A RITUAL TO REMEMBER
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 12, 2019
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
— Luke 22:7-23, ESV
“Give the people what they want and they will come.”
— P.T. Barnum
In the sugary world of the modern worship, people want songs that sound like their favorite rock band. People want messages that are inspiring and uplifting that neither condemn sin nor call for commitment. People want spectacular multi-media presentations to match their ever shortening attention spans.
People do not want slow, serious, substantive songs, also known as hymns. People do not want doctrinal sermons weighed heavily with the Bible, also known as expository preaching. People do not want any boring rituals at all, such as readings from Scripture, regular communion, or the reciting of creeds and prayers.
But what does God want? We must remember that worship is an offering to God, not entertainment for people. God seems to be a fan of slow, deliberate, doctrinal singing, since there are 150 such compositions laying there right in the middle of our Bibles. God delights in the careful exposition of the Scriptures; after all, it is His word. Furthermore, God is a big fan of ritual. The last time He was on earth to lead worship, He observed a slow, sacred ritual, then for good measure inaugurated a new one.
Jesus made the last Passover a ritual to remember.
It is well known to all Gospel readers that Jesus was crucified and resurrected during the Jewish Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. John’s Gospel meticulously chronicles three such observances, which is why we believe Jesus’ public ministry lasted about three years. During the last Passover, Jesus had a lot on His mind and a lot of things to do. But being a devout worshiper of God the Father, God the Son took time out of His busy schedule to remember the slow and deliberate ritual of Passover.
Passover was perpetuated by the tenth plague perpetrated upon the Egyptian people in order to persuade them to let God’s people go free (ref. Exodus 12). The plague killed all the firstborn in all of Egypt, except upon all the Jewish households where the blood of a sacrificial lamb adorned the doorposts. When the plague struck, it passed over the Israelites, who left quickly with their bread unleavened and their baskets full of Egyptian goodies, including more lamb, skins of wine, and the bitter herbs of Goshen.
This historic event became an important annual ritual. The Israelites neglected it to their peril in times of rebellion and oppression. They remembered and observed it in times of revival and renewal. By the time of Jesus and the Roman occupation, however, Passover like other Jewish religious observances, had become a shell without the egg.
Even so, Jesus did not fail to crack open this important ritual and fill it with meaning, old and new. He planned for it, flashing His attributes of deity to Peter and John by pointing them to a preordained peculiar sight. A man carrying a water jar (men usually carried sacks, women carried jars) led them to the prepared place for the Passover. It was a semi-secretive place, for Jesus also knew of Judas’ treachery, and did not want to get arrested before completing the important ritual. Jesus somehow made sure that all of the important elements were there, lamb and unleavened bread and bitter herbs and plenty of genuine wine, as Welch’s grape juice was not available in Jesus’ day.
The meal, Luke’s seventh of nine meal scenes, was not upbeat nor exciting by modern standards. It was a serious, sacred ritual packed with important elements for God’s people. Twelve men sat with Jesus for the meal but only eleven true believers would finish it. The event included the prescribed elements interspersed with doctrinal teaching, psalm singing, and thankful prayers. There was no swooning or hand clapping, no special lighting or fog machines, no musicians with spiked hair or skinny jeans.
Jesus infused this particular Old Covenant ritual with New Covenant meaning. The Lord taught them, in accordance with John the Baptist’s prophecy, that He is the Lamb of God with a body without sin as surely as the bread contained no leaven. The Lord taught them that as wine is a gift from God, His blood would provide the ultimate gift of God, salvation and the forgiveness of sins. The Lord taught them that He was about to earn our salvation with suffering more bitter than the herbs they had bitten during the meal.
Jesus remembered the Passover by sharing one with His disciples that they would never forget. Jesus fulfilled the Passover by walking from the upper room table all the way to the cross at Calvary. Jesus transformed the annual Passover by picking out two of the important elements, unleavened bread (without sin) and genuine wine (grapes crushed and renewed with spirit), and inaugurating the Lord’s Supper as a weekly, not weakly, observance for the Christian church.
Jesus makes the Lord’s Supper a ritual to remember.
The Lord’s Supper is a commandment to keep. “Do this” is in the present active imperative, meaning it is a commandment to constantly keep. It is not a ritual to be ignored or infrequently observed because it slows down the otherwise uptempo beat of contemporary worship. All devout Christians would agree that it is sin to neglect the assembly of the church on the Lord’s Day (ref. Hebrews 10:25, etc.). We should also agree that it is shameful to gather on the Lord’s Day and leave out any of the essential elements prescribed in Scripture and exemplified by the early church: prayers, singing, preaching, offering, and the breaking of bread, which was the Christian patriarchs way of referring to communion or the Lord’s Supper.
“Shame on the Christian church that she put it off to once a month and mar the first day of the
week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread
and showing forth the death of Christ till he comes. They who once know the sweetness of
each Lord’s day celebrating his supper, will not be content, I am sure, to put it off to less frequent seasons.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The Lord’s Supper is a ritual to remember. “In remembrance of Me” is Christ’s way of infusing Christ-centeredness into the Christ-centered church. Christianity, Christian worship, and the Christian observance of the Lord’s Supper within worship, is not about you. It is about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who He is, what He has done. The only thing you have to do is remember it is “for you.” The Lord’s Supper reminds us supremely of Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and our proper response to Christ, which includes repentance, faith, humility, obedience, and love.
The Lord’s Supper is worship in its purest, simplest form, and should govern the other elements of Christian worship. The other segments of worship do not have to be as somber as the Lord’s Supper, but they must be equally serious. They should bring us to the table in reverence and awe, and send us on our way, full of the gospel, for life and ministry.
When the Lord’s Supper is central in our worship, it helps us to keep the Lord at the center of our lives. Life is hard and downright confusing at times. Even the original eleven disciples “began to question one another” when the original ritual was observed. We encounter traitors, like Judas. We are surrounded by enemies, like the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have commandments that are difficult to keep, like living holy and sharing the gospel. We sin. We forget. We need to be regularly reminded of God’s love, grace, and mercy.
This is why we need rituals to remember, especially the Lord’s Supper. Worship which flows into the Lord’s Supper and a life that flows out of it delivers us from bondage, sets our souls free, and lights our path to walk as fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. So remember the ritual and heed the word of the Lord, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org