Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles

September 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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Jesus’s statements in John Chapter 6 about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (vv. 51-57) are taken by some people to be literal rather than metaphorical. This leads them to the conclusion that what we call the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion,” or what our Catholic friends call the “Eucharist” or “Mass,” should be considered a “sacrament” (something that infuses supernatural grace into the participants) or “sacerdotal” (something that requires a special blessing by a priest in order to be effective), and that the eating of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine is an ex opere operato (literally, “by the working of the works”) experience, meaning that the ceremony itself carries its own spiritual power within it. The correct view of Jesus’s “I AM the Bread of Life” discourse is that He was using a metaphor rather than instituting a literal rite necessary for true salvation by a mixture of works and grace.

And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:65-66

Out of the 12 capital D Disciples, all 12 were chosen to literally “follow” Jesus, but only 11 would turn out to be truly given by God to the Son.

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

John 6:67-71

John Chapter 7 describes Jesus’s attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

John 7:2

The Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular of the three yearly Jewish “pilgrimage” feasts. The other two were the feast of Passover (which celebrated the liberation from Egypt and the barley harvest) and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (which conincided with the wheat harvest). The Feast of Tabernacles was at the time of the grape and olive harvest, in the fall of the year. People would travel to Jerusalem or Judea and build little tabernacles out of twigs and sticks. (Obviously they were not afraid of the big bad wolfthe big bad wolf – just kidding.) The feast would last for seven days, on the last of which a big ceremony would take place featuring the lighting of a lampstand and the pouring out of water. You can imagine the significance in John’s Gospel of Jesus’s parallels as the light of the world and the living water, but Jesus’s earthly brothers didn’t care about this. They challenged Him to go there and take advantage of the opportunity to show His power and gain followers – not believing at that time in His Deity, but seeing Him as an opportunist with His own (apart from God the Father’s) agenda.

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 7:3

Jesus’s response to them was very similar to what He told Mary at the wedding in Cana when she suggested that He solve the wine shortage problem with His power.

Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

John 7:6

Jesus may have been chiding them to a degree in suggesting that they cared not for God’s timing, and, as ordinary and inconsequential unbelievers, they could do what they wanted when they wanted. Jesus never denied His Deity – although He often kept it on the downlow – but when challenged directly in a non-dangerous setting He would draw a clear delineation between acting at the request of men as opposed to acting only in strict accord with God the Father’s will… even when what He intended to do did happen to coincide with what was being requested.

When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

John 7:9-10

What follows in most of the rest of John Chapter 7 is a pattern of Jesus teaching in the Temple during the feast, the opposition or anger or confusion that His teaching caused, and the narrative of the Jewish religious leaders trying to figure how to put a stop to it.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

John 7:19

They acted as though the held Moses and the Law “he” gave (God actually gave it through Moses) in high regard, yet they neither understood it, nor applied it consistently, nor believed its true purpose: pointing to the Savior Who now stood in their midst. The Law said “thou shalt not kill” and they were actively trying to kill the personal embodiment of the Law itself. They were mad that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and told Him to carry his mat, yet when a baby was scheduled to be circumcised (which was a law prior to Moses) fell on the Sabbath they did something more labor intensive than carrying a mat. Plus, the whole point of circumcision was to make the person a part of the Covenant family – to make him (ironically) wholly pure.

The people were starting to wonder, if Jesus was such a blasphemer, why didn’t the authorities go ahead and arrest him and put Him to death?

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

John 7:25-26

Not only were they not arresting Him, but they didn’t even appear to be trying to shout Him down or shut Him up: “Is it possible they are not so sure He’s a blasphemer, and that He really might be Who He says He is?”

Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

John 7:27

But the counterargument was: “Nah, the Messiah is supposed to show up out of nowhere, or at least remain hidden until He announces His arrival in Jerusalem, but we know Jesus! He’s just the ordinary son of a carpenter and His pregnant-before-marriage wife… Pfft, from Nazareth, of all places, too!”

Ulimately the Pharisees did attempt to arrest Him.

The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

John 7:32

In response, Jesus messed with their heads, by telling them that He would go on the lam to a place where they could never find Him.

Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

John 7:33-34

This is classic Gospel-of-John irony. “Where would He be going that we can’t follow?” the Pharisees asked. Later He would tell His Disciples something similar, but then He would be talking about going to Heaven to prepare for their own reception. Here, though it escapes their comprehension, the Jewish leaders are being told that they can’t come where He is going because they are unbelievers and have no part with the God Who they were so proud of knowing in comparison to the gentiles/heathen.

Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

John 7:35

Jesus will receive only those who “believe on Him” and Who He really is.

Ordinance, Not Sacrament

September 5, 2019 at 11:17 am | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:52-54

This language about eating flesh and drinking blood is not sacramental language. It is metaphorical language, alhtough Roman Catholic theologians say that, as early as Ignatius of Antioch, Christians believed that Jesus was in fact instituting the so-called sacrament of the Eucharist. They believe that the observation of the Lord’s Supper is sacramental or sacerdotal – that it infuses grace ex opere operato – but it’s not. Jesus is not – nor does He ever become – intermingled with, or substituted for, literal bread or wine or grape juice, any more than He – as the Living Water – becomes literal water, or – as the Door – becomes a literal Door, or – as the True Vine – becomes a literal grapevine. The theme of the Gospel of John is “that ye might believe” – not believe that you must participate in the so-called Eucharist, but that you might BELIEVE that Jesus is the Son of God and that in Him alone – by His grace alone – through faith alone – you might have eternal life.

The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the only ordinances – not sacraments – of the Church, and they are important ordinances, but, being “works” they do not infuse or impart supernatural grace, and they can not save souls. Christians reading John 6 during the time when it was first written, even if they were already practicing the observation without a full understanding of why they were doing it, would see what the Lord’s Supper represents, not that it is commanded as a so-called means of grace.

Flipping the Script on the Passover

September 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Mark | 3 Comments
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And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

Mark 14:3-5

We know from John 12 that Judas Iscariot was the main instigator of this criticism against Mary because of her supposed wastefulness. It is ironic that Judas (fittingly named “the son of perdition“) criticized Mary for wastefulness, since he is the one who wasted his life following Jesus while probably never truly believing unto salvation.

There is much scholarly debate and theological dispute about the precise Biblical event which should count as the “birth of the Church,” but here in Mark 14 Jesus institutes the New Covenant.

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

Mark 14:22

Jesus was following the traditional passover pattern as He blessed and broke the bread, but then He flipped the script drastically by revealing that this was to be a representation of His own broken body.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Mark 14:23-24

Jesus, despite Roman Catholic dogma, did not literally transform the bread and the wine into His body and blood.

Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14:25-26

It seems odd to me that the pattern for almost all modern Christian church services is to sing first, and then to proceed with the rest of the service (preaching, etc.), when, IF this really was the first true meeting of the “Church,” they sang last. In any event, the ordinance of communion is for the purposes of memory and fellowship. Its observance holds no saving merit whatsoever, and it does not infuse any grace ex opere operato.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

Mark 14:32-33

The experiences of Peter, James, and John mirror what would later be expressed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:9-10

They would see Christ’s deity on the Mount of Transfiguation (“that I may know Him”); they would see “the power of His Resurrection” at the home of Jairus; and they would witness “the fellowship of His sufferings” at the Garden of Gethsemane.

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-35

Jesus, even in His humanity, said, “Abba, Father.” We who are truly Christians have this privilege also, but we can only call God “Abba” IN CHRIST. As a general rule I don’t like to criticize the way people pray out loud in public or in church meetings. I’m certainly awkward at it myself. But I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of closing public prayers with a mumbled “in Your name we pray.” It is such an awesome privilege to be able to intimately call upon the Father in prayer, and such an enormously high price was paid to purchase this privilege for us, that we ought to be extremely clear about in Whom we dare to approach the Most High with our requests, intercessions, praises, and thanksgivings.

The Cause, Confusion, and Consequences: Problems with the Lord’s Supper

August 18, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 5 Comments
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In I Corinthians Chapter 11 the Apostle Paul, after addressing some issues concerning head coverings in church services, also addressed abusive practices pertaining to the Lord’s Supper.

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

I Corinthians 11:17-18

Like many of their problems, the cause of the Corinthian Christians’ problems with their observance of the Lord’s Supper was disunity. The nature of the disunity was made clear:

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

I Corinthians 11:20-21

The whole point of the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be fellowship and communion, but the rich church members were eating their own meals instead of sharing with the poor members, and apparently some of the poor were looking forward to a free buffet instead of an opportunity to remember Christ’s death. People were using the occasion as a reason for physical excess rather than spiritual worship.

The Holy Spirit through Paul identified their confusion: Worship must involve sacrifice. It is antithetical to selfishness.

