February 12, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Almost all of us have something special that we do for people on their birthday. My guess is that you’re not the kind of family that eats cake and drinks punch every night of the week. So, chances are when there’s a special event, generally it’s around birthdays or big anniversaries, you’ll have cake and punch. This is our way of celebrating people and celebrating why somebody is special in the family. I did a little bit of research this week on how other cultures celebrate people’s birthdays. Here’s something that I learned. Most of the rest of the world is weird in the way that they celebrate other people’s birthdays. For example, did you know that in the UK they will offer people bumps for their birthday. They will hold you by your arms and legs as they flip you up in the air for every year of your birth. This means the Queen of England would have to go through this a whole bunch of times on her birthday! It’s a pretty weird tradition but in some of the Caribbean islands to bless you and to ward off the bad spirits they throw flour in your face. This is such a big deal on their birthday that they will wet their face so they can carry the flour around on their face all day long. In Hungary they will sometimes pull on your ear lobes as a way of saying good luck for the next year. In a small region in Germany, if you reach the age of 30 years old and you’re a single male, the people in town expect you to get up early in the morning and to sweep the stairs of the city courthouse. You have to keep sweeping those stairs until a pretty woman comes by and gives you a kiss on your 30th birthday. You are telling the city in Germany, “Hey everybody! I’m single. I’m 30 years old. I have a pretty clean house. Why don’t one of you pretty girls come and marry me? It’s my birthday.” In Canada the family will hide around the house and wait for the most inopportune moment where they will smear butter or grease on your face to mark you as the person of honor on your birthday. This is no exaggeration but these people are just flat out weird. In Lucerne, Switzerland parents will pay money for somebody to dress up like an evil clown who will follow you and terrorize you all day long. The clown is looking for the perfect opportunity to smash a cake or a pie in your face so that everybody gets to know it’s your birthday. Those are just weird birthday traditions. Did you know, if you’re in the Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, we also have a tradition? They will hogtie you and beat you up. It was our way of telling them we love you by hogtying him and beating him up.
What we’re going to do in just a few moments is celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I want us to take the Lord’s Supper a little bit differently today. I want you to consider a celebration like your birthday except the birthday we’re talking about today is your spiritual birthday. Your new birthday when you become new in Jesus Christ. This is kind of like punch and cake celebration of what it took in order for you to become a new person. We’re studying through the book of Luke. Today in Luke 22 we’re going to see a few things about this new birth and what it means to be a new person in Christ.
I. Don’t let anything tempt you away from Jesus
The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is also called Passover, was approaching. 2 The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, 4 and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. 5 They were delighted, and they promised to give him money. 6 So he agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.
There are three characters that I want you to see from this first paragraph. First, you just need to know this about Calvary. Every single Sunday the main character and the main thought of the sermon is Jesus. So, Jesus is going to be the main thought in this sermon today. I want you to view the three other characters in this first paragraph. The first character that I want you to see is the religious leaders. This whole thing goes down at the biggest celebration or festival in Israel. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover meal are two celebrations that happen at the same time. It was the biggest party of the year in Israel. Jesus has been teaching in the Temple. Since the day that Jesus entered the temple and kicked over the table of the money changers, the religious leaders have been trying to find a way the trick or trip Jesus up and nothing that they did was working. So now they’ve changed their approach. They’re not out to discredit Jesus anymore. Now they’re out to kill him but they’re cowards. They know that the crowds love Jesus. They’re looking for an opportunity to trap Jesus when the crowds are around but they need somebody’s help.
The second character that I want you to see in this first passage is Judas Iscariot. Notice the Bible says Jesus chose Judas as one of his disciples. Judas has been following Jesus. He has heard this man’s teachings. He’s seen Jesus’s miracles and watched him raise the dead and heal the sick. The book of John says Judas never really believed. This means there could be people in this room who have been going to church your whole life. You’ve done all of the right things the church says you’re supposed to do but deep inside you really don’t belong to Jesus and he really isn’t your Savior. You’ve just been going through the motions and following the crowd like Judas Iscariot for most of your life. Judas is easily tempted with money. The Gospel of John tells us that Judas always took care of the money. He took care of the money because Judas was a thief. Judas was willing to turn over the innocent Son of God to these religious leaders for a little bit of cash.
Really the person that I want you to notice in this passage is the third character, Satan. This battle has been going on between Jesus and Satan since before human history was created. This battle started when Satan tried to take the throne of God and takeover Heaven by force. This battle continued in the Garden of Eden when Satan tried to destroy God’s ultimate creation Adam and Eve. This battle has been going on between Jesus and Satan for all of Jesus’s ministry. In fact, for 40 days in the desert Satan does everything that he can to tempt Jesus but nothing works. Satan continues to try to tempt Jesus. He tried to use religious leaders and challenging questions to tempt Jesus. None of that stuff worked so Satan decided instead of trying to discredit Jesus to destroy him. Satan entered into Judas and Judas gladly goes to the religious leaders and says, “How much will you give me? What will you pay me, if I sell to you the perfect sinless Son of God?”
Here is what I’m trying to say to us. This is inside my heart so I know it is inside your heart too. Your heart like Judas’s heart and my heart is easily tempted. For Judas it was a little bit of money. For you maybe it’s power, sex or maybe it’s something else. Our hearts can easily be tempted. If it’s not for us gyarding our hearts and if it’s not the work of the Holy Spirit, we will abandon Jesus. We will easily turn Jesus over for something that makes us feel a little bit better. In just a moment we’re going to come and take the Lord’s Supper. An important aspect of coming to the Lord’s table and taking this Lord’s meal together is to examine our hearts. I want us to pause in the middle of the sermon and ask you to start to think about your heart. I want you to be honest between you and the Holy Spirit about your heart right now. Maybe there’s something in your heart that’s not right and you know you need to get it right before we come up to these tables. I want you to examine your heart right now. Be honest with God about where you’re at with him or with other people.
II. Develop a celebration of your faith birthday
I want to challenge you to develop a celebration, some kind of ceremony, or some kind of special event that recognizes your faith birthday. We do a good job of celebrating our physical biological birthday but I think we’re missing out on the key opportunity to celebrate our spiritual birthday, when you became a new person in Jesus Christ. Listen to how eager Jesus is to share this festival celebration meal with his disciples.
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him. 10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, 11 say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 12 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 13 They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
There are two things that are pretty significant about this Passover meal in Jesus’s culture. One, this meal was mandatory for Jewish men. You didn’t have a choice. You had to leave your hometown and go to Jerusalem to celebrate this meal within the city walls of Jerusalem. This means, if you owned a house in Jerusalem, you were required by Jewish law to let out one of your rooms in your house so the family could come and celebrate the Passover.
It never happened in Jesus’s day that a man would be carrying a pitcher of water. That was woman’s work in Jesus’s day. Women would go from house to the well to pick up the water and take it back. So, when Jesus says here’s what I want you to look for in Jerusalem. This guy would’ve stood out like a sore thumb because men didn’t carry pitchers of water. Sure enough as soon as James and John got to the city they saw this guy carrying a pitcher of water. That’s the symbol. Jesus has already prearranged everything. Jesus has already taken care of the Passover Lamb. Jesus has already prepared the unleavened bread, the bread that doesn’t have yeast in it. Jesus has already prepared the bitter herbs, the wine and made all of the arrangements. Now he sent his disciples on ahead to get ready to celebrate the Passover meal. It was like your birthday and New Year’s Day all rolled up into one. It was the biggest celebration and the biggest party of the year. I want you to understand something about New Testament Christianity. What we do in this service in just a moment is not a Passover meal. That ship has already sailed. What we do is much more significant because we’re taking the Lord’s meal. The Passover lamb for us is the blood and the body of Jesus Christ. We don’t follow the Old Testament practices of Passover meal. In fact, this is the last time you see a Passover meal in the New Testament. After this it’s the Lord’s Supper that God’s people are meeting together and celebrating. It’s the kind of party that everybody in town knows about and everybody in town wants to participate in.
Can I challenge you with something? If you are certain about when you became a follower of Jesus, would you consider throwing a spiritual birthday party for yourself? What I mean by this is that you invite your friends, neighbors, and people that don’t know Jesus. Tell them, “I’m having a birthday party and I want you to come. This birthday is different because this is my new birth or my faith birthday party.” If you don’t know the exact date that you came to faith in Jesus, just find something close and pick that as the date. I think we miss an important opportunity to declare who we are in Christ by not celebrating this birthday. In fact, I think we should make as big of a deal out of this birthday as the day you were actually born because this birthday settles once and for all eternity. So, consider throwing a birthday party for yourself and making it a public event. Invite people that haven’t been born again to this birthday party. Maybe they’ll figure out what it means to become a follower of Jesus by celebrating your faith birthday.
III. Find your name card at the King’s table
Jesus invites us to the greatest meal in human history. It’s at the King’s table. It’s the banquet that is waiting for us in Heaven. Did you know that you have a name card, if you know Jesus Christ personally, with your name engraved on it? You have a personal invitation to the greatest banquet in Heaven, the wedding banquet of the Lamb. This is what happened when Jesus radically repurposed the Passover meal and turned it into the Lord’s Supper.
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” 19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
In Jewish culture there was an aspect of the past and an aspect of future in the Passover meal. The aspect of the past was that they would talk about what happened when God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. They would talk about how God was about to send the tenth and the most violent plague to Egypt so that he could deliver his children from slavery. In order for God to pass over, this is where the phrase comes from, the children of Israel were supposed to sacrifice an animal. They were to take the blood of the animal and sprinkle it on the door posts. When the death angel of God saw the blood, he would pass over those houses. It took a bloody mess for God to rescue his people out of Egypt. The good Jewish families at the Passover would always talk about the rescue from slavery in Egypt. They also always pointed at the Passover meal to the future Messiah. One day God is going to send the ultimate deliverer who will rescue us completely and totally. He will make us sons and daughters of God. There was always a past aspect and a future element of the Passover meal.
This exact same thing happens to us today. When we take the Lord’s Supper together we think about what happened at the cross. Jesus said, “That’s no longer bread and that’s no longer juice. Now it’s a representation of my body that will be broken and my blood that will be poured out to rescue you from the slavery of sin. It’s going to take my death to purchase you back from sin. You can’t pray hard enough, give enough money, or do enough good religious things to earn your freedom from sin. You are in slavery and it’s going to take somebody dying. The wages of sin is death and without my death you cannot be made free.”
This meal just like the Passover meal points to a future banquet waiting for us in Heaven. This meal points to the great wedding feast of the lamb. It is the banquet at God’s table in Heaven. In Jesus’s day, if you broke a contract or hurt somebody bad and it damaged your relationship with them and you wanted to restore the relationship, you would do what’s called table fellowship. Table fellowship is where the offended party would reach out to the offender and invite them to come to their house and celebrate a meal with them. At the meal they would make the relationship close again. I don’t think you could possibly miss what Jesus is saying here. You have an old covenant or an Old Testament and you have a new covenant a New Testament. The New Testament is different. God is the offended party and God takes the initiative and said, “I want you at my table. In order for you to be at my table I’m going to take care of the sin. The price is the body and blood of my Son. I will gladly pay that price.” God takes care of all the details perfectly so that you and I can come to his table fellowship with the King of kings and with the Lord of lords.
Let me tell you a true story about Cesar Ritz, the guy who created the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain. His son, Charles Ritz, says his dad was meticulous about the details. Charles Ritz tells the story about when his father in 1898 was about to open the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Paris. There was going to be a 9 AM gala celebration to open up the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Cesar went through the entire hotel making sure everything was perfect. He went to the dining room and sat down at a table. He noticed the table seemed a little bit too high, so he got up and sat at another table in the dining room. He noticed that that table was also too high. Pretty soon he started to sit at every table. This was at 6 AM on the morning of the opening of the Ritz Carlton in Paris. He noticed that every table in the dining room was less than 1 inch too tall. So, Cesar Ritz said they were not opening this hotel until he could get people in there to adjust the tables and make sure everything in the building was perfect. Famously he hired carpenters who came in and sawed off less than an inch on every table in the dining room. Cesar Ritz said, “Yes, now we can open the doors and celebrate at these tables.”
