Saturday 9 April 2022

 Luke 22 v 1-23

 This chapter opens to begin Luke’s account of our Lord’s suffering and death. The events take place at the last supper Jesus had with His Apostles.  In a few hours He would be betrayed and taken away to be beaten and put on trial, and then taken to the Cross,

     None of this would come as a surprise to Him, it was all part of the divine plan which had been foretold.  The chief priests and scribes wanted desperately to have Jesus killed.  The very ones who should have welcomed Him as the Messiah were the men who conspired to end His life.  They were supposed to be godly men, some of them in direct line of succession to Aaron. 

     The second step towards our Lord’s crucifixion was the treachery of Judas, one of His own twelve Apostles.  He had been with the Lord during His ministry, heard Him teach, and seen Him perform miracles, and yet he turned out to be a hypocrite betraying his Master. 

     The Jewish authorities were anxious to arrest Jesus, but as there was only a small detachment of troops stationed in Jerusalem, they were afraid that if they tried to arrest Jesus there would be a riot.  Their problem therefore was solved by Judas. 

     Just as God is looking for people to be His servants, so also is the devil.  A person can be an instrument for good or evil, but it needs us to open up a way for the devil.  There is no handle on the outside of the door of the human heart, it must be opened from the inside.  We all have to ask God as the psalmist did, to search us try us and know our hearts. 

     The lengths people will go to in religion and yet be without grace and sincerity, is far greater than many others will recognise. 

     We see the love and lure of money.  Judas did it all for cash.  For love of money Judas was willing to betray His Lord. 

     This passage however is closely associated with the Passover feast.  It was for this feast that Jesus went to Jerusalem.  The death of our Lord took place at the time of the Passover, in accordance with God’s plan to show Jesus was the true sacrifice.  What the sacrifice of a lamb had been to Israel in Egypt, Jesus sacrifice would be to sinners all over the world.  He would be the atonement for all our transgressions.

     The feast of Unleavened bread lasted for a week in April and the Passover meal was held on the first day.  It commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from the tyranny of Egyptian slavery.  Pharaoh had refused to let the Jews leave despite Moses pleas, and after God had delivered nine plagues. 

     Finally after the tenth, the first born son in all Egyptian families died, but the angel of death passed over all the Jewish houses, which as a sign had the blood of a lamb sprayed on, and the Jewish boys were spared. On that night they left so quickly there was no time to bake the bread with leaven, so it was unleavened bread they ate. 

     Every male Jew living within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was expected to attend the celebrations, but it was the ambition of every Jew to attend at least once in their lifetime.

    This feast, one of the most important in the Jewish calendar, was one which every Jewish family would come together to celebrate as one  It was a solemn remembrance for God bringing Israel out of slavery.  .    

     The family would eat bread which was without leaven,  the head of the household retells the Passover story, and prayers of thanksgiving are made and four cups of wine are drunk.   Still the Jews keep the Passover and they pray that next year they will do so in Jerusalem

     It is estimated that there were two million people in the city when the last days of Jesus were played out.  Jesus knew what He must do.  The better class houses had two rooms, one on top of the other, and it was common for a Rabbi to meet with his followers to talk things over with them.  Jesus sent Peter and John to look for a man described to book an upper room. 

     The feast went on and Jesus used the ancient symbols of bread and wine to give them a whole new meaning and significance.  He took the bread and said ‘this is my body’.  This is what is meant by a sacrament.  It is something which is normally a very ordinary thing,, which has acquired a meaning far beyond itself. 

      In all our lives there are things which have a special significance for us, but to nobody else, because they bring back to us a special person or occasion bringing a meaning beyond ourselves.  This is often some article which belonged to a loved one no longer with us. 

     The bread which we eat at the Communion service is just common bread, but to the Christian who understands, it represents the very body of Christ. 

     Jesus said the cup is the new covenant made at the price of His blood.  Jesus is saying the ancient Jewish festival will be fulfilled in Him.  His blood will be shed on the Cross, and He will die in our place, and figuratively the angel of death passes over all our lives.   

     This is a gift of God because of God’s amazing grace.  He offers this gift to all, but to benefit and be saved we have to accept that gift.    

     The Jewish system of sacrifice was meant to restore that relationship between man and God by the offering of animal sacrifice to atone for sin.  Jesus offered us an alternative relationship between us and God through His death.  It cost Jesus His life to restore that relationship.     

     The main object of the Lord’s Supper was to remind Christians of Christ’s death for sinners.  Jesus specifically told His Apostles that they were to do what they did in remembrance of Him.  So when we take the bread and wine, we are not taking part in a sacrificial offering, but are commemorating what Jesus did. 

     The bread is to remind us of Jesus body, given on the Cross.  The wine we drink is to remind us of the blood shed. They are to appeal to our minds to keep afresh Jesus once and for all sacrifice.  We are to do this in faith, and our faith is increased by receiving the bread and wine.    

     Jesus however, knew how easily the human mind forgets, so He commanded we do this to remember Him.  He calls us to enter in to the reverence and peace of His house, and do it with other followers of Him.        

     The message of the Cross is the focal point of Christianity.  Billy Graham stated every sermon he ever preached would contain reference to the Cross, but it is not one that every preacher adopts.  In fact, I cannot recall hearing such a sermon

     The observance of Holy Communion, or Eucharist or Mass, is a duty binding on all Christians.  Jesus was quite emphatic on this point, and we are called to obey.

     I sincerely believe the Lord will exonerate us at the present time in this country, for all the main Church denominations have adopted services in contravention of Scripture, which oblige Christians to attend Apostate places of worship.

     Paul said every time we come to take the sacrament we are proclaiming the Lord’s death, and we are to take it worthily.  As we come we are acknowledging our faith that He is our Lord and Saviour, and accept that He died for each one of us.

     Since the service of Holy Communion has become the normal main service of the Churches ,there is always the danger that it is taken too casually or automatically, without recognising it as something very significant.

     Often people in a Church will use the time that is being taken for others to come forward, as a time to chat with others about events in their lives, whereas it should be used as a time for meditation on what is being celebrated.

    We should not consider all who commemorate are true believers.  Judas at the first service obviously wasn’t, yet Jesus accepted him.

     What has often saddened me is that I have seen devoted people, (mainly women I have to say) coming to the Communion rail only for a blessing, because they have not been confirmed.  I know many priests and churches support this action, and whilst I respect that view, I cannot ever imagine Jesus would question whether a person of such faith was confirmed or not.

     If a person has such faith and belief, which motivates them to come forward, and all I have spoken to say they would have liked to take the sacrament, then I have no hesitation whatsoever in offering it to them.   

     Confirmation is desirable and important within the Church, but I believe should not preclude sincere faith being manifested.

     When you take Communion remember the Cross and its message for you and resolve to keep trusting in its power. 

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