1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
From the time I was a little boy, I heard, “You have to be willing to give and take in any relationship.” The apostle Paul counters that thinking by introducing another paradigm or way of thinking. Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you.” In this statement the apostle points out that what he received he now passes on, or what the Lord gave him he now gives us. What an interesting concept give and give. Several weeks ago during a debate on how to balance the budget we saw that give and take has some serious flaws and can often lead to stalemates. As the parties each tried to take more than the other was willing to give and in the end neither was overly thrilled with the result. However, when there is a give and give attitude as the apostle suggests it produces a win-win for both sides. Give and take works if both parties are willing to make mutual concessions. The problem here is that usually, what we receive falls far short of what we have given and we are asked to take or accept the inequity. On the other hand, give and give recognizes a need exists and seeks to meet the need that exists. Give and Give says, I have found something that works for me and has made a difference in my life and I believe it will make a difference in your life. I am not looking for anything in return I only want to help you to become better. What I am giving you is for you, just like what I received was for me. Human nature is such that we always question the reason or the agenda behind the things we receive, but when something is given to me for me I can receive it in the spirit in which it was given – it is for my benefit and me.
There are two ways to obtain things, we can take by force or we can receive when offered. The Bible says, “On the night He was betrayed, He took the bread.” The fact of the matter is that we cannot always see the spirit in which things are given to us and so lingering questions persist. “I wonder why they did this for me?” “I wonder what do they want in return?” One of the clearest ways to know for sure that something is specifically for us is when it is placed in our hands. When we do not know or are not familiar with the person we will question the intent, but when something is placed in our hands there are no more questions because the intent has been articulated through the action. When God through Christ Jesus offers us something we need to understand that it is for us. I have never known a person to benefit from medication they did not take. I have never known a person to grow from a challenge they did not accept. I have never known a person to receive a blessing from a ministry they avoided. Whatever God allows into our lives it is for us, whether it is a situation we must face, a circumstance we must deal with, or an obstacle we must overcome when it enters our realm it is being handed over to us to receive.
Some people say the foundation of a relationship is communication. The text suggests relationships are developed and people are bound together through identification. “And when He had given thanks, He broke (the bread) it and said, this is my body, which is for you.” Broken for you. Everyone can identify with brokenness. At one point or another we have all experienced situations and circumstances that have broken us. As Jesus broke the bread He identifies with you and I in our own brokenness. Those who have been broken by the sting of divorce, broken by a depletion of resources, broken by betrayal, or broken by unfulfilled promises, or even, broken by poor decisions and choices – Jesus identifies with you and me. When we are hurting and in pain, the knowledge that someone else has or is going through what we are experiencing is of little comfort. When we are broken we need to be put back together. I love bread. I love all kinds of bread, sweet bread, rolls, and especially fresh baked bread. When my mother used to bake bread the smell of the bread baking would wake me up out of my sleep. I could not wait to taste that bread, because no matter how bad I was feeling, I knew that a piece of that bread would make me feel better. While I was eating that bread the building could have collapsed but I was in heaven. And after I finished eating it I was satisfied. Through the bread Jesus meets us in our broken condition and also at our point of need. I have also discovered that if you eat enough bread it can bind you and stop things from moving. When we break a limb doctors immobilize the broken limb so that it is not further damaged and can heal. When we ingest Jesus He acts as an immobilizing agent around the damaged areas holding them in place so they cannot be damaged any further and the healing can begin.
In every relationship there will be periods of discord, acrimony, arguments and disagreements. Some of these things if allowed to fester or go unchecked can cause irreparable damage to the relationship. “He took the cup, saying, this cup is the new covenant in my blood.” However, any relationship can be salvaged if someone is willing to be the adult in the relationship and take the initiative to save the relationship. Sometimes a symbol or symbolic act can open the door to reconciliation. Thank God Jill and I do not argue often, but when we do it can get quite heated. After an argument, Jill usually goes to her corner and I go to my corner and we sit and stew for a while. I personally do not like living in a hostile environment and so I look at my wedding ring, a symbol of the love I pledged to her. When I look at my wedding band, I am reminded that I must do everything possible to bring about reconciliation. When we look at the cup, it reminds us that God through Jesus Christ was willing to go to the extreme to bring about reconciliation between God and us. The cup reminds me that reconciliation is possible. The cup reminds us that I am the only person who can prevent reconciliation from becoming a reality. The cup says, that Jesus was willing to be the adult and take the initiative to do whatever it took to bridge the gap between God and us. Before there can be agreement between estranged parties there must first be reconciliation. Things that are not compatible usually do not work well together. Some medications that are prescribed for us are not compatible with our system or our body chemistry. Therefore, we either need to change the medication or change the dosage. Something needs to change in order to bring about compatibility. When we look inside the cup we discover that the contents have changed for the purpose of bringing about agreement. God offers us new terms to facilitate reconciliation because the terms of the old agreement did not work well for both parties. When things are not working out between two people it is an indication that whatever agreement we made needs to be re-evaluated and the terms of that agreement need to be changed. Instead of trying to go back to the way things were or the way they used to be, we need to amend the terms of our current agreement. When someone is important to us we will do whatever it takes to keep that person and when we are estranged we will fight for reconciliation. The contents of the cup inform us that we are important to God. In fact, we are so important to God that God was willing to sacrifice and give up the one person that was most precious to Him for us. When I look into the cup I see God’s concession for me. I see that God was willing to make changes to an older agreement that was not working for Him and me.
Any act of kindness deserves a response. When I consider that for me Jesus did not think about Himself. Even though He was about to be betrayed, beaten, and executed, but rather He thought about meeting me at my point of need, and bringing me into agreement with God through an act of reconciliation my only response can be to say thank you for what I received from Him. The text tells us that whenever we see the bread and the cup we are to remember. Remembering what someone has done for us is one of the most powerful responses we can make. When we are able to recall one out of a million acts done on our behalf, it says, that particular act was important to us. It was more than just a random act that gets flushed into the sea of forgetfulness, but rather I recognize that the person who did it took the time to think about me and cared enough about me that the least I can do is remember them and what they did for me. The text tells us that by consuming the bread and contents of the cup we become proclaimers. Think about all of the stuff we talk about. We talk about our kids, our spouses, our jobs, the lack of a job, how good things are going and how bad things are, but how much do we talk about what Jesus has done for us? That is what a testimony is, sharing and disclosing to others what Christ has done for us. When someone does something we did not expect we are floored and we cannot wait to tell someone else about our experience. What about when someone goes above and beyond, takes the initiative to demonstrate his or her love and willingness to die for us, isn’t that worthy of sharing? When good things happen to us we burst at the seams to share and tell others, why do we find it so difficult to let others know about what Christ has done for us? The apostle Paul said, “What I received I passed on to you.” He did not keep it to himself or for himself, but Paul shared, proclaimed, and he passed it on to us.
People do many things for us, but none of what family and friends do for us can reach the level of what Christ did for you and for me. Christ allowed Himself to be betrayed, beaten to a bloody pulp, and executed so that we could have everlasting communion and fellowship with Him and God our Father. The question is if Christ did all of this for you and for me, what are we going to do for Him?