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Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s supper’

Last week we looked at what the Lord’s supper means. Here’s a bit of review as we get started today.

  • The bread is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ broken body on the cross. It also points back to the Passover deliverance from slavery. The bread, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death delivers us from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.
  • The cup is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ blood poured out on the cross. It also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai when Israel entered into a new relationship with God, when God forgave their sins and they committed to obey God. The cup, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death brings us into a new relationship with God. God forgives our sins and we commit to obey God.

So this is the symbolism of the meal.

But the Lord’s supper invites our participation. Think about it, Jesus didn’t say to the disciples look here are tokens of my death on the cross. Put this on a table in front and look at it.

  • Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat.”
  • And he said of the cup, “Take, drink of it all of you.”

But what are we doing when we accept Jesus’ invitation and participate in the meal? Let’s look briefly at this, this morning, to help prepare us to share in communion together.

1. We remember Jesus

In speaking of his meal, Jesus said twice, “Do this in remembrance of me” – 1 Corinthians 11:24/25. This remembering command is similar to the one from the Passover meal. Exodus 12:14 says, “This day (Passover) shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.” Just as Israel was told to remember their salvation, so Jesus tells us to remember him – his death for us and the salvation we have through him.

Now, this is not a funeral like remembrance, you know, Jesus is gone and we miss him, and it’s grim and somber. No, Jesus is alive having been raised from the dead and is present with us as we celebrate! He is the true host of his meal.

So, this is a joyful remembrance as we think of his sacrificial love for us, our salvation through him and as we enjoy his presence with us.

2. We renew our baptismal testimony and commitments

In taking the bread we are reaffirming the testimony we made when we were baptized, we have been delivered from our sin, Satan and death, through the death of Jesus on the cross. And as well, in taking the cup we are reaffirming the testimony we gave when we were baptized, we have entered into a new relationship with God.

Also, we are reaffirming the commitments we made to God in baptism. In taking the bread, we are recommitting to leave behind sin and the world; that is we are re-expressing our repentance. And in taking the cup, we are recommitting to “obey everything” that Jesus has commanded us – Matthew 28:20; that is we are re-expressing our commitment to live a new life in Christ.

You see here that the Lord’s supper assumes that you have been baptized (which is why the church has always held that baptism was necessary to receive the bread and cup.) But also take note of this: baptism happens only once, but every time we continue to partake of the Lord’s supper, we renew our original baptismal testimony and commitment. It’s like our baptism once again.

3. We proclaim Jesus’ death

1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

As we go through the meal, and the meaning is made clear, it is a presentation of the gospel. We communicate that:

  • Jesus has died for us
  • He didn’t have to die, but freely gave himself in love for us
  • His death brings us salvation – deliverance and new relationship with God
  • If we want this salvation, we have to respond by receiving his body and blood, the benefits of his death on the cross
  • He is still alive, having been raised from the dead and is with us
  • He will return one day with blessing for those who wait for him

As we partake, we proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

4. We publicly show our covenant connection to Jesus

1 Corinthians 10:16 says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a partnering with the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a partnering with the body of Christ?”

In the ancient world, to eat with someone was a big deal. And to eat with a god in an idol sacrifice was a big deal. It spoke to a bond with the person or the god. This is the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 10:16.

What I have translated “partnering with” is a difficult word to translate here. The word is Koinonia. It means sharing in, or fellowshipping with. It’s where we get the word “communion.” Here it has the sense of showing your connection or covenant bond with someone.

Paul is saying, instead of publicly identifying with and connecting with demons through idol meals, we are to show forth our public connection or covenant bond with Jesus through the Lord’s Supper. When we partake, we declare for all to see that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. It is a declaration of allegiance.

5. We publicly show our covenant connection to each other

1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Because we are all connected to Jesus, through him we are all connected to each other! And partaking of the bread symbolizes this, that we are one body of Christ.

This is why it is important to make sure our relationships with each other are in good order. Not that there can’t be disagreements or conflict, but that we are doing everything we can, from our end, to live in peace with everyone. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And Jesus gives us this general principle of worship in Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

6. We offer up a sacrifice of praise to God

One word that is used to speak of the Lord’s Supper is “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper was often called this in the early church. And that’s because there is thanksgiving to God involved in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus took the bread and the cup, he gave thanks for them – Luke 22:19. This thanksgiving is rooted in a simple table blessing of food, but it is more – because Jesus says this bread and cup are not simply food. They represent his death for us. So Jesus teaches us here to give thanks for what this food and drink represent. We give thanks for his death on the cross for us.

