Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3

Continuing our look at the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, today we are going to focus on the bread. But before looking at what Jesus said about the bread, we will first look at the history of Passover traditions. From the time of the first Passover, Rabbi’s began interpreting and applying the different elements of the Passover seder to their own lives. Different traditions were added to the feast that were in addition to what Exodus 12 commanded of the Israelites. According to Jewish scholars, what we will discuss today are traditions that were already in place by the time Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Part of the Passover seder is the unleavened bread (matzoh) being presented in a very specific way. Three loaves of unleavened bread are placed in a bag (matzoh tosh), each loaf being in its own compartment. The loaves are discussed symbolically as a sign of unity, but Rabbis are very divided upon where this tradition comes from and what unity the loaves refer to. Some say unity of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) while others say unity of the nation of Israel (Priests, Levites, People of Israel). The exact meaning of this tradition has been lost to history according to Rabbis, but we will attempt to uncover the true meaning.

During the seder, the matzoh tosh is opened and the second (middle) loaf, known as the Bread of Affliction, is removed and broken in half. Rabbis again don’t know why the middle loaf is used, and the other two remain untouched. The broken piece is wrapped in a linen bag called an afikoman which means “it comes later.” The afikoman is taken out of the room of celebration and hidden, symbolically buried somewhere in the house by the leader of the celebration. Towards the end of the meal the participants will search for the afikoman and when it is found it is returned to the table. The leader of the celebration will then take the bread and break off small portions for everyone at the table.

Why is the middle portion broken, buried, and brought back if the unity of the matzoh tosh refers to the patriarchs or the nation of Israel? It doesn’t make any sense. But if the loaves in the matzoh tosh represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the middle loaf being broken, buried for a time, and brought back has incredible symbolism. Not only did this meal point toward the coming of the Messiah, but God even used the traditions added by men to further point toward his Son.

And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19

Jesus’ body would soon be broken for us, wrapped in linen, buried for a time, and like the afikoman was brought back to us. And just like the Passover lamb, no bones were broken in his body, even though it was the custom of the Roman soldiers to break the legs of the crucified.

The symbolism in the Passover and in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are a reminder that God planned to save us from the beginning. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t an afterthought of God. It was his plan to show his incredible love for us, even at the cost of his Passover lamb, his Son, Jesus.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

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Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2

Last week we took our first look at the Lord’s Supper, and the goal was for us all to remember the sacrifice Jesus made every time we ate this past week. If you didn’t do that, I would encourage you to make that a priority this week. Don’t just thank God for your food, but take a moment and reflect on what Jesus did for you on the cross. Now we turn our attention to the first Passover, which you can read about in Exodus 12. This is less of an article, and more just a list of observations that I feel we often miss.

The first thing that stands out to me about this passage is that God wanted Israel to remember this event, so much so that they were to rearrange their entire calendar system around it! This goes far beyond simply observing a holiday…their entire year would begin with this feast. This shows how important, and how seriously God wanted the people of Israel to take this feast. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: ‘This month is to be the beginning of months for you; it is the first month of your year.’” (Exodus 12:1-2)

What would our worship services look like if we gave The Lord’s Supper that sort of prominence?

Next, this was a community event. Every household participated in this feast at the same time, in the same way. In addition, smaller households who couldn’t eat the entire Passover lamb by themselves were told to get together with the neighbor closest to them and share a Passover lamb. Participating in the Passover was a unifying event. All divisions were removed and the whole of Israel participated in this event together. It was a uniting experience. And this experience was not a one time event. This memorial feast was to be a permanent fixture in the lives of the Israelites. “This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.” (Exodus 12:14)

Does a sense of unity come over you when we take communion? Not just with those around you, but those all over the world doing the same thing?

It also reminded the people that God had saved them because of the blood of a lamb. “Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin. None of you may go out the door of his house until morning. When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, he will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:22-23)

We too should live our lives like the only reason we’ve been spared is the blood of The Lamb.

There are many more connections between the Passover memorial, and what Jesus did for us on the cross. This week I encourage you to read through Exodus 12 and consider the parallels for yourself.

Read the rest of my series on this topic by using the links below:

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1

The Lord’s Supper is something that my religious tribe commemorates each and every week. But for some reason, I feel it is an act that many don’t understand. Some say that taking the Lord’s Supper each week makes it feel ordinary, and not special…which to some degree I can agree with. Others say we need to be taking the Lord’s Supper much more frequently if we want to be like the early church, which I also agree with (see Acts 2:46).

But the biggest issue, in my opinion, is that we have taken the Lord’s Supper out of the context where it was implemented. We think about the Lord’s Supper through our own experiences at church on Sundays. For some of us it’s sitting in a pew and passing a plate. For others it’s standing in a line and walking down front. But whatever your experience has been, I want us all to experience what it was like on that Passover night nearly 2000 years ago.

