What is the best meal that you have ever had? I can think of several meals that were great, but I can’t remember what the best meal I’ve ever had was. What criteria goes into deciding what makes a meal “the best” you’ve ever had? Is it the food, the fellowship, the price? Whatever your best meal might have been, it pales in comparison to the Meal that is offered to you this night.
As we focus on the theme of the Lord’s Supper this evening, the evening begins as does any other meal with Jesus and His disciples. They are enjoying the Passover meal, something that has been done before. The Passover was the significant family meal in the covenant between God and His people. The Israelites were initially slaves in Egypt, living under the harsh treatment of the Pharaoh. Their cries went to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who sent Moses to deliver them. Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go free. Pharaoh depended on Egypt’s gods to lead the country. By sending plagues that overpowered Egypt’s so-called gods, the true God convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The final plague brought judgment on Egypt’s god of life, as the almighty God sent the destroying angel throughout the land, killing the firstborn in each home. God directed His people to hold a special meal centered on a lamb, whose blood was smeared on the door frame. When the destroyer saw the blood, he passed over the house. The people were protected by the blood of the lamb as a substitute for their lives. As a result of this catastrophic judgment on Egypt, Pharaoh let God’s people go. The Israelites celebrated the Passover meal thereafter.
In our text Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus was ready for His exodus. During the meal, “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.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” Matthew adds “for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus instituted a new Passover based on His self-sacrifice as the Passover Lamb. He ends the first covenant and establishes the new covenant promised for the new era. Just as the lamb’s blood served as a substitution for the death of the firstborn, so now Jesus’ blood substitutes for our death. We are set free from our bondage to sin, to malice, and to evil through the forgiveness He earned by taking judgment into His own body. Sin “lets us go,” that is, releases its stranglehold on us. We are free. We are rescued from death and given the certain hope of heaven.
What Jesus does tonight is amazing, in and of itself. But we have to remember when our Lord does this: on the night when He was betrayed. One of His very own disciples is going to betray Him and yet He still does this for them. In fact, He does this for the entire Christian Church. He gives to you His body and His blood for the forgiveness of sin. He does this knowing full well that we will betray Him by our thoughts, words, and deeds. He does this knowing full well that we are enemies of God and yet gives Himself to us freely.
In this new Passover meal God forgives and forgets our past, as far as the east is from the west. Your sins are forgiven in this Meal.
Sadly, and to their detriment, many Christians neglect this Meal. But for those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, this is a Meal of great benefit. Those who struggle with the old sinful nature, who need strength to handle broken relationships, and who seek the wisdom to make decisions are united with Christ through this Meal.
When a person receives the bread and wine in Holy Communion, that person receives Jesus. As He said, “This is My body.” The heart of faith grasps the Word, which puts in the benefit, and then takes out the benefit, namely, all that Christ is according to His Word. The mouth eats physically for the heart and the heart eats spiritually what the body eats physically, and thus both are saved and satisfied by one and the same food.
This Meal—a life-giving, life-renewing, life-changing Meal—is the best meal we will ever have because we are united with Christ Jesus in this Sacrament. God changes us through the power of the Word, but also in this Meal He gives us His compassion, joy, peace, patience, kindness, moral goodness, sense of responsibility, humility, and self-control—all of which are life-giving, life-renewing, and life-changing.
That is what this Supper is about. It is not some institution that God gives only so that we remember, and it is certainly not an ordinance by which He tests our obedience to Him. It is the Father calling His children to dinner so that they might be fed. It is the Passover fulfilled: it is Christ present with us, leading us through the wilderness and feeding us with the forgiveness that keeps us alive in Him.
Christ, your Passover Lamb, gives you the remission of sins in this Supper, for He is present with you in, with and under bread and wine. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. And so life and salvation are yours: because you are forgiven for all of your sins.
For you tonight, the best meal has been served: a meal that feeds your soul, strengthens your faith, and forgives you all of your sins. The Table has been prepared and our Lord Jesus invites us to be His guests, to give to us the best meal ever. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.