The Passover and Lord’s Supper

traditional jewish matzo

Each week we have the opportunity to commune together, breaking bread and drinking the fruit of the vine that represents Jesus’ blood that was poured out for us. Paul tells us that, when we take communion, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again. Jesus himself said to “do this in remembrance of me.”

When Jesus ate the last supper with his disciples, it was the Passover meal that they were celebrating. Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal, because he was now the lamb whose blood was poured out to rescue mankind. The Passover first appears in Exodus 12 when the Israelites were in Egypt. The tenth plague was that the firstborn of all people and animals in the land of Egypt would die. The only exception was for the Israelites who sacrificed a year old lamb or goat and painted their doorframes with blood. That night, God would “pass over” the houses with blood on the doorframe and the firstborns would be spared. They were to use unleavened bread and were told to eat this “last supper” in haste.

In this same story, God institutes the Passover–to be observed every year: “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (Exodus 12:24 ESV). The Passover was to be celebrated both as a family (in the home) and as a congregation (all of Israel was to observe). And it was to participate in the Exodus event and instruct children: “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 12:26-27).

In order to understand the Lord’s Supper (communion), we need to understand Passover and how Jesus gave it new meaning under the new covenant. Each week we get to remember Christ’s broken body and the blood he shed to cover our sins and rescue us. And when our children ask “what is the purpose?” we get to teach them about Christ’s love for us!

Beware of Men

gray and white wolf

When Jesus sent his disciples out into the towns, he warned them that persecution was waiting for them. They were going to be drug before courts, experience floggings in their synagogues, and were going to be dragged before governors and kings for Jesus’ sake. This was a very sobering thing to tell his brand-new disciples. Imagine, Jesus told his followers to leave everything behind, including jobs and family, and gave no timeline for how long they would be on the move.

Very shortly after they left everything, he split them up into groups and sent them out into towns, but with a very stern warning: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). Then he warned them of the types of persecution they would encounter along the way. But then the warning gets worse: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (vs. 21-22).

“Pastors resigning” is trending this week on social media because people are realizing how many preachers are leaving ministry this year due to, it is thought, the stresses of the pandemic. I’m seeing some of these people leaving ministry talk about their “persecution.” Trust that internal struggles, tensions, and even in-fighting is not the same as persecution. Jesus clearly defined persecution, and warned his disciples that they would face it immediately. This training proved to be very good, because the early church would face severe persecution and would thrive in that environment.

Perhaps we should better equip each other to face severe punishment. Traumatic experiences tend to cripple people today because forgiveness is used as a weapon, instead of teaching Christians to stand up to these evils of oppression and persecution.

Rejoice That Your Names Are Written In Heaven

Names

We don’t know much about the seventy-two people who Jesus sent out to preach. What we do know is that he sent them two-by-two, that they were to go ahead of Jesus into all the towns he would be visiting, and that he told them to heal the sick in those towns and proclaim that the kingdom is near. We really have no idea who these people were, what their backgrounds were, or what professions they had. Jesus did tell them not to take anything with them except what was already in their possession.

When the seventy-two returned, they were astounded at what all God was accomplishing through them. “Lord!,” they exclaimed. “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17 ESV). Jesus told them that he saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky, and that he gave the disciples authority over all the power of the enemy. It was an incredible responsibility that they were given. But Jesus didn’t want them to rejoice in this.

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Jesus’ warning here was to not get intoxicated with the power they had. Sure, he gave them authority over the power of the enemy. But that didn’t make them invincible. Authority can be infatuating. It can lead to pride and arrogance. It can blind people to compassion. Jesus would rather them remain humble and rejoice that their names are written in heaven. This is a good reminder that our message needs to be seasoned with hope, grace, and must point people to salvation.

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The God of All Comfort

Girl comforting boy

There is a difference between saying that someone will suffer and saying that someone should suffer. Jesus promises suffering for those who faithfully follow him, but that doesn’t mean that he thinks people should suffer. When Paul was on the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Ananias in a dream and said about Paul, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16 ESV). Jesus was not saying that he hopes Paul would suffer. He didn’t say Paul deserved to suffer. He did, however, said that it was necessary for Paul to suffer.

I’m not so sure that suffering is prescriptive as it is descriptive. In other words, God doesn’t prescribe suffering merely because we follow Christ. But suffering is descriptive of what happens to those of us who are faithful to him. It is necessary for us to suffer as Christians because people will always oppose goodness and righteousness. Evil will always exist. Oppression will always be present. Disease and sickness will always be on the earth.

But how does God respond, and how should we respond to one another? In 2 Corinthians 1, the word “comfort” is used more times than anywhere else in the Bible. Paul was suffering badly, but he was being comforted by God and God’s people. Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 ESV). Paul says that, just as we share in Christ’s sufferings, we also share in his comfort.

This is a powerful message of hope in the midst of suffering. We should take comfort in the fact that our comfort is contagious. When we are comforted, we are able to comfort others. Paul said, “When we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Cor. 1:6).

We have an obligation to share in our sufferings because, when we do, we also share in our comfort! The world would be a more beautiful place if more people were actively comforting one another.

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The Apostles’ Mission

Man seeking kindness

When Jesus sent out the Twelve, he “gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1, 2 ESV). This was no small feat for a group of fishermen, tax collectors, and otherwise ordinary people. Jesus could have sent them out to do just about anything, but he specifically sent them to heal diseases, cast out demons, and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Their mission to do this was Jesus’ mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus’ charge to his disciples did not arrive out of a vacuum. Rather, it was rooted in his own mission.

Like Jesus himself, he called his disciples to leave everything and rely completely upon God. They were commanded to not take anything extra with them. They were to rely on the goodwill of people. In doing so, they completely put their faith in God. God provides. God is the great healer. God calls his people to help other people, to feed, heal, and free others. This is why the crowds were always pressing in against Jesus. They were desperate for someone to heal them.

Jesus is no different today. There will always be oppression, hunger, and disease. And it’s up to us to care for one another. This is exactly in step with who Jesus is. His mission is our mission.

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What Is Your Name?

Jacob wrestling with God

The name Jacob means “follow” and is also the root word for “heel.” Jacob was a heel grabber in the Genesis account. Even from birth, he grabbed his twin brother Esau’s heel. Later on, Jacob tricked his brother into selling his birthright. When their father Isaac was dying, Jacob tricked his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Jacob rightfully earned his name of follower. Jacob also over took his father-in-law, who deceived Jacob, by taking off with all of his kids, his wives, and scores of flocks.

When he fled, Jacob found out that Esau wanted to meet him. Esau sent 400 men to meet Jacob, and Jacob was terrified. He began splitting his family up in case there was an attack so that at least some would be spared. At one point Jacob was alone. It was then that a man began to wrestle with him throughout the night. Jacob was holding his own then the man dislocated Jacob’s hip.

When morning came, they were still wrestling and the man asked Jacob to let him go. Jacob answered, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26 ESV). Then the man asked what Jacob’s name is. “Follower.” Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be follower (Jacob) but Israel, for you have striven with God and with man, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). Israel means “he strives with God.” To strive means to go to great efforts to achieve something. It was at this point Jacob realized he was wrestling with God himself.

God allowed Jacob to overtake him in that fight. From the time Jacob was born, he was determined to receive blessings. Throughout his life he would deceive, labor, even beg in order to receive a blessing. It’s fitting that God changed his name to Israel. When Esau met Jacob, he blessed him. He was not coming to kill him; he was coming to bless him! This story is clear evidence that God is a God of revival!

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving

thankfulness

We are coming up on the American Thanksgiving season. It’s a reminder of our nation’s history and how the pilgrims broke bread with the natives after enduring the long, dangerous trek across the open ocean. As we enter this season, we’re reminded of all that God does for us. He sustains, protects, loves, saves, and executes justice.

The current general mental and spiritual outlook in the US is grim. Suicide among our youth is the highest it has ever been and is the second leading cause of death among young people. Drugs and negativity have overtaken our cities and have permeated even the deepest of our rural communities.

An article from two years ago called The shocking impact negative people have on your brain, according to science, is making its rounds again. The article explains how neurons in the brain that “fire” are neurons that “wire.” In other words, if we hear negativity all the time, our brain chemically becomes hardwired to perceive the world through negativity, regardless of reality. The opposite is also equally true–the more thanksgiving we hear, the quicker our brains become hardwired to perceive things with optimism and hope.

It’s no surprise that the Bible instructs us to be thankful. Over and over again. Psalm 100 says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:1-4 ESV).

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