Evangelism Made Simple
Discussed this article in relation to talk given by pulpit supply minister last week.
Thoughts on Devotions – LD28 (Part 2)
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: Sometimes it is difficult to understand the stories, images and symbols used to describe Jesus' sacrifice for us. The images draw on wider Bible themes such as covenant and history from God's people in the OT. Eating and drinking Jesus' body and blood refer to a new covenant and to the Passover as well as the more general system of sacrifices in the OT. Jesus reference to the serpent on the pole that Moses lifted up speaks of obedience, faith and God's provision of a remedy for sin. We see that God's plan of salvation developed from the initial promise in the Garden of Eden, throughout the history of God's people, with final fulfillment in Jesus and his sacrifice. God's plan is revealed in Jesus - he is God's ultimate remedy for sin and we receive it by trusting God's promise.
John 3:14-18 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
Tuesday: Eating Christ's body and drinking his blood is a reassurance of our forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice, but it also symbolizes being united with Christ. Jesus gave the picture of branches being connected to and nourished by a vine. We are actually connected to Jesus and other Christians through the Holy Spirit. The Lord's Supper reminds us that we are connected with Jesus and with each other as we, together as a people of God and Body of Christ, remember what he has done and practice the close love and caring that Communion symbolizes.
John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him - bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.
1 John 3:24 And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.
1 John 4:13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit.
Wednesday: The symbolism of eating and drinking also refers to the intimate connection between Christ's spirit and those who partake of the Supper. We ingest the elements and they become part of us. Similarly we are also in Christ. It also speaks to the permanence of the connection.
1 Cor. 6:15a Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Ephesians 5:29-30 For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, for we are members of his body.
Thursday: Communion is something we do in our local church, but it something that Christians around the world do in obedience to Christ's command. This is a strong symbol of the connection we have with other believers. It is also a reason that we need to belong to and participate in a church.
1 Cor. 12:12-13 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body - though many - are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
Ephesians 4:15-16 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.
Friday: The Lord's Supper is a remembrance, but it is also a proclamation of the Gospel message – speaking to the reason that Jesus died on the cross and the forgiveness of sin and other benefits we receive as a result.
John 6:52-58 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Saturday: The bread and wine (or juice) are physical symbols that help us experience what we have heard through the reading and preaching of the Word in another way. They are a sign – that is, they point to something else, Jesus' actual sacrifice, and they are a seal – repeating the message in Word with a tangible visual and physical proclamation.
John 6:35-40 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe. Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. Now this is the will of the one who sent me - that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father - for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Reading between the lines...
The surprise of judgment is that insiders will be cast out and outsiders will be brought in. Death is the leveler and judgment is the great reverser of fortunes. The madness of hell is reflected here and now in the madness of this life – the rich man is portrayed as expecting deference and service even in death – little changed. He is told that if his brothers will not listen to Moses and the prophets they will not listen even to someone coming from the dead. Hell is seen not as an imposition of some foreign punishment, it is the continuation of a mad stubborn rebellion. The one thing can wake people up is the Scriptures – do not trust in yourself or things – come as a beggar to Jesus. He still welcomes sinners. If you come full you will be turned away; if you come empty you will be welcomed.
Luke 16:29-31 But Abraham said, ʻThey have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to them.ʼ Then the rich man said, ʻNo, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.ʼ He replied to him, ʻIf they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.ʼ”
Jesus and the disciples were exhausted – yet while they looked for solitude they were overwhelmed by a crowd. But Jesus saw their need and had a visceral compassion. Jesus was not immune to tiredness and weakness, yet his love for the people allowed him to respond to their need. Jesus serves their need for teaching first, feeding them on his word first, and only after serves their practical needs. Curious that this is the opposite of doing a soup kitchen. The disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away. In response Jesus tells the disciples to feed them. Jesus meets them where they are overwhelmed. Jesus involves the disciples in checking the resources and in distributing the bread and fish – and at the end they each have a basket of leftovers to convict them of their grumbling. Jesus steps in at our weakness, takes what we have and makes it more than enough. What is Jesus doing? He is doing what he always does – he leads his people into desert places and then spread a table. Paul also experienced this – through this we are taught to rely on Jesus, and we will find ourselves overwhelmed not be demands, but by his grace.
Luke 9:16-17 Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them. He gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up - twelve baskets of broken pieces.
