Sunday, May 7, 2017

everywhere a sign: from the rainbow to the wine (part 3)

The Word for today:
Luke 22:63-23:12
What do the rainbow, circumcision. Sabbath, baptism, Passover, and Communion have in common? They are "signs of the covenant."
When Jesus pronounced the New Covenant in his blood, he told the disciples to commemorate his sacrifice with the bread and wine of "Communion."
Today we conclude a 3-part series that places our communion ritual within the context of scripture's other "signs of the covenant."
The biblical covenants are the terms of the relationship between God and man. We might think of the covenants as "contracts," but thinking of them that way takes all of the romance out of them.
Perhaps the best contemporary analogy for the covenants are the promises we repeat at our weddings. And the best analogy for the "signs" of these covenants are the rings we exchange.
The rings have no meaning in and of themselves. In fact, they need not be worn at all. So too with communion: it never saved anyone. What saves us is Jesus' sacrifice on the cross--which communion only commemorates.
The Last Supper--the ultimate Passover
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." (Luke 22:7-8)
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Luke 22:19-20)
1. The sacrifice must be examined.
In accordance with the ordinance the priest must examine the offering. The priest on duty at the time was John the Baptist, the strictest moral authority in scripture.
(To understand John's role, we must go way back to Exodus. There we learn that the priests were to be descended from Moses' brother, Aaron. John was in the line of Aaron, son of the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.)
The relentless examination of the Passover Lamb had begun before the birth of both the examiner and the examined:
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:39-41)
John, Jesus' cousin, inspected him for 30 years. In order to be acceptable, the sacrifice had to be flawless: a lamb; a male, without blemish, in the prime of life. (Exodus 12:3-5)
After thorough inspection, the Lamb was found to be worthy:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
Along the way, other corroborating witnesses would confirm John the Baptist's judgment:
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day (of the first month of the year) every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire. (from Exodus 12:3-8)
Jesus' brother James, who lived under the same roof with Jesus for most of their lives, never even mentioned their natural relationship in the epistle he later wrote, because he had come to see himself as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." (James 1:1)
The disciples lived with him moment by moment, day by day, under the most trying circumstances. To a man, they would give their lives testifying of their sinless Savior.
The Pharisees, Jesus' implacable enemies, testified by their silence. Jesus asked them, "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" There wasn't a sound to be heard. (John 8:46)
The thief on the cross next to Him: "He's done nothing wrong".
The centurion who directed the crucifixion: "Truly this must be the Son of God."
Pontius Pilate: "I find no fault in Him"
Judas Iscariot: "I've betrayed innocent blood"
For generation after generation, the lamb was the food featured at the Passover supper. But there was no mention of a lamb at the Last Supper, because that would have meant there were two.
No doubt the disciples looked around, as Isaac had long ago, and asked:
"The fire is ready, but where is the Lamb?"
Jesus replied, just as Abraham had replied long before, that God Himself would provide the Lamb:
"This cup is the New Covenant in my blood."
2. The blood must be poured out:
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)
After having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:26)
3. But the poured-out blood must be applied in order to be effective.
The shed blood is not enough. It had to be applied to the door at Passover:
When I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)
It must be applied to the heart today:
"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)
Summary: from the rainbow to the wine…
Behind the rainbow stands a promise for all--that never again will the entire earth be engulfed by the waters of a flood.
The sign of the New Covenant--the sacramental taking of bread and wine in remembrance of Christ--is a reminder that those who attach meaning to the sign will never be engulfed by the fires of judgment which will consume this old earth prior to its renewal. But those who attach no meaning to the token are not under the blood, and thus not included in the promise:
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:5-7)
The rainbow is received by everyone, just as the sunlight and the water (the necessary elements of the phenomenon of the rainbow) are given to all:
He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
But the blood, though extended to everyone, is not received by all. And the blood is not efficacious unless it is applied--by a hyssop branch to the door at Passover; by faith to the individual heart today.
What is the ultimate sign?
All of the signs point to the ultimate sign: Jesus.
God looks at Jesus, and he remembers his covenant:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (which means, God with us). (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)
"And this shall be a sign unto you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12)

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