Have you ever heard of the notion that when we reach Heaven St Peter will be there to meet us at the Pearly Gates? I suspect most have heard this woeful piece of misinformation, a lie. It is a lie because the twelve gates made from single pearls appears in the New Jerusalem, as noted in Revelation 21:21, and the New Jerusalem appears sometime after we are all in heaven.
Do angel’s sing? There is no Biblical reference that shows angel’s singing. In fact, Revelation chapter 5 starting at verse 11 is an example of what angels sound like: Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
Some of you, hopefully, will be wondering where this devotion is heading. No, I am not going to dwell on the pearly gates, nor angels, but on what they said, and the truths we may learn behind these words. I use the two examples to demonstrate that at times, the world view of Christianity and its beliefs are not necessarily true. I mention this, because many of us have viewed the film "The Passion of Christ" a film made with Catholic bias, in particular, the physical portrayal of the suffering of Christ at his crucifixion. Today, as we take the elements, I would like each of us to be thinking beyond the physical suffering, to something far greater, a sacrifice we cannot even begin to understand.
Many people suffered physically as Jesus did, some more so, with scourging, with nailing to a cross, with torture, with the legs being broken to make them die faster, and other horrible details. I do not want to detract from the physical suffering of Christ, it was extreme torture, and as we know, for redemption of us, the human race, physical blood had to be shed. We read this in Hebrews 9: 22 "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." We take the bread, a symbol of the broken body, we take the cup, the symbol of the blood shed, and we remember the Lord’s death until he comes.
The death we remember though was far more than the physical act of dying. It brought to every person the way to eternal life, and to every believer, this promise: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Let us explore the death of Christ further. Currently in the world there are more than 6 billion people. Apparently, there have been a further 6 billion people now dead, give or take a few as the Bible does not record how many lived before the flood. So, for the purpose of this lesson, let us note 12 billion people have lived or do live. Our Lord and Saviour died for the sins of all the people, past, present and future. The verse here that says it all is in 2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He made Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be sin for us – that is, for the 12 billion of us, and he suffered for the multitude of sins, the innumerable number of sins that 12 billion people have done, or are going to do.
Have you ever been blamed for something that you never did? Remember the pain of it? Multiply that by a lifetime of sin for 12 billion people and God saying – this is now your burden, these are your sins – all to one man, Christ Jesus.
There was a further side to Christ’s suffering. A recent anti-smoking advertisement had a little boy in a busy place who loses his mother. He quickly pucker’s up and the tears flow. Some were quite real as the mother was his real mother, and briefly she disappeared out of his sight. We find losing loved ones, equally as tough, we weep as well. Jesus, who had been in constant union with His Father for eternity – not years, eternity, discovered at the same time he became sin for us, that His Father closed the door, turned away, no longer connected. The cry "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" was heard by all. This was the absolute suffering, absolute pain, the total experience that we have no real insight into.
There is one more part of the remembrance we need to consider, for without it, the bread and wine, the death on the cross is worthless. Acts chapter 2 verse 30 tells us "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear." And for us, we can read Ephesians chapter 2 verse 4: "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" As we take the bread and wine today, let us really remember the Lord’s death, and His absolute suffering that He went through for our sakes, way beyond physical pain, all the way to separation from His Father. Let us in this understanding take of the elements, and worship Him.