Communion: April 25, 2010

"Hi. My name is Joseph Porter, and I am a sophomore here at Harvard. This is the time in our service when we celebrate what is called Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist. It is our time to remember Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes, we can think that the purpose of Communion is primarily to remember the cross – and indeed, Christianity is empty without the cross. But I do not believe that Jesus instituted Communion only so that we would remember the cross, because I do not think that the cross can be truly understood in isolation.

Christianity, as I said, is empty without the cross – but the cross is empty without the Resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15.14, Paul writes, '[I]f Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.' And again, in v. 17: 'If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.' Paul’s point is striking: If Jesus has not been raised from the dead -
even if he died on the cross – our faith is in vain. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead – even if he died on the cross – we have no hope of a new life, of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Salvation is found not in the God who died, but in the God who died and rose again.

As Christians, it can be easy for us to focus only on the cross or only on the Resurrection, forgetting that each depends upon and completes the other. When we focus only on the cross, we can make Christianity a guilt trip. 'Look at your sin! Look at what you did to him! Look at what he had to do for you!' We can forget that the true climax of Jesus’ time on Earth was not his death, but his
victory over death and over the grave.

On the other hand, when we focus only on the Resurrection, we can lose sight of the fact that God’s grace is not cheap – that we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7.23). We can think, 'God loves us, regardless of who we are!' That is true, but we were called to take up our
own crosses and to follow Jesus, to be united with him in death so that we could be united with him in a new life. Salvation required sacrifice on Jesus’ part, and it requires sacrifice on our part as well – sacrifice of time, money, ambition, and sin. Simply put: Just as the cross is meaningless without the Resurrection, the Resurrection is impossible without the cross. To focus on one and not the other is to distort the gospel. We desperately need both.

We are about to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit of the vine represents Jesus’ blood shed on the cross – but it also represents the blood that flowed through his veins when he rose from the dead on the third day. The bread represents Jesus’ body hanging on the tree – but it also represents his resurrected body, which ensures that we too can be resurrected.

This is the beauty of Jesus Christ, the beauty I have found nowhere else. It is the beauty of strength in weakness, of life in death, of victory in defeat – of Resurrection in the cross. 'The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed' (Isaiah 53.5b).

As 1 Corinthians 11.26 tells us, whenever we eat the bread and the drink the cup, we proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes. It is not without reason that we take time every Sunday to meditate upon the cross. But the cross is a triumphant cross only because it anticipates the Resurrection. And so I ask you: As you eat the bread and drink the cup, remember Jesus in his entirety. Remember the life he led, the life he gave up, and the life he regained. Do this in remembrance of him."