Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Lord’s Supper: Before, During and After

God’s Triune nature, reflected in triplets of Scripture throughout the Bible, is echoed in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-21; Luke 22:7-30)

This memorable meal, with special significance to Jesus, to His apostles, and to born-again believers, looked back to the past, celebrated the present, and anticipated the future

The Lord’s Supper, convened by Jesus with His disciples the night before He was crucified, took place on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17) during Passover. Finding the guestroom for this meal involved three people: the disciples Peter and John, and an unnamed servant (Mark 14:13-16; Luke 22:8-13). 

Jesus arranged for this supper by telling the disciples to go into the city, to meet the servant whom they would recognize by his carrying a  pitcher of water, and to ask his master to lend Jesus the large upper room for the meal (Mark 14:13). 

There are many theories about what Jesus and the twelve consumed at the meal, but Scripture only mentions bread (Mark 14:22; Matthew 26:26), fruit of the vine (Mark 14:25; Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18), and a dip for the bread (Mark 14:20; Matthew 26:23), most likely olive oil (Exodus 29:2) containing bitter herbs (Numbers 9:11). Lamb would not be on the menu that day, as no work, such as killing, preparing, and cooking a lamb, could be done on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:4-7).

It is fitting that the Passover lamb could not be sacrificed until the following day (Exodus 12:6), when Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), would Himself be crucified beginning at the third hour (Mark 15:25) of the day (around 9AM), with the time of death at the ninth hour, around 3PM (Mark 15: 34).

Jesus knew the agonizing ordeal He would face in a few hours, yet He began His last meal by giving thanks (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17-19), emphasizing that we should thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

He knew that He was about to be betrayed, arrested and subjected to three false trials; rejected, humiliated, and scorned by His chosen people; and beaten, crowned with thorns, and crucified. Even worse, all but John of His beloved disciples abandoned Him during this ordeal; He had to witness the heartbreak of His mother; and at the moment He took on all of mankind’s sins, God had to look away and Christ could not call Him “Father” (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).

Jesus explained the symbolism of the Last Supper to His disciples (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20). The bread He broke represented His body that would be broken on the cross; the fruit of the vine represented His blood that would be shed to take away mankind’s sin; and all were to drink of the cup to symbolize their spiritual union with Him.

The same three products consumed at the Lord’s Supper constituted the meat and drink offering given at the feast of firstfruits, which looked forward to Jesus as the First to rise from the dead to a glorified body. The meat offering was cakes made of two tenth deals of fine flour mixed with olive oil, and the drink offering was the fourth part of an hin of wine (Leviticus 23:13).

The absence of leaven in the offering cakes, in the manna God provided to feed His children in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15,31), and in the Passover bread connotes the absence of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-7) in Christ. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35,48), the Bread of God (John 6:33), and the Living Bread giving eternal life (John 6:51) to all those who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) .

For Jesus and His apostles, the Lord’s Supper therefore remembered God’s deliverance and acts of worship established in the past: His sparing the firstborn Hebrew children from the angel of death in Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13; 21-23); the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:17; 23:15; 34:18; etc.) to commemorate the Passover, and the temple offerings at the feast of firstfruits (Leviticus 23:13).

At the first Passover, the scarlet thread of redemption by the blood was dramatically shown in the blood sacrifice of the lamb, to mark with blood the lintel and two side posts of each doorway (Exodus 12:5-7;22-23). This forerunner of the sign of the cross signified that the angel of death should “pass over” the homes thus marked, sparing the life of the firstborn within.

For all those sealed by our faith in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, death will “pass over” us in that our physical body will die, but we will pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4)., and we will live eternally with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Our soul and spirit will forever be with the Lord and will ultimately inhabit our glorified body, which will never age, get sick, or die (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).

During the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus and His apostles were highly engaged in the present moment. Jesus had longed for and was now savoring His fellowship with the disciples (Luke 22:15), serving them (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23), and teaching them by His example, by explanation, and by warnings that they would betray, deny, or abandon Him (Matthew 26:21-24; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-34).

The disciples responded at first with self-examination, each asking with great sorrow if he was the one who would betray Christ (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19), but this soon degenerated into arguing over who would be the guilty one and even into jockeying for position regarding who could be considered the “best” disciple (Luke 22:23-24).

How this must have grieved Jesus, particularly on the eve of His crucifixion, and yet don’t we do the same today? We examine our own hearts all too briefly, then attempt to justify ourselves by judging sins in others and concluding wrongly that we’re better by comparison.

