Many people live by the philosophy that you have to look out for ‘number one.’ Number one, of course, is themselves. They justify it by another saying. “If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.” What it really boils down to is selfishness. We want to have our own way. We want to satisfy our own desires. We want to live for ourselves.
Jesus calls us to a radically different philosophy and lifestyle. He said, “...If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37 NIV)
Another time He said, “...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33 NIV)
What’s the purpose for giving everything up? One purpose for self-denial is to serve others. The Apostle Paul writes, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Galatians 5:13-14 NIV)
Jesus’ life and ministry was the perfect expression of that kind of sacrificial love. His love motivated Him to give up so that we might have. Paul reminded the Corinthian church, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The greatest expression of Jesus’ love is the sacrifice of His own life so we might live. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
Each week we gather to commemorate Christ’s death through which we have been given the gift of life. The bread reminds us of Christ’s broken body. The juice reminds us of His blood. I hope that as we partake today we will not only remember that Christ denied Himself for our benefit, but also that He calls us to do likewise. The emblems remind us that we also are called to deny ourselves in order to serve others.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”” (John 20:19-21 NIV)