Matthew tells us in 26:26 that “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples…” Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover dinner. These men had put in a full day, and it was time to eat for the evening. But this meal was special. This meal was significant, because it commemorated Israel being set free from bondage in Egypt. And unknown to the first participants this centuries old custom was about to be changed forever.

The first thing I want us to realize is the Last Supper was actually supper. For the Passover, Jewish law stated that the whole lamb and all food on the table was to be eaten, so the Lord’s Supper wasn’t just a little ceremony with a cracker and a teaspoon of grape juice. This was a part of a full on meal where Jesus chose to create a remembrance of the sacrifice he was about to make for all mankind.

When was the last time you paused at a meal and remembered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you? I’m not talking about thanking God for your food. I’m talking about taking a moment every time you eat to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross. Most of us eat several times a day, so what do you think it would do to our lives if we intentionally stopped to remember our Savior’s sacrifice each time we ate? How would it change the way we interact with, and think about others if we remembered the cross that frequently?

Commentator William Barclay had this to say about Matthew’s telling of the Last Supper.

“We might well say that what Jesus is teaching [us] is not only to assemble in church and to eat a ritual and symbolic Feast: He is telling them that every time they sit down to satisfy their hunger and to eat a meal, that meal is in memory of Him. For Jesus is not only Lord of the Communion Table: He must be Lord of the dinner table too.

Over the next several weeks we’ll take a close look at the Passover Seder, and the Lord’s Supper. There is a lot to learn from, and consider about this part of our service. Next week we will look closer at the institution of the Passover meal in Exodus 12. But this week, I want us all to take a moment and remember at our regular mealtimes what we do when we take the Lord’s Supper. It can be, and should be, life changing.

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Did Jesus Really Do That?

In many children’s Bibles we see images of a young Jesus with his earthly father Joseph sawing wood, and hammering nails as Jesus learned the profession of Joseph. In our english Bibles we read the Nazareth crowd ask “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” (Mt. 13:55) Jesus’ earthly profession has no bearing on his status as the Savior of the world, but exploring his profession may shed new light on some of His teachings.

The Greek word in question here is tekton which early english translators rendered as carpenter. In reality, the word is more accurately translated as craftsman or builder. With all fairness to the early translators, a carpenter is certainly a craftsman and builder, but this word was translated outside of the first century Jewish context in which it appears.

A quick Google search of first century Jewish villages will show you exactly what houses were made of: stone. Now this doesn’t mean that Jesus never made anything out of wood, but we have to remember that trees are scarce in that part of the world. Jesus most certainly wasn’t constructing wood framed housing. Hebrew scholar James Fleming puts it this way: “Jesus and Joseph would have formed and made nine out of ten projects from stone either by chiseling or carving the stone or stacking building blocks.”

What’s the point of all of this? Again, knowing what a tekton actually did has no bearing on Jesus role as Messiah, but notice how the Psalms foretold, and how Jesus described himself: “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone?’ Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. ” (Lk. 20:17-18, Ps. 188:22) Peter also uses this verse in Acts 4. Later Peter would write: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – (1 Pt. 2:4-5)

Can you see Jesus holding you in His strong stone mason hands, looking you over, and carefully chipping away your rough edges until you are the perfect fit in the kingdom He is building? He knows where best to place you, how to cover your flaws, and how to shape you into exactly what you need to be.

In all things, we need to remember that we serve the perfect Savior of the world, the perfect builder of God’s kingdom, and the only name by which we can be saved. And maybe we should also keep in mind the words of the children’s song, “He’s still working on me, To make me what I need to be.”

Jesus’ Scandalous Family History

I was reminded this week that where we come from matters. While having lunch with a friend we were discussing our backgrounds…where we grew up, what we enjoyed doing as kids, and we found some common ground that we didn’t know we had. Where we come from matters.

Matthew starts his gospel off with a genealogy of Jesus that tells the reader where he came from. In the genealogy we learn that Jesus came from the lineage of many great names that the Jewish world would remember: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Matthew also includes the names of some Gentiles, some women, and some rather scandalous events that occurred. “Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)” was born as a result of her grandfather sleeping with a prostitute who just happened to be his own daughter-in-law. The child born of this sinful act wound up being an ancestor of Jesus (Gen. 38).

Rahab was a prostitute that helped save two Israelite spies as they entered the city of Jericho. The Israelites spared her and her family for her kindness, and she wound up marrying a guy named Salmon, with whom she had Boaz. Boaz eventually married a gentile woman named Ruth and the two of them had children and grandchildren, one of whom was King David. (Joshua 2, Ruth 4). King David committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, had her husband killed, and the two of them had a child named Solomon, also an ancestor of Jesus (2 Sam. 11).

