Sunday, 20 April 2014

From Passover to Pentecost: when the hours met

During his lifetime there were several attempts to arrest or kill Jesus of Nazareth. They all failed and the Bible's verdict is a very simple one 'his hour had not yet come'. He had an appointment with a cross and nothing could frustrate that plan. As the day of his appointment came closer he was sought out by 'some Greeks'. It was at this moment that Christ heard the whirring of the gears; the hour was about to strike.
But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. John 12:23 NKJV.
He knew what that hour would involve.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24 NKJV.
His appointment was with death and he was under no illusion as to how deep that valley would be.
“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. John 12:27 NKJV.
He is committed to keeping his appointment with the hour and heaven breathes its 'amen'.
Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” John 12:28 NKJV.

We move to Gethsemene where he will face this choice again and again and again and each time he will make the same choice, saying,
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 NKJV.
When the cohort came to arrest him Christ made an illuminating comment.
When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:53 NKJV.
Whose hour is this? Is it Christ's hour or is it the final hour of human rebellion against the will of God? It is both. The hours will synchronise on a hill outside a city wall. Eternal love's "Yes" will meet mankind's resolute 'No' and the victory shout will echo into eternity;
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30 NKJV.
It's done yes it's done.

It's done, yes it's done.

Through the precious blood of Jesus

the battle is won...
Sunday morning will prove it!

Friday, 18 April 2014

From Passover to Pentecost: tasting death

The Biblical concept of 'tasting' implies much more than a mere sampling. When the writer to the Hebrews refers to Christ's Calvary passion he shows the real significance of the picture.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Heb 2:9 NKJV.
Christ did not merely sample death but experienced it in its deepest depths. This is un-limited atonement, for everyone. He experienced death for the whole race. The idea of experiencing something very thoroughly is repeated twice more in Hebrews;
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, Heb 6:4–5 NKJV.
These are sobering words but they apply to people who have truly experienced God.

When Moses 'kept the Passover' (Heb 11:28) the families of Israel were not spectators but participents. Just as Christ did not merely observe the sin of the world but participated in it. He identified himself with what the race had become, being made sin, while knowing no sin. (2 Cor 5:21) We do well to remember that the Passover blood on the lintels and doorposts was symbolic of something that was taking place inside the house;
Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover. Ex 12:6–11 NKJV.
The emphasis in this passage is not on the blood but upon the flesh. The blood, as signifying the death of the Passover Lamb, is essential but it is God who must 'see it';
And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; Ex 12:13 NKJV.
The flesh, the consequence of the death, is for the people; they must participate, they must eat it.

When John recorded the events of Calvary he made the telling observation that, contrary to Roman custom, the legs of Jesus were not broken.
And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken. John 19:35–36 NKJV.
What 'scripture' does John have in mind?
In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. Ex 12:46 NKJV.
John is identifying the crucified Jesus as the Passover Lamb. And Passover Lambs did not die to provide a spectacle for the watchers but to provide the necessary food for the journey into a new destiny. So he tasted my death so that I might taste his.

Luke records that there were spectators present at the cross.
And the people stood looking on. Luke 23:35 NKJV.
Am I a spectator or a diner?

From Passover to Pentecost: Do you believe in coincidences?

The early Christians made an important connection for us. They remembered some words of Moses and were sure they understood their implication. Moses had spoken a word of prophecy.
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, Deut 18:15 NKJV.
There was more but that will suffice for our purpose. Twice in the early days of the Acts of the Apostles the early Christians quoted these words and gave their definitive interpretation of them.
For Moses truly said to the fathers, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. Acts 3:22 NKJV.
“This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ Acts 7:37 NKJV.
Each time they identified Moses' future leader as Christ himself. If we consider the accounts of Moses and Christ at their birth we begin to trace the fascinating pattern of their lives. Each was targeted, and missed, by a murderous ruler... but in a sense these are superficial 'likenesses' to Moses. It is in Moses' role as the deliverer of a people and the mediator of a covenant that Moses serves as a template for the "Prophet like me from your midst" that God would raise up.

We mentioned in an earlier blog the conversation between Christ and Moses and Elijah and noted the topic of conversation as being Christ's 'exodus that he would accomplish/finish in Jerusalem'. The mediator of the Sinai/Old covenant and the mediator of the New Covenant had common ground here in the language of 'exodus'. We saw too how Christ celebrated the Last Jewish Passover and initiated the New Covenant 'Passover' tradition in the upper room.

There can be little doubt that Christ chose his words carefully as he instituted the New Covenant tradition of the Breaking of Bread and the Taking of the Cup. In the commencement of the Old Covenant the celebration looked forwards to their deliverance. The pattern is repeated in the upper room. And look at the words Christ used...
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:20 NKJV.
There are no coincidences in the pattern of this phrase. Moses had inaugurated the Sinai/Old Covenant with the words...
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Ex 24:7–8 NKJV.
Now Christ takes up the same pattern of words, adding a vital word.
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:20 NKJV.
He is acting as Moses' promised replacement, using the same words, but to make sure there can be no possible confusion he makes it clear that he is not talking about Moses' covenant but another covenant promised by Jeremiah... a new covenant...
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. Jer 31:31–32 NKJV.
The trials that must follow, the shedding of his blood, are all part of a new beginning. He must take away the first in order to establish the second. Heb 10:9.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

From Passover to Pentecost: The Last Passover

This was G Campbell Morgan's way of describing the event which we often call the Last Supper. The events of the trials and crucifixion took place during the Jewish celebration of the Passover. By the time they gathered together in the upper room the covenant nation of Israel had celebrated Passover, somewhat sporadically, for some 13-1400 years. The First Passover took place in Egypt and looked forward to God's deliverance and Exodus. Jesus and the Twelve gathered in the upper room to share their meal.

There are some remarkable parallels that connect the mediator of the Sinai Covenant with the mediator of the New Covenant. Peter, James and John witnessed Christ's transfiguration and Luke records the topic of the conversation between Christ, Moses and Elijah.
And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:30–31 NKJV.
There are words here which might have been translated very differently. The topic of conversation, literally, was 'his exodus which he would finish at Jerusalem'. Moses and Elijah engaged Christ in a conversation concerning 'his exodus' which must be 'finished' in Jerusalem. The scene is being set for a replay of the First Passover. Christ's death was not a tragedy or accident but an Exodus to be accomplished.

In part this explains the strange comment made by Christ in that upper room at the Last Passover.
When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; Luke 22:14–15 NKJV.
The expression is very intense 'with desire I have desired' and the word for 'desire' is the one usually translated as 'lust' in the New Testament. This is a a testimony to a craving desire, an all consuming longing to celebrate 'this Passover with you before I suffer'. Why? and what is the unique significance of 'this Passover'? The next verse is our clue;
for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. Luke 22:16 NKJV.
The annual celebration of the Passover had always looked backwards to an event in the history of the covenant people but now Christ declares that every previous celebration had been not only a commemoration but a prophecy looking forwards to a future Passover. The annual Passovers had been a promise that one day must be fulfilled in a a New Passover and a new Exodus.

The shadows and types had served their purpose. Now the reality at which they had pointed has arrived. This would be the Last Jewish Passover. A new tradition is being born. No longer the Seder once a year but now... often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1 Cor 11:26 NKJV.
Events will move quickly now and Christ will be seen not only as the New Covenant's mediator but as its Passover Lamb.
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Cor 5:7 NKJV.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

From Passover to Pentecost: the First Passover

The people of the Sinai Covenant celebrated and often still celebrate the events that marked the beginning of a unique nation with a unique destiny.

The celebration began somewhere around three and a half millennia ago. It began in Egypt among a people who served as the slave nation to the great world power of the Pharaohs. It began with a groan and a cry. God heard the cry. He always hears our cry.
Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. Ex 2:23 NKJV.
430 years earlier the patriarch Abraham had been plunged into a deep sleep and while he slept he witnessed the making of a covenant and heard a prophecy that predicted his descendants would become a slave nation. Gen 15:13. Fast forward 400 years and we find a huge people group living in Egypt as the worker-slaves of the Egyptian state. Their social development was still based on family units but elders had emerged who coordinated the family units and served as the official link between the state and the workers. The group comprised not only blood descendants of Abraham but included the 'family households' of the descendants of Abraham's bloodline. Gen 45:18.

God raised up Moses and moved in sovereign power to bring deliverance for the slaves. The promises made personally to Abraham and to each successive generation were to be incorporated into a national destiny for a new nation. But first they must be set free. No man can serve two masters and if the nation was to be God's nation and obedient to God's will its people must be freed from the hostile will of their current master.

Their deliverance would commence with a forward looking celebration. God's judgment would fall upon the host nation. The eldest sons in the homes of the Hebrews would only be spared as they submitted to the rule of God under his spokesman, Moses. Lambs were to be slaughtered and the flesh and blood used in a ritual meal. The roast flesh was to be eaten and the shed blood applied to the doorposts and lintels of their homes.

The first celebration of the "Passover" would be looking forward to their deliverance and their journey to a new future. The first Passover took place in a foreign land and was a sober act of faith. They ate it prepared for the journey; their sandals on their feet, their staff in their hand, their few belongings on their back and the whole group ready to move at a moment's notice.

The letter to the Hebrews makes an interesting distinction between the covenant's mediator and the covenant's recipients. The writer records it so...
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. Heb 11:28–29 NKJV.
"He (Moses) kept the Passover... they passed through the Red Sea". Without Moses' initiation and faith there would have been no Exodus.

Fast forward again now, some 1300 years or so. Jesus and his apostles are gathered in an upper room to celebrate the Last Passover. The disciples are perplexed and are hesitant in their faith. The Mediator of the Covenant moves with calm faith. His hour has come. He will initiate this New Covenant. His faith will win the victory and gain their deliverance. Their faith will be needed later. When their deliverance is achieved they will need to move forwards. on their own feet; their own journey into a new future.