Series: Easter Sermons
A Foretaste of the Heavenly Feast (Maundy Thursday Sermon)
April 01, 2021 | Andy Davis
The Lord's Supper, Heaven
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a Maundy Thursday sermon. This is a topical look at the Passover, the Lord's Supper, and the Heavenly feast.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Father, when you assembled your people after the Exodus at Mount Sinai, when you assembled them, you spoke to them and they heard you speak the voice of Almighty God and that people trembled with fear and they pleaded that such a voice would never speak to them again, but that Moses would go up into the mountain and hear the word of God and then come down and tell it to the people. And you said what the people said is good. Oh, that their hearts would always fear me as they do today. And so you opened up the office in Israel of Prophet and through Moses and through subsequent prophets and the apostles, you've given us the written word of God and you've also given us the counselor, the Holy Spirit, the comforter who guides us into all truth. I pray that now as we study your word and understand it, that you would move by the power of the Spirit and you would enable me to say only those things that are true and helpful and beneficial, and be with all of us as we meditate on your word. That we would not be dull in our understanding, that we would not be blind spiritually, but able to see the truth in the words that we study. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
All of us have been invited by God to sit at table with him for a feast. The messengers carrying that invitation are going out to the ends of the earth and the royal summons has come to the people of the earth to join him in this feast. Now it's easy for us earthly people to have only an earthly comprehension of such a royal feast. We've seen pictures of the way that the royals of Europe perhaps have done coronation, feast or banquets or state formal dinners. We've read about other lavish imperial feasts throughout the history of the worlds, those astonishing feasts at the greatest emperors in history threw for themselves and for their guests with exotic meats and delicate sweets and with the aroma of spices carried by caravan from the Orient, attended by splendidly dressed dignitaries wearing silk robes and drinking wine from golden goblets, such as the image that comes to our minds naturally of lavish feasts. Those feasts usually end up in gluttony and debauchery.
The feast that Almighty God calls us to as infinitely superior to these. It's a pure and holy feast. And so that we would understand our present condition and the future world to which he is calling us. In his kindness, cross redemptive history, he's given us two symbolic feasts. He's given to his chosen people, two symbolic feasts, one of them old and fulfilled, the other one newer and being fulfilled. That first symbolic feast that God gave his chosen people was in the old covenant. It's the feast of unleavened bread, the Passover, the newer, the second symbolic feast that God has given to his chosen people is at the centerpiece of the new covenant, the Lord's Supper, the blood of the covenant of our savior, Jesus Christ. Both of these I call symbolic. They're merely types and shadows of an eternal reality that is yet to come.
A reality of an eternal feast, a heavenly feast that we must travel to get there. We must adorn ourselves properly and dress properly to get there, and we must prepare ourselves for it. And that's part of our purpose tonight. The feast and the kingdom of heaven at the table of Almighty God in his eternal kingdom is a feast of heavenly food. I don't really know what that means, but it's going to be rich and wonderful. It's a feast of heavenly drink, which Jesus eludes to in the text you just heard a moment ago. It's a feast of heavenly music, heavenly singing. It's a feast of heavenly entertainment and of heavenly fellowship such as we can hardly imagine. The centerpiece of the feast is the host of the feast Almighty God who has summoned us and has prepared us. Let's look at these two symbolic feasts briefly as we prepare to take the Lord's supper tonight.
"The feast and the kingdom of heaven at the table of Almighty God in his eternal kingdom is a feast of heavenly food."
First symbolic feast, the Feast of Passover. It was given to the Jews in the Old Covenant, one of their three annual feasts. All Jewish males required to come three times a year, and this Passover feast was a feast of the spirit, not a feast of the belly. Why do I say that? Well, what were they to eat? Well, the food was not as would satisfy the palate, ordinarily. It was a feast of unleavened bread and of bitter herbs. Unleavened bread is hard, like a cracker. Leaven makes bread, fluffy and light, easy to eat and delectable. Think of exquisite French pastries that perhaps you've enjoyed before, like a croissant or think of fluffy, light, fluffy cakes. The leaven makes the bread rise in the oven and fills it with air pockets that just makes the cake melt in your mouth. But God required unleavened bread, and he required, he demanded that all of the leaven be removed in the houses of his people as a symbol.
The leaven being a symbol of the evil influence of the paganism that surrounded them of the gods and goddesses of the nations that surrounded them. They had to get rid of the yeast from their homes. God also demanded that they eat bitter herbs as part of this symbolic feast, bitter herbs to represent the bitterness of their life in slavery, their lives and slavery in Egypt were made bitter. Imagine putting bitter herbs in your mouth and the bitterness filling your mouth as you chew those leaves. And what that bitter taste symbolized; the life made bitter by their bondage, their hard labor in making bricks for their Egyptian overlords and masters. Unleavened bread, bitter herbs. And how were they to eat it? Well, they're commanded to eat it in haste as if they were fleeing from an enemy that was pursuing them. Exodus 12:11 says, "This is how you were to eat it with your cloak tucked in your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand, eat it in haste."
It is the Lord's Passover. That's why I say it was not a feast with the belly, it was a feast of the spirit. It was not pleasing to the senses and essential to the ongoing celebration of that feast as well as for the second symbolic feast was memory, a sense of the history of what God had done in the past on their behalf of remembering. They were to do this Passover every year, year after year, as a reminder to the people, specifically of the Lord's deliverance, not only from the Egyptians, but also from his own hand. Exodus 13:14 "In days to come, when your son asks you, what does this mean, say to him with a mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal."
"They were to do this Passover every year, year after year, as a reminder to the people, specifically of the Lord's deliverance, not only from the Egyptians, but also from his own hand."
The Passover was a continual reminder, not only of the way that the Egyptians had enslaved them and how God had delivered them from bondage to Egypt, and how he also delivered them from Pharaoh's powerful pursuing army at the Red Sea, real deliverances by his mighty hand and outstretched arm, but also of the far greater threat to their lives, both physical and eternal. And that is the wrath and judgment of God himself. Because that very night the angel of the Lord went out throughout all of Egypt and struck down every firstborn of Egypt. And it is clear that he would also have struck down the firstborn of Israel if it had not been for the Passover lamb that was sacrificed for them. After destroying Egypt with nine dreadful supernatural plagues, the tenth and final plague, most dreadful of them all, the plague on the firstborn. Now as dreadful as that plague would be, God made it plain that even that was a mercy to the people of Egypt. For he had said in Exodus 9:15 to Pharaoh, "By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would've wiped you from the face of the earth, all of you."
Now, God had warned the Israelites and the instruction about the Passover that this same final plague, the tenth plague, hung over their heads as well every bit as much. Well, that was plain in the commands concerning the Passover lamb. Exodus 12:21-23, it says, "And Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said of them ‘Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb and then take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on the both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and He will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.’”
The terrifying threat is right there in the words. Not one of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. Oh, those words are fraught with danger, aren't they? There is a place of refuge, your home inside the bloody door. Inside that place is refuge, outside, there isn't. And then again, substitutionary atonement built into these words, “When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and the sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” Now, in redemptive history, the Passover lamb that was sacrificed that night, the night of the exodus, was the first animal sacrifice in the history of the Jewish nation under Moses. Animal sacrifice has been done in the time of the patriarchs, but this was a new era about to be instituted, the covenant. The old covenant under Moses and that Passover sacrifice was the first, and that animal sacrifice would be the centerpiece of the religion of Israel at the very center, the tabernacle, later the temple, an animal sacrifice. Now, the clear lesson of all of this is that your sins are your greatest problem, and the just and holy wrath of God is your greatest threat. And salvation is available only through the principle of substitutionary atonement, the transfer of guilt from the people onto the substitute whose blood was poured out for their forgiveness.
"Your sins are your greatest problem, and the just and holy wrath of God is your greatest threat. And salvation is available only through the principle of substitutionary atonement. "
Now, the Jews were to observe this symbolic feast every year, but it was just a type, just a shadow. The reality was to come later.
The second symbolic feast is the Lord's supper. Jesus and his disciples as law-abiding Jewish people observe the feast of unleavened bread in the Passover. Matthew 26:17, "On the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” And at that Passover meal, the night before Jesus died, he established new symbolism, a lasting symbolism. In Luke 22:19 it says, "And he took bread and gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘this is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me.’” And then in verse 20 of Luke 22, "In the same way after the supper, He took the cup saying, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." This is clearly the language of substitutionary atonement.
“This is my body given for you. This is my blood poured out for you.” The substitutionary atonement, which the Jews have been well aware of all those centuries. Now the symbolism taken and connected with that last supper, and Jesus therefore is the fulfillment, the perfect final fulfillment of the Passover lamb. It's not an accident that he died at that time. It was ordained by God, orchestrated by God. The beginning of John the Baptist, identification of Jesus, the first time he saw Him, he pointed at him and said, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the feast."
Now, this was necessary because of the limitations of the animal sacrificial system. The law, Hebrews 10, is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who drawn near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would've been perfect, cleansed once for all and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. And then a verse later, it says, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." All of those animal sacrifices and that very first one that night, the night of the exodus were just symbolic. They're just types and shadows. They were not effective in removing the sins of any people. Jesus's death is effective for removing our sins. Hallelujah. And we are to remember that tonight. To think about it tonight, Hebrews 7:27. It says, concerning Jesus, "He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." Those words are so powerful. Once for all, never to be repeated again. And again, in Hebrews 9:13, it says that “The blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanses our conscience from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God.”
"All of those animal sacrifices… were not effective in removing the sins of any people. Jesus's death is effective for removing our sins."
And so this is the fulfillment of all of those animals sacrifices offered for centuries through the death of Jesus. So the night before He died, Jesus established a new symbolic feast and it'll be centered on a new covenant made in his blood. As we read just a moment ago, Matthew 26:28, "Jesus took the cup and said, this is my blood of the covenant,[my blood of the covenant,] which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins." It's called very plainly in the book of Hebrews, the new covenant, the old one, obsolete, the new one, the perfect fulfillment. And that new covenant gives better promises than the old covenant, and it gives us a better hope than they ever had in the days of the old covenant. It's centered on that perfect final sacrifice of Jesus whose blood effectively takes away sins for everyone who believes in Him.
And the Lord's supper he established to be continually enacted and memorialized. He said, "Do this in remembrance of me." Paul wrote later "whenever you do this," et cetera. So this would be something that we would do again and again. But it also is symbolic only. It's it is itself a type and a shadow. It's just symbolic. It's not an actual sacrifice as some people wrongly believe. Not the actual body and blood of Jesus, but the words that Jesus speaks are Spirit and they are life, and they feed our faith, and they strengthen us for the journey to the real feast that's coming, the future feast that's coming, that heavenly feast. Now, the Passover prepared the people for a better feast that was coming even in their day. I think everyone knew that a meal eaten like that with bitter herbs, unleavened bread, eaten in haste was not a feast, but they were going out of the land of bondage into the promised land, said again and again to be a land flowing with milk and honey. Says in Deuteronomy 8:7-9, "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land. A land with streams and pools of water with springs flowing into the valleys and hills, a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey, a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing."
And they were going to feast there. They were going to eat. Harvest harvests they didn't plant and drink from grapes that they didn't plant and they were going to live in houses they didn't build in the promised land. But even that land, as wonderful as it was, and as richly supplied from the reigns of heaven, as it was still not the final resting place for the people of God. They had that land on probation. They could only keep it if they kept obeying the law of Moses, if they kept obeying the commands and the real problem hadn't been addressed yet. They still had hearts of stone, not the hearts of flesh. They had not been transformed. They still had the problem of sin. In the same way, the Lord's supper itself symbolic, it is itself a type and a shadow of a future promise land and a future feasting that none of us have come into yet.
And we know that because there's this sense of a future looking that we have with the Lord's supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 11:26, "Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." That word, “until” says we're looking forward looking ahead to the second coming of Christ. And again, as Jesus said in the text you just saw in Matthew 26:29, "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day I drink it anew with you in my father's kingdom." That is a heavenly feast and the location is in that future world, what he calls “in my father's kingdom”, as other scriptures reveal the new heaven and the new earth and the feasting at the table. He had clearly predicted in Matthew 8:11, “Many will come from the east and the West and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
And that's going to be marvelous. We're going to feast together. And He said, "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." So we're going to retain our identities. Abraham will be Abraham, Isaac will be Isaac. Jacob will be Jacob. Those sitting with Jesus that night would drink with him and eat with him because he said he would do it with them and he would drink in some mysterious way. I don't know the full implications of that word anew. What is wine made anew? I don't know. We'll have to find out when we get there. Is it made of new grapes? I have no idea. I don't know what new heaven, new earth grapes are. I don't know what kind of eating and drinking we'll be doing. I do know that Jesus ate in his resurrection body, and we'll have real resurrection bodies and sit at real tables and feast.
How marvelous will that be! Well, we need to prepare ourselves for that future Heavenly feast and the Lord's Supper helps us prepare. We need to prepare ourselves now for the Lord's Supper. Well, how do we do that? Well, we need to begin by examining ourselves. You can't go to the feast without being properly dressed. And so you need to put on the proper clothing for that feast. And so you need to examine yourself to be certain that you're properly attired. First Corinthians 11:29 says that “You have to examine yourself.” Each one should examine himself, 1 Corinthians 11. And so look at yourself because if you eat and drink in a manner unworthy, you're actually eating and drinking judgment on yourself. The cup of blessing becomes for you a cup of cursing. That's how important it is to be certain that you recognize the body and the blood of Christ by faith and that you yourself have been rescued from the wrath of God.
Picture yourself almost like a modern-day Israelite. You have to come inside that house and come under the blood of the lamb of God to be protected from the wrath of God that all of us deserve for our violations of his law. So examine yourself. Are you in the faith? Have you trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior? Examine yourself to this end and examine yourself also to see how you're living out your faith. Are there any sins that are plaguing you? Any sins that are assaulting you? That have a grip on you? Is there anything in your life that you need to cut out of your life? Jesus said, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, throw it away. It is better for you to life with one hand than have two hands and be thrown in the fire of Hell."
What has a grip on you that you need to cut out of your life? Is there any pattern of sin? And then is your soul healthy? Are you feeding daily on the word of God? Are you communing daily with God in prayer through the Holy Spirit? Are you confessing your sins? Do you have a time with Him every day, of Bible intake and prayer and confession of sin and worship? Is your soul healthy? And as we come to the Lord's Supper now, are we coming with a reverent attitude and with a serious heart? We are too light and frothy about spiritual things, so often. Thomas Watson said this, "Our spirits are feathery and lights like a vessel without ballast, which floats upon the water but does not sail. We float in our holy duties even when we're about to deal with God or are engaged in matters of life and death."
We should realize that God's eye is upon us even now, especially as we approach the table. Are we coming to the Lord supper with intelligent hearts? Have we been trained scripturally to understand the doctrine of the Lord's supper and to not be swept away by false teaching and by superstitions, but to understand really what's going on in this spiritual meal? Are we coming with faith and we coming finally with truly longing hearts, with hearts burning within us to have it an intimacy with God? If you come cold, you'll get nothing. But if you come hot, believing and trusting, then your soul will be strengthened and blessed. Let us pray.
Father, we thank you for the truth of the Word of God, which stands under the symbolism that we have just partaken in. And that is that Jesus, once for all, has given his body and his blood that we might be completely forgiven of all of our sins. And that someday you're going to drink with us anew in your Father's kingdom and we're going to partake and none of your sheep will be lost, not one. And we thank you for that. But in the meantime, Lord, we need to strengthen our faith, feed our faith by the ministry of the Word and by this ordinance. We pray that you would take the truths that we have enjoyed and learned and reviewed tonight and thought about tonight, and press them deeper into our souls by the powerful ministry of the Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, amen.