Poured Out for Many (Mark 14.12–31)


Food is biblical.

Consider how often the Bible uses food to mark a spiritually significant event. Passover commemorates God leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12.1–20). The Lord’s Supper remembers Christ’s death on our behalf (1 Corinthians 11.23–26). We look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when Christ returns and raises us to eternal life (Revelation 19.6–9).

In each of these cases—and in many more throughout Scripture—the salvation God provides is celebrated with food, and not skimpy hors d’oeuvres either, but a full feast. Why is that the case? It seems to me that there are at least two reasons: sacrifice and hospitality.

Passover is the role model here in Mark 14.12–31. During Passover, the Israelites sacrificed a lamb and spread a portion of its blood over their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their houses when he executed judgment against their Egyptian slave owners. The Lord’s Supper, which was part of a Passover meal, portrays Jesus as the Passover Lamb whose death takes away the sins of the world. And the Marriage Supper of the Lamb—notice that allusion to Passover—is the eternal celebration of what God has done for us through Christ. In each case, the theme of sacrifice is present.

But so too is the theme of hospitality. Have you ever noticed that you usually reserve meals for family and friends? Although on occasion we must eat with our enemies, we do so as rarely as possible. Why? Because food is something to be savored, and the company we keep something to be enjoyed. It’s hard to savor your food or enjoy your company when you know that the person on the other side of the table has it in for you.

Significantly, I think, Jesus ate the Last Supper with his closest friends, the disciples. And yet, Judas would betray him to the governing authorities. Peter would deny him three times. In fact, says Jesus, “You will all fall away,” indicating that all the disciples would run and hide when Jesus was arrested and crucified. (Although John—alone of the disciples—returned to witness the crucifixion.) Jesus ate this meal with his friends, but they turned out to be his enemies, eleven of them temporarily, one of them permanently.

How tragic that Christ’s last meal with his friends would turn out to be a meal with the very people who would desert him when he needed them most! And yet, how necessary for their salvation, and ours! Of the cup, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Salvation comes not to those who are already safe, but to those who are in danger. Christ dies not for the righteous, who don’t need his righteousness, but for sinners, who do.

Christ invites us to share the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with him in eternity. To do so, however, we must stop denying and start admitting that we need a Savior. Only then do we become one of the many for whom Christ poured out his life.

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Every Spiritual Blessing (Ephesians 1.3–14)


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SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 1.3–14

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

In Ephesians 1.3–14, Paul praises God because he has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What are those spiritual blessings? Paul gives several examples.

First, election: “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (verse 4). When we give our testimonies, we speak of what led us to choose to follow Christ. But in reality, long before we had made a choice for God, God made a choice for us. Our salvation is the result of God’s initiative, not our own. As 1 John 4.10 puts it: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Second, adoption: “he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ” (verse 5). In the biblical portrait of human existence, we are spiritual orphans. As orphans, we have no spiritual safety net, and are thus find ourselves victim to the depredations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Through Christ, God adopts us into his heavenly family, gives us a spiritual home, and provides us an inheritance of eternal life. What a joy to know that our loving heavenly Father refuses to leave us alone!

Third, redemption and forgiveness: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (verse 7). Redemption and forgiveness are economic metaphors of salvation. Redemption is the price paid in order to emancipate a slave. Forgiveness is what a creditor does for his debtor when he releases him from the obligation of repaying a loan. In the biblical portrait of human existence, we are slaves and debtors to sin. But God is the Great Liberator and Debt Cancelor!

Fourth, enlightenment: “in all wisdom and insight  [God is] making known to us the mystery of his will…to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (verses 9–10). Dante Alighieri begins his Divine Comedy with these words: “Midway upon the journey of our life / I found myself within a forest dark, / For the straightforward pathway had been lost.” Having reached middle age, I can testify to the fact that I have sometimes felt a bit lost about what my future holds. But even if I—or you—do not know all the details of what the future holds, we know its ultimate end: the union of “all things in him.” That is God’s “plan for the fullness of time” (verse 10).

Fifth, inheritance: “In him we have obtained an inheritance” (verse 11). That inheritance is eternal life in God’s presence. In eternity, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21.4).

Finally, the Holy Spirit: “[you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (verses 13–14). First-century authors stamped a seal on their letters as a symbol of its authenticity. The Holy Spirit is God’s stamp on our lives, signifying that we are truly his. And first-century homebuyers offered a down payment as the guarantee of future payments. So also, the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on our life. As Paul writes in Philippians 1.6: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

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