Saturday, March 24, 2007

Declaring the End of Dying.

John 19:28-30a

28 • After this, Jesus,
knowing that all was now finished,
said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst."

29 • A jar full of sour wine stood there,
so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch
and held it to his mouth.

30 • When Jesus had received the sour wine,
he said, "It is finished,"

Two sayings of Jesus from the cross stand very close together here and John, the only gospel to mention either, gives us the details of the one within the recounting of the other. It makes perfect sense if the 'I thirst.' saying is excluded:
Jesus,knowing that all was now finished,… said, "It is finished,"
so we ought to pick up on the 'I thirst' episode as having something to do with being finished.

The sour wine wasn't intended as a punishment and we're not told about it so that we might feel additional pangs of sorrow on Christ's behalf. Just because the wine was sour meant that its acidity was immediately detectable even to the most preoccupied palate. There is a clear contrast between Jesus just tasting and refusing to drink before and his taking time to drink after it was finished.

What was it that was finished? Strangely enough, since this is before his actual death, it was nevertheless the dying that was finished with. None of this sequence of events makes sense unless we take it at face value that Jesus was dying on the cross in order to put right what was wrong and it follows that what was finished was the work of putting right.

Looking to Christ for Sanctification

John 19:28 (Luke 22:14-20)

The Word of Sanctification

We must look to Christ for Sanctification since this is a saving benefit he has won for us by the sacrifice of himself. His holiness in his separation is shared with us in the kingdom of God.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Toast is, 'Till he come!'

John 19:28 (Luke 22:14-20)

The Word of Sanctification

Feast after feast comes and passes by but each by each they point towards the consummating feast that is 'the Marriage Supper of the Lamb':

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." [Revelation 19:7-9]
Our desire surely ought to be for when all our work is ended too. The toast of this hour is:
'… till he come.' [1 Corinthians 11:26]

The Word of Sanctification

John 19:28 (Luke 22:14-20)
Christ on the cross saying, 'I thirst.' signals the end of his vow of separation, the coming of the kingdom of God and the sanctification of all those who share his cup of rejoicing in the finished work of Calvary.

New Covenant

Luke 22:19b-20

• and gave it to them,
saying, "This is my body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."

20 • And likewise the cup after they had eaten,

• saying, "This cup that is poured out for you
is the new covenant in my blood.

On the night in which he was betrayed Jesus took two elements of the Passover seder and made of them a new feast of commemoration. Luke's account of what happened at the Last Supper has to specify which cup from the Passover seder was the one that was taken up to be perpetuated in the Lord's Supper celebration because Luke, uniquely of the gospels, talks about the vow of separation that Jesus took during the feast in terms of the cup that he shared among the disciples before the breaking of bread. The cup that was used to inaugurate the feast of the Lord's Supper was specifically, '
the cup after they had eaten.'

At the original Passover, when God was visiting the tenth plague upon the Egyptians, those who were gathered together to eat the Passover were sheltering within houses where the blood of the Passover lamb had been placed on the lintel and the doorposts as a sign that those inside were to be separated from the plague because God had made a covenant with them. Now as this feast and it's meaning was renewed, the cup of wine became the symbol of the blood that would be shed to secure the renewed covenantal relationship for all time.

In taking this cup generations of believers share the fellowship of Christ in the kingdom of God, made holy in their sharing because of the holiness of the 'Lamb of God' who was separated out to be our Passover, to fulfil his vows and to complete the work that God had given him to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kingdom Come

Luke 22:17-19a

17 • And he took a cup,
and when he had given thanks
he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves.

18 • For I tell you that
from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine
until the kingdom of God comes."

19 • And he took bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it

Before the taking of the bread that is 'his body', before the taking of the cup that is 'the new covenant in Christ's blood,' that is, during the Passover seder but before Jesus took up those elements of the seder that he instituted as the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, he took a cup of wine and told the disciples to share it among themselves. Why'd he do that?

What he was saying about the coming of the kingdom of God is entirely consistent with what he had been saying about the Passover being fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The big question that the disciples must have had was when the kingdom of God could be said to have come but now they had an answer. The kingdom of God would have come when Jesus once again drank wine.

What Jesus was doing is significant. Up till this moment he had been with the disciples but the moment was coming when he was to be separated from them. This sharing out of the cup and the declaration of not drinking wine again until the coming of the kingdom of God is a vow of separation. There was a set way of making such a vow laid down in the Torah and the disciples could not have missed the connection. The two seals of this vow were not getting one's hair cut during the time the vow was in operation and not drinking wine during that time. The instructions about the wine are very thorough:

he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. [Numbers 6:3-4]
so when the hour of the crucifixion had come, the vow was still in place and:
they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. [Matthew 27:34]
However, after the hours of darkness were passed
… Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. [John 19:28-29]
so that anyone who knew that he had taken the vow could see that the time of his separation was ended and the kingdom of God was come.

The Fulfilled Passover

Luke 24:14-16

14 • And when the hour came,
he reclined at table,
and the apostles with him.

15 • And he said to them,
"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover
with you before I suffer.

16 • For I tell you I will not eat it
until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."

There might seem such a contrast between the 'relaxed' posture at the table and the intensity of the suffering that was to follow but we ought to understand that even as they reclined they ate hastily with their newly-washed feet reshod, their staffs in their hands and their belts tightened. [Exodus 12:11] The eagerness to be gone from Egypt of the first Passover is replicated in the earnest desire that Jesus had to eat this Passover, with his disciples, knowing that he was about to suffer for them too.

From the inauguration of the feast no Passover had been as important as this one was to be and this one was no mere commemoration of the first. From that night on it is not so much the first Passover that is commemorated as the one fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The old Passover is not forgotten but now it is to be perceived as pointing forward to salvation from the greater far bondage of sin and death.

The lamb that was sacrificed and eaten at Passover was to be, like all sacrificial animals, unblemished in any way to symbolise its holiness. It was as the Holy Lamb of God that Jesus was preparing to be the sacrifice for sin. We take the bread and the cup in the feast of the Lord's Supper, having examined ourselves to see that we do so in a worthy manner because our rightful taking of it is dependant on Christ's righteousness and the acceptance of him as a sacrifice to cover my unrighteousness.