Thursday, January 17, 2019

Don't Be a [Spiritual] Hoarder! Psalm 118:1; Ezra 3:11

[This is a short devotional shared before last night's quarterly meeting...]

DON’T BE A HOARDER! Psalm 118:1; Ezra 3:11
Introduction: A brother was helping me help someone in the church this week, and he made the comment “I could easily be a hoarder, I don’t throw anything away!” I am the same way – I don’t know the psychology, I guess I just think you never know when you might need that box of left-over parts from past projects or whatever! Hoarding isn’t a joking matter for some people, it can become a real problem, but an even bigger problem is “hoarding” spiritual truths that God is teaching us along the way. I read a short article this week that suggested, “We need to weaponize our quiet time.” That means as soon as we learn something new, or when we see God’s “footprints in the sand” in some situation in our life, we need to share the blessing by telling someone else about it! Don’t hoard the blessing for yourself!

       So, this is me telling you something from the Word, I hope, but also an interesting confluence of details that, it seems to me, have God’s fingerprints on it. On Sunday I preached on Mark 14, where Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples, and they “sang a hymn” and went out to the Mount of Olives. The reading I was doing suggested that Psalm 118 was the last of a group of Psalms that would traditionally have been sung in connection with the feast. As I thought about a devotional for tonight, I started to look at the verse that opens and closes that Psalm, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His steadfast endures forever!” Praise and thanksgiving to God for who He is and for what He has done – that is the proper response of faith. Well, I also started working on the Children’s Church lesson for this week, and it is the story of Ezra, rebuilding the Temple. Then I looked up the key verse for the lesson, Ezra 3:11…

And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel." And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Essentially quoting the exact same phrase! That got my attention, it seems God wanted to make sure I didn't miss what He was saying! 

       There are a couple of different ideas about “praise” in the Bible – but they are related. There is descriptive praise, which focuses on our response to God for who He is, and there is declarative praise, which is our response to God for what He has done. GIVE THANKS TO
The LORD… Yahweh, the Great I AM, the God who is, has chosen to enter into a relationship with humans… FOR HE IS GOOD

Remember the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, Lucy asks Mrs. Beaver, when she learned that Aslan is a Lion, if he was quite safe… No, but He is good! When the rich young ruler called Jesus, “good teacher” Jesus asked Him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God…” In other words, do you think I am just an engaging teacher, or have you really recognized who I AM? God is good, and He does good, always. It is His nature. In the original creation, step-by-step, He said, “it is good.” And listen to this… the Bible promises that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Give thanks to the LORD for He is good!  And, HIS STEADFAST LOVE

We've seen that word recently in our study of Ruth, His “hesed,” His covenantal love… His “loyal love,” or His “steadfast love.” He has committed Himself to us, in the most amazing way… Not just with words, but by acting for our good... this is how God showed His love among us: He gave the Son… (I John 4:9; Rom 5:8; John 3:16).  That love endures forever… Jesus said,

"I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish…"

Later we read in Psalm 118:14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Is that your experience? Then we can’t allow ourselves to become spiritual hoarders! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! Jesus told the disciples after the resurrection, “You will be my witnesses, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth…” Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever!  AMEN.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Never Say Never! - Mark 14:26-31

Never Say “Never”!
Mark 14:26-31
Introduction: This week the partial government shutdown has been in the news, it resulted in some people being laid off and others, deemed essential, having to work without pay. I believe that air traffic controllers are among those who are on the job, but not getting paid at the moment. It is good to know that people are watching the radar, plotting courses, and working with pilots to bring the planes to their destinations. There were probably moments during the passion week, as we’ve been looking at it in the Gospel of Mark, when the disciples wondered, “is someone in control?”
      Dr. Sinclair Ferguson noted “Jesus, …the One who is about to enter the darkness of Gethsemane and the deep darkness of Calvary, is the only one who is really in control of himself and the situation…” (Mark, p.234). The disciples think they can handle whatever comes their way, but they have no idea (even though Jesus has warned them repeatedly). The religious leaders think they have things under control, and finally they will be rid of this “trouble maker.” Judas thought, perhaps, “some easy silver…” He had no idea. Only one is truly in control, even when things seem out of control.
The Maine* Idea: We should think rightly of ourselves, recognizing our weakness and propensity to sin, and live in the light of the Gospel of Grace.

Context: After His prediction of betrayal, and His transformation of the Passover meal to symbolize the sacrifice He was about to offer, they sing a hymn and head out to the Mount of Olives, which was also the setting for Chapter 13 and his discourse about the coming judgement and His return in glory. Though they could hardly understand beforehand, the Gospel, God’s Plan, was at the center of His words and actions. Remember, it is Passover… The Lamb of God would soon be slain… for us… The Gospel should lead us to praise God for His grace. Here, …they sang a hymn… (26). Mark reports…
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Nowhere do the gospels tells us what hymn they sang that night. Even so, we know that traditionally the Jews sang the Hallel psalms (Psalm 113-118) in connection with the Passover. Since it is the end of the evening, after the meal, it is reasonable to think that it may have been Psalm 118 which begins (and ends) with a call to praise God for His steadfast love (vv.1-4; 29)…

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!  2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever."  3 Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures forever."  4 Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
We’ve looked at that word “steadfast love,” hesed, in our study of Ruth. It speaks to God’s faithfulness to His covenant, His “loyal love.”  This psalm was also quoted by the crowds at the triumphal entry (118:22) and also refers to the Rejected Cornerstone (26) and the festal sacrifice (27).  The prophecies of His death, His “anointing” for burial at Bethany, His predictions of betrayal and desertion, His transformation of the Passover to represent His body given, and His blood poured out, and even His allusion to resurrection, seems to have been largely missed, at least for now, by His disciples. Seemingly, they are still largely focused on themselves, thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. We’ll be reminded here that we should think rightly of ourselves, recognizing our weakness and propensity to sin, and live in the light of the Gospel of Grace.
I. Jesus begins with a warning of failure: You will all stumble  (27)!
27 And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 
       Jesus uses strong language in predicting what would soon happen, indeed that very night. The betrayer had evidently already left the group. But he was not the only one who would fail the Lord that night. Jesus said “You all will fall away…” Jesus anticipated what would happen, and even quotes Scripture to explain it. “Fall away” reflects the Greek word,  skandalizo [from which we get the English word “scandalize”] which is variously translated, “fall away, stumble, be offended.” The word was used earlier in Marks gospel, perhaps the most instructive is the explanation of the seed that fell on the rocky ground…
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.  17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while. Then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away… (Mark 4:16-17).
They fall away when persecution arises. Remember our context. In this same location, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus had just spoken of coming tribulation, great tribulation, in the discourse in Mark 13. When He spoke the “Parable of the Soils” in Mark 4, mentioning different classes of individuals who would manifest the appearance of life, and then fall away, were some of their own number in His mind? Was this parable the explanation of what had happened with Judas? Was he perhaps one who Satan came and took away the word that had been sown in him (Mark 4:15). But wait, didn’t Jesus say to Peter on one occasion “Get behind me Satan!” (Mark 8:33)? But Jesus was not speaking of one, or even two of His followers. He said, “You shall all fall away…” Every last one. And He quotes Scripture to make His point.
“…for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
The citation is from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah. We read in 13:7,
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me," declares the LORD of hosts. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.
It is interesting that Jesus puts the prophecy in the first person, “I will strike the Shepherd…” God is the subject, the Father, it seems, striking the Son. Is this a similar perspective to what we see in Isaiah 53:4,5, and also v.10?
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace… 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin…
This is the grace that is guiding this story to its climax. God spared not the Son, but delivered Him up for us all! God’s justice had to be satisfied, sin required a just punishment. God could not be holy and righteous and just overlook our sin. And so, Christ, the sinless Son, the spotless Lamb of God, bore our sins in His body on the Tree. Amazing love… Recall the scene near that same spot, when Abraham raised the knife on Mount Moriah to offer his beloved son Isaac in obedience to God. God intervened, He provided a ram caught in a thicket which was offered in Isaac’s stead. 2000 years later the executioner’s hand would not be stayed. God himself provided the Lamb—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
       Jesus quotes from the prophet Zechariah as He tells the disciples what would soon happen. Do you notice how often Jesus quotes Scripture in the Gospels? We’ll see more quotations and allusions on the way to the Cross. Why does He do that? He has all authority on heaven and in earth. HE IS THE WORD OF GOD, incarnate and living! It seems that He wants His disciples, and us, to know the value of the Scriptures. He is showing them that the Word can be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. He wants us to know that
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work… (2 Tim 3:16,17).
God has given His Word to correct, teach, guide, and equip us. Do we receive it for what it is?  Do we submit to its authority in our lives? Or do we arrogantly think we know better? We should think rightly of ourselves, recognizing our weakness and propensity to sin, and live in the light of the Gospel of Grace. So, I. A warning… is followed by…
II. A Promise of Hope: Jesus will overcome our failure (28; cf. 16:8).
28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee."
