FOCUS ON COMMUNION
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and
said to His disciples,
"Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with
Him Peter and the two sons
of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is
deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He
went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is
possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." And He came to
the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men
could not keep
watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into
temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away again a second
time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I
drink it, Your will
be done." Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He
left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once
more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still
resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the
hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at
- Yielding to God's will often involves human
- God's purposes often are accomplished at the price of human suffering.
- While God always seeks our highest good, in the moment of struggle we
humans are often consumed by dreading our struggle instead of the good
that will be produced through our struggle.
- Jesus the man certainly knew the price of human struggle through personal
- He did not want to die.
- He did not want the responsibility of the pain in crucifixion or the
responsibility of causing God's purpose to become reality.
- Yet, we can easily see why Jesus succeeded where many of us often fail.
- While he did not wish to die, he did not let the reality of immediate pain
and suffering cause him to lose his focus.
- He was very open and direct with God--"Let this cup pass from me."
- Yet, in his openness he was totally submissive--"Your will be done."
- The essential thing: God's purposes be achieved, not his feelings be
- It is likely that a Christian's moment of greatest weakness is the moment when
we are tempted to place our feelings above God's purposes.
- Communion celebrates the fact that Jesus did not do that.
- He truly understands the temptation to do that, but he did not do that.
- So as we eat the bread, we gratefully remember the fact that Jesus yielded to
God's purposes and glorify God for pursuing those purposes at the cost of
the death of His son.
Prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus' body. Serve the unleavened bread.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34.
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you
come together not for the
better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I
hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be
factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating
each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do
you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God
and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In
this I will not praise you. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had
given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you;
do this in
remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying,
cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance
of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's
death until He comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner,
shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself,
and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and
drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For
this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged
ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be
condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat,
wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come
together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.
Parts of this scripture are used frequently to focus attention on the basic
purposes of communion given by Jesus himself.
- We commonly want Christians to focus on the original nature of communion.
- Thus we read verses 23-26 to emphasize the early focus of communion.
- That certainly is not incorrect, but it often misses the problem in the church of
- Some Christians were coming earlier [likely by invitation] to share in a full
meal [similar to what we would call a "pot luck" meal].
- Some Christians were coming later [which was typical in Roman meals] to
share in a partial meal.
- Some well-to-do Christians left drunk from eating and drinking too much.
- Some poor Christians left hungry having very little to eat.
- Remember that this letter began with Paul condemning the congregation's
- When they gathered for communion, their gathering emphasized their
division, not their oneness in Christ.
- Paul said, "I cannot even call what you are doing communion."
- Why? The focus is not on a form problem, but a purpose problem.
- Their communion did not accomplish the purpose of communion. It was
Satan's purposes, not God's purposes that were emphasized.
- The problem was not in the fact that communion was a meal.
- Jesus instituted communion at a meal.
- Acts 2 places emphasis on Christians eating together to affirm their
- The problem was not that it was a meal, but the problem was in the
purpose of the meal.
- The purpose of this meal was not to satisfy hunger, though it did for
some who were poor.
- The purpose of the meal was to affirm oneness in Christ.
- Yet, what they did was precisely opposite to one of the purposes of
communion--it declared there were privileged Christians and second
- In communion, there are two purposes to be met.
- The first is a personal remembrance of what Jesus Christ accomplished for
us as individuals on Jesus' cross.
- The second is a collective affirmation that we are one with all in the
congregation who place their faith in Christ. [That was quite important to
Christians most of whom had been rejected or abandoned by the society they
- Communion is remembering Jesus, but it is also a declaration of unity with
those who give their lives and allegiance to Jesus as the Christ.
- The Corinthian Christians turned a meal of remembrance and affirmation into
a meal that focused on division and hunger.
- Paul said, "You miss one of the fundamental reasons for taking
- Christians should feel strengthened by communion, not discouraged by
- When we take communion, we need to remember Jesus' sacrifice, and we
need to remember that we belong to each other because Jesus died for all of
- When you drink this fruit of the vine, remember Jesus, and remember your
commitment to every person here who is with you in Christ.
Prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus' blood. Serve the fruit of the vine.
Challenge and invitation.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 September 2004
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