The new covenant meal (podcast) (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)

A new covenant? How did Jesus’ bloodshed establish a new covenant? Who are the parties? Why a new covenant? Could a previous covenant shed light on this one?

In the Ancient Near East, a national covenant defined who was in power. That’s what the Sinai covenant achieved: a people rescued from slavery became the first nation on earth to live under God’s reign, and the covenant that was celebrated with a meal (Exodus 24:7-11).

How did the new covenant establish God’s reign in Christ? What is it we’re proclaiming in this meal?

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The covenant meal (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)

Communion is a new-covenant feast. How does the body and blood of the Christ create a covenant between heaven and earth?

If your church celebrates the Lord’s Supper, you’ll be familiar with this:

1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (NIV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

We hear this so often we may not see how counter-cultural it is. When we celebrate our Lord, we’re proclaiming the king who gave his life to re-establish the covenant relationship between heaven and earth.

Those verses begin and end by proclaiming Jesus as kyrios — Lord. A kyrios in Greek culture was a master or a ruler. The head of a business was the kyrios: the master, the lord of the business. The head of the Empire was a kyrios: Caesar expected you to call him your lord.

But if you saw a convicted criminal hanging on a cross beside the road, you would not normally call him kyrios. The crowd would be more likely to call him Loser than Lord.

In what sense is Jesus our kyrios, the Lord?

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When the last man falls (Matthew 26:69-75)

Seeing no alternative, Peter disowned his king. Jesus never gave up on him.

Why did Peter deny Jesus? Was he just sitting at the wrong fire, in a crowd where he didn’t have the gumption to admit he was Jesus’ follower? That isn’t how this story works in Matthew’s Gospel.

Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, God’s anointed leader (16:16). Jesus blessed him, but realized Peter had no idea of the conflict ahead. Peter’s denial began when he said, No Lord! This will never happen to you! Denying that Jesus would die at the hands of the Jerusalem leaders placed Peter on the enemy’s side (16:21-23). Peter could understand taking up his sword and kill to save his king (26:51-52), but he could not understand taking up his cross to follow the king into death to save his realm (16:24-28).

Once Jesus removed fight from the agenda, flight was the only option his followers could see. That’s why, All the disciples deserted him and fled (26:56).

Peter could make no sense of what was happening, but he couldn’t stay away either. Peter followed him from a distance … to see how it would end (26:58). That’s the reason Peter was there, trying to blend in with Jesus’ antagonists. That was never going to work, of course. A lumbering fisherman sprouting Galilean phrases was as inconspicuous as an Aston Martin in a spy movie.

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Why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? (Matthew 26:59–66)

How could Jesus be tried and condemned for the sin of blasphemy?

“Speak against me, and you speak against God!” That kind of manipulation is common from cults to Catholicism, from micromanagers to megachurches. That’s what motivated Caiaphas to tear his garments at Jesus’ trial with the accusation, He blasphemed! (26:65)

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“Tell us if you are the anointed ruler” (Matthew 26:57–68)

Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was all about whether he claimed to be king.

Why was Jesus called to stand trial before the Jerusalem Council?

It won’t do to say, “Well, Jesus claimed to be the second person of the trinity (Son of God), and the high priest thought that was blasphemous.” The notion of a triune God was not formulated until much later. The high priest was not investigating a Christian dogma when he said, I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. (26:63 ESV).

Peter had used those titles: Christ, Son of God (16:16). We saw that the Gospel writers treat the two phrases as meaning the same thing (epexegetical). The Christ is the anointed ruler who represents on earth the reign of the heavenly sovereign. In that sense, he is the son proclaimed by the eternal sovereign. That’s what son of God meant to the high priest. It was the language of kingship (Psalm 2:2, 7), the language of God’s promises to David (1 Chronicles 17:13).

But the kingship had failed. The final Psalm in Book III laments the disconnect between God’s amazing promises and their experience of the failed kingship:

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Why did Jesus have to die? (Matthew 26:47-56)

How did Jesus’ death “fulfill the prophetic Scriptures?” Here’s the explanation he gave in Gethsemane.

Fight or flight? Many kings have faced that choice. In a field just outside his capital, the true king rejected both options. Neither would bring peace to a divided world.

If you don’t flee and you don’t fight, you could die. Not very attractive, but it is an option: stay and die.

Instead of taking flight, Jesus stayed in Gethsemane, consulting his Father, the architect of human history. He triple-checked for any other alternatives (26:36-46). When the crowd with swords and clubs arrived to take him, he rejected the fight option too.

Matthew doesn’t name Peter as the disciple who unsheathed a dagger. It’s too late for flight. He sees no option but to fight for his king. He swings his sword. The high priest’s servant sees it coming and drops his head to one side. The blow aimed at his neck slices off his ear.

The king orders him, Put your sword back in its place! All who take the sword will destroy themselves with the sword.

What astounding insight! Jesus wasn’t merely saying that those who rely on weapons for survival probably won’t. He said the very act of choosing weapons to kill humans destroys our own humanity (ἀπολοῦνται = future indicative middle).

Ask returning soldiers who’ve seen killing whether Jesus is right. Ask them how many friends they’ve lost to the spectrum from shellshock to suicide. War destroys more than the enemy.

But what sort of option is stay and die? Is that what the Scriptures required of him? It’s not what previous kings had chosen.

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Dark night without answers (Matthew 26:36-46)

Gethsemane isn’t the end, but it sure can feel like it.

Every fibre of his being wanted to run. He wouldn’t last twenty-four hours if he stayed. Grief, anxiety, debilitating distress was killing him.

One of his friends had turned traitor, agreeing to hand him to his enemies (26:20). His other friends didn’t understand, asleep while he faced the dark night of the soul. Though he felt like running for his life, Jesus spent his last moments of freedom facing his Father.

When I’m depressed or distressed, the Psalms advise me to hope in God … my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). We’ve heard that nothing is impossible with God. Facedown in the dirt in abject submission, Jesus prayed, My Father, if it’s possible, let the cup pass me by (Matthew 26:39).

Why was God handing him a deadly chalice? It was tearing him apart as he prayed, If it’s what you want, I’ll take it.

Silence.

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Unjustly struck down (Matthew 26:31-35)

How did Jesus handle the rejection he faced?

My feelings affect what I hear from others. When we feel guilt, we hear condemnation. Even from Jesus.

“You will all desert me” is the New Living Translation of Matthew 26:31. It sounds like committing apostasy, and it has been heard that way since the second century.

But desert is an active word, and Jesus used the passive voice. He didn’t say they would fall away from the faith; he said they would be felled by the events of that night.

Jesus wasn’t blaming them. He was blaming God:

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What did Jesus sing? (Matthew 26:30)

The first worship song in the New Testament

Here’s the only record of Jesus singing:

Matthew 26:30 And having sung, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Singing would be unremarkable today. Churches spend lots of time doing it. But this (|| Mark 14:26) is the only time the Gospels mention Jesus or his disciples singing.

So, what would they sing? I mean, it wasn’t from a Wesleyan hymnbook or a Hillsong stream.

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With you in my Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29)

What was Jesus referring to when he spoke of celebrating anew with them in his Father’s kingdom?

Closing his Last Supper, Jesus said, I tell you the truth, from this moment I will not drink the vine’s produce with you until the day when I drink it with you anew in my Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

What did he mean? According to some communion talks, Jesus was referring to the big banquet at the end of time when everyone is under God’s authority. But that doesn’t really work: within a few days, Jesus was eating with them again (Luke 24:30, 43; John 21:5-13; Acts 1:4).
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Zechariah’s vision of God’s reign (Zechariah 14:4-21)

The Lord will be king over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9)

A restructure is common when a new leader takes office. Zechariah’s final chapter envisions a restructure of creation as it comes under divine sovereignty. The heart of the chapter is this: The Lord will be king over the whole earth (14:9). And changing the king changes the kingdom.

In an alien world, Star Trek’s Spock would say, “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” Zechariah is not seeing an alien planet; he’s seeing the removal of everything alien to God’s intentions for life on earth, the terraforming of our planet.

With impressionistic brushstrokes, Zechariah paints an image of God’s reign transforming everything:

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Great authority for a great commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

The king’s authority sets the servants’ task.

The great commission begins with all authority. Without understanding who is king and how he uses his authority, we’re likely to misuse that authority.

We’ve heard that it was said:

Go into all the world and convert everyone to Christianity.

What he said was more like this:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been entrusted to me. On that basis, everywhere you go you are to train the nations, plunging them into the leadership given by heaven for the earth: the authority of the Father, his Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Your role is training the nations to obey what their king has commanded. And I promise you I will always be backing you my servants, until the goal of the era is fully accomplished (i.e. heaven’s authority is fully restored to earth).
— paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20.

Begin with his authority, and his commission takes meaningful shape.

The authority of the Christ (28:18)

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What is a Christian? (podcast) (Romans 12:9-21)

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Writing to Rome, Paul spent eleven chapters explaining who Christ is in relation to us, and then five explaining who we are in relation to each other under Christ’s leadership. Short answer: Christians are the community in Christ. Our identity derives from the leader God appointed for us.

This podcast draws on the transitional chapter of Romans, in fresh translation. Recorded at Riverview Church’s Joondalup campus, 15 August 2021 (34 minutes).

Related posts

You are the Christ (podcast) (Mark 8:27-35)

Open Mark 8:27-35 (ESV).

What do we mean when we say Jesus is the Christ? Is it merely part of his name? Or did Peter have something more in mind when he declared Jesus to be the Christ?

