Thoughts on Devotions – LD28 (Part 1)
Q. 75 How does the Holy Supper remind and assure you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all his benefits? Q. 76 What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood? Q. 77 Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?
Monday: Christians practice communion in obedience to Jesus' command. But participation also embodies a promise. Jesus said that it signified a new covenant in his blood. In the OT a new and better covenant was promised. Jesus brought the new covenant through his death and resurrection, and we remember that covenant (the promise that God would be our God and we would be his people) when we celebrate Lord's Supper.
Luke 22:14-20 Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Tuesday: God makes provision for our limited understanding and faith through the use of physical things to help us understand and experience his spiritual promises. Baptism uses water in this way and Communion uses bread and wine.
Genesis 9:11, 13 I confirm my covenant with you: Never again will all living things be wiped out by the waters of a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth...” I will place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth.
Genesis 17:7, 11 I will confirm my covenant as a perpetual covenant between me and you. It will extend to your descendants after you throughout their generations. I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you...You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins. This will be a reminder of the covenant between me and you.
Wednesday: We do not doubt that the bread being passed out in the communion service is real or that the cups or juice or wine are real. It is just as real and sure that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for me, and that because of his death God is no longer angry with his people. This is what we should remember when we take communion.
Romans 5:6-9 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from Godʼs wrath.
Thursday: When we put the communion bread in our mouth and chew it, and when we drink the communion juice and swallow it we do not doubt whether we have done it or not. It is just as sure that Christ nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life. We are reminded that Christ's crucified body and shed blood opens our way to eternal life.
John 6:31-33 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ʻHe gave them bread from heaven to eat.ʼ” Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Friday: Communion, as compared to baptism, is received multiple times during a believer's life. It is a form of spiritual nourishment. This along with the reading of the Word and prayer nourishes, strengthens and refreshes us.
John 6:48-51 I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Saturday: Receiving the sacrament of Communion is a time for solemn reflection. That is why many churches do not allow children to participate until they are old enough to understand what it is about. It is a sad time because we remember that it is our guilt that put Christ to death, but we can be glad in the fact that because Jesus fulfilled God's law and died on the cross, I am forgiven and able to be adopted into God's family.
Isaiah 53:3-6 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.
Reading between the lines...
What do you think of “a cross to bear”? In common parlance it usually refers to a difficult circumstance that we have to deal with. Or in a religious context we think of it as having greater determination to “live for Jesus” - doing certain things that are seen as pious. But Jesus, in calling us to bear a cross, calls us to die to self. There are 3 aspects to this: 1) identifying with Jesus and walking the path with Jesus, 2) abandoning our old life and committing to living for Jesus, and 3) finally, being freed from our old life. Jesus has paid of our debts in full and we are now free to live for God. We have nothing to bring to the deal except death – we are dead in our trespasses – but Jesus “can work with that” – he is an expert at bringing the dead to life. Jesus does not want us to try harder or be more determined – he wants us dead, Surrendered to him. Realizing that we have nothing to bring and turning to Jesus results in new life.
Luke 14:27-33 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesnʼt sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, ʻThis man began to build and was not able to finish!ʼ Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.
“Lost sheep” is the image that the Bible uses for people. There is a similarity in being free – free to do what we want – and being lost. We talk about “finding ourselves”, but how does a lost person find themselves? If you are lost, what do you need to do? You need to find home. The good news is that someone from home has come to find you – the good shepherd has come to find lost sheep. Once we are home we do not need to “find ourselves”, we can just be ourselves. Sheep are dumb – do we think of ourselves as brave explorers, masters of our own destiny? The Bible's picture of humanity is of sheep who do not even know enough to respond to their Master and follow him. We should stop struggling to find ourselves and call out to Jesus to rescue us – he will carry us home.
Isaiah 53:6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.
Luke 15:4-7 “Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it? Then when he has found it, he places it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Returning home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ʻRejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.ʼ I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.
The world is divided into 2 camps – sinners and slaves. Sinners love freedom; the slaves love respect. Sinners opt out of the system to discover themselves; slaves opt into the system to prove themselves. Each group thinks the other is the real problem with the world. And they respond very differently to the grace of Christ. This is seen in the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal is a sinner, the brother is a slave. But in the parable the “hero” is the father (the one who welcomes sinners and eats with them). The father represents Jesus – as he is in all of the parables. In the 3 parables of this section he makes the same point - “I've come to find the lost.”