I think typically Christians make one of two errors when we come to God’s table. One of those mistakes is that we come with this overwhelming sense of grief. We’re so aware of our sin and we’re so grieved by our sin that we come to this table and it’s another funeral for Jesus all over again because the weight, the pressure, the guilt, and the shame of our sin is overwhelming to us. That’s not how it is with God and God’s people. Your sin has been cast away Scripture says as far as the east is from the west. When you come to this table, if you know Jesus Christ personally, you come to this table clean, pure, and made holy by the body and the blood of Jesus. I think we can also make a second mistake. Sometimes we do this too much or we do this flippantly like it’s no big deal. This is supposed to be a pretty big deal. It’s supposed to be a grand celebration every time we do it. The celebration is that I’m a new person. God has given me a new birthday. I’m celebrating who I am in Christ and what God has done for me by coming to his table with a personal invitation.
IV. Serve your new family out of love
At this meal it is maddening how this thing goes down. I think Jesus has to walk out shaking his head in total frustration because these disciples don’t get it.
Luke 21:21-30 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22 For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” 23 The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. 28 You have stayed with me in my time of trial. 29 And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
It’s bad when Jesus says, “One of you who’s been with me and I’ve shared my life with is about to betray me.” It goes from bad to worse when after he has this discussion about his death and betrayal they ask the question, “Well who does that leave in charge after you’re gone Jesus?” I can’t help but think Jesus is saying, “Really? Seriously? We covered this back in Luke chapter 9. We had this whole discussion already but let’s go through the whole thing all over again.” If you want to know who is greatest in the room, I’ve heard Pastor Mark Driscoll when he was teaching this say it this way. How many of us in this room was born of a virgin? How many of us in this room walked on water? How many of us raised the dead? How many of us healed the sick or gave sight back to the blind? How many of us were laid in a manger? How many of us have no money? How many of us have no possessions, own no home, have nothing to our names? You want to know who is the greatest? It’s the person who is most willing to serve. In fact, I think if Jesus were at a banquet today, he would say, “It’s not the guys and the gals at the head table. It’s the person who is the quickest to get up and to serve somebody else. That’s the greatest person in the room. Take your cue from me because I’m serving you should be serving. This is what greatness looks like in the Kingdom of God.” Jesus is making a distinction. Do you want to be somebody with great power or do you want to be a great person? A great person serves. A great person doesn’t always have great power. Sometimes it’s the same but often a great person doesn’t have great power but they’re always willing to serve others. Jesus said, “This is how it’s supposed to be in my kingdom.”
It has been 2000 years and nothing has changed. In 2000 years people still want to be the center of attention and still want to be sitting at the head table. Jesus said, “Really the greatest person in the room is the one who is quickest to get up and to serve others.” Can I tell you something really honestly? I want you to hear me very carefully. I’m not asking you to serve like Jesus until you’ve first been served by Jesus. You can go out and try to do good things for other people but that is not going to earn your way into Heaven. It is a life surrendered to Jesus Christ that wants to serve other people, not the other way around. You must be served by Jesus, if you’re going to be able to serve like Jesus. I’m going to ask the pastors and elders to get up and to serve you as an act of service. As you come to the Lord’s table and take this meal together can I remind you of something? There are really three things that need to happen in order for us to do this right. One, we have to remember the body and blood of Jesus. This is not just juice and bread. It also represents the body of God’s sinless Son. The blood of God made in to flesh poured out on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. We also need to reflect on who we are and whose we are. Since we have been bought with a price, we have been made heirs of God through his body and through his blood. We certainly should rejoice because this meal points to the great meal, great banquet is waiting for us in Heaven.
- How did your family celebrate birthdays?
- What is your spiritual birth date (the day that Jesus saved you)? Do you have a tradition to celebrate this “new birth date”?
- Judas was tempted by money to turn in Jesus. What would you say is the greatest temptation that people deal with today? What is your greatest temptation? How can the group pray for you to remain strong against this temptation?
- In Old Testament times eating a meal with someone was a sign of acceptance and a way for sealing a legal contract. Why does Jesus say he won’t eat this meal again until he eats it with us in Heaven?
- Where does the power to serve someone else come from as a Christian? Describe a time when you’ve served someone lately.
- If service is Jesus’ measure of greatness, who is the greatest person you know?
- Pray that we would find someone to serve in an act of love this week.