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The First Communion Service:
A Lesson on Love
(John 13:1, NIV)
“It was just before the Passover Feast.
Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world
and go to the Father.
Having loved his own who were in the world,
he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
In keeping with our 2017 preaching theme of “Practical Discipleship,” today we will examine another one of those things that disciples do—they participate in Communion Services. So let’s take a look at “The First Communion Service.” Then we will conduct a 21st century Communion Service!
It was Thursday of the final week of the life of Jesus. According to the Jewish calendar, it was the 14th day of the first month of the year—the month of Nisan. Multiplied thousands of lambs were killed at twilight, and in the hours that followed, every household in Jerusalem ate the ancient Passover Meal—which consisted of roast lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and grape juice that had been preserved at harvest time in goatskin bags. This was the setting John was describing when he wrote, “It was just before the Passover Feast” (John 13:1a, NIV).
After washing His disciples’ feet in a second-story room in a residence in Jerusalem, Jesus gave new meaning to the Ancient Passover tradition by conducting the first Communion Service. Then He went immediately with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where they often camped for the night. Sometime after midnight a mob arrived, Jesus was arrested, and His disciples fled.
He was escorted to the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where He was tried by the Jews and condemned. Because the Jews, under Roman law, did not have the authority to enact the death penalty, they were forced to take Him to Governor Pilate from whom they demanded a trial in the Roman Court.
Early on Friday morning Jesus stood trial before Pilate, was flogged, humiliated, and finally sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was led to a place of execution on a hill just outside the gates of the City of Jerusalem, and by three o’clock Friday afternoon, He died on a Roman rack of torture and execution that we call a cross.
Just before 6 o’clock Friday evening His body was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Sometime during Friday night and Saturday, Jesus made a journey to hell in the heart of the earth. Then at sunrise on Sunday morning women came to His tomb and discovered that God had raised Him from death! He spent the next forty days appearing to His disciples and teaching them about His kingdom, and then He ascended to His Father.
None of these events was a surprise to Jesus! That’s what John meant when he wrote, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1b, NIV).
II. A Lesson on Love
The next statement written by John is intriguing. In fact, if we miss this, we will fail to fully comprehend the significance of all that follows. He wrote, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1c, NIV). The question that demands to be answered is, “How did Jesus show those disciples with whom He was eating the Passover Meal ‘the full extent of his love’?”
The answer is found in the next four verses. John wrote, “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:2-5, NIV). Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love” by serving them!
In first-century Palestine, travelers walked almost everywhere they went. So if guests arrived at your home, they had been walking along dusty Roman roads under the blazing sun of a desert-like climate. Their feet would be tired and dirty. So in that culture, it was considered good manners and a routine gesture of hospitality to fill a basin with water and wash the feet of any guests who arrived in your home. If you were wealthy, you would assign that unpleasant task to a household slave. If you weren’t so wealthy, you were expected to do it yourself.
Jesus demonstrated “the full extent of his love” by voluntarily serving others as if He were a common slave! Then He said to His disciples, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15, NIV). In other words, Jesus said to His disciples, “You should serve one another…you should meet one another’s basic needs!”
Genuine love is always expressed by acts of service. Jesus “loved his own who were in the world” (John 13:1b, NIV), and He expressed that love to them by acts of service. He said about Himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NIV).
Paul explained the relationship between love and service when he wrote, “Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13b, NIV). When you love others, you will serve them—regardless of how inconvenient, lowly, unpleasant, disgusting, or dirty that service might be.
Think of the most repulsive thing that someone you love might need you to do for them. If you truly love them, you’ll do it! God set the example when He served us—because He loved us—by giving up His Son so that we might have eternal life. Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
III. The First Communion Service
After skillfully painting a background of love by washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus returned to the table and dramatized for them, in advance, the greatest act of love-motivated service in human history by conducting the first communion service. Matthew wrote, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28, NIV).
The “bread” and “cup” of the Communion Service dramatize the physical suffering and death of Jesus—love expressed in the most selfless act of service ever witnessed by mankind—and the result? Eternal life is now available to every human being!
Jesus served because He loved—the foot washing scene followed by the Communion Service dramatizes that fact! John wrote, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1c, NIV).
Love becomes visible and is detectible when it is expressed by acts of service. That’s what Jesus implied when He said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV). When our love for others is expressed through acts of service, it becomes visible and detectible; and the result is that others will identify us as followers of Jesus! May God help us follow the example of our Lord who “showed them the full extent of his love” through acts of service! That’s just what disciples do…
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Sunday service starts at 10am
1/2 mile south of Holcomb on Hwy 25.
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Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.