There are other names we could mention, but Matthew does something here that is highly unusual. We think of genealogies as being fixed…we trace our ancestors generation by generation. Matthew doesn’t. He includes three people from the same generation, as well as leaves a few generations out in order to provide for us these specific names so we would know where Jesus came from. But he does something else amazing as well that we miss with our english eyes.

The number 7 in scripture indicates perfection, completeness, and God’s involvement (think about creation). Ray Vander Laan points out that when you look at Matthew’s genealogy in Greek, here’s what you find:

The number of words in Jesus’ genealogy is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that begin with a vowel is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that begin with a consonant is evenly divisible by 7. The number of letters used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of vowels used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of consonants used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that occur more than once is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that occur only once is evenly divisible by 7. The number of nouns is evenly divisible by 7. The number of non-nouns is evenly divisible by 7. The number of proper names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of male names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of female names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet is evenly divisible by 7. If you add up the value of all the letters (because they used letters for numbers) it is evenly divisible by 7.

Even though some of the readers of Matthew’s gospel may have turned up their noses at the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew is telling us it was perfect, and orchestrated perfectly by God.

Where we come from is important, and God has put you in this world in just a way that you too can do something great in His Kingdom. We look at the dark spots in our backgrounds as an obstacle, but God uses those dark spots to save the world. Where we come from is important, but God’s more interested in where we’re going.

Where Do I Start? – Part 2

From time to time people tell me they want to start reading the Bible, and they almost always share the same question… “Where do I start?” Last week we looked the way the Old Testament is organized, the purpose of the writings, and the topics covered. This week we’ll focus on the New Testament.

The first four books of the New Testament make up The Gospels (“gospel” means “good news.”) These books cover the life of Jesus, but they aren’t biographies you and I are used to. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic gospels” because they are so similar in the content the events they cover, but each writer arranges the events in a different order so the story had the greatest impact on their original audience (very common to the writing style of the time.) John uses a different approach than the others for the same reason. All four books give us the details of Jesus’ ministry on the earth.

The book of Acts is written by Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the Jesus story and it includes details about Jesus’ last days on earth, then covers the beginnings and spread of the first church. We see events and history recorded about the other writers of the New Testament, as well as read many stories of how early Christians cared for one another and were so dedicated to Christ that they were willing to face death because of their faith.

The Pauline Epistles is a fancy way of saying “Paul’s Letters.” These were letters written by Paul, an apostle that we first meet in Acts, to various churches that he worked with in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, two letters to a young preacher named Timothy, and a letter written to a man named Philemon.

The General Letters function much the same way as Paul’s letters, they just weren’t written by Paul. These writings include an anonymous letter called Hebrews, a letter from James, the earthly brother of Jesus, two letters from the apostle Peter, and three from the apostle John.

The final book in the New Testament is the book of Revelation where the apostle John recounts a vision that he had from God. He writes specific warnings from Jesus for seven churches in Asia, as well as a very apocalyptic description of God’s ultimate victory over evil, as well as a beautiful description of Heaven.

Hopefully these past two posts have given you some insight into the organization of the writings contained in the Bible. “So where do I start?”  Well, it depends. If you have never read the Bible before, I always recommend The Gospel of John near the beginning of the New Testament. John does a fantastic job of sharing the life of Jesus with his readers.

If you’re looking for specific answers to questions you have, you can use this summary to look on your own, do a search on BibleGateway, or you can always email me.

Next time we’ll discuss if the Bible can be trusted.

 

The Cost of Freedom

Today (Monday) marked the 154th anniversary of the final day of battle at Gettysburg. The battle lasted three days and the combined casualties were in excess of 46,000 men. So many lives were lost, or forever changed by the events that happened during that battle. All for the cost of freedom.

Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. That number is staggering, and to think that these casualties took place during one battle in a multi-year, multi-continent war is just hard to believe.

According to one article I read, the combined total number of American casualties in all wars since its inception is around 2.9 million troops. That’s 2.9 million brave men and women who were willing to put their lives in harm’s way for the cost of our freedom. Praise God for our freedom.

While all of those lives are valuable, and have played a key role in where we are today, there is one life that stands out above the rest. One life that was given for all people, in all times, and in all nations.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17 NLT

This Independence Day, let us remember and celebrate the freedom that God has given our nation. Let us be thankful for the multitude of men and women who have been willing to sacrifice their lives for our earthly freedom. But let us never forget Jesus, the only life that can give us eternal freedom. May Christ our Savior be praised this day, and every day!