Luke 15:1-2 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:28-32 But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, but he answered his father, ʻLook! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends! But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!ʼ Then the father said to him, ʻSon, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.ʼ”
Who is easier to get into heaven, a good person or a bad person. A bad person! The two sons in the parable of the prodigal son are an example. Who is welcomed and forgiven? The bad son. Who is left outside? The good son. We react to this – this surely cannot be right! Sinners and slave = unrighteous and self-righteous. Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners, but the self-righteous become angry. Our default mode is the same as the younger son – we want God's stuff, but we don't want anything to do with him. We don't need to become bad, we need to realize that we are bad. Neither sinners nor slaves want the Lord – they just want to use the Lord to get things out of him. The sinners take their share and run to the far country, while the slaves take theirs and build their reputation. The father is generous and gives the children what they each want. The far country is a mirage, the pigsty is the reality. True liberation is found at home with the love of the man who welcomes sinners.
Luke 15:13-16 After a few days, the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle. Then after he had spent everything, a severe famine took place in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and worked for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He was longing to eat the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
We often read the parable of the prodigal son as though the point is that the prodigal changes his mind, repents and straightens out his life. He finally comes “to himself” - the son's response to the father is actually a quotation of what Pharaoh said in Exodus. The prodigal's plan is not to repent and return to be a son, but as someone seeking employment from the father – he resolves to become a slave. This is the result of preaching “pigsty repentance.” – to leave the pigsty to enter the slaves' quarters – but this is not what the father wants. When he sees the son, before the son can say a word, he takes action to welcome him. He cuts the son off; before he can make his job application the father begins the extravagant welcome. This is what brings the son home – the father's action is what reconciles the son. The father publicly invites the son back into the family. The prodigal finally finds true freedom and change in the father's embrace. True change is found in the arms of Christ.
Luke 15:17-19 But when he came to his senses he said, ʻHow many of my fatherʼs hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”ʼ
Exodus 10:16 Then Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you!
Luke 15:20-24 So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him. Then his son said to him, ʻFather, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.ʼ But the father said to his slaves, ʻHurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate, because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again - he was lost and is found!ʼ So they began to celebrate.
The day the prodigal returned home was an incredible day for the father – he received his son back! – and for the son – he expected only punishment but he was celebrated by the father. The village experienced an incredible party! The older son, however, was furious. The servants were more in tune with the father's plans than the older brother was, and the village witnesses a angry rift between the older son and the father. It seems that the father has the two worst sons in Israel – one shames the father in the pigsty and one shames the family in the backyard. But the father again will bear the shame of the sinful children. He reconciles with the younger son, and now he goes out to the older son and begs him to come to the party. The father would have all if they would only come. The older brother, instead, relates to the father as a slave, an obedient slave, yet a slave. The father says, “Everything I have is yours,” but the older brother never asks. He would rather be a good slave than a beloved son. Each son in his own way uses the father, but does not want a relationship with the father. The father refuses to deal with either son on the basis of their moral record – Jesus summons younger brothers and elder brothers and asks that they “join the joy”.
Luke 15:28 But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him,
John Newton, in Amazing Grace, identifies with the younger son of the story. But the older brother, too, needs amazing grace. Most people recognize that the younger son has done wrong. But the older brother is also far from the father's heart – he is lost and needs finding. It is important to realize why the older brother is shut out of the feast – he is not out of the feast because of his badness, he is out because of his goodness and high morals. He is not out of the feast because his father is too cruel, he is out of the feast because his father is too kind. He despises the one who welcomes sinners and eats with them. This is the end of the parable, with the bad son in the feast and the good son outside. What happens next? While the parable ends here, we know how the story ends between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. The religious leaders hated Jesus and the grace he offered so much that they murdered him. Christ was not killed by a mob, he was killed by moralists like the older brother. Whether we are the younger brother or the older brother, we need to be reconciled and welcomed by Jesus.
Luke 15:31-32 Then the father said to him, ʻSon, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.ʼ”