The Life and Teaching of Jesus – Part 36 – In Memoriam

As a nation we love to build memorials. A Memorial by definition is an object which serves as a focus for the memory of a person or an event. Sometimes it is a very tall pillar or structure, sometimes it can be a whole building. Memorials are not always big imposing structures, sometimes they can be mid-size, perhaps a statue, a sculpture or a fountain. Sometimes something smaller like a painting or a plaque or even just a stamp or a coin. But it’s not just the British that like memorials, is seems there is a human need to create memorials. If God established a memorial, what do you think it might it be like.  Interestingly there are two great examples of God instituting memorials. The Passover and the Lords Supper.

We see here the disciples asking Jesus how and where they going to celebrate their Passover meal together. They say to Jesus how are we going to do this, and he replies in (Mark 14: 13-15) This may strike you as a bit strange because He tells them to go into the city and follow some random guy with a water pitcher, follow him and wherever he ends up ask the owner and He will have a large upper room for you.  How would they know which man to follow, he didn't say follow the first man you see with a jar of water. However only woman were meant to carry pitchers of water at that time, usually on their heads. It was considered a task only woman did; the wells were usually surrounded by woman meeting and talking and filling their jars and it would not normally have been appropriate for a man to go there. Men usually carried water in smaller leather pouches, so a man carrying a jar of water in itself would have been quite unusual.

The Passover in the Old Testament was an annual fellowship meal. God used Moses to institute the meal, so that God’s people would remember how God had rescued them out of slavery in Egypt. Included in the meal was a paste of bitter herbs to act as a reminder of the bitter time of slavery they spent in Egypt. The meal included the sacrifice of a lamb to remind them of the sacrificial lamb whose blood was placed on the door posts of their houses so that when the angel of death, passed over the city the houses marked with the blood of the lamb would not have their 1st born son struck down by the angel of death. The meal also consisted of unleavened bread because when the escaped from Egypt they had to mix the meal in a hurry and had no time to wait for the bread to rise and before they fled Egypt. The point is simply this, the Passover was a memorial, and God’s memorial is a fellowship meal not a monument.

If you have been following along with us as we have been going through the Gospel of Mark, you will know that several times before this evening Jesus has announced that He is going to die, however, this is the first time He says that He is going to be betrayed by one of them and when they heard that they began to question who that person might be.

The opening of verse 21 tells us, “it is written”,  which means God planned this, and it was always going to happen. The second part says simply that the person who does it is going to be held accountable for his actions.  They have the Passover meal, and during the meal Jesus announces that Judas would betray Him. The narrative continues (Mark 14:22) This is a very familiar passage for us and we often refer to it when we share the Lords Supper together but remember here they are in the middle of observing the Passover meal together. The Old Testament memorial set up as a meal, however here Jesus is going to institute a second memorial, one that we call the Lords Supper. Which means at this point a memorial fellowship meal is established but in order to mark his death. Then verse 24 tells us;  ‘This is my blood of the new  covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.

Covenant and Testament is not wording we use much in this day and age. A last will and testament is not a contract were two people agree something and write it down. A covenant/testament is where one person says how it is going to be and writes it down, and the other person is just a recipient of it. So, when Jesus talks about a “new  covenant”, which is poured out for many.’ He is instituting a memorial to a new promise that Jesus shed His blood to pay for the sins of many. Jesus has established a New Covenant which is sealed by His death and resurrection for our sins. We are now in Gods family because of what Jesus Christ did for us. It no longer access to God through religion, it access to God by relationship.

The Passover and the Lord’s Supper are closely related. The Israelites where slaves in Egypt. We too were slaves to sin. In the Passover the destroyer bringing physical death passes over the house marked with the blood of the lamb. The Lords supper is a reminder that death will also pass over us because we too are marked with the blood of the lamb. The Passover meal was eaten once a year, the Lord super is eaten much more regularly that that. The Passover was a family meal eaten in a home usually eaten in genealogical family groups. The Lords Supper is eaten but by groups of people by faith,  in a community of believers. Another way of saying that is we now celebrated it together as the church, the family of God, by faith. One of the reasons Jesus Christ died was in order to create (to institute) a community of believers. I know we teach that Jesus Christ died in our place to pay the price for our sins, and I believe that very strongly, but I sometimes think we skip over he fact that Jesus Christ died to institute His church in the world. Ephesians 5: 25 says, Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” There is a very real sense in which Jesus died in order to create a spiritual community, a spiritual family, called the church. I believe He did this because He knew that we cannot grow spiritually in isolation. Who is going to ask you questions? Who is going to challenge what you think, and who is going to call you to account, when you get things wrong? Living in spiritual isolation means you will become a self-reflecting echo chamber. However, the most important reason you cannot grow into a mature Christian in isolation is, you won’t have anybody to love. More to the point you also won’t have anyone to forgive. You may individually choose to love some lovely people, but to love all kinds of people, you’ve got to be in a church. We are commanded,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

Coming together with others is vitally important to our spiritual development, so much so that Christ himself instituted our coming together regularly as a community. We all need to hang out with other Christians. Every mother in the land warns their children not to hang out with the wrong crowd. Why?  Because we are all influenced by the people we hang around with and we need to hang out with other Christians in order to be influenced by them. As well as the forgiveness of sin Jesus died so that people could come together as friends and community into the presence of God. This is because within those groups some would be more spiritually mature than others and could therefore constructively influence us on our Christian journey. We come together as church so that the spiritually minded can influence the carnally minded. No one person in the church is perfect, but with the body of Christ we all will find people who are examples for us. Some people are wonderful examples of one particular aspect of the character of God, and some exemplify other aspects. That’s why we all need the community. Jesus gave His all, in order to save us, but also in order to create an imperfect but hopefully loving community of people who come together and serve Him, and He established a memorial meal so that we will always remember to do that regularly.

Which is why as a church we will continue to come together and share in and celebrate  the memorial that is The Lords Supper…. Amen.

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In Memoriam

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