       The contrast here is emphatic, and what a beautiful expression of grace! You will all fall away, “But after I am raised up I will go before you…” The Lord had spoken of His death and resurrection repeatedly to the disciples, but here He does so in the light of their “falling away.” Apparent defeat and failure will be turned into victory, He will be “raised up.” And though they will have left Him, He will not abandon them. He is still interested in them, leading them, preparing the way for them, going before them to Galilee.  At this moment it probably doesn’t make much sense to the disciples. After the Cross, and in the light of their failures, their confusion and sadness will darken their understanding. But the resurrection will bring hope! Near the end of the gospel we will read in Mark 16:5-7,
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  6 And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."
Now, in advance, Jesus is telling the disciples about His future resurrection, and assuring them that He is not finished with them, and that they will see more clearly in a few days, they will weep, but their sorrow will be turned to joy! From Jesus’ perspective the words of John Chrysostom ring true: “The danger is not that you should fall, but that you should fail to get up.” Jesus came to save sinners. And so, we should think rightly of ourselves, recognizing our weakness and propensity to sin, and live in the light of the Gospel of Grace. Instead of focusing on the promise, Peter tries to pridefully reassure Jesus, NOT ME Lord!
III. The Danger of Pride: “Pride goes before a fall…” (29-31).
29 Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not."  30 And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."  31 But he said emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.
       Peter’s self-confidence is pretty impressive here, is it not? “Even though they all fall away…” Maybe you are right to be concerned about these guys, Jesus, I’ve had some doubts about them myself! They may fall away, all of them, but get this straight: I will never deny you! Really? Proverbs 16:18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We need to see ourselves rightly, and know that God is present, that He is good and that He does good, and we desperately need Him.  I think that’s part of what it means when it says “the just shall live by faith.” Trust God, take Him at His word! The prophet Jeremiah reflected that attitude when He wrote…
23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jer 9:23-24).
Even after the very specific prediction of Jesus, “…before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times…”, Peter was not convinced.  Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you…” And not only Peter, but “…they all said the same thing.” Honestly, if we were there would we not have chimed in with the rest of them? Paul would later call the prideful Corinthians to proper humility when He said in 1 Corinthians 10:12, Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul’s point there is not that we can’t stand firm, but that we should not be presumptuous, we need to stay on guard. 
       We need to guard our hearts, because we are all vulnerable. Read the story of King David, a man after God’s own heart. Did he imagine earlier in His life that He would be vulnerable to the temptations that later overtook him? We need to watch ourselves, and watch out for each other, because given the wrong circumstances any one of us could fall into temptation. Please, if you are tempted to say, “Never, not me! Though they all fall away, I never will…” That sounds familiar… It is what Peter says here. And that very night He denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times!
What is God saying to me in this passage? We should think rightly of ourselves, recognizing our weakness and propensity to sin, and live in the light of the Gospel of Grace.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Hopefully the government will soon be back to work… but it is good to know God is always in control! Let’s look at four things Sinclair Ferguson finds here (Mark, 236-237)…
       1. Submit the whole of your life to Scripture. God has spoken, He has given us His word. “It is the rock on which all spiritual stability will be built.” I’ve encouraged you this year to take seriously the privilege we have to have the Word of God written, in its entirety, available to us.  Will you avail yourself of this blessing and receive the Scriptures for what they are, the very Word of God? Let’s read it, every day, asking God to open our understanding.
       2. Focus on what God is doing in your circumstances. Ferguson says, “You may not at first recognize God’s footprints… but believe that they are there, and be assured that he is working out His perfect purpose in the midst of the chaos around you.” Ferguson is reflecting there on Psalm 77:19 which says, “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”  Remember the poem “footprints in the sand”? It is good to be reminded that God is present, active, helping in ways that we may not see or understand to accomplish His purpose in us and through us. It helps to realize in the midst of the chaos of life that God is in control, that He is Good, that we can trust Him to work out everything for our good and for His glory… even when we don’t recognize his footprints in the sand.
       3. Trust your fellow Christians. What? But the disciples failed! I think his point is, knowing that they are imperfect (as we are imperfect), that they will sometimes disappoint us, that our ultimate trust is in God, give others the benefit of the doubt, knowing that God is at work in them as He is in you. Look for the reflection of our Father in our brothers and sisters, knowing that just like us they will fall short of His glory. Using the language of C.S. Lewis, we’re fellow pilgrims, living for a while in the Shadowlands. And that points us to our ultimate hope…
      4. Remember that all the enigmas of life will never be resolved until the final resurrection. Dr. Ferguson says, “When the darkness of your present experience seems to make God’s hand utterly invisible, look beyond the darkness to the dawning of that morning when the shadows will flee away and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev 7:17).   Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!  AMEN.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Pastor's Report Preview - January 2019

[This is a first draft of my report for our quarterly meeting coming up next week.]

Boothbay Baptist Church
Pastor’s Report
January 2019
       The end of a calendar year is always an activity-filled time in the life of the church, and 2018 was no exception.  Our children’s ministries continue to be a great joy as we see young children excited to learn and growing in their faith. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed joining with our team of volunteers in the Olympian ministry, working with 1st to 6th grade students.  The kids are excited each week as we come together to recite Bible verses and report on quiet time successes and challenges, have a game time together, sing Bible-based songs, hear a gospel-centered Bible lesson, and then have a snack while we debrief in small discipleship huddles. It is truly a joy and a privilege and I am blessed to join with our team of leaders, as we partner with parents in leading these kids deeper in their faith in Christ. I’ve also enjoyed leading the adult Sunday School class, with video series on Awakening (Ligonier Ministries) and Prophecy (Dr. David Jeremiah) followed by our current study in Ruth (Journey to Bethlehem: The Prequel).
       Our Christmas celebration started early this year, with Journey to Bethlehem inside and outside the church building at the end of November. The live Nativity Scene on a couple of nights (featuring the Dodge family) got the attention of some passers-by! Special thanks to Meredith Fowlie for coordinating the program once again. This year our Advent celebration in December included a special program directed by Becky Roberts which included music from the children, as well as adults singing several songs. We also had a joint-Christmas Eve service with our brothers and sisters from Boothbay Region Community Fellowship. For the entire month of December our theme was rejoicing in the First Coming of Christ, while being always grateful for why He came, to give His life so that we could be reconciled to God. That is the true gift of Christmas!  I am thankful for all who participated in doing the Advent readings through the month, it helped keep our hearts and minds focused on the reason-for-the-season, Jesus Christ. We ended our year together with a New Years Eve service, reading through the entire Book of Revelation, and singing songs of praise to the Lord. This year we had 21 readers!
       I’ve enjoyed continuing our series in the Gospel of Mark. Someone recently asked me which is my favorite book of the Bible. My answer was, “Which ever one I am preaching at the time!” I’ve been learning each week as I’ve worked through this gospel in my own study, and have tried to share the perspective of Mark in the sermons each week. God chose to give us four gospels rather than one complete account of the life and teaching of Jesus. Each one gives a unique perspective on the person and work of Christ, while being united in truthfully telling the story of the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God. Mark wants his readers, and us, to know that there will be tribulation and suffering in the world, that is why Jesus came—to undo the Fall and to make it possible for fallen humans to be reconciled to Holy God.  So be encouraged! He loves us that much. Counseling couples and individuals continues to be a privilege.
       We don’t know what the New Year will bring us. We can count on some surprises along the way. But nothing is going to surprise Him. He has a plan, and Jesus is building His church. What a privilege to have a part in what He is doing! Talk to me or the elders about using your gifts and abilities for reaching the lost, and building up the body of Christ!
Your co-workers in Christ,
Pastor Steve and Mary Ann

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Last Passover - Mark 14:12-25

The New Passover
Mark 14:12-25
Introduction: One of the things that come out of working with children is to be reminded that we can’t take anything for granted! You know their favorite question? “WHY?” Kids always want to know why we believe what we do, and why we do the things that we do. Time and tradition can obscure the truth even for mature believers. One of the things associated with the celebration of Passover was the practice of the youngest child present to ask questions, “Why do we eat these foods?” “Why do we do these things?” It is an opportunity to teach, and for all who are present to be reminded, of the things that are really the basis of our faith.  As Passover was associated with the redemption of the Firstborn and the Exodus, Jesus used the bread and wine to symbolize His coming sacrifice and the rescue He would accomplish… Way back on the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared there talking with Jesus. Moses would immediately be associated with the Exodus from Egypt. Moses was used to lead them out, but Joshua would lead them in. When Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus, 0nly Luke tells us what they were talking about: His departure [exodus] which would soon be accomplished in Jerusalem. Paul was quite explicit when he said, “...Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed [for us]...” (2 Cor 5:17, ESV). We’ll see here in Mark 14:12-25...
The Maine* Idea: Jesus fulfilled the Passover, which was a reminder to the Jews of what God had accomplished, and gave His followers a symbolic meal, to reflect on the salvation He accomplished for us.
Context:  Remember the context, chapter 14 of Mark began on a doubly ominous note: Passover was approaching, and the religious leaders were actively plotting to put Jesus to death. The anointing of Jesus with expensive perfume allowed for Him to make an enigmatic reference to His coming death on the eve of Passover, He said, “...she has anointed my body for burial...” and at the same time that was apparently the last straw for Judas as He went to the leaders with His intentions to betray Jesus…
I. Preparation of the Passover (12-17). The scene on the Eve of Passover is reminiscent of the preparations for the triumphal entry a week earlier. There too we saw Jesus give a couple of disciples some instructions about what was about to happen. Remember there we read in 11:1-6,
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples  2 and said to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.  3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'"  4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it.  5 And some of those standing there said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"  6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.
       The question then as here is chapter 14 is whether this contact had been arranged by Jesus beforehand, or was it sovereignly guided in the moment, or was it an indication of His divine omniscience? Mark does not answer that question for us, but the implication seems to be that this is another case of Jesus knowing details no mere man could know, even about specific future events like this, and perhaps even guiding the characters to do exactly as He desired. So here the question is regarding the location of the Passover meal Jesus would share with his disciples… Back in our context, we read in 14:12...
12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"  13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'  15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us."  16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.  17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve… 
NB. Jesus is in control of the events leading to His death… He is guiding [His]story as planned. On the face of it, the whole picture is an unlikely one. First of all, in that setting, men did not normally carry water jars, that was usually done by women, or sometimes by children or slaves. It was unusual enough that coming into the city and seeing such a thing, the disciples would know this is the person they needed to follow!  Everything would be arranged so that Jesus and the disciples would have a place to share the Passover meal together. It had to happen in order to fulfill all righteousness.
       Mark refers to “...the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.”  This is another indication that the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, had virtually merged in the first century. If you recall in our study of John’s Gospel, John makes a point that Jesus was crucified at the hour that the Passover lambs were sacrificed (John 19:14ff.). How could that be if we see here in Mark Jesus sharing the Passover with His disciples?  I don’t know for sure! A few ideas have been proposed, but scholars haven’t come to a consensus. There may have been differences in the celebration between Galilean pilgrims and Judean locals. Or there may be a difference between Mark’s time references as He writes to a Roman audience, and that of John as He writes a “Jewish” gospel. For my part, at this point, I think the best I can do is to take each account at face value. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was killed in association with the Jewish Feast of Passover, and He had a last supper with His disciples which they shared in association with the Passover feast.  The point is that Jesus fulfilled the Passover, which was a reminder to the Jews of what God had accomplished, and Jesus transformed that meal, giving His followers a symbolic meal, this last supper became the Lord’s supper, for them to anticipate and for us to reflect on the salvation He accomplished for us. So I. Preparation, then...
II. Prediction of Betrayal at The Final Passover – In the previous context, after the anointing of Jesus by the woman (Mary) in the house of Simon, Judas had just gone out and conspired with the leaders to betray Jesus… and now, just a few days later, Jesus reveals to the twelve, including Judas, that He knows! NB. Jesus was not caught by surprise by His betrayal… and still, He does nothing to stop it from happening. The disciples clearly had no idea, no suspicions, as to who the traitor might be—they all asked, “Lord, it is I?” The sense of the question seems to be, “Lord, it’s not me, is it?”
18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."  19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?"  20 He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.  21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."
       It is a shocking scene, Jesus with His twelve closest disciples, reclined at table, sharing a meal together. Jesus had repeatedly told them what would soon happen, the Son of Man would be handed over, put to death, and rise again the third day (8:31; 9:31; 10:32-33). They didn’t seem to understand what He was saying. In Bethany he had just said He was anointed for His burial, all of which spurred Judas to contact the leaders. Now, as He reveals the unthinkable, that one at the table would be His betrayer, they are saddened, and one-by-one ask, Lord, is it me?  The fact is, they would all soon betray Him at some level, Peter by denying Him three times. The others, by being scattered deserting Him as Jesus is arrested. However, only for one, for Judas, is this “premeditated betrayal,” essentially revealing His unbelief.  Imagine how shocking this statement of Jesus must have been to him! “One of you twelve will betray me!” Judas must have thought, “How could He possibly know?!  Did He have a spy in the Sanhedrin? Was I talking in my sleep? Or... is He really… no, it couldn’t be!”
       At another level, as we have seen, it had to happen this way. It was written. It was necessary for the Son of Man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  But divine sovereignty does not negate human responsibility. Scripture predicted the betrayal of the Messiah. Here, Jesus predicts His betrayal by one of the twelve. God’s plan will come to pass. And Judas is responsible for the unimaginable treachery of betraying the Son of God. God’s plan was prescriptive as well as predictive. And so,
“For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born..."  (Mark 14:21).
Judas would one day give an account of His actions before the Great White Throne. Truly, it would be better for him if he had never been born! At the same time, according to plan, Jesus fulfilled the Passover. He took that which was a reminder to the Jews of what God had accomplished, and gave His followers a symbolic meal, a new ordinance, to reflect on the salvation He would accomplish for them and for us. So, I. Preparation of the Passover, II. Prediction of His betrayal, followed by...
III. Participation in the First Communion (22-26a). Jesus transformed a “Last Supper” into a “First Supper,” giving new significance to the Passover meal.

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."  23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
       It is odd that the two ordinances the Lord gave the church, baptism and communion, both of which should affirm the unity of the body and our common faith, have become such a point of division between us. We’ll not address the question of baptism today, but the Lord’s Table is a beautiful reminder of what God has done for us in Christ. Obviously, as Jesus shared this meal with His disciples and instituted the ordinance, their perspective was different than ours. They remembered the first Passover, and were invited to ponder the meaning of Jesus’ words, looking ahead to His sacrifice, when he spoke of His body which was given, and His blood which would be poured out for many. Remember, all of this was against the backdrop of Jesus’ teaching and predictions, and the anointing that had just occurred at Bethany. Did they understand? Probably not, not until after the Cross and Resurrection anyway. But what was Jesus saying about these elements from the Passover Table?

       First, “...he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’” The Roman Church over the centuries came to teach that Jesus was saying that the bread was actually being transformed into the body of Christ. The term, “transubstantiation” relates that idea. The Lutherans were not too far off from that, they held that the body of Christ was present with and between the bread. Calvin was closer it seems when He taught that the Lord was “spiritually present” in the elements of communion. It seems pretty clear to me that this was symbolism. After all, Jesus was physically there with the disciples as He instituted the Table! What could the disciples have understood? Something like the “Bread of Life” discourse in John 6 when, as another Passover was approaching (Jn 6:4), He described Himself as the Bread of Heaven. There is some way in which He is the Bread that gives life as we receive Him, His blood brings the cleansing that we desperately need. The Lord’s Table reminds us of that Spiritual Truth. It is not mystical, it is God teaching us as we see and consider and taste the elements, to remember that Jesus is not just a story, just about words on a page, He is the Word, who was made flesh, and dwelt among us. This is why He came.

What is God saying to me in this passage? Jesus fulfilled the Passover, a reminder to the Jews of what God had accomplished, and gave His followers a symbolic meal, to reflect on the salvation He accomplished for us.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? It is really a kind of object lesson, something that allows us to see and taste, while we hear the scriptures read, and invites us to reflect on the rescue that Christ accomplished for us. It is a perpetual reminder, showing forth His death until He comes. It allows us to join with believers through the ages, as we partake, in this symbolic meal, we are drawn back to the upper room, to that last Passover, when the Lamb would be slain, once and for all.  Let’s read Paul’s reaffirmation of this ordinance in I Corinthians 11:23-28...

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,   24 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."  25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."  26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
And so, we look back and remember. We remember that night in the upper room, and we remember the next day, on Calvary, when the Lamb was slain.  We look back, and we also look ahead, as we “show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.” We were reminded in Chapter 13, He will return! That also reminds us that the Kingdom is coming, and that one day we will share in another meal, the marriage supper of the Lamb. And so we look back and look ahead, and also, as we are invited here, look within: “...let a person examine  himself...” I think the point it to examine our hearts in relation to the gospel: have we trusted Christ as savior and as Lord? Have you, by faith, shared in His death and resurrection? That is the Good News!   AMEN.