2 Cor. 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again,
Jesus serves even though he is exhausted. Is he drawing on some secret reserve? Instead he seeks to empty himself, while we seek to retain a reserve. Jesus secret is that long after we say “enough!”, he continues to pour himself out. Jesus describes himself as the bread and as he is devoured he brings life to the world. Jesus gives eternal life to the world, but gives it by giving himself for the world. He is a self-emptying giver. Scrivener explains that to eat flesh and to drink blood is to take advantage of a life given by another – and Jesus says, I want you to take advantage of me. Without him we parish, and if we do not want to perish he must be consumed. At the Last Supper he proclaimed over the bread and wine – this is my body, this is my blood. He is consumed, we are nourished. He is poured out, we are filled. Jesus keeps no power in reserve; his power is his sacrifice.
John 6:33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
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.”
Psalm 27:2 When evil men attack me to devour my flesh, when my adversaries and enemies attack me, they stumble and fall.
2 Sam. 23:17 and said, “O Lord, I will not do this! It is equivalent to the blood of the men who risked their lives by going.” So he refused to drink it. Such were the exploits of the three elite warriors.
When you receive the keys to something it is a sign of trust by the person giving you the key. Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Everyone is equivocal – some say this, some say that – until Peter makes his bold pronouncement that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus rejoices to be known and proclaimed. He says “Blessed, are you Simon,” and says that this was revealed to Peter by the Father. This is an example of how God works in bringing the message – we do not work our way up to a true knowledge of God, God comes down. Peter proclaims the most fundamental truth. On this basis he “hands over the keys” and says that “on this rock I will build my church”. Roman Catholics take this as evidence for Peter being the first Pope. But Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 (and repeated in numerous other Scriptures) clarifies that the rock is the proclamation of Jesus Christ – it is not a person. This is the scenario of Matthew 16 – proclaiming Jesus Christ is the mark of a true church, not tracing a lineage back to a person. All Christians are members of his body and with membership comes privileges and responsibilities – giving the keys of the kingdom. In John 20 Jesus uses similar language when giving the disciples authority to forgive sins – they do not forgive sins, but sins are forgiven in the authority of the message. As we speak of Jesus, people will come into the Kingdom of Heaven. The gates of heaven hinge on this message – we are not sharing personal thoughts, we must be proclaiming Christ. This releases and unstoppable power – even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it!
Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
1 Cor. 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.
John 20:21-23 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyoneʼs sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyoneʼs sins, they are retained.”
Martin Luther said that there are two ways of speaking about God – the way of glory or the way of the cross. The first looks to what looks reasonable to people, the second looks to the most foolish thing imaginable, a bleeding victim on a cross. One looks like the heavenly path, but leads to hell; the other looks hellish, but is the very gate to Paradise. The natural way for us to think is the way of glory. In Matthew 16, in the space of 2 paragraphs, Jesus goes from referring to Peter's statement of who he is as the rock on which the church will be built, to calling him anti-Christ and satanic. 6 shocks in this passage: 1) Jesus' identity is Son, his mission is Sacrifice – if we don't understand the sacrifice, we don't understand the Son. Jesus is the Christ, but he refuses to be a crossless Christ – the way of glory. 2) When Peter buys into the way of glory, and goes from key holder in the Kingdom to conduit of Satan in four verses. 3) The things of men are satanic, 4) pursuing “the things of men” is as simple as seeking comfort and avoiding the way of the cross. Flinching from the cross to go for comfort is satanic; 5) Peter thinks he is helping Jesus, but diverting him from the way of the cross is satanic; 6) the things of God means Christ crucified. If even Peter can get things so wrong, we're all in trouble. We must keep our focus on the cross, especially as competing pictures of God and the Christian life crowd in.
Matthew 16:22-24 So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on Godʼs interests, but on manʼs.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
Peter wanted to protect himself and Jesus from the cross and go for comfort – these are not the things of God. Jesus calls us to reverse our values and perceptions, deny self and take up our cross. Jesus doesn't just die on the cross, he puts us to death with him. Jesus calls us to die and give up our own path to follow him – if this is the way that Jesus achieves glory, how can we expect to follow him in any other way? Even in the Trinity, the Father pours himself out for the Son, the Son pours himself out for the Father – this is the way of true flourishing. Entrust yourself to Jesus, he is the one who knows how to turn loss into gain, death into life, sin into righteousness. What are we pursuing - comfort and self-protection? The world cannot give us what Christ can.
Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:28 speaks of the Son of Man coming in his kingdom just before the Transfiguration. At the transfiguration the voice of God identified Jesus as his Son and commanded that they listen to him. Receiving honor and glory is connected with the role of High Priest, and the voice proclaiming Jesus as the Son is like an ordination. In the transfiguration Jesus is being proclaimed as High Priest. Whenever the Father declares his love for the Son, the cross looms large. The glory of the transfiguration heralds the sacrifice that Jesus has come to accomplish.
Matthew 16:28 I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Matthew 17:4-5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three shelters - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!”
2 Peter 1:16-18 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain.