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Main Street Community Church, Frodsham

Loving God
Loving Frodsham

Thoughts and Reflections on the Last Supper

This talk, based on Mark chapter 14 verses 12 to 26, was given by Martin Tust on .

Before the talk, the Bible passage chapter is read by John and Ruth Giles,

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Outline

[00'00"] Mark 14:12 26

[02'51"] Thoughts and Reflections on the Last Supper: Introduction

[08'45"] The Lord’s Supper involves careful preparation.

[14'47"] The Lord’s Supper requires self-examination.

[18'04"] The Lord’s Supper symbolises a powerful representation to each and every believer.

[21'58"] The Lord’s Supper provides joyful anticipation.

[26'40"] Three words: Recognise; Reflect; Rely

[28'15"] Closing prayer

Transcript

[00'00"] Mark 14:12–26

[The Bible reading is read by Ruth and John Giles]

Our reading this morning is taken from Mark’s Gospel chapter 14 verses 12 to 26.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ”Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(NIV)

[02'51"] Thoughts and Reflections on the Last Supper: Introduction

That’s a first for Main Street because it’s normally one reader that comes out, but this morning we’ve had two. My personal thanks go to John and Ruth for that. Thank you so much for coming out here and reading and really just taking us through it.

It’s always exciting to face what God has to give us and it’s really, really important, I think, to get our teeth into what he gives us. This morning it’s a straight forward easy to understand yet, it’s a very, very deep message for each and every one. I’ve entitled it, thoughts and reflections on the last supper.

Not so long ago we celebrated Easter here in church and across all the churches. Here in this church, we had lots of visitors. Little visitors, bigger visitors and even older visitors, but they all experience the Easter Journey. Over in the corner, over there, there was a scene set up. IKEA tables, a bit of LCD lighting, bits and pieces all over the place but what it stood for was very important. It was the Last Supper. For me, it was one of the most moving parts of the Easter journey, I’ve got to tell you. A lot of children seemed to enjoy the experience. They came in and they were herded, there were things to try and to taste. They involved, getting involved in a multi-sensory experience. They all left with plates full of bits and pieces of grapes and bits of bread as well.

For me, that sets the context this morning. It’s about sharing. But back to the text, “Jesus sat down with his disciples to eat the Passover meal as it was a Jewish tradition.” Jesus was celebrating a Jewish tradition. That was to end on the Easter Sunday morning when the disciples discovered the tomb was empty. Between those two events, Jesus went into Gethsemane, the special garden in this part of the church, where he was crushed by the burden that he was facing for you and I. He’d been arrested. He’d been put on trial. He was tortured at the hands of the Jews and the Romans. A really nasty end to his life. Then after spending six hours on the cross, he died. They removed his body, wrapped it up in spices and placed it in an empty tomb. You might say, “That’s the end of the story folks.” Because it was, wasn’t it?

The world says, Jesus died. But we know, we trust, we believe, we have that hope in our hearts that the story goes on. The story is going on today and the story will continue on because that’s what the story is about. The text we read today reminds us, and you and me, that the Lord’s Supper is a unique experience. This morning we’re going to take that experience again. But it’s a unique experience. Everyone is different. Every person is different. Every person is different because they experience it in a new and different way and a challenging way. It’s special to each Christian because it stands for something most special.

We’ll have a bit of culture now. We are going to have a picture. One of the most famous paintings in the world is Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper that hopefully will appear.

scan of the Last Supper

I thought of you, Gill, because one of the reflections I often have is that Gill shows us some really fantastic pictures and these pictures are from various fantastic places. I’ll tell you a bit of a story about this one. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper was painted, the original was painted in 1495, although he started it two years earlier. It was hung on the wall in a convent in Milan in Italy. It had faded over time with the light being shone on it. The latest restoration was finished after 21 years. It was finished in 1999. I can’t imagine working on a painting. I’d start on Monday on the left-hand side and by Wednesday I’d probably be up to where Jesus is, and then by Friday I’d be washing my brushes out and it would be all finished. But no, it took 21 years of time and effort to actually make it a fantastic picture. I’ll just give you a few seconds to just reflect upon it. I know it’s hard to understand, to get your head around it but I’ll encourage you to do some more research on that.

