Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
24 January 2016
Grace and peace with you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we enter the world of the scriptures today I want to tell a faerie story that (I hope) will help us connect our story to the Story of Jesus.
Once upon a time the Brothers Grimm told a story about Hansel and Gretel–the children of a poor wood-cutter. Since the family was so poor there was not enough food to go around. Fearing starvation, the wood-cutter’s wife (who was the children’s step-mother) decided to banish the children from home. Her plan was to abandon them deep in the woods.
So early one morning at sunrise she gave the children two small pieces of bread and led them into forest to cut wood. Aware of the woman’s plan, Hansel crumbled his bread in his pocket and little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path. The woman led the children deep into the forest, where they had never in their lives been before. Then she built a great fire and said, “Just sit there, you children, and when you are tired you may sleep a little. We are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and fetch you away.” When it was noon, Gretel shared her piece of bread with Hansel, who had scattered his along the way. Then they fell asleep and evening passed. They did not awake until it was dark night, but no one came to the poor children. As always Hansel comforted his little sister and said, “Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises. Then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have scattered, and they will show us our way home again.”
(While they wait for the moon to rise, let’s look at some other stories. We’ll come back to them later.)
I have been in a sacramental frame of mind lately. Especially since my oral exam. So I have been thinking about elemental things like water, bread, and wine and the Word. We looked at baptism last week; this week will look at the Lord’s Supper.
Our sermon text is 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. If you are able, please stand and listen to God’s Holy Word.
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, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. (ESV)
The word of the Lord. (Thank be to God!) May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. All the church says: Amen! You may be seated.
My purpose today is not to show you something new, but to show you something old in a new way.
From the beginning of redemptive history ’til now, God has revealed himself to the world by his Word through water, bread, and wine in one form or another. Last week we saw that watermarks appear all over the scriptures. Likewise, today we will see that bread crumbs and wine stains appear all over the scriptures as well. I want you to see that bread and wine (just like water) are symbols that God uses to point us to the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If we follow the bread crumbs and wine stains, they will lead us all the way home.
What is the Lord’s supper?
The Westminster Confession of Faith defines it like this:
The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily commune feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with Christ confirmed; they testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.
With all that in mind, I want us to enter into the story of the scriptures.
SHADOWS: BREAD CRUMBS AND WINE STAINS
The bread crumbs and wine stains that we find in the Old Testament are what we call shadows: they point away from themselves to a more solid reality. Today, we will look at two shadow-stories in the OT; then we will look at the one reality in the NT.
First, in Genesis 14:17-20 we have the story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek.
After Abraham rescued Lot and returned from defeating the kings in battle, the wicked king of Sodom and the righteous king of Salem went out to meet him in a place called the King’s Valley. And Melchizedek (the king of Salem) brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
For our purposes today, I want you to see that Melchizedek wanted to make a covenant with Abraham. He offered bread and wine as a covenant meal. Melchizedek’s gesture of giving bread and wine to Abraham meant he was offering to lay down his body and blood for him. “Here is bread and wine: my life for yours.” Abraham’s gesture of receiving bread and wine from Melchizedek meant he was receiving Melchizedek’s offer and that he was grateful to live under his covenant protection.
If we follow the bread crumbs and wine stains in this story they lead us all the way to Jesus. How? According to the the Book of Hebrews, Melchizedek is a shadow of Jesus. (He appears in the story without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. [Hebrews 7:3])
The bread crumbs and wine stains in the story remind us that Jesus is the true and better Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness and Peace, who made a covenant with us, and laid down his life for us, and invites us to partake of it in his covenant meal.
Second, in the Book of Ruth 2:14-16, we have the story of Ruth’s encounter with Boaz. Ruth was a poor young widow, living with her widowed mother-in-law. She was a foreigner, a refugee, an immigrant from the other side of border. Due to harsh conditions, she and her mother-in-law were forced to move from Moab to Bethlehem at harvest time.
Ironically, Bethlehem means House of Bread. Since these refugee widows had no bread, and no bread-winners, Ruth became a migrant worker to help support them. She worked on the edges of the fields owned by a man named Boaz (who was a distant relative of Naomi’s late husband).
After the reapers had passed through the fields with their harvesters Ruth gathered left-over sheaves of grain. When Boaz saw Ruth working in the field, he ran a back-ground check on her.
When he learned her story he felt compassion towards her. Then at lunch-time Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Boaz called her to his side and he comforted her, and blessed her and spoke kindly to her. He invited her to his table and welcomed her as part of his household. As the story goes Boaz acted as a Kinsmen-Redeemer on behalf of Naomi. Thus he was able to acquire her land and take Ruth as his wife.
Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.” (Ruth 4:11-12)
If we follow the bread crumbs and wine stains in this story they lead us all the way to Jesus. How? Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. The LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son (4:13) named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who became the King of Israel.
According to the prophets, the Savior of the world came from Bethlehem:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)
Jesus, the Son of David, was born in Bethlehem: thus, the House of Bread gave birth to the Bread of Life.
The bread crumbs and wine stains of this story remind us that Jesus is the true and better Boaz who redeems Jews and Gentiles, ransoms citizens and immigrants, rescues orphans and widows, and rules his people.
