The temple in Jerusalem was a holy place. It was not meant for everyone to enter, especially to the most sacred places, because of its holiness; only righteous people could enter. Psalm 118 includes a demonstration of how people typically entered the temple.
“Open to me the gates of righteousness,” the person outside the temple would begin, “that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord” (verse 19). The temple priests inside would reply, “This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it” (verse 20). This sounds nice to us, but in reality, it was a warning: if you’re not righteous, don’t try to enter.
The person outside the temple, considering this, would decide to enter. Everyone would hold their breath. Then, seeing that he had successfully entered, the person would say, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (verse 21). He would no longer be addressing the temple priests but God. He would know that his successful entry was because of God’s mercy.
This is reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper, instituted on Maundy Thursday. Communion is, quite literally, communion with God. We are entering into his presence. Before we enter, we ask, “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.” We know that God takes away our sins, but we ask for it specifically before taking Communion, because we know the warning. “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1st Corinthians 11:29). After partaking in Communion, we offer up a prayer of thanksgiving. We know that we were able to take Communion – we were able to enter into God’s presence – only because of the mercy of God.
This doesn’t come naturally to us. The temple priests stopped people before they entered the temple; Jesus himself taught his disciples about Communion. God’s mercy is often extended through others. Who taught you about the stone that the builders rejected? Who told you that salvation is the Lord’s doing? Who showed you that today is the day the Lord has made, and we should rejoice? Thank God for those who have demonstrated for you the significance of his mercy. Thank God and thank them today on the anniversary of the Last Supper.