Also, just after the Lord’s supper we are told – “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” – Matthew 26:30. During Passover it was traditional to sing from Psalms 113-118. These are praises, or hymns to God for, among other things, deliverance from Egypt, God’s steadfast love, and in Psalm 118:26 the Messiah. So after the meal they were praising God for salvation.

Scripture talks in several places about our praises as a sacrifice that we offer up to God. For instance Psalm 50:14 says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” As we partake and give thanks, we offer up to God a sacrifice of praise. (See Hebrews 13:15, which I take as a Lord’s supper reference.)

7. We look forward to the Messianic banquet

This refers to a time of feasting and celebration at the end of the age when God’s victory is established through Jesus and the kingdom of God has come in its fullness. Here are a couple of Scriptures that talk about this:

Isaiah 25:6-8 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Revelation 19:9 talks about this meal as “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Jesus makes the connection between the Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet in Matthew 26:29. He said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” So every time we partake, we anticipate the day when we will feast with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

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We are going to be sharing together in the Lord’s Supper next Sunday, Lord willing, and so I want us to look at the Scriptures and remind ourselves what this meal of Jesus means. Today we look at the symbolic meaning of the bread and the cup, and next week I would like for us to look at what it means for us to receive these elements.

 Let’s begin by reading Matthew 26:26-28 –

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The first thing we need to note, is that –

The supper symbolically portrays Jesus’ death on the cross

  • He says of the bread – “this is my body” (v. 26). The bread is connected to his body
  • He says of the cup – “this is my blood” (v. 28). The cup is connected to his blood

Now, some Christians take this too literally. They say that the bread and wine turn into Jesus’ real body and blood in one way or another. But Jesus is using figurative language. And the reason we know this, is that Jesus’ body and blood were still a part of him, with the disciples in the room as he spoke. What Jesus is saying is that this bread is a symbol of my body, and this cup is a symbol of my blood.

But the point is not just that these elements represent him, the bread and cup represent his death on the cross. 

  • That the bread is broken as it was distributed to be eaten shows that his body is broken – an image of his death on the cross
  • That the cup is poured out when they drank it shows that his blood is poured out – an image of his death on the cross.

These two elements signify Jesus’ death on the cross.

But there is another layer of meaning that helps us to understand the meaning of the bread and the cup, and thus Jesus’ death on the cross. This comes to us from –

 

The Exodus event

– and how God delivered Israel from Egypt. Jesus himself makes this connection. He intentionally uses the bread and the cup to connect his meal to the Exodus story. Let’s look at how this is so.

First, the bread comes from the Passover meal. Jesus makes it clear that the Last Supper is a Passover meal when he says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” – Luke 22:15. The Passover was the event that set Israel free, the meal celebrates that deliverance [Mishnah mPes 10.5]

And then the cup is identified by a phrase that comes from the covenant ceremony, from Exodus 24, when Israel entered into covenant with God. Jesus calls the cup the “blood of the covenant” – Matthew 26:28.

So there is a clear connection.

  • The bread not only points us to Jesus on the cross, it also points back to the Passover
  • The cup not only points us to Jesus on the cross, it also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai

Let’s look at this in more detail.

When the Exodus story begins, Israel was in slavery without God, afflicted and miserable. But God heard their cries for help and acted to deliver them.

One of the ways he saved them was the the Passover – Exodus 12:6b-7; 11-13  

 . . . the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it . . .. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

 What do we learn from the Passover meal? 1) There is a sacrificial death. They were to “kill their lambs” and put the blood on their door frames – 6b. 2) This death brings salvation to Israel. Not only are they not killed by the plague, they are delivered from slavery, misery and death in Egypt. v. 11 says, they are to eat it “with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand” because they will be leaving just after this.

And then we have the covenant ceremonyExodus 24:5-8. This is when Israel entered into covenant with God at Mt Sinai.

And Moses sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

What do we learn from this covenant ceremony? 1) There is a sacrificial death. They “offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen” – v. 5. 2) This death brings Israel into a new relationship (or covenant) with God. They received from God forgiveness for their sins (Moses took the blood and threw it on the people. Also, Hebrews 9:20-22; and Exodus Targum). And they committed to obey God. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” v. 7.  Even though they knew of Yahweh before, they were not in this kind of relationship with him. So this really is a new.

 

meaning-of-the-lords-supper-graphics

Bringing this all together

 When the Exodus story is brought in as a background to the event of Jesus’ death on the cross, we learn several things. First, just as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, so we are enslaved to Sin, Satan and Death; without Christ we are slaves to these hostile powers, lost in the world. There is a parallel here.