While remembering the past and living in the present, Jesus also used His last supper before His death to prophecy the future. He prophesied that His body would be broken and His blood shed in His crucifixion. He looked forward to the new covenant between Holy God and sinful man, reconciling them by His perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay the entire debt for all our sins (Matthew 26:28). Finally, He prophesied His coming Kingdom, when He would again eat the unleavened bread and drink the fruit of the vine in fellowship with His beloved at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16,18).

Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should remember Christ’s sacrifice, thank Him for our salvation, and look forward to His Second Coming! 

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hosanna – Save Now!

God used ordinary things to convey the extraordinary meaning of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when He rode on a donkey and was hailed by His people. John tells us that the multitude cried Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:13). 

“Hosanna,” which appears six times in the Gospels referring to the triumphal entry, has similar forms in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. It means "save now,” “rescue," or "savior," and in Hebrew, it is “Jehovah hoshiah-nna” which means “I beseech thee, O Lord, save now.” 

Those shouting it on that day most likely did not realize the true significance of their greeting, as they were not looking for salvation from their sins or for eternal life, but for a warrior and king to deliver them from Roman oppression. 

Luke’s Gospel says that as Christ approached the mount of Olives, the disciples rejoiced and praised God for the miracles He had done, shouting Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest (Luke 19:38). 

This greeting is prophesied in Psalm 118: 25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. 

But Psalm 118 goes on to emphasize what the crowd did not realize: 27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. 

As Jesus, Light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12) entered Jerusalem on this occasion, it was not to conquer Israel’s enemies and to rule over the city, as His followers had hoped (Matthew 20:21). Instead, it was to sacrifice Himself, the perfect, divine God the Son (Isaiah 53:5-12). He would “save now” by laying down His life (John 15:13) to pay for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29), so that all who would repent and trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) would have everlasting life (John 3:16). 

Despite their blindness to His true purpose, Jesus’ followers praised Him mightily and loudly on that first Palm Sunday, so much so that the Pharisees demanded that He stop their acclamations (Luke 19:39). The world will always throw a wet blanket on Christian praise, but it is ironic that the chief religious elders of that day were the ones to do it. 

But God’s creation cannot be silent in worshipping Him, and Jesus answered “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (v.40).” Genuine Christian praise ultimately can’t be suppressed because even the creation praises the Creator – bird songs, babbling brooks, flowers wafting their scent upward to Heaven all glorify Him. 

Sadly, the crowd of about 2,700,000 Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover offered Him genuine praise, but for the wrong reasons. Matthew 21:10 tells us that they were “moved,” with the corresponding Greek word meaning “convulsed” or “stirred” as by an earthquake. 

They cried “Hosanna,” recognizing that He was the son of David, as expected for the King Who would deliver them (Jeremiah 22:2; Revelation 22:16). They knew He was of the right lineage to rule over them, but not that He should be called Lord by David himself (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36). They realized that Jesus came in the name of the Lord, but not that He Himself was Lord of all (Matthew 21:9-10; John 13:13; Revelation 17:14;19:16). 

 They asked the question that is the most significant question in all history: “Who is this?” (v. 10). And they answered their own question incorrectly, saying that Jesus was the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. 

“Who is this?” is the trillion-dollar question for all time, which every person must deal with to determine their eternal destiny. Not one of us can ignore the question of who Jesus is to us. We can be hostile and reject Him altogether as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65, Mark 14:64) like the Pharisees who pridefully placed their trust in their own good works and religiosity to get to Heaven (Luke 18:10-14),. But our destiny will be eternal hell, for we are saved not by works but by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

We can get our emotions stirred up over praising a popular hero, like many in the crowd who waved branches and shouted praises without knowing or accepting Him. Their feelings were shallow and short-lived (Matthew 13:20-21), as was evident when they cried out for His crucifixion five days later. But God knows the hearts (Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8), and mouthing empty praises will not change our destiny from eternal punishment in hell (Luke 13:23-28). 

We can even honor Jesus as a good man, teacher, and prophet, or God’s messenger to tell us God’s will. But if we reject His claim to be God in the flesh (John 1:1-14), our destiny will still be eternal torment in hell (John 3:18). 

Only if we call on His Name, accepting Jesus as Lord, God and Savior, will we have eternal life with Him in Heaven (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Only if we ask Him “Save now!” – “Hosanna” – recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior, that our good works apart from His salvation are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and that faith in His death, burial and resurrection is the only way to Heaven, do we have the right answer to that crucial question. 

Psalm 24 asks that fateful question and gives a paradigm-shifting answer, affirming that Jesus is LORD! 

8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. 

He is our risen Savior Who conquered sin and death forever more! (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55) Through Him alone we have eternal life! Trust Jesus today as God, King of glory and Lord of your life!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives