20 June 2015

Memorials (Part 2)

I wrote the other day about remembering and the power of memories. And now today we look at the central activity of the people of God who are nicknamed "The church" in their memory prodding, the event called 'communion.' This is that ceremony in many churches where a piece of bread and a sip of grape juice or wine is used. The actual ceremony begins with a reminder of a reminder. Paul wrote this to the Corinthian believers: "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." (1 Cor. 11.2) By keeping a good record of what Paul taught the believers there, they received a high commendation from the apostle. Like every student who learns well, when his teacher commends him, there is great joy. And the praise of the apostle is especially good given his earlier criticisms of the Corinthians.


The apostle tells them he is glad they remember him. But, as you would imagine from a humble apostle, he switches to the main thing they remember... "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Yeshua in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes." (11.24-26)

This idea of receiving and remembering is crucial. You cannot remember what you never heard (received) and receiving alone is almost useless if you don't remember what you have heard. So the apostle says that he received something from Yeshua (Jesus) and passed that to the believers in Corinth. And that they should remember as they perform a ceremony. The ceremony itself in fact, is the call to remembrance.

It all goes back to Passover. Yes, the Jewish seder meal which my people have conducted for over 3,000 years in homes in Israel, the US, Russia, here in Australia, and around the globe. And one particular night, about 30 CE (AD) or so, Yeshua had seder with his friends and did some unusual things. He said that the matzo they were eating had a special significance, not only in relation to the exodus from Egypt, but also in relation to what was going to happen to him the next day. He knew, but the disciples did not know, that he was going to be killed by crucifixion by Roman soldiers. And he took the unleavened bread and gave it even deeper meaning saying that it was 'my body given for you." What? A piece of bread is likened to a physical body of an adult human?

In the seder's haggadah (the prayer book and order of service we use each year), we say of the unleavened bread, "This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt." So the bread Yeshua took in hand was already a symbol of something else. And then He changed its meaning to yet another concept-- His body, which would suffer and be afflicted the next day on a Roman cross. The idea of affliction was certainly known to the Jewish people. And it was also a characteristic of the messiah to come as Isaiah the prophet declared, "in all their affliction he was afflicted....so he became their Savior" (chapter 63) Sure enough Jesus suffered deeply the next day and took on Himself the suffering of the Jewish people, and according to the story, all people.

The cup of salvation which we drink is the "new covenant in My blood."  When approached by the two sons of Zebedee, the following took place. Yeshua asked them, "Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said unto him, "We are able". But Jesus answered and said, "You know not what you ask." The cup of baptism was really the cup of suffering. And certainly Yeshua suffered the next day, spilling His own blood to save us, each one of us, from our sinful nature and our activities of sins. As the prophet Isaiah also predicted 700 years earlier, "he was wounded for our transgressions. The chastisement for our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed." (chapter 53)

The phrase 'new covenant' is something which is used only one other time in the Tenach. Jeremiah the prophet said, "Days are coming (says the Lord) when I will make a new covenant with the Jewish people, not like the one I made with them when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. This is the covenant I will make: I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  

The new covenant will be a memorable one and the sins of Israel will not be remembered.  God will write the new covenant on our hearts and on our minds. That's about memory. And when Yeshua took up the cup on Passover night before He was crucified, He instituted the new covenant, a perpetual memory of His forgiving us of our sins and putting His Torah in our hearts.What a Savior!

So when the Corinthians who were pretty good at sinning and envying and living wrong got the remembrance of the Messiah right, that deserved high marks from Paul. And when you get it right, God will attest to your heart that you are His. that's worth everything. Remember this. 

For more on Passover and blood and bread, see http://jewsforjesus.org/judaica/passover. 


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