Second, just as they were delivered from slavery, so are we through Christ.

  • In the Passover, there was a sacrificial death (a Passover lamb) and this death brought salvation from slavery.
  • So, Jesus’ death is sacrificial (he is our Passover lamb) and it brings us salvation from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.

The bread reminds us of this. It points back to the Passover deliverance and forward to Jesus’ death on the cross and makes the connection between the two.

Finally, just as they entered into a relationship with God, so we enter into a new covenant relationship with God.

  • In the covenant ceremony there was a sacrificial death which brought them into a new relationship with God, through the forgiveness of their sins and their commitment to obey God.
  • So, Jesus’ death is sacrificial and it brings us into a new covenant relationship with God in the same way. We are forgiven, as Jesus said, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” – Matthew 26:28. And we commit to obey God in baptism, to quote Jesus from Matthew 28:20, “to obey all that I have commanded you.”

The cup reminds us of this. It points back to the covenant ceremony and forward to Jesus’ death on the cross and makes the connection between the two.

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It is a central truth of our faith that new life comes through brokenness. We all want new life right? But we don’t want brokenness because brokenness is all about humility, weakness, suffering, pain and sacrifice.

I want to share with you today three examples of how new life can come from brokenness:

1. The brokenness of repentance

Turn with me to Psalm 51:17. This is, of course, David repenting for some very serious failures before God. He is confessing his sin and seeking cleansing and renewal. And then he talks about animal sacrifices and how what God really wants comes from the heart. v. 17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  This is a description of his repentance.

As Elders we have focused on calling the church to spiritual renewal; on prayer and on seeking God for renewal in our congregation. For our vision we have not focused on a new building or some new defining program. We believe that God is calling us to be renewed and that God needs to come and move powerfully among us to transform us – and then we can talk about these other things.

This is what I would highlight for us this morning in terms of what I am talking about:

  • we are too comfortable as a congregation and set in our ways. We don’t want to take risks for God. Many like things just the way they are, as long as their needs are taken care. There is too much focus on us and not on the needs of others and the work of the kingdom.
  • we have too many walls that separate people in their relationships with each other. Not that people are fighting, but there are wounds, scars and bitterness from the past that haven’t been dealt with, which creates separation. So that we aren’t the close, loving and caring community that we could be.
  • we are too busy, always doing things and overwhelmed with our fast pace of life. Often what gets cut is our local congregation – investing in relationships with each other and doing ministry together. Let’s be clear, we are not victims here. Our lives are like they are because of choices that we make. And we need to make different choices.

And so spiritual renewal is needed. I don’t know if you accept this or not, but I am your pastor and I am telling you that spiritual renewal is needed. And this requires repentance as a first step.

Now if we do have the brokenness of repentance, God can come in and renew us. As David says in Psalm 51:10-12 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” New life comes through the brokenness of repentance.

2. The brokenness of difficult situations

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-8. Paul is here talking about various “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (v. 10) that he has gone through. Starting halfway through v. 7  he says, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” He is most likely talking about some physical ailment or the constant persecution that followed him around everywhere.

Well, we have difficulties in our congregation –

  • people who have physical needs – some long term with no fix.
  • people who struggle with depression, anxiety and more.
  • people who have gone through deep waters.

And as a congregation we have experienced brokenness in our most recent trial . . .

All of our trials are painful, whether our individual trials or our congregational trial. There is definitely brokenness among us.

When these things happen we can despair and give up. Or our suffering can lead us to God; to come to God in our weakness and pain and to find strength through more fully relying on him.

Paul talks about the new life that suffering can bring when he goes on in 2 Corinthians 12 to talk about the strength God gives. In vs. 9-10 he quotes the Lord who said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And then he says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” A deeper spiritual life of greater dependence and relationship with the Lord can be ours, because of the brokenness of our trials.

3. The brokenness of serving God

This comes from the verse on the front of your bulletin from John 12:24. Jesus is talking about his own life which he is about to give up, but it teaches the path that we are to take as well. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Serving God is all about walking in weakness. We are called to do things that no one is capable of doing in their own strength. And serving God is all about sacrifice – giving of ourselves to others, laying down our lives – even if people don’t receive it.

But through such death to self comes new life – for ourselves in terms of inner joy and the hope of the coming resurrection, and for those who respond to the ministry. It “bears much fruit.”

That life comes through the brokenness of service to God is supremely illustrated in the Lord’s supper. Jesus’ body was what? It was “broken” on the cross. Jesus’ blood was what? It was poured out on the cross. He laid down his life. But his brokenness led to his resurrection, and it also poured forth new life for all who will receive it.

As we receive the Lord’s supper today let’s remember the three kinds of brokenness:

1. If you need to repent, I invite you to do so, so that you can receive new life from God – a new heart and a renewed spirit.

2. If you are going through hard times, and as a congregation as we go through a hard time, let us throw ourselves at his feet and find spiritual renewal as we completely rely on him, so that in our weakness the power of God will shine forth more powerfully.

3. If you are tired and broken from serving God, I invite you to receive encouragement from God to know that it’s worth it; to receive joy now and remember your great hope for the future.

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We are back in the Gospel of John this morning. As we saw two weeks ago, Jesus has just gathered together his first disciples and has made them a big promise. He said to Nathanael that they would see greater things than just knowing what was in a person’s heart – how Jesus had seen into Nathanael’s heart. They would see “heaven opened.” Jesus promises them that through him God will be revealed to them.

And our story today is a down payment on this promise, the first of his miraculous signs, turning water into wine. And this took place in Cana of Galilee, which, by the way, is Nathanael’s hometown (21:2).

Alright, let’s look at –

The story

2:1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. The phrase “on the third day” means two days after the last recorded event, which was Jesus’ promise to the disciples.

Weddings were above all else joyful  celebrations, lasting for a week. And there was much feasting. It was a big party.  Jesus comes after it has started, perhaps in the middle or near to the end of the week.

He was most likely invited because of social connections. As we saw Cana was not too far from Nazareth (8.5 miles). And his mother is at the wedding, and as we will see in a minute she seems to be helping out, because she can tell the servants what to do. But also it would not be unusual to invite a prominent teacher to a wedding. (News of John the Baptist’s praise of Jesus would have traveled far.)

3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” We can speculate on why the wine ran out. The family doesn’t seem to be poor – there are servants present. The story simply doesn’t tell us. (“the mother of Jesus” – Mary is never named in this Gospel.)

But for sure, this would have shamed the groom, who was to provide adequate supplies for the guests (vs. 9-10). So there is a social etiquette disaster brewing here. Something that would be talked about for years (Keener).

4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus takes his mother’s statement, “they have no wine” as a request for him to do something about the situation.

Now, why Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” is not clear. It is highly unusual. (In fact, there is no parallel yet found of a son addressing his mother in this way in ancient literature.) The only other place where he addresses his mother, and in this way is when he is on the cross giving her into the care of the Beloved disciple (19:25-27). So it isn’t a rude way of speaking. He is taking care of her here.

Perhaps how he addresses his mother and the ensuing back and forth between Jesus and his mother all have to do with Jesus reframing his relationships as he gets ready to launch his ministry. He is the agent of the heavenly Father and must do just what the Father tells him (5:19). He is not simply Mary’s dutiful son. (For synoptic interactions between Jesus and Mary see – Luke 2:48-51; Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28. These are all distancing, and downplay natural relationships for spiritual ones.)

Jesus’ actual response to Mary is a mild rebuke. The question “what does this have to do with me?” is literally “what to me and to you.” It means, “why is this our problem?” It was the bridegroom’s responsibility (vs. 9-10). So there is some tension here.

She knew from when Jesus was born (not recorded in this Gospel) and from what John the Baptist was saying about Jesus, that he was to do great things for God. And perhaps she thought, “This is the time to launch your ministry son.” Perhaps she even expected miracles to be a part of this, it’s not clear.

In any case, she is prompting him to act. And she lets him know before those in charge of the wedding find out. (If this scenario is right this would be similar to how Jesus’ brothers counsel him to promote himself in chapter 7. Jesus responds negatively there as well, although we are explicitly told in their case that they do not believe in him.)

The problem with her suggestion, according to Jesus, is that his “hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ hour has to do with his death/resurrection. He doesn’t want to be forced into something on her terms or because of a social crisis. It is not the time to publicly begin his ministry with signs, which will eventually lead to his death and resurrection. The how and when of this is up to his heavenly Father.

So Jesus is saying to his mother, “This doesn’t concern me, it’s not my time.” But she puts it on him anyway, and that  in front of the servants. 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Although she would not have understood Jesus’ ministry leading to a cross (which is why she is confused and thinks Jesus is crazy later – Mark 3:21, 31), she does seem to demonstrate some faith in him here. She knew that he could take care of this problem. (We can all put ourselves in the place of the servants here and here Mary’s admonition, “do whatever Jesus tells you.” Dale Bruner).

As the rest of the story shows, Jesus responds, but does so on his own terms. He meets the need, and honors his mother’s request, but behind the scenes so as not to gain attention; so that it is not the public inauguration of his ministry. (A. Kostenberger)

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine . . .

The “six stone water jars” held water for ritual purifications, for use in keeping their utensils, hands, and their whole bodies ritually pure (see Mark 7:2-4). They are stone jars because stone was not susceptible to contracting ritual impurity, so the water could be used to clean other items. (This was not up to strict Pharisaic requirements, which required flowing water, but most Jews didn’t follow these stricter regulations.) (There is no necessity to see a negative message here on the water that is used for ritual purity. After the water was made wine, there was still water available for purification, from the same place they got the water to fill up the stone jars.)

The miracle isn’t really narrated. It happens in vs. 7-8 between filling up the jars and drawing out some of their contents.

Now, Jesus made real wine, that is, it is fermented. In fact, whenever the word “wine” is used in the Bible it refers to a fermented drink, or one that is in the early stages of fermentation (new wine). That this is true in this case will come out in v. 10. Although it should be noted that the wine was customarily served watered down at two to four parts water to one part wine.

The title, “master of the feast” was an honorary position. It was the person in charge of the feast and the wine.

9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

So, the servants knew what was going on, but the maser of the feast didn’t. (And so he certifies here that a miracle has in fact happened.)  He called the bridegroom because he was the one responsible for the wine. The point of his comment is that usually you serve the good wine first and then when it has had some effect on people from the alcohol – then you bring out the bad wine because they won’t notice it. But they have done the opposite. (The word for “drunk freely” is the regular word for being drunk. But given Jewish aversion to drunkenness perhaps he means some smaller measure of the effect of the alcohol on their taste.)

John likes to focus on really difficult miracles; the cream of the crop of miracles. This is true here in two ways:

  • First, in terms of amount, Jesus made somewhere between 120-180 gallons of wine. In v. 7 he said fill the jars and they filled them to the brim. This speaks to abundance.
  • Also, in terms of character, it was excellent wine, as the master of the feast said.

11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. As was noted this was a private miracle. The servants and his disciples saw it, and Mary would have known. But not the bride and groom, the master of the feast or the guests. There was no disturbance of the wedding. It was done behind the scenes.

But his disciples, we are told, “believed in him.” Their faith in him, already expressed in chapter 1, is deepened. (Literally they “believed into him,” a common phrase in John.) The function of Jesus’ signs is precisely to lead to some measure of faith, and this is what happed, in the case of his disciples.

Our story ends with v. 12 – After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

The bigger picture

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ signs point beyond themselves to what God is doing through Jesus. In this case, the miracle, I believe, points to the coming celebration on the final day.

Isaiah 25:6-9 speaks of this. 6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. God is going to throw a feast. Notice that the wine here is abundant, “a feast of” it, and it is high quality, “aged wine, well-refined” – just as in our story. (Also, the Messianic age in general was to be characterized by abundant wine and rejoicing – Jeremiah 31:12-14, Amos 9:13-14).

7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. This is referring to the resurrection, when death is defeated and all suffering will end. It is talking about the last day.

9It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” We will be rejoicing in the salvation of God.

This end-time feast is also seen as a wedding celebration in Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Revelation 19:6-9. This is when Christ will be married to his bride, the church.

Our story is connected to this in several ways:

1. Both are wedding celebrations with feasts.

2. Both are linked to the resurrection. “On the third day” is a reference Jesus’ resurrection on the third day, the beginning of the resurrection of the dead. (This phrase in linked to 2:19, the only other place where “three” or “third” is used in John’s Gospel. 2:19 is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection – Keener).

3. Both have to do with an abundance of fine wine, which the Lord provides.

So taking all this into account his actions here point us to what God is doing through him – Jesus is bringing about the promised end-time feast/wedding banquet at the resurrection. This is what God is up to in him and his ministry, which is about to go public in Jerusalem.

Finally, this morning, there is a connection with all this to

The Lord’s Supper

In Matthew 26:29 Jesus says, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The cup of the Lord’s Supper anticipates this end-time banquet and wedding at the resurrection. So as we partake today, let us not only remember how Jesus provided the wine for this earthly wedding – but how he will also provide the wine for that end-time feast and wedding banquet.

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Also, there is a way in which Jesus’ first week, ending with this wedding, is portrayed as a wedding:

– Wedding were a week long. John gives us a week’s worth of Jesus’ activity.  

– John the Baptist, at the beginning of the week, functions as the friend of the bridegroom, introducing Jesus, and testifying to him. (In chapter 3:29 John the Baptist uses this language of Jesus as the groom and himself as the friend of the bridegroom.) 

– During this week, Jesus gathers up his disciples/bride and comes to this wedding at the end of the seven days narrated in chapter 1.

– The groom was responsible to provide the wine – 2:9-10. Jesus as the bridegroom provides the wine here.

 Also note that the story in Mark 2:18-22 speaks of Jesus’ coming as a time of joy, connected to a wedding and there is a parable about wine.

William Higgins

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 I want to share some words today that I hope will help us to understand and remember how significant it is to receive the Lord’s supper. When we partake, we not only remember Jesus; we not only proclaim his death; we not only give thanks for the salvation he gives  – we are also called to do something. We are called to follow Jesus in his self-sacrifice. And we need to know and remember this as we partake. Our text is –

Luke 9:23-24

 23And Jesus said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”

In this passage Jesus calls us to sacrifice; to give it all up for him. And he describes what this means with three phrases:

1) He said “deny yourself.” That is, say ‘no’ to your own desires, ambitions and plans. Say ‘no’ to what you want to do with your earthly life.

2) He said “take up your cross.” A cross, of course, was an instrument of death, a particularly cruel means to enact capital punishment. To take it up is to carry the cross beam to the execution site where you are to die. This means that you accept that your earthly life is over.

3) And in line with this last thought, he said, “lose your life.” Give up your earthly life.

Now let’s look at our Lord’s example for he lived this out.

Jesus gave it all up for us

1. He gave up his place with the Father. Philippians 2:6-7 says that Jesus, “ . . . though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself . . . being born in the likeness of men.”

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

The gospel of John tells us that Jesus left “the glory that (he) had with (the Father) before the world existed” in order to dwell among us. (John 17:5; 1:14).

He gave up all privilege, power and place. He gave up things beyond what we can even begin to understand, to come to earth.

2. He gave up a normal life. When he grew up he left his family. And he also incurred their disapproval. At one point Mark tells us that his family “went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” – Mark 3:21

He gave up the joy of having a wife and children. As he said in Matthew 19:12, he made himself a eunuch “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

He gave up having a normal home. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” – Matthew 8:20.

He gave up a normal pattern of living – with a normal job, regular friends, and free time for himself. He gave up his earthly life.

3. He served others. He gave all of his time and energy to ministry. He gave his love and concern and compassion. As he said in Mark 10:45, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”

He made himself available to minister to people’s needs, traveling almost constantly, healing, casting out demons and teaching. And then there was the arguing with the religious leaders who always tried to find ways to discredit him.

And he did all this to the point of exhaustion. Mark 6:30-32 tells the story how Jesus sought to get away for a time of rest with his disciples, but the crowd learned of this and beat him to the place where he was going. But when he saw this, he still had compassion on them and fed the 5,000.

He bore with people’s weaknesses. For instance when the disciples didn’t get what he was teaching them. Mark 8:17-18 says, “And Jesus . . .  said to them, ‘Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?’” These were the ones he had invested his time in to train to take over after his death.

He was also frustrated by people’s failures. When his disciples couldn’t cast out a demon, he said, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” – Mark 9:19. And Jesus had to do it. Again, these were the ones he was leaving in charge.

In love, Jesus served others with his life and bore with those he ministered to.

4. He suffered. He suffered rejection from the Pharisees and Sadducees, his opponents. John tells us that, “he came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:8). He endured the rejection of his own disciples who abandoned him in the end. Even Peter denied him with curses and oaths – Matthew 26:74.

He suffered the loss of honor as he was mercilessly mocked by the Jewish leaders and Romans. He was put to shame.

He suffered physically through extensive torture and crucifixion, being nailed to the cross, and eventually unable to breathe due to exhaustion. Jesus suffered.

5. He died. As Mark 15:37 says, “Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.”

This is a five-fold portrait of what it means to deny yourself, to take up your cross and to lose your life. This is what these things mean. Jesus shows us fully and truly.

And if you think that it was easy for Jesus to give it all up because he was the Son of God – you’re mistaken. Just look at him in Gethsemane. Scripture tells us that Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said . . . ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’” – Mark 14:33-34. He struggled in prayer, “Is this the only way, God?”

His giving up everything is portrayed in the Lord’s supper. Here we see represented his broken body and his poured out blood. Here we see that he denied himself, he took up his cross and he lost life. He gave it all up for us.

Jesus call us to give it all up for him

 He is saying, I denied myself for you. I took up the cross for you. I lost everything for you. Now you deny yourself for me. Take up your cross for me. Lose everything for me.

