Receiving and Delivering and the Lord's Supper (A Good Friday Reflection)
I’ve been reflecting a lot today on Paul’s words on 1 Corinthians 11:23 “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread…” I used to read that passage every Sunday at Centerpoint before celebrating Communion and that phrase “for I received..what I also delivered” never stuck out to me until today.
You see, the only reason why Paul had instituted The Lord’s Supper in the churches he had started was because he had received it first from the Lord. Now I don’t know if by that he meant that he had a vision from God where He told him to teach people to observe the Lord’s Supper or if one of the Apostles taught it to him, the point is that Paul believed that at some point in the chain, the command to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and remember the Lord’s death came from Jesus himself.
But I think there is also another dynamic at work here, and it’s this: at a certain level, Paul is also saying that the only reason why he can’t share the story of the Lord’s death (and subsequent resurrection) is because he received it from somebody else first. Somebody told him that story and he had to receive it and believe it in order for him to share it with others.
You see this pattern take place over and over in the Scriptures. There’s a story in the book of Acts where the Apostle Peter is going to the temple to pray and a lame (as in disabled, not uncool, just saying… maybe the dude was lots of fun) beggar asks him for money. Now back then Christian preachers hadn’t discovered televangelism yet so Peter was broke, but he looks at the beggar and he says:
“…I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” -Acts 3:6
AND THE DUDE STARTS WALKING!!!
Now what fascinates me about this story is Peter’s words, which are basically: “I don’t have any money, all I have, is the words of Jesus, and in His name, you can experience healing.” Now I’m pretty sure Peter had plenty of conversations with Jesus about the power that is found in His name, and the power that was given to the Apostles to do stuff, but there is a particular passage that comes to my mind. Right at the end of the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus is about to ascend into Heaven, he says to His disciples:
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” -Mark 16:15-18
Peter RECEIVED authority and power from Jesus, and out of that authority and power he could give healing to this lame beggar, not in his name, but in Jesus’ name. In the same way Paul shared the good news of Jesus because he first RECEIVED them.
The point I’m trying to make is this:
You can’t give what you haven’t received first.
Almost everybody would agree with that statement, the people sharing the Gospel with others are the people who have received it and believed it. However, what I find fascinating about the 1 Corinthians passage is that Paul is talking about the Lord’s Supper which is an ongoing, recurrent event. Now I’m not saying that we need to be saved over and over, or that if we don’t celebrate communion we are not saved or anything like that. What I am saying though is this:
Sometimes we forget…
We forget how much it cost Him.
We forget that for you and I to be alive and to have experienced all the freedom and joy we have experienced in Christ, He had to be tortured and humiliated and wounded and pierced and ultimately crucified.
We forget that chances are that if we had been alive back in Jerusalem at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion we would probably have been some of the people screaming “crucify him, crucify him”
Sometimes we take Easter for granted because we forget Good Friday.
And you know how a lot of times you feel like you are a bad Christian because you haven’t invited that many people to church or because you just aren’t that good at evangelizing like others?
Or maybe for you the whole Holy Week thing never feels as powerful as it should?
And sometimes in the back of your mind you might be wondering: Are the rest of the people at church just crazy? Or is there something wrong with me?
And you know what I don’t know your personal story, maybe it’s just a personality thing, and yeah some Christians are a little crazy. However, let me throw another possibility:
Maybe you’ve forgotten. It’s not like you don’t love Jesus or that you are a horrible Christian, it’s just that life is super busy and you have your kids soccer practice, and date night, and that new project at work, and in the middle of all that you forget.. how much it cost Him. The price that was paid.
You cannot give what you have not received.
And you know what? Jesus knew that. Jesus knew how crazy and busy life would get and Jesus knew that work would be hard and your neighbors would be annoying and your mom would be crazy… Jesus knew.
So in His infinite wisdom he set up a system to remind you, of the price of your salvation. He said: every time you get together, grab a cup, pour some wine in it, and get some bread. And every time you drink from that cup, and eat from that bread… remember me. Remember what I did for you, remember the price. Because you cannot give what you have not received.
Tonight churches all over the world gather to celebrate “Good Friday.” I’m not sure it was that good of a day originally, a just man was betrayed, tortured and executed while being innocent. And yet, without the death of that man, you and I have no hope, so I guess it was a good Friday after all, if not for Jesus, at least for you and I. And you might wonder: what’s the point of going to church on a Friday? And the answer is simple:
Because we forget, and you cannot give what you have not received first.
Sunday is coming, the celebration of life, hope and victory over death. And yet, for Sunday to come we have to go through Friday first.
We. Must. Remember. What. It. Cost. Him.
Tonight at Encounter we gather to celebrate Good Friday, and my hope would be that if anything else, everybody that comes would walk away having received something from the Lord. That as we sing, and read, and listen, as we drink the wine, and eat the bread, we would remember what it cost Him.
My hope is that we would receive tonight, so that on Sunday we can give. We can give out smiles, and joy and hope to those who come visit us, to those who still haven’t received the good news.
My hope is that all that come would be able to say to someone else: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…”
So if you are a part of Encounter and you are reading this I want to encourage you to come out tonight to our Good Friday service. If you go to another church and they have something going on tonight, please attend it and be a part of it. If you don’t go to church at all why don’t you spend some time tonight reading the story of Jesus’ death? Luke chapter 22 is a good place to start.
Today I would invite you to remember.
Receive, so you can give.
Grace + Peace