This is no minor matter. It goes to the heart of the Christian faith. It needs to be discussed in our churches, since Jesus’ identity and mission defines our identity and mission. So, how do we teach on this for a Sunday congregation?

This podcast (24-minutes) is from the message delivered to Riverview Church’s Joondalup campus on 8 August 2021.


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Divine sovereignty and human suffering (Zechariah 14:1-5)

Puzzled over how to understand God’s sovereignty? It’s the hope of a suffering world.

Zechariah’s final chapter extends astounding hope in a puzzling framework.

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Strike the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9)

Why was the shepherd of God’s people struck? Why did Jesus relate Zechariah’s message to himself and the scattering of his little flock?

Open Zechariah 13:7-9 and Matthew 26:31-32.

The night he was arrested, Jesus expected his friends to abandon him. He knew they would because the prophets said so.

Matthew 26:31 Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (NIV)

Reading Zechariah 13, it’s not immediately obvious why Jesus would apply this to himself. To make sense of how Jesus understood the text, we need to read the prophets in the context of the story they were telling.

Who was “my shepherd” in Zechariah 13:7?

Continue reading “Strike the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9)”

A cleansed, non-prophet kingdom? (Zechariah 13:1-6)

Interested in seeing the gospel in the Old Testament? This example from Zechariah 13 shows how to (and how not to).

Open Zechariah 13:1-6.

The ideal kingdom is a wise king with a responsive community. Zechariah’s hope is for Israel’s failed kingdom to be restored after being exiled and dominated by foreign powers. He anticipates what life could be like on that day (13:1, 2, 4).

King and kingdom are reconciled as God gives them a spirit of grace and supplication, and they respond by seeing how they hurt him — looking on the one they have pierced (12:10). They stabbed God’s heart by rejecting his kingship, giving themselves to other rulers and their gods. This has been Zechariah’s core message: Return to me, and I will return to you (1:3).

So, on that day when they turn back to God’s kingship, God cleanses the house of David — the kingship God sacked because they were self-serving. On that day, God cleanses the inhabitants of Jerusalem — the people who gave themselves to other rulers and their gods.

Based on the Torah, Israel was to be a nation under God’s leadership. Their sovereign gave them his laws and defined how to remain ritually pure in his presence. Sin or impurity could make them unclean, so he provided cleansing rituals (e.g. wash occurs 35 times in Leviticus). So when they turn back to God, Zechariah declares that God will open a fountain to cleanse his people, so they’re devoted to him alone:

Continue reading “A cleansed, non-prophet kingdom? (Zechariah 13:1-6)”

The one they pierced (Zechariah 12:10-14)

“They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” What does this mean in its OT context? How does it relate to the Messiah?

Open Zechariah 12:10-14.

How do you understand this astounding statement from the Old Testament?

They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).

There’s a strong temptation to simply read this through the lens of the cross: Jesus the Father’s only Son, God pierced for us. That may be how the story plays out (compare John 19:37), but we miss the richness if we don’t ask what it meant in Zechariah’s context.

When Zechariah says, “They will look on me

  • they = “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:10a).
  • me = God, since Zechariah is speaking for God (“the word of the Lord” 12:1).

How could they pierce me?

And how can God’s people piercing him be compared to grieving for a firstborn son?

Zechariah is unfolding a very specific story: the story of God’s anointed (the Davidic king) representing heaven’s authority (the kingdom of God) in a world where people (both the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the nations) resist God’s reign.

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What God decrees for his people (Zechariah 12:1-9)

What God promised for his people is often frustrated by our unfaithfulness. The good news is that all the promises are fulfilled in Christ.

Open Zechariah 12.

We’re looking at how Jesus fulfils the hope of the Old Testament prophets. The Gospel writers say this is how Jesus understood himself and his role, but it’s often not a straight line from prophecy to fulfilment. Israel’s history wasn’t a straight line. They took many detours to reach what God intended them to be: his kingdom.

So, to make sense of how Jesus fulfils the prophets, we need to follow their journey. Without taking those steps, it may feel like the Gospel writers were cherry-picking texts to suit themselves.

Take the classic text from Zechariah 9 about the humble king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Matthew says, This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet. Zechariah was talking about a son of David being recognized as king as he entered the capital to end the conflict and restore God’s reign over them (9:9-10). In all the generations between Zechariah and Jesus, this had never happened. Some exiles had returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but they were still ruled by the nations. How would God restore his reign over them?

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Thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)

How the temple valued Jesus’ leadership is no different to how they valued God’s leadership in the past.

Zechariah 11:12–13 (NIV)
12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

Thirty silver pieces? Isn’t that the price Judas got for Jesus? Is there a connection? We’ll need to see what this means in Zechariah first, to understand what Matthew 27:3-10 makes of it.

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