1. We are to give up our privilege, power and place. This is the commitment. It has to all be on the altar. Even if Jesus says to me, like the rich young ruler,  “Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor . . . and come, follow me” – Luke 18:22, this is what I will do.

Now God doesn’t call everyone to do this. But whatever God specifically calls me to in my life circumstances, this is what I will do. And God calls us each of us to give up something, as we lower ourselves like Jesus and come to a place where we can be used by God.

2. We are to give up a normal life. He might call you to give it all up like he did with Paul. To leave family behind (Mark 10:28-30), to give up marriage and children (Matthew 19:11-12), a normal home (Matthew 8:19-22), a normal job, regular friends, and free time. Each of us commit to do this. It has to all be on the altar.

But even if we are not called to literally give all this up, we must accept the disruption of normal family ties due to our faith.

  • Even if it seems that we hate them in comparison to our love for Jesus, and they react to it (Luke 14:26).
  • Even if we are married, with children and normal jobs, as Paul says, because of the coming kingdom, “let those who have wives live as though they had none . . . For the present form of this world is passing away.” – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
  • Even if we have free time, we regularly give it up for God and to do God’s work.
  • Even if we are blessed with resources we don’t hold on to them for ourselves, we use them to further the kingdom.

3. We are to serve others with our time and resources. In love we are to minister to their needs. This will depend on our gifts and callings, but each of us is to serve, whether in this congregation  or beyond it.

So find your place, plug in and get to work. And don’t be surprised if this is hard work bearing with people’s weaknesses and failures. But we continue to serve others in love, as Jesus did.

4. We are to suffer. We must be willing to suffer rejection, from family, friends and coworkers (Luke 14:26). We must be willing to suffer the loss of honor, even if it is only ridicule or slander for our connection to Jesus (Matthew 5:11). We must be willing to suffer physically as well.

5. We are to die. We take up our cross “daily” (Luke 9:23) in all these ways that we have looked at so far -#1-4. But here we are to literally die, if it comes to this; if this is what it means to be faithful to God.

Again we have a five-fold portrait of the cross. And each of us are to live this out in our own situations, according to God’s will and purpose for us. But our commitment is all the same – it has to all be on the altar. For anything that isn’t, family, job, home, will become an idol that will disrupt and destroy our Christian life.

So let’s remember

When we partake of the Lord’s supper – we don’t just see Jesus having given it all up for us in the bread and cup, we renew our commitment to give it all up for him and to live this out in whatever way God calls us to do this.

But let’s also remember the promise. When we do this, we will be blessed. It isn’t all just sacrifice. We give up this life in order to gain the next life – something both better and enduring.

As Jesus said in Luke 9:24, “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” We will enter into the eternal kingdom. Just as Jesus was raised, honored and blessed, so we will be raised, honored and blessed.

William Higgins 

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When we partake of the Lord’s supper, we receive the bread and the cup. But what does this mean?

The bread comes from the Passover meal, which Jesus and his disciples were eating together. The Passover meal celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery, misery and death in Egypt. It was celebrated just before their deliverance. They were to be dressed and ready to go and afterwards they were set free. Also, this deliverance was connected to sacrificial death. While the Egyptians were judged, the blood of the lambs protected the Israelites. God passed over their homes. (Exodus 12:6-13). So the bread from this meal calls to mind deliverance from slavery through sacrificial death.

Jesus used this bread to symbolically speak of his death – “this is my body” – Mark 14:22. And just as the bread is broken when it is given out to be eaten, he is saying that through his sacrificial death, his broken body on the cross, we are set free from slavery. We are set free from slavery to the world, Satan, our sin and death and we commit to leave all this behind.

The cup is connected to the Mosaic covenant ceremony which happened after Israel traveled out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai. Jesus makes this connection when he uses the phrase “my blood of the covenant” – Mark 14:24, which comes from this event. This ceremony was about new relationship with God. When Israel entered into covenant with God, God forgave them and they agreed to obey everything in the Mosaic covenant. Also, this new relationship is connected to sacrificial death. The blood of the oxen was sprinkled on the altar and the people. It was the “the blood of the covenant.” (Exodus 24:5-8). So the cup, connected to this, brings to mind a new relationship with God through sacrificial death.

Jesus used the cup to symbolically speak of his death – “this is my blood” – Mark 14:24. And just as the cup is “poured out” (Mark 14:24) as it is received, he is saying that through his sacrificial death, through his poured out blood on the cross, we have a new relationship with God; a new covenant. Our sins are forgiven and we commit to do all that Jesus commands us.

