenches our thirst. So now, in John 6:53, Jesus says to them and to us, "...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves."
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. FOR MY FLESH IS TRUE FOOD, AND MY BLOOD IS TRUE DRINK."
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood ABIDES in Me, and I in him." (verse 56)
"This is the bread that came down from heaven; NOT as the fathers ate, and died: He who eats this bread shall live forever."
Passover was still coming.
Jesus' final Passover meal is called "The Last Supper" by many. At this meal, which commemorated Israel's deliverance from Egypt through the blood of a sacrificed lamb, Jesus prepared his disciples for His death on the cross. His death would be the NEW sacrifice. And once again, as in Egypt many years before, He prophesized to them of the feast they were to commemorate from that day forward:
(Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20):
Jesus took some bread, blessed it, broke it, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
Then he took a cup, told them all to drink from it, and said, "this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Jesus had not yet poured out his blood on the cross, but just as the Passover supper years before was instituted before the lamb had been sacrificed; this Lord's Supper was instituted before the Lord's death.
For 1500 years the people of Israel celebrated their deliverance from Egypt with the Passover meal. Each meal commemorated, or pointed back to their first Passover meal, when they ate the sacrificed lamb.
Then Jesus - the TRUE Lamb - came, whose sacrifice delivers believers from death and condemnation. He has established a NEW Passover feast, which we call Communion, or the Lord's Supper.
What does THIS commemorate?
This meal commemorates our feasting on Christ. So with Communion we have a physical meal which represents a spiritual meal, which we eat when we follow Christ's command (in John 6:54); to "eat His flesh and drink His blood".
Jesus is the TRUE Lamb.
Jesus is the TRUE manna that came down from Heaven.
Is anyone here hungry? He is the food that satisfies!
Is anyone here thirsty? Whoever drinks of Him will never die.
He is our manna. He is our bread. He is our water. He is our LIFE!
So let us NOT wait till our next Communion Sunday to feast on our Savior IN SYMBOL. Let's start to feast on Him IN REALITY.
Pray to Him.
Learn from Him.
Depend on Him.
Long for Him.
As the man thirsting in the desert, realize what it is you need to survive. For Him it was water, and he would have done anything for it. It was his life. For you, - FOR US, it is Jesus Christ.
We bring NOTHING to the meal. This is NOT a potluck Communion. CHRIST IS THE FOOD, AND HE IS THE DRINK, and He provides all we need.
NO ONE WILL GO HUNGRY, AND NO-ONE WILL THIRST. NO ONE WHO EATS OF HIM WILL EVER DIE.
LET US GO FORWARD FROM HERE TODAY - REMEMBERING THAT OUR LIFE LIES IN THE MEAL, AND THE MEAL IS JESUS CHRIST, THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN.
SO LET US GO FORWARD, - SAVORING THE TASTE OF SALVATION!