January 8, 2016
By Skip Heitzig
A few years ago, an assistant pastor was out shopping for the grape juice for our Communion service, and he had to buy a large quantity of it, as you can imagine. So, he brought the cart up to the checkout, and in front of him was a lady with a couple six-packs of beer. She turned and saw this whole crateful of grape juice, and she smiled and said, "Having a celebration, huh?" He nodded and said, "Uh-huh!"
Simply put, Communion is a celebration. We have been forgiven, and forgiven people are happy people. Forgiveness of sin brings joy, because sin produces guilt and guilt is what blocks us from having joy. But you can't just dispose of guilt; it must be forgiven. And how can we be forgiven? The answer is a single word: a lamb.
And here we come to Exodus 12, the night of the final plague in Egypt—the death of the firstborn. God said that He would send His angel through the land, and he would pass over all of the homes where a lamb had been slain and its blood applied to the lentils and the doorpost. This is where the term Passover comes from.
But why was it so graphic and bloody? To kill an innocent animal and put blood over the entrance to your house—why would God command that? It was to indelibly inscribe the Israelites' redemption into their memory—and it worked. Throughout their generations after this, throughout the other writings in the Bible, they all looked back to the night the lambs were slain and their forefathers were delivered.
And when we take Communion, we too remember the sacrifice. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb of God. When John the Baptist was baptizing people down at the Jordan River, he saw Jesus and proclaimed, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Being the son of a priest, John would've known all about the rituals of the temple, all the way back to this passage in Exodus 12 about the Passover lamb, as he, in one phrase, encapsulated the mission and purpose of Christ.
Later, Paul the apostle wrote, "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7, NLT). In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter said, "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
Then in Revelation 5, the apostle John was taken up into the heavenly courts and described what he saw: "Behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain" (v. 6). He was in God's glory, where everything is perfect, redeemed, and made new. Yet even then, he saw Jesus Christ bearing the marks of the cross.
In other words, the only work of man that you will see in heaven are the wounds we put on the body of Jesus Christ. And it's going to be sensational. It's not a badge of shame to Jesus; it's His badge of honor, because He wants us to remember, just like He wanted the Israelites to remember, that it was that sacrifice that saved us. That's what Communion does: it points us to the cross, by which we have found our way home.
So, whenever you take the elements of Communion, take them with a heart of thanksgiving. Take them with a renewed heart of joy. Communion is a commemoration of the fact that we have a Savior who loves us, died for us, and accepts us based upon His work as the Lamb of God. And that's something to celebrate.
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