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

I Corinthians 11:33-34

Furthermore, this is an ordinance of the Church commanded by the Lord, so naturally there are consequences for doing it unworthily.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

I Corinthians 11:26

Jesus is the reason for the whole affair – to remember that He instituted the New Covenant in His blood – so it is obvious that it should be a joyous but also a solemn affair.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

I Corinthians 11:27

“Unworthily” is often said to said to mean that someone with unconfessed sin should not participate in the Lord’s Supper, but none of us are worthy – only Christ is. The context seems to plead for understanding “unworthily” as meaning something done without the proper dignity or motivation for being there, although the next verse does lend support to the idea that we must take an inventory of any sins which are keeping us from fellowshipping with the Lord with a clean conscience:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I Corinthians 11:28-29

“Damnation” here refers to consequential judgment, not eternal damnation.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

I Corinthians 11:30

The consequences of eating and drinking unworthily in remembrance of Christ’s shed blood and broken body are revealed to be sickness and potential death.

Leavenless Lump

October 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

I Corinthians 5:7

The Passover feast was Christ’s appointed time – the time when the spotless Lamb of God would shed His blood for the sins of the world. A little over 2000 years later, under the New Covenant, we remember this occasion by observing the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

At the Jewish Passover there was to be no leaven in the lump of dough used to make the bread. Leaven is a picture of sin in a congregation. Leaven may be small, but it is powerful. It works secretly. It “puffs up.” It spreads.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I Corinthians 5:11

Sometimes the Lord’s Supper is called “Communion,” a word which speaks of common unity. When a group of New Testament Christians assembles to observe the ordinance of Communion, one the worst instances of “leaven” would be feelings of hatred among different members of the body.

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I Corinthians 5:8

Forgetting To Remember – Part 1

April 23, 2010 at 9:28 am | Posted in Biblical Remembering, I Corinthians, II Corinthians | 14 Comments
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And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

I Corinthians 11:24

Many times, the Word of God tells us to do things that it seems like we just should not have to be told to do. “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). “Children, obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). “Love one another” (starting in John 13:34 and 18 more times). “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). When we think of all these things that we have to be told to do – often more than once – maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that, even though we owe Him everything, we still have to be told to remember the Lord Jesus Christ.

How could we forget Him, even for a moment? I am afraid it has to do with proximity – with what we are close to.

You might say, “Nothing is closer to me than My Savior! His very blood has washed my soul! He is my Lord, my Master, my Friend, my Constant Companion.” I hope that is your testimony – but you have another one living within you who might argue with you about that: the flesh man. He still desires the pretty things of this world – the pleasurable things of this world. Dare I say, the sinful things of this world? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – these things are very, very close to him every day. Yes, God’s love and God’s presence are far greater and far more powerful than the lure of these things. But the sun’s size and gravitational pull are far greater than the moon’s. In fact, the earth is bigger than the moon. Yet the moon pulls the seas and causes waves. It has a great effect on the earth simply because it is closer to it. That is why, if we are to obey the Lord – and remember Him – we must also be in a constant effort to fortify the spirit man for battle against the flesh man.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:5

According to the Lord, we are a forgetful people. Perhaps we are too forgetful because we don’t pause to truly consider how glorious our Lord is – and what a glorious thing He has done in providing for our salvation. I once heard a story about a missionary in Asia or the Philippines who preached to a group of Christian converts, and then retired to his own tent for the night. In the morning, when he went back to the place of meeting, he was surprised to find that the converts had not gone home and had not slept all night. He tried to explain to them that, when he left for the night, the meeting had been over, and they had been free to go back to their own homes. “What?” was their shocked reply, “You told us last night that the Son of God died to save us from the punishment we deserve because of our sins, and that He then rose again from the dead! How can we sleep after hearing THAT?” Sadly, in our culture, I am afraid that some us fall asleep while hearing it.

For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

II Corinthians 3:9

The Old Covenant Law was a ministry of condemnation and (in a sense) death.

For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

II Corinthians 3:10-11

The Old Covenant was glorious, but it was a fading glory. When we speak of forgetfulness, we say that the memory is starting to “fade.” But the New Covenant is so much more glorious – it will never fade away – and it must never fade from our memory. We have little trouble remembering the birthdays of so-called “great” men who contributed to our culture, country, or history. We have little trouble remembering the people in our life who have sacrificed for us or done us some great kindness in the past. How much more has Christ done for us!

To be continued…


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