But da Vinci tried to capture the moment when Peter is leaning over John to ask him, “Who will betray Jesus? Who’s going to do the dirty deed?” Judas can be seen between them clutching the bag of 30 pieces of silver. I don’t think for one second that Jesus and his followers actually met like that. A lovely clean trestle table all laid out. The cloth perfectly ironed. I thought of you, Moira, ironing it, making sure it was all just just so. I guess it was laid out probably something like that. I don’t know about though, the windows-- it’s just a piece of art but it makes us think perhaps, for one second, I might have thought, that the scene was all squashed in with Jesus in the middle and them all huddled around trying to get access to see what he was doing and, maybe, there weren’t plates and knives and forks and all the bits and pieces on the table, but that doesn’t matter. They’d all be lying and reclining, maybe, in the Roman fashion, but I guess they were all centred around Jesus.

This morning we’re going to go through four points about what we find out about what we’ve seen and what we experienced.

[08'45"] The Lord’s Supper involves careful preparation.

My first point is for today that the Lord’s Supper involves careful preparation. Later on, you’re going to prepare to take the part in this meal. But the first point is that the Lord’s Supper involves careful preparation. Jesus trusted his inside disciples to go to Jerusalem and told them, “Find a room and make preparations for the Passover. Go ahead. Get it sorted, lads. Get it sorted. Get the room sorted.” Every spring, the Jews commemorated the time when they were slaves living in Egypt. God warned the people that on that certain day, the Death Angel would arrive in Egypt. The first-born child of every family would die unless people followed his instructions. Follow the instructions. Follow God’s instructions and you’ll be okay. Unless the blood was made as a sacrifice. I mean if it was smeared from a lamb on the door post and on the lintel of the house, then the Angel would pass over and leave them safe. He would pass over that family and there would be no death. But then, when there was no blood applied, death would visit with tragic consequences. For those who obeyed God and trusted his word, they could rest inside knowing God’s judgement would pass over them. That God’s judgement would pass over them. That’s enough to make you smile and say, “I’m not going to be judged.” Because that’s what it teaches us.

So, for the Last Supper, what preparations were required? The Passover was a 24-hour celebration starting at sundown on the 15th day of Nisan and it ended at sundown the next day. What a party that must have been? For 24 hours. We went to a three-year-old’s party and it was like touch and go at one time whether we will get the barbecue going. And it worked, and everybody got fed and then the dog came out and demolished all the food. That’s what happens. But for a 24-hour party, that must have been really sorted, really prepared. I can honestly say, I’ve never been to a 24-hour party, but one day when we get to heaven there’s going to be a mighty, fantastic party.

The day-long celebration or observance ushered in a week-long festival of unleavened bread. It’s called matza or some people would know it as Matzos, and we’ve experienced those. It’s bread made without leaven or yeast. The Jews ate unleavened bread to recall how they quickly had to leave Egypt. They had no time to let the yeast work, to let it rise. Over time, yeast began to represent sin. The evil influence they needed to get away from, sin. They needed a clean start to remove all the leaven. I’m reminded as a scientist, I’m sure Mike will tell us, that yeast is a tiny organism, that it multiplies very quickly. In fact, it multiplies in 20 minutes. So, one yeast cell becomes two yeast cells, and two yeast cells become four yeast cells, and four yeast cells become eight yeast cells, and eight yeast cells become 16, and it goes on in 20 minutes of reproduction. Yeast spreads, from one little tiny cell you can end up with thousands and thousands. Once the yeast or leaven has started working, you can’t stop it. That’s what makes the bread rise.

So, in the preparation for Passover, involved with the preparation of food and drinks but also making sure that there wasn’t a speck of leaven anywhere in your house. No yeast to be found. And to this day, the Jewish families conduct a deep cleaning of their home to remove any trace of leaven. This is probably where we get this tradition of spring cleaning, spring cleaning our homes to get it all really clean. Before you take part in a memorial meal today, you need to realize that there’s some personal house cleaning needed. No, not where you live or where you slept last night, I’m talking about the house in which Jesus lives, in your life. We should be aiming to get rid of all sin in our lives. If you have your Bible with you, I.m going to look at 1 Corinthians. I put my glasses on so that I can see, the print is getting very small, I don’t know why but it has changed. This is a new Bible I’ve got, of the New Testament but the print has got so small, I think I’m going to trade it back in and get a big version.

1 Corinthians, it’s 1 Corinthians, chapter five. It says this, “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens a whole batch of dough, get rid of the old yeast so that you may be making a new batch of unleavened as you are really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed, therefore let us keep the festival not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the own leavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Two powerful words: sincerity and truth. As we prepare for this meal this morning, ask the Holy Spirit to shine into your life to reveal anything that needs sweeping, out to get rid of, like that yeast. Are there any bad habits, any anger, any resentment, or are there any lust particles hiding in there? Remember how it splits and goes. Prepare carefully, replace the leaven with sincerity and truth.

[14'47"] The Lord’s Supper requires self-examination.

My second point is that the Lord’s Supper requires self-examination, it involves looking at one’s self. One of the disciples betrayed Jesus, we all know who that was, there was a sombre mood. That was a tension-filled meal. They weren’t happy, they knew what was going to happen, they knew that things were going to go right downhill.

If you’ve ever been to a family meal, you know full well there’s sometimes tension, but when everybody gets together, everybody shares things, people lighten up but sometimes things can go drastically wrong. If the wrong person comes in or somebody complains about the food, or they arrive late because of something happening, tension can rise. Jesus reminds them all, he says this, “I tell you the truth, one of you will be betraying me tonight, one who is eating with me.” Perhaps each one of those there were thinking to themselves, “Maybe it’s me, and I don’t even know it yet. Maybe it’s somebody else.” On personal reflection, I thought that Jesus was actually giving Judas a chance to say, “Turn it around Judas, repent, correct your mistake.” He didn”t call him out by name but Jesus knew in his heart.

He wanted Judas there to be in a situation where he could turn around, but he also knew there were tragic consequences for his bad choices. We often say that when we say to young people, I used to say it, “Make the right choice, make a good choice, don’t make a bad choice. Make the right choice.” And we’re guided by Scripture that says, “Make the right choice.” The disciples didn’t suspect Judas. He was the treasurer of the group, the one with the money, the one that you trust most, but each one of them honestly wondered who would betray Jesus. But we all know, we’ve read it, we’ve heard it, we’ve seen it, we all know what happened and eventually, all the other disciples eventually ran away into the night, leaving Jesus all alone. These were the closest followers of Jesus, and on that night, they all failed him miserably. Every one of them around that table let Jesus down.

Regardless of how close you are this morning to the Lord, there is a possibility that you could fail him. After all, we’re only human. But that’s why you can come back, he doesn’t say, “I’ll separate you, I’ll put you on the naughty step, I’ll put you in the bad corner. You’re out of my lesson.” He doesn’t say that, he says, “I give you my grace every minute of every day.” That’s when you get, another fresh start. This morning as I pause, examine your hearts, do you know Jesus?

[18'04"] The Lord’s Supper symbolises a powerful representation to each and every believer.

My third point is that the Lord’s Supper symbolises a powerful representation to each and every believer, to each and every Christian. These things that are here, and I’ll talk about them in a minute, are special. This time as we get close to God is special, it means a lot to us.

Across the churches and Christians all across the world, all would agree, whether it’s breaking of bread, the Holy Communion, the sacraments, whatever you call it. Being on a beach, sitting around a blanket. Gathering with other friends and breaking bread. Whatever it’s called, it’s a special time, it’s a special time because it involves Jesus coming down to us and meeting us where we are. For a moment, I thought about things. I thought hard and fast about it, we don’t believe that this bread and this wine, or this bread and this Ribena juice actually morphs into Jesus’ body and blood. Some people will say, “Well, that’s the magic of communion, that’s what it’s all about, it’s the magic of that.”

I believe that it’s more than just that, I believe it reminds us of the sacrifice, it’s a simple memory lesson. Let’s go back to Scripture, 1 Corinthians 11, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you;’ ” Everyone, Judas included. Done it for me. “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ’This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat and drink this bread and this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

It’s going kind of deep. The bread and the cup are symbols but what they represent is real, and for a lot of people they struggle with that. At the meal, Jesus took bread, he blessed it, he broke it, he gave it to his disciples in the same way Jesus’ body was broken through torture and abuse, no bones of Jesus’ body were broken but he was whipped. His brow bled with the crown of thorns, his hands and his feet were broken open by the nails. His precious blood was poured out on that day to make an atonement for sins. Once a year the High Priests observe Yom Kippur, the sprinkling of blood in the Holiest of Holies, in that inner sanctum, the inner room separated by the thick curtain in the temple. No more, it’s finished. Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was broken and ripped in half, it was rent in two, from top to bottom. It was God’s way of saying to each and every believer, to each person, to you and me this morning, “A new way has been opened up into my presence.” It’s not just a new way, it’s a new way in. A new way in has been opened to my presence, it’s through the blood of Jesus for each and every one of us.

[21'58"] The Lord’s Supper provides joyful anticipation.

My fourth point, nearly finished, is the Lord’s Supper provides joyful anticipation. I tried to think back what it was like at Christmas time, or to receive a present, or to hear some good news, you anticipate. But it provides more than anticipation, it’s a joyful anticipation. We call it The Last Supper but really, it’s not the Last Supper because we keep on celebrating it, and we keep on reminding ourselves, we keep on getting God’s blessing, we keep on receiving from God. We read it this morning in Mark 14, “Truly, I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruits of the vine until the day when I drink it in the New Kingdom of God.”

We call it the Last Supper, but Jesus made a solid promise. The story goes on. It doesn’t end today. It doesn’t end in just accepting Jesus into your heart, and he makes a change and leaves you. You’re going on with God. That’s great news, that’s exciting, that’s the thing that drives you on. That’s the thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to go through it again.” This morning, you’re not left stranded. Those of us who know and love Jesus will be invited to that great wedding banquet in heaven. 24-hour party, it’s going to keep on going. And that will happen just before Jesus returns, to win the final battle on Earth.

You can read it for yourself, and I’ve got it for you in Revelation. Revelation 19, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given for her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘write this, blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘these are the true words of God.’ ” If it says it in Revelation, and it says it’s true, it’s doubly strong for me.

This morning, looking around, there are lots of blank faces. I’d like you to smile. I’d like you to be happy. I’d like you to just reflect on that. Because you’re all invited, every single one of us is invited to a party. How exciting.

I want to ask you a question. You can perhaps tell me later. Have you given Jesus your RSVP? Have you given Jesus your valued reply? The hard words is that there is a deadline to accepting your invitation. So if you haven’t made your reservation, you haven’t had the invite to the wedding banquet, and you haven’t accepted it. You’ll want a confirmation number, won’t you? You want a confirmation number, and the number is, JN316, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Three in one. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son came, and broke his body for each and every one of us. They took him from the cross; the cross is empty. They buried him, they wrapped him in a burial cloth. He was hidden for three days, but when he returned, he was alive. That’s what we believe. That’s what we trust. That’s what we know. That’s what we hope for. That gives us cause for great rejoicing. Every single one of us should have a smile on our hearts this morning, if we know and love Jesus. When you receive the bread of life this morning, you’re going to be satisfied. I would recommend you spend some time and think about what we looked at this morning. We’ll be satisfied. But remember, nothing else quenches our hunger, besides Jesus, our thirst.

[26'40"] Three words: Recognise; Reflect; Rely

It’s time to get close, as we prepare, and if I finish talking, it’s time for us to make that step. I want to give you three words to take away with. They’re three R words. It’s not reading and writing and ’rithmetic. Three words that stand out from this message, to take away and perhaps remember.

This morning, the first R word is to recognize what Jesus did for us. To recognize. And the world needs to see that in us, and we need to see that in what we do. To recognize.

The second R word is to reflect. To take some time, and for it to be special. Very, very special. And it is. But every time we do it, it’s even more special. It’s really good that we’re able to dip into Scripture, and hear what God says to us this morning. So recognize, and reflect.

The third thing, which is so important, with the ups and downs that we all face in life. We can rely on what God has said. We can rely on it. It’s solid. It doesn’t have any weaknesses. It has no human frailty. It has no let-down. That is what it’s about. The three Rs. To recognize, reflect, and rely on it. So when things are going a bit up and down, we can put our faith in God.

[28'15"] Closing prayer

Let’s pray.

Father God, we just thank you for what you did for each one of us. And that later on this morning, we’ll be able to do those three things, we can recognize, and we can reflect, and we can rely upon you as our Lord and Saviour. Help us, Lord, to be strong in what we do. Drive us on. Give us that passion in our hearts. I just pray for each and every one that doesn’t know you, that they would take that step of faith, to get close and rely on you. You did that for each one of us, and you’re going to continue to do it. The message still is for each and every one of us. Let your light shine upon, and make us more like you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Thank you.

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Scripture quotations from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.