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.

Read Full Post »

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.



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.


Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.


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

Read Full Post »

 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 

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

(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

Read Full Post »

Today we look at more teaching from the gospel of Mark and we come to the important Parable of the Vineyard Tenants. I say important because it really gives us Jesus’ own perspective on his ministry and what is about to happen as his time of ministry comes to an end. I want us to look at what this parable means, and draw out some lessons for us to remember as we share in the Lord’s supper together.

Overview of the parable

vs. 1-2 – “And he began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.’” [Jesus is using portions of Isaiah 5:1-7 which tells a similar story.]

This setup was not uncommon in that day. You have an absentee land owner who leases out the farm to tenant workers. The agreement would go like this:

  • The owner has the land and sets things up, as he does here: planting the vines and building a fence, a pit and a tower: all that you need to produce wine.
  • And the tenants are to work the farm and give the owner a reasonable return when the harvest comes, several years later (Leviticus 19:23-25).

And so v. 2 ends with the owner sending a servant, “when the season came” to collect what’s due.

The first servant: vs. 2-3 – “ . . . he sent a servant . . .. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” There were often disagreements between owners and tenants, just as today.

A second servant: v. 4 – “Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.”

A third servant: v. 5 – “And he sent another, and him they killed.” [This more than meets the requirement of two to three witnesses of their wrong.]

More servants: And if this wasn’t enough already v. 5 continues, “And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.” He had a lot of servants, but they had all been unsuccessful in collecting what was due.

His son: v. 6 – “He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” “Beloved” means his only son, and so very dear to the father (Genesis 22:2). And this is the only representative the owner had left to send.

Perhaps the owner figured that since his son has full legal authority, and has higher rank than a mere servant – they will have to respect him!

The tenants reasoned differently, however. vs. 7-8 – “But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.”

Maybe they thought the owner was dead since the son came? Or maybe they thought the owner was too old or too far away, or too weak to enforce his claims on the property. By the rules of that day tenants could inherit the land they worked, if the owner and heirs were dead or unwilling to make a claim. So they kill the son and throw him out, without even burying him, a real insult.

Jesus then asks, v. 9 – “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.” The owner is not dead or weak. And there are grave consequences for the actions of the tenants.

The story the parable tells

– is really the story of God and his people and it is the story of Jesus.

  • The vineyard is the people of God – this was a common image in Scripture (Isaiah 5:2, Psalm 80:8-9, Jeremiah 2:21).
  • The owner is God whenever God’s people are seen as a vineyard. The word translated in v. 9 as “owner” is actually “lord,” which has a double meaning, pointing to “the Lord.”
  • The fruit of the vineyard is faithfulness. This is what God’s people owe to God.
  • The servants are prophets, sent by God to call his people to obedience. As Jeremiah 7:25-26 says “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck.”
  • The tenants are the leaders of Jerusalem. This parable comes in the context of a long argument with the leaders of Jerusalem. And even these leaders, v. 12 tells us, “perceived that he had told the parable against them.”
  • Finally, the beloved son is Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark God calls Jesus this at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and at his transfiguration (Mark 9:7).

First we have, the story that has already happened:

– God did form a people for himself. He blessed them and sought their faithfulness.

– And when they didn’t give it God did send messenger after messenger to call them to obedience. But they refused to listen.

– And now as the culmination God has sent Jesus, his beloved, only Son. The one who has all authority. The one who is dear to his heart.

Then we have the story that is yet to come:

– Like in the parable, the leaders have no regard for Jesus, even though he is God’s Son. In fact, they will soon kill Jesus. And in a shameful way, like in the story.

– But God, his Father, will act. God will “destroy” these leaders, which happened in 70 AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed.

– And God will give leadership of his people to “others,” referring to the followers of Jesus, his Son.

And then we have –

A short Scripture lesson

– attached to our story. Here we switch from the vineyard as an image of God’s people to that of a building or more likely the temple as an image of God’s people.

vs. 10-11 – “Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” This comes from Psalm 118:22-23. Psalm 118 was often sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the festivals. It was well known.

Now, the reason these verses are attached to this parable has to do with the wordplay between – the Hebrew/Aramaic word for son, “ben,” which is the focus of the parable, and the word for stone, “eben,” which is the focus of these verses (Matthew Black).

When it says “cornerstone” it is literally “the head of the corner.” It is referring to the most important stone in the whole building. Perhaps the stone at the peak of the arch, or a capstone on a column or a stone at the top of a building that completes it.

In Jesus’ day this was often seen as referring to king David. He was the one overlooked by Samuel at first, and then by the leaders of Israel. But he became the king of Israel.

This was also read by some as pointing to the Messiah, the coming son of David. When Jesus entered Jerusalem just before this, the crowds quote Psalm 118:26 – “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and then interpret it in a messianic way when they say, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (Mark 11:10)

The message is clear: Jesus is the stone that was rejected and cast aside by the builders (the religious leaders), but God will vindicate him and raise him up as the chief stone of the whole building. Just as God brought about a marvelous reversal of fortune for David, so God will do this for Jesus, David’s son.

This raising image is an apt one for the idea of being vindicated, as well as for the resurrection of Jesus (Joel Markus).

[These verses also connect to the parable in that they expand a bit on the vineyard being given to others. If David is the original reference in Psalm 118, then Jesus is saying it will be similar now in his case. Just as the kingdom was taken from Saul and given to David and his line, so the leadership of the people of God is now given to Jesus and his followers]

An ironic ending

The passage ends with v. 12 – “And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.” The leaders are seeking to do just what Jesus said they would do, in his parable that they didn’t like!

As we share in the Lords’ supper

– let’s remember some lessons from this passage of Scripture: 1. Let’s remember God’s amazing patience and love. The parable highlights these qualities of God.

God sent three servants. Then God sent even more. God put up with a lot. This shows that he really loves us and wants us to come back to him and for us to be faithful.

Then he sent his son to call us back. Now why would he risk this given what happened to his servants? The only answer is God’s profoundly amazing love for us!

2. Let’s remember the terrible consequences of disobedience. God really does require our obedience. And if we don’t give this, or in this case, if the leaders stand in the way of this – there is judgment. This is what happened in the history of Israel, it is what is predicted in the parable and it is what happened in the fulfillment in 70 A.D.

God is patient and loving, yes. But God will not tolerate sin forever. There is a limit, and a time when we must reap what we have sown.

3. Let’s remember who Jesus is. He is God’s beloved and only Son. He is the one who died, coming to call us to repentance. He is the one who was rejected and cast aside. And he is the chief stone, raised up by God – vindicated and resurrected.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

Lord’s Supper Devotional

We are celebrating the Lord’s supper today. And as we do we see a picture of Jesus’ death: the bread is broken and the cup is poured out. This is a representation to us of how his body was broken and his blood was poured out on the cross.

So as we remember Jesus’ death this morning I want us to focus in on a question – ‘Where would I be if Jesus hadn’t died for me?’ or ‘Where would you be if Jesus hadn’t died for you?’

For some of us, this is kind of hard – at least to be specific. For instance I began walking with the Lord when I was 14 – that’s when I was baptized and really began to take God seriously. What would my life have been like without this?

Others of us lived long enough in sin to have good idea of what our life would be like without Jesus. So perhaps it’s a bit easier.

This is how we will go about it. First I want us to look at Paul’s life before Christ. Then I want to say a few words about myself. And finally I will invite you to share briefly as well on the question – ‘Where would I be if Jesus hadn’t died for me?’


Paul was a proud Israelite, a religious scholar and a devoted zealot for the cause of Judaism. In Philippians 3:5-6 he speaks of how he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.”

In Galatians 1:13-14 he said, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”

We see in these verses that he was a person of exquisite credentials with regard to Judaism. He was zealous, so much so that since he felt Jewish Christians were apostates to Judaism he persecuted them. And he was righteous, at least according to one standard.

But even with all this, his credentials, zeal and right behavior, he was going in the wrong direction. So wrong in fact that he found himself opposing God. He was sinning against God.

In 1 Timothy 1:13 he says, “. . . formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” This is now looking back at his life from God’s point of view. And then in v. 15  he says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” And I believe he is specifically talking about himself.

Just like so many people today, he was successful and hard working – but he was working toward the wrong goal.

Without Jesus’ love and death for him he would still have been in this life – zealously going in the wrong direction; fighting God. But Jesus took him and made him an apostle among apostles – and one who did a great work for God.


Let me say a few words about my own life. If Jesus hadn’t died for me I would still be under the guilt and shame of all my evil deeds. Carrying around this burden or living in denial. I was not a particularly “bad” person outwardly, but I was under the sway of that twisted self-centeredness that all of us are born with, that leads us to sin.

If it wasn’t for Jesus I would be stuck in the brokenness of my flesh; stuck with all of my weaknesses. The Spirit of God wouldn’t have come into my heart and changed me and help me to be different. A specific example would be anger. I was angry  growing up – ready to fight with anyone verbally or otherwise

If Jesus hadn’t died for me, I wouldn’t know God. I wouldn’t have a relationship with God. I don’t know what life would be like without being able to come to God in prayer; without God speaking to me, comforting me and helping me.

If it weren’t for Jesus I would have no hope for the future; that is for a life beyond this one where what God always intended for us will actually come to pass. And not the suffering and evil of this world.

If Jesus’ hadn’t given his life for me, I wouldn’t have a sense of life direction and purpose. This is a big one for me. For instance, if it wasn’t for Jesus calling me, I wouldn’t be up in front of people all the time. If you think I am shy now, you should have seen me before. If I didn’t think this was God’s will, and that God wouldn’t help me, I wouldn’t do it.

Also, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I would never have gone through the schooling that I did – college, seminary and graduate school. I was an average student in high school. I didn’t really care about school. But I did all this, more than I thought I could, because I felt that Jesus wanted me to.

And also, if it wasn’t for Jesus I would not have moved all over the country following after his calling on my life.

I have purpose now. I know what my life is about. And it brings be contentment and joy. And it has eternal value. Without Jesus I wouldn’t have any of this.


And now I invite you to share – ‘Where would you be if Jesus hadn’t died for you?’

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

Sometimes we talk about ‘great’ Christians, you know,

  • people who are totally committed to God
  • people who have given their whole lives to serve God
  • people who have suffered for their commitment

What names come to mind for you, either from the New Testament or church history?

The book – The Martyr’s Mirror contains thousands of stories of ‘great’ Christians. Two of my favorites are Dirk Willems and Anneken Heyndricks, both of whom died for their faith. And there are other similar books with such stories.

It will be interesting to see on the final day who are honored. I think so many will be people we have never heard of, thousands and thousands of faithful ones that lived without recognition or human honor. Just ordinary people like you and me.

We are celebrating the Lord’s supper today. It symbolically portrays the fact that Jesus was totally committed to God and gave everything to serve God. Right? Here is a picture of his broken body and his blood poured out for us. He gave all for God and the kingdom.

Today I want you to think about yourself, and ask – What’s holding you back from being a ‘great’ Christian?  What’s keeping you from being like Jesus in giving yourself fully to God?

I’m not talking about in a dream world, you know, in a different and easier set of life circumstances. So that you could say, “If this were different, if I didn’t have these obligations, boy I could really serve God!” I mean in your current situation in life.

And I don’t mean being well known for your faith or famous. I just mean being faithful to do what God has called you to do in your place in life, with the gifts he has given you.

What’s holding you back from being all that God wants you to be and doing all that God wants you to do?

If we are indeed going to be like Jesus; if we are going to be a ‘great Christian,’ what I want to say today is that –

We have to make sacrifices

This is the bottom line. We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. Its just human nature. But often God does not call us to this, but just the opposite; to what is hard and what that takes us out of where we are comfortable and stretches us.

And it is because of this that we shy away from full commitment; from giving ourselves fully to God. We hold back.

Let’s look at some examples of sacrifice: 1) You might have your life reordered by God; that is your plans changed around.

Jesus didn’t have a ‘normal’ life. He forsook marriage and kids and had no home. He was a traveling teacher, preaching the message of the kingdom. And all this is what God asked him to do.

Are you willing to let God reorder your life? You have your own plans for your life, if or where you go to school, career, if you will marry, who you marry, family, a normal peaceful life. But what if God wants you to move overseas to serve him? What if God asks you to change your career? To lower your standard of living?

We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to this.

2) You will be asked to minister to people’s needs. That’s because God loves people and wants to touch lives through us.

Jesus worked with people day in and day out. He dealt with people who had desperate needs and problems. Those that needed healing, freedom from demons, the poor and oppressed, those that didn’t know God’s way. He could barely get any rest since so many looked to him for help.

Are you willing to minister to people’s needs? To give up your privacy and get involved in other people’s lives and concerns and problems? To give of yourself to meet the needs of others?

We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to this.

3) You might experience opposition and rejection. This is the opposite of having peace.

Jesus had his share of this. He was criticized unfairly. Even as he healed people who suffered their whole lives, some could only see it as a chance to pick at him – ‘Why are you doing work on the Sabbath?’ Others sought to test and trap him. ‘Hey Jesus, should we pay taxes to the Romans?’ hoping he would say something that would get him  in trouble as the Roman soldiers looked on. And apart from all this his own family thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21).

Are you willing to accept opposition and rejection? To be hassled? To have people push you away and think less of you?

We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to this.

4) You might lose your reputation. Nobody wants this.

Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard and a friend of sinners (Luke 17:34) all because he spent time with those who were looked down on as failures and rejects. Those whom others said had their chance and failed, but Jesus didn’t give up on them. He was also called possessed by Satan (Mark 3:22). How would you like that?

Are you willing to lose your reputation? To be slandered, intentionally misrepresented or called names?

We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to this.

5) You will suffer.

Jesus suffered. He was let down by Peter and betrayed by Judas which must have really hurt. He was mocked, humiliated, beaten and killed.

Are you willing to suffer? You may well not suffer physically, but you will suffer if you want to be like Jesus.

We want what is peaceful, comfortable and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to this.

It is just as Jesus said in Mark 8:35, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” We try to save our earthly lives, we cling to them, when we:

  • don’t let God reorder our lives
  • refuse to minister to people’s needs
  • hold back because we don’t want to be rejected
  • are afraid to lose our reputation
  • run from suffering

We lose our lives when put all this on the altar; when give it all up to God; when we sacrifice it all.

Jesus lost his life, and he saved it. God raised him from the dead and gave him so much more than he gave up.

If we lose our lives; if we sacrifice in all these ways; if we don’t allow these things to hold us back – we also will save our lives and we will be like Jesus. We will be great in our faithfulness and blessed by God.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »