Focal Passage: 1 Cor. 11:17-32
Jesus was dead: no pulse, no breath, no blood pressure, dilated pupils, skin pallid and gray and cold. He had passed through that moment some of us have seen in a hospital room when one second your loved one is there, and in the blink of an eye, gone. Jesus was dead.
Jesus’ movement was dead. Where were the disciples? Huddled in an upper room, the door locked and the shades drawn, trembling and afraid, lost and lonely, helpless and hopeless. It was all over. Jesus was dead, and as far as anyone could tell, so was His movement.
“You Baptists get the Lord’s Supper all wrong,” a Christian friend once told me. “For you it’s only a memorial meal, all about death.” She explained that in her church the Supper represents Christ’s living presence among and within those who gather to take it.
My friend makes a good point. I’ve been a preacher for 30 years, a Christian for 50, and a Baptist just about forever; and rarely do I preach, or hear, a communion sermon about the living and resurrected Christ present with us as we take the bread and cup. It would be good to preach and hear about that more often.
But today is Palm Sunday, this is Holy Week, and Friday is Good Friday. Easter may be right around the corner — just go to the drug store and count the chocolate eggs and stuffed rabbits — but it’s not here yet.
I once heard Professor Fred Craddock say, “You can’t have a resurrection if nobody’s dead.” He’s right, in more ways than one. You can’t have hope if you don’t know despair. You won’t understand forgiveness until you’re ready to repent. You don’t need to be saved if you think you’re not lost. You can’t get to Easter without going through Good Friday. “A seed,” Paul said, “doesn’t come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36).
Maybe that’s part of what was wrong at the church in Corinth. Some were treating the Lord’s Supper like a party. Others were using it as an occasion to exalt themselves. They were focusing on themselves, but they weren’t “examining themselves,” in Paul’s words. There was plenty of Easter, maybe, but not much Good Friday.
So Paul had to remind them: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Yes, He is coming. Easter is right around the corner. For all who would follow Him, so is abundant and eternal life. But to get to either one, something in us has to die.
“You can’t have a resurrection if nobody’s dead.”