Luke 22:19 (NIV) 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Last month I preached on the Blood of Christ and we then observed the Lord’s Supper where we remember that Jesus poured out His blood for you and me. I promised then that I would be preaching on the Body of Christ and its symbolism that can help us greater understand the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Most of us believe He died and rose again but what did the death of Jesus’ physical body really mean for you and me?
“This is my body given for you.” The cracker or wafer we eat during communion symbolizes the body of Christ. First, about Christ’s body, I want to say it wasn’t a supposed body. Jesus didn’t just look like a human. He was human. It was the Same Body you and I possess in terms of its physical construct and makeup. Let me state a theological truth that must never be compromised. Jesus was FULLY HUMAN in every way. It is critical that you and I hold on to that teaching. Why? Because if Jesus didn’t conquer death, hell and the grave and conquer them in His physical body, you and I have no hope of conquering them as well.
Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
There are people, even today who teach that Jesus wasn’t truly human but that He only appeared to be. It was happening in the apostles’ time as well: We read in 2 John 1:7 “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
This is the doctrine of the incarnation. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus was fully God while He was also at the same time fully human. Jesus in the flesh was how God chose to reveal Himself to us.
Hebrews 1:1-3 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
Not only did Jesus need to be in the flesh in order for us to one day have victory beyond the physical human experience, but in order for us to be able to try to conceptualize what God is like, we needed something we could relate to. We needed a person. What better way for us to experience God than for us to be able to encounter someone who was like us in our humanity? Hebrews tells us Jesus was the exact representation of God. If we have seen Him, we have seen what God is all about.
Now while Jesus’ body was the same kind of body we possess, it was different in one significant way. It was a sinless body. 1 Peter 2:22 says, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” It’s not that Jesus didn’t have opportunities to sin. He did. He dealt with every temptation you and I deal with. Hebrew 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Jesus was perfect in the practice of this life.
Not only was Jesus perfect in the way He lived His life, but He entered the world in a state of perfection. 1 John 3:5 says, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” And there had never been any sin in Jesus. He wasn’t born with the sin nature that you and I are born with. You and I are born sinners. We inherited a sin nature passed down from Adam and Eve because of their sin, but Jesus wasn’t born the same way you and I are born.
Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. That’s exactly what happened. Listen to Luke 1:30-35 “30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
We may argue that when children are born they are innocent, but none are sinless. It doesn’t take long before that sinful nature begins to become visible and the innocence of infancy fade into the sunset. What may look like innocence is only underdeveloped sinfulness. You don’t have to teach children how to sin. They figure it out all by themselves and quickly, too! Any parents of toddlers here this morning? J But Jesus was perfectly innocent as He was born perfect and also lived perfectly without sin.
The truth of the virgin birth is non-negotiable for us to believe and profess. We must continue to elevate it as central to our Christian beliefs for many reasons. If there was no virgin birth, Jesus wasn’t a sinless Messiah. If He wasn’t a sinless Messiah, the payment for sin was never paid as it demanded a perfect sacrifice and you and I cannot be saved.
Something else to note is that Jesus was deathless. Sin produces death. Jesus had no sin. Though He became flesh He would never have died due to old age or His body wearing out. He would never have tasted death had He not willingly laid down His life for you and me. Some of you may have thought, “That’s awesome of Jesus to go to the cross for my sin, but let’s face it, 33 years was a pretty long life back then and He would have died eventually anyway. Why not die for a good cause?” That’s just it. He wouldn’t have ever died because He was sinless. He volunteered not only to be the sacrifice, but He volunteered to taste death for you and me! John 10:17-18 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
He died not from the horrible beating or physical exhaustion because He could have withstood anything in the physical realm. He died from the sin that wasn’t His, but that was placed upon Him. He took our sin upon Himself and when He did, He suffered the consequences of that sin which is death. So He didn’t die His death. He died YOUR death. He died MY death. It wasn’t His sin. It wasn’t His death. It was our sin and our death. II Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I Peter 2:24 says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” So Jesus not only willingly gave up His life for you and me, but He also willingly became sinful by taking on our sin at the cross which resulted in His death.