Jesus is our Kinsmen-Redeemer who ransomed us with his blood.
REALITY: BODY AND BLOOD
Again, God has revealed himself to the world through bread and wine in one form or another. The bread crumbs and wine stains that we find in the Old Testament stories are shadows that point to one Reality–Jesus Christ.
That is why the apostles can teach truths like “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Christ was “slaughtered and roasted” in our place at the cross, so let us eat the bread of affliction in his place at the Table.
That is why they teach, “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Christ served his people water, bread, and wine in the desert; and he still serves us water, bread, and wine in DFW.
That is why the scriptures say, “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Jesus offers bread and wine to you. Not just any bread and wine, but his body and blood, broken and poured out for you, given for the life of the world.
Just as Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abraham, so now, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus spreads a table in the King’s Valley, in the presence of our enemy, the dark prince of the world. Jesus brings out a covenant meal of bread and wine and says “My life for yours.” Will you take and eat?
Just as Boaz offered bread and wine to Ruth, so now, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus spreads his wings over people; he shelters and sustains all who take refuge under the corner of his garment, for he is our Redeemer. Will you dip your bread in the wine?
The bread crumbs and wine stains are signs that lead us to the cross, through the broken body of our Righteous King and the shed blood of our Kinsmen-Redeemer. And beyond that, they bring us together at peace with God the Father.
Broken bread for a broken body. Spilled wine for weary saints and weak sinners.
So whatever happened to Hansel and Gretel? And what does that story have to with our story?
Here is where we left off: Hansel said, “Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again.”
But when the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all up. Hansel said to Gretel, “We shall soon find the way.” But they did not find it. They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and they were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat… And since they were so weary that their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep.
You get the point, don’t you?
Without bread, we are lost. Without bread, we are hungry. Without bread, we are weary. Without bread, we are weak. Without bread, we are wasted. Without bread, we are dead.
Some of you are experiencing these things right now: You are weak, sick, and dying. Why?
The enemy has taken away your bread crumbs; you do not feed on the Word of God; you neglect Christ’s invitation to the Table. When that happens we always lose our way and fall into troubles.
Or perhaps you take the Lord’s grace for granted and come to the table in an unworthy manner when you should examine yourself and see the Lord’s body gathered all around you, and feel your need to feed upon Christ, and taste the bitterness of your sins and sweetness of his grace.
Why do you spend your life for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:2)
If you still can see the bread crumbs and wine stains -– follow them and they will lead you out of darkness and despair: they will lead you to the light and hope of the world.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6)
If you are lost, I urge you to “lay down and rest your weary head” (Lennox, Into the West), beneath the tree of trees — at the cross of Jesus Christ you will find rest for your soul.
As Hansel told Gretel, “Be comforted, dear little sister, and be at peace, God will not forsake us, the good God will help us.”
Today, I have tried to show you something old in a new way. I hope you to see that bread crumbs and wine stains are symbols that God uses to point us to the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have told this story before, but it bears repeating now. When we were little kids, sometimes my brother and I rode a bus to a local church. On the way to church we played games, sang songs, and memorized scriptures. It was a great time! Then we would go to Sunday School, and after that we would go to the auditorium for worship. Every week during the service some serious looking men passed around shiny golden vessels with crackers and grape juice. People would take them and snap off a piece of cracker and sip the tiny cup. But we never did. The plates passed by so fast that we barely saw what was in them. One week we decided to sit on a pew with fewer people so that they would have to pass the vessels to us and we would do what everyone else was doing. Our plan almost worked. A man handed me the plate of crackers, but before I knew it, a woman slid down the pew and took the plate from my hands and said, “No, no, no. That’s not for you.” At the time my brother and I felt a little embarrassed and sorta laughed it off. But I wondered: Why is it not for me?
Over the years, I have replayed that scene in my mind many times.
That was about 35 years ago. Since then I have learned that “It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.” (SC 97)
I used to think that woman was just acting like a prudish church lady. But now I think she was simply trying to preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s Supper. In her own awkward and clumsy way, she was right, and she actually did us a favor.
My brother and I had not been baptized, we had not professed faith in Jesus, and we did not understood anything about the bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ. At that moment, under those circumstances, the Lord’s Supper was not for him and me — not yet anyways.
The same holds true for you now.
If you have not yet been baptized, or if you do not yet believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior – the Lord’s Supper is not yet for you. If you have sins that you have not confessed to the Lord, or that you have not repented, you should do so now, before you partake of the Supper, or else you will eat and drink judgment on yourself. If you insist on keeping your sins, the Lord’s Supper is not yet for you.
But if you are a baptized believer, the Lord’s Supper is for you. And, even if you have doubts and fears about your standing with the Lord, eat and drink, because God makes promises to love you and take care of you in Christ, “and this sacrament is appointed for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians.” (LC Q172).
Every Lord’s day, this table is set with bread and wine to point you to Jesus; comfort food for your soul; body and blood for the life of the world.
Pastoral Prayer –
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread to strengthen man’s heart. (Psalm 104:1-2, 14-15)
O merciful Lord, we do not presume to come to your Table, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your Table. But you are the same Lord, whose special quality is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. (Prayer of Humble Access)
Source: Hansel and Gretel http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/HanGre.shtml