How can you win people for Christ in a predominantly atheistic country where a lack of trust toward Christians prevails? It’s undoubtedly a challenge. In the Czech Republic, however, amid the skepticism toward Christianity, I’ve also discovered a great spiritual hunger in the hearts of the people.
Reflections on the Communion service
By Evelyn Sayler
Here, take this juice outside and pour it out on the ground, and take this leftover bread home and burn it,” the head deaconess said to me after we had finished cleaning up following Communion service at our church.
It was the first time I had been privileged to serve as a deaconess, and knowing that this was the normal procedure, I took the juice and headed out the back door of the church. But as I poured the grape juice on the ground, my mind began to ask why. Sometimes “why” questions can be dangerous and lead to doubt and rebellion. But if they originate from a genuine desire to understand God’s will, they can lead to a deeper experience and be a great blessing.
The usual reason given for destroying the leftover bread and grape juice is that they have been blessed and therefore cannot be used as common food. I had no disagreement with that explanation, but I felt there must also be a deeper reason. After all, Jesus blessed the food He so miraculously provided for the 5,000, but He still told His disciples to “gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing is lost” (John 6:12). I was raised on the principle of “waste not, want not,” and throwing away good food was contrary to my nature.
Earlier that morning I had helped to fill the little cups with juice and set out the bread on the plates. We made sure there was enough and to spare for everyone we thought would be in attendance, then we added a generous number of extras for unexpected guests. No church
would ever want to be embarrassed by running out of the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice on Communion day. So as I continued to think about the practice, I gradually began to realize that it did have a much deeper significance than just good hospitality.
A Deeper Meaning
The sacrifice of Christ was adequate not only for all who would accept the blessing; it had to be sufficient for everyone on earth. He had to “taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). He has given to every struggling, repenting sinner the assurance that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Ellen White expressed it beautifully in the following quote: “But the atonement for a lost world was to be full, abundant, and complete. Christ’s offering was exceedingly abundant to reach every soul that God had created. It could not be restricted so as not to exceed the number who would accept the great Gift. All men are not saved; yet the plan of redemption is not a waste because it does not accomplish all that its liberality has provided for. There must be enough and to spare.”1 She also wrote: “Justice demanded the sufferings of a man. Christ, equal with God, gave the sufferings of a God.”2
But I still didn’t have a satisfactory answer to the question of waste. As I continued to ponder this, I reasoned that if the juice represented the blood that Jesus shed to provide atonement for our salvation, then why were we pouring it out on the ground?
Suddenly the truth dawned in my mind, and I realized the magnitude of what was really being wasted. It was not just a bit of grape juice—that was only the symbol! It was, in reality, Christ’s shed blood, His death for our sins. This is waste indeed! If every little cup of juice and every little piece of bread is a symbol of His sacrifice for us, then every glass of leftover juice represents someone who has not chosen to partake of the blessing so freely offered. For them, His sacrifice has been in vain; not because of any lack on His part, but simply because they did not open their hearts to receive it. What a prodigal waste! How this loss must wound the Savior afresh.
Jesus knew from the beginning how few would accept the offer of salvation, yet He did not limit the provision to only as much as was necessary to save that few. The sacrifice must be sufficient to save every lost sinner, whether they accept it or not. Sinners could never plead that Christ’s sacrifice was not great enough to cover their sins. It was never God’s intention that anyone should be left out of the great plan of salvation. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Struggling to Understand
Our selfish human natures have trouble understanding this abundant outpouring of God’s love. When Mary poured out her love and gratitude to Jesus by anointing His head and feet with fragrant and costly ointment, Judas was highly indignant and protested by saying, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). To Judas’ covetous nature, Mary’s generous gift seemed extravagant and wasteful.
Satan was always at hand to try to discourage Jesus with the thought that His sacrifice would be in vain because so few would ever see and appreciate its value, that His blood would be poured out on the ground and wasted. But Mary’s prodigal gift was God’s way of assuring His beloved Son that His sacrifice would be accepted and appreciated by many, and that in the end, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).
Paul also understood the magnitude of the gift provided when he wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Gal. 2:21).
There are two ways that we can set aside, or “frustrate” (KJV), Christ’s sacrifice for us. One is by striving to save ourselves by our own works, as Paul explained in the previous text. Another even more common way is to simply ignore or reject His atoning death for us and continue in sin. This class is described in Matthew 22 in the parable of the wedding feast. The king had prepared a feast at great expense and had invited many to come and celebrate with him. “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business”
(Matt. 22:5). For both classes His death was in vain—like the grape juice I so wastefully poured on the ground.
Don’t let the sufferings of Jesus for your sins—your Communion cup, which has been so freely offered—be poured out and wasted because you were too occupied with earthly things to bother to partake of it. For Christ’s sake, and for your own soul’s sake, “taste and see that
the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Ps. 34:8).
“Drink from it, all of you” (Matt. 26:27).
1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), pp. 565, 566.
2 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Sept. 21, 1886.