When we receive the bread and the cup we acknowledge all this as true in our lives:

  • When you eat the bread you are saying that through Jesus I am set free from the world, Satan, sin and death and I choose to leave all this behind.
  • When you drink the cup you are saying that through Jesus I have a new relationship with God. I am forgiven and I commit to do all that Jesus has commanded.

These are the very things that we acknowledged at the time of our baptism. And each time we partake of the Lord’s supper we renew this baptismal testimony and commitment to God.

William Higgins

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(Lord’s supper devotional)

We are celebrating the Lord’s supper today. And certainly a part of what we are doing is remembering Jesus’ love for us. And that’s because we see his love displayed before us in the bread and cup – a picture of his death on the cross for us.

So as we partake today let’s think a bit more about his love for us. I would like to highlight three things in particular this morning. And I will speak in personal terms.

 1. He loved me, though I did not deserve it

I did nothing to be worthy of his love. I had no claim on him that he had to love me so. Rather, I have shown time and again, that apart from God I am rebellious against God. That is, I want to do things my own way, have control of my own life. And I am also self-centered when it comes to other people. Me first, and others second, if at all. I may not have displayed this very openly, but that was also for my own self-centered reasons.

The fact is that through my words and actions, I have made myself thoroughly unlovable. All of my twisted rebelliousness and self-centeredness made me abhorrent to Jesus, because he is exactly the opposite of these things. He is the picture of love and submission to God and love for others. But I must surely have repelled and disgusted him.

Yet, despite all this, Jesus still cared about me. Jesus still loved me! Indeed, I can say, as Paul does in Galatians 2:20, he “loved me and gave himself for me.” He loved me, though I did not deserve it.

 2. He loved me with actions, not just words

He loved me with deeds, not just inner intentions in his heart, or thoughts in his head.

He saw me in all of my need; my sin and my brokenness. And he did not sit far away, in his place of glory with the Father and say, “Oh sure, I love you. I see your need from here and I’m definitely thinking about you.” He came and he acted for me. He saw me as the revolting, disgusting mess that I was – and he came to help me anyway. He demonstrated his love for me, with real life actions in this world where I live.

3. He loved me sacrificially

When he came – he gave up so very much to help me in my need.

  • He laid aside his glory, which he had from the beginning of time
  • He lowered himself to become a human
  • He humbled himself to serve others
  • He bore the cross – the torture, the injustice, the pain, the shame
  • He died on the cross

And he did all this for me. He loved me sacrificially. Jesus held nothing back.

Do you know this love? It’s there for you too, even though you don’t deserve it. He has acted to help you with your need coming to you. And he has done so sacrificially. He truly does love you. But you need to receive this love. Will you receive his love?

Now the Lord’s supper is not just an encouragement that yes, Jesus loves us. If that’s all it is we could just have the broken bread and the cup up here and look at it. We could put it in a display.

But no. He said of the bread, “take and eat.” He said of the cup, “drink from it all of you.” We are to take this love, his love into us, so that we can then love others, as Jesus has loved us. In other words, the Lord’s supper is also a call for us to embody Jesus’ love for others. This is the challenge of Jesus’ love. To receive it is to commit to give it.

1. We are to love those who don’t deserve it

At times we can be pretty good at loving those we like, and those who are nice to us; those who are like us and don’t bother us.

But Jesus calls us to love precisely those who are not lovable to us. As he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44. Just like Jesus loved us when we were unlovable, he calls us to love those that we find unlovable – who disgust us. We are to give them the same love that he gave to us

2. We are to love others with deeds, not just words

After talking about Jesus’ love for us, and how he came and died for us, John says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” – 1 John 3:18.

Just like Jesus loved us with actions, we are to love others with real deeds, coming to them to help them with their need, where they live. We are to give the same love to them that Jesus gave to us.

3. We are to love others sacrificially

In the same passage, John says this about Jesus’ love, “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” But then he goes on, “and we ought to lay down our lives for the sisters and the brothers. . . ..” – 1 John 3:16. You see the message – he laid down his life for us, we are to lay down our lives for others.

And love is not always easy. The phrase, “laying down your life” means sacrifice. And we need to love not just when it is convenient, or when we get something out of it.

Just as Jesus loved us sacrificially, we are to love others sacrificially. We are to give the same love that he gave to us, to others.

So as you partake today be encouraged by Jesus’ love for you. And as you take in his love receive the challenge, and recommit to give this same love to others.

William Higgins

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