That was God’s plan from the start. He knew that we would need a Redeemer. And God knew that without a Redeemer we were dead in our sins and caught in a trap from which we could never escape. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Without a sinless Jesus going to the cross and willingly taking our sins on, God’s plan for our redemption would never have worked. Jesus could take on our sin because He had none of His own!
Sacrificial Body-When Jesus instituted communion or the Lord’s Supper, He took bread and BROKE it. That very action symbolized what He intended to do in allowing His body to be used as an instrument for redemption. Now we know that none of Jesus’ bones were broken on the cross just as had been prophesied. Even though the legs of the criminals hanging next to Him were broken to expedite their death, Jesus’ legs weren’t. So how was He broken? How did He give His body as a sacrifice?
I believe Christ modeled what it meant to live as a living sacrifice which we are commanded to do in Romans 12. As I thought about this passage and contemplated in what ways Christ was broken in His body, I thought about how He offered His body to the Father in response to having offered His will to the Father. We will often say about an animal that is being trained that the animal’s will must be broken in order for the trainer to have full command or we will say of a strong-willed child that their will must be broken in order to become submissive to his or her parents. Jesus demonstrated what a broken body looked like every day of His life as He lived in submission to the will of the Father. In other words, Jesus’ body simply lived out what His will had already done which was submitted to the Father. So in that respect, Jesus lived a life of brokenness before the Father for all to see. He sacrificed His will for the will of the Father which resulted in the sacrifice of His body daily.
Two chapters before Paul’s discourse on communion, he comments about the human body saying it is something that must be put into submission. It should be made to do what it is supposed to do according to God’s design rather than just follow the whims of human nature. He says, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (I Cor. 9:27)
When we take communion and put the symbol of the Body of Christ into our mouths, we are to remember that Jesus surrendered to the will of God in all things, even unto death. When we take the bread into our bodies during communion, we are re-upping our commitment to use our bodies in the Lord’s service, even if it means suffering. Romans 8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Christ also suffered breaks or tears in His physical body. The lacerations on His back from severe beatings caused Him to be almost unrecognizable, something that was prophesied in Isaiah 52:14. His body was full of open wounds by the time He got to the cross.
Isaiah 53:4-5 says, “4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” When we take the symbol of Christ’s body into our mouths we remember Jesus’ experience was full of physical torture. We ask ourselves, “Have I been healed by Christ’s stripes myself?” Have you embraced the sacrifice Christ made for you with His body? Have you had a personal experience with Christ by identifying with His broken body?
Jesus’ body was the same kind of physical body you and I possess. It was a sinless body. It was a sacrificial body, and it was a supplying body.-Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave thanks and gave it to them. What was it about the bread that would connect the disciples to Jesus, including us, to Him as their supply in the coming days?
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) I guess you could say that following Jesus or discipleship isn’t a low carb lifestyle. J Bread is a staple everywhere in the world. Bread goes with everything, right? Any meal is enhanced by a slice of bread! (That’s my philosophy anyway.) The same is true about Jesus, our Living Bread. He goes well with every part of our lives.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) When we take the symbol of the Body of Christ into our mouths, we are to remind ourselves that God alone through Jesus is where we gain our daily sustenance. Our lives are to be a daily dependence upon Him.
Not only are we sustained in a relationship with Jesus because of His broken body, but we are also satisfied by Him alone. Psalm 105:40 “He satisfied them with bread.” Nothing satisfies a soul like Jesus! Jesus wanted the disciples and us to know that just as they had counted on Him and depended on Him and followed Him, even though He would be leaving them soon, they could still do so.
In addition, Jesus’ body was a substitutionary body-“This is my body, given for you.” Not only did Jesus give His body for us resulting in daily sustenance and satisfaction by following the path He took, but He also gave His body IN PLACE of ours. This is the doctrine of substitution. On the cross, Christ literally took your place and mine.
Look at Isaiah 53:4-5 again: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Whose infirmities, sorrows, transgressions, iniquities, and punishment did Jesus take? OURS! He was our substitute in every way before the wrath of God. He went through a lot while He was your substitute, so guess what? Everything He went through and accomplished while He was being your substitute is now yours as well, just as if you had gone through it!!
Listen, you were crucified with Christ! Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
You have died with Christ! Colossians 3:3 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
You were buried with Christ. Colossians 2:12 “. . .having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
You were made alive with Christ! Ephesians 2:4-5 “4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”
You were raised with Christ! Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ.”
You are seated with Christ which means you are ruling and reigning with Him and His authority! Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
You have inherited along with Christ!-Romans 8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
And so once you accept Jesus as your substitute you are forever IN CHRIST and guess what, when you are in Christ, everything is new all of the time! II Corinthians 5:17 “2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Who doesn’t want to sign up to let Christ substitute for them?
Finally, Christ’s body that we will receive this morning is a symbolic body. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The symbolism of Jesus’ body on the cross is to be a regular part of our thought life, our remembrance. Like a scrap book that takes people back through the highlights of significant or special events, we are to regularly look upon the broken body of our Lord.
When we have a moment of silence for people who have given their lives in battle or in martyrdom for some cause, we are saying their sacrifice mattered. We are saying it touched us. We are saying we are better because of it. We are saying they did not die in vain. How much more should we feel that way about the broken body of our Lord?
When Jesus said “Remember me,” He wasn’t just saying “Remember what I did for you on the cross, but remember it all. Remember what I taught you about cross carrying, the broad and the narrow way, loving your neighbor, laying down your life for a friend, healing the sick and preaching in my Name. Remember what I showed you by how I went out of my way to befriend sinners and how I took time away to pray and talk to the Father. Remember how I stood against tradition and religion when they existed merely for the sake of tradition and religion. Remember that I offered Myself to you in relationship with you. Remember what I taught you about eternity, your heart, your money, and the power of your words spoken in faith or in doubt. Remember how I not only had time for people, but how I spoke hard things in love when people needed to hear them. Remember that you are supposed to be salt and light in this world! Remember that I called you to be fishers of men. Remember that I commissioned you to carry on my work here on earth. Remember that I not only did something for you, but that I want to do something in you and through you.” Remember. Remember.
“Broken for you,” Jesus said. When He said “for you,” he was speaking about all who would follow Him. Christians, we have been given the name, the Body of Christ. (I Corinthians 12:27) When we put the wafer representing Christ’s body into our mouths we must remember we do not exist in isolation, but in a community established by Jesus himself. We are to be as Christ was in His physical body. We are to be sinless. Jesus gained a following because of the way He lived His life. He lived a distinctly different life. We are to live a life that turns the heads of people in the world. We are called to be different, called to be holy, called to live as the sinless body of Christ before a watching world. We aren’t just to remember that Jesus was sinless, but when we partake in communion we are to remind ourselves that we too have a high and holy calling.
As the body of Christ we are to live sacrificially. Jesus set the bar pretty high for sacrifice. After seeing all of the comments on FB this weekend about the inconvenience of being without power for twenty-four hours, I’d have to say we are pretty spoiled and could all use a good lesson in sacrifice. Jesus gave up what He had in heaven in order to help others gain what they needed. When was the last time you found yourself doing the same? When we take communion together, we must remember more than the sacrifice of Jesus. We must remember the call to live sacrificially ourselves.
We are to be a supplying body as we meet the needs of those around us. Jesus was tireless in the way He sought to meet other people’s needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was a joy for me to get on FB early on Saturday morning and see one of our church members remind people that following Friday night’s storm many people would need help to get trees and debris removed from their lawns and their roofs. We are reminded in Philippians 2 that we aren’t to merely look out for ourselves and our own needs, but also for the needs and interests of others. When we take communion together, we must remember the way Jesus supplied people’s needs and must remember that the way He intends to keep supplying people’s needs is through you and me. The truth is, Jesus’ body is still influencing this world through you and me if we will accept all that the label entails. So as you receive the elements of Jesus’ blood and body this morning, remember what He did is what He called you to do.