There are two important teachings about communion in this one verse. First, the bread represents Christ’s body broken for us, and second, we take communion to remember Christ. Jesus said, "This is my body which was given for you." The Passover lamb which was sacrificed at the very time that Christ was speaking these words; in the same way Christ was willing to present his body as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Passover lamb was symbolic of Christ’s redemption, but the sacrifice had to be renewed each year. Christ’s sacrifice was complete. Once and finally his ultimate sacrifice has freed humanity from the condemnation of their sins. We are set free in Christ because of what he has done for us. Now, because of this, should our righteous response be any less than repentance (forsaking) from sin and complete trust in Him??
1. What would it have been like to be Jesus, knowing the sacrifice He was about to make for us?
2. How would life be different without the hope Christ has given us through His sacrifice? Has His sacrifice and what He accomplished on my behalf caused any change in me or my behavior? Why or why not?
Challenge: Every time you take of the bread offered during communion, think of the sacrifice Christ made for you and go forward in humble service and worship of Him to whom all is owed. How will you do that today?
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the very night that he was betrayed. After that night, he would not spend any time with his disciples until after the resurrection. So his last action with his disciples was to initiate the communion service. Even though he was being betrayed, which would culminate in his crucifixion, his thoughts were toward his followers. Every time we partake of communion, we are commemorating that last Passover supper the disciples had with Jesus. We are affirming his love and mercy toward us, which were fulfilled in his sacrifice for us as the Passover lamb.
1. What do you think was going through the minds of the disciples present at this last Passover supper with Jesus?
2. Do you think the disciples immediately understood the connection between the Jesus sacrifice to come and the breaking of the bread?
Challenge: Take time to meditate on the meaning behind the breaking of the bread during communion.
A faith in things not seen or experienced is a strong faith indeed. Often times our inability to grasp the supernatural stands in the way of our experiencing God fully. So often we need to see, touch and experience something before we can believe in it. Mary's faith, on the other hand, allowed her to clearly see God's plan for her and submitted to His will. Without question, she put her life in the hands of Almighty God.
1. How deep is your faith?
2. Do you need to see signs or miracles in order to believe in Jesus?
Challenge: Pray for the ability to believe in a supernatural God. Ask for the courage to submit to His plan for you and let Him work.
Jesus comes down hard on those who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. The religious leaders of His day did everything for show and none of their actions did anything to bring others to Christ. We would be wise to learn from those so-called leaders and submit to the will of God and exalt His Son in everything we do and say. We should not be a barrier to others in their experiencing the love of God.
1. Do your actions go hand in hand with your words?
2. If not, how will you change that?
Challenge: Check your motives. Any attempt to glorify anyone or anything but Jesus will fail. God is in control and He will deal severely with those who act hypocritically.
Many of us are like Jonah. We praise and obey God until He asks us to step out of our comfort zone. Jonah did what we often do when God asks us to do the uncomfortable - run the other way, refuse to take a chance, or maybe pretend we didn't hear God correctly in the first place. As in Jonah's story, that usually doesn't work well. God will accomplish what he will, regardless of how we feel about it. It would have been much better for Jonah to follow God's command and do what he was told. So it is for us.
1. Do you run from God's plans for you?
2. How will you change that?
Challenge: Serving Christ and others is all about stepping out in faith and out of your comfort zone. Try finding worthwhile volunteer opportunities that maybe make you uneasy. Bring a friend for support. See what God does in those moments. He is a big God. He can handle the details.
Who of us would not be terrified to be in a small boat as it fills with water in the midst of a frightening storm? The disciples at this point were not really understanding that the Creator of the Universe was actually sleeping in that boat! How often when the storm hits, we, like the disciples, let the storm control us rather than letting Jesus control the storm. We trust Jesus to save us from our sins but don't trust Him to control the circumstances in our lives.
1. Do you submit to God's leading during the storms in your life?
2. Do you realize you have the choice to let God work?
Challenge: Recognizing that Jesus is in the boat during your personal storm is the first step in giving over control to Him. Do what you can, then give it over to Jesus.
The story of Daniel and the lion's den is a familiar story of God's grace and protection. Through no fault of his own, Daniel found himself in a very bad situation. In the face of great danger, Daniel chose to continue to stay faithful to God and in doing so, let God take control of the situation.
In return, God was faithful to Daniel and spared him from the jaws of the lions.
1. Have you ever been asked to do something contrary to God, but refused?
2. Did God respond to your obedience?
Challenge: There are situations in life that force us to take a stand between doing something we know is wrong or doing the right thing. God always asks us to do right, even though we may suffer in this life. He is faithful and just. Give it to Him to handle. Watch Him work in the situation.
There has never been a great example of oneness than that of Jesus and His Father God. As Jesus prepared to face the cross, He prayed a great prayer. In this passage, He asked that not only His disciples but that all believers—that’s us—would be one as He and his Father were one. His hope was that this would serve as a testimony to the world that He was sent from God. Such unity in the body can’t happen when unforgiveness walls us off from one another.
1. How does it make you feel to realize that Jesus prayed for your personal spiritual life?
2. How would you describe the concept of unity among believers that Jesus prayed for? What would that look like?
Challenge: I remember sitting around the campfire as a scout and singing “They will know we are Christians by our Love.” Who are they? And do they know we are Christians by our love? Today pray for unity in the church. Not just Hillcrest but the church universal. We need to show them our love.
When conflict arises, we have no control over the response of the other party or parties. But we do have absolute control over what we choose to do. As Paul says, we are to do everything we can to live at peace with others—even those who don’t even know they’ve offended us. Choosing to offer forgiveness, whether spoken or unspoken, may or may not impact the other person. But forgiveness frees us from the trap of anger and bitterness that can grow when we hold onto our grudges.
1. Can you think of a time when you’ve experienced the benefits of forgiveness? Of being forgiven?
2. Is there someone in your life who has hurt or offended you that you need to forgive?
Challenge: Sometimes the person who hurt you is no longer available to you to talk through the offense. It might be distance, their current circumstances, or even death that prevents the conversation. You can still seek to offer forgiveness by acknowledging it and asking God how you can feel His peace. He will provide it when you ask.
Admittedly, forgiving others is tough. When we believe we’ve been wronged, it’s natural to assume that the other party should step up and apologize. Jesus used this parable to put forgiveness into perspective. It should be easier to take the initiative to forgive our comparatively slight offenses when we consider the size of the debt we’ve been forgiven. There is no reason to live our lives in a condition of unforgiveness—and the consequences of doing so are significant.
1. Can you think of a time when you really struggled to forgive someone?
2. How would their offense compare to all that Jesus has forgiven in your life?
Challenge: It’s easy to think of the person who has wronged us. Think of a time you have wronged another. Did you seek their forgiveness? If not, seek it now. Talk to them, write them a note. Your heart will thank you!
This devotional is written every week by Hillcrest members.
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