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.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Here are ten religious posts that caught my eye today:

Lee Strobel discusses how Easter killed his faith in atheism. If you’re interested in the topic, check out N. T. Wright’s exhaustive study, The Resurrection of the Son of God, which—at 740 pages is not merely exhaustive but exhausting…to hold, anyway. Or read Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, which is 22 pages shorter.

President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, and a reporter can’t help but note a political angle (in the penultimate paragraph). Personally, I cheer the president’s statement of faith. Raspberries on his politics, though.

Did the Last Supper occur on Thursday or Wednesday? I wouldn’t mind a few New Testament scholars weighing in with their evaluations…

Walter Russell Mead on how Christian faith matters in a world where the pace and intensity of change is so unsettling.

If capital punishment is a sin, is God a sinner (Genesis 9:6)?

Edward O. Wilson and other evolutionary biologists are having a fight about the origin of altruism, specifically, whether group selection or kin selection best explains its origin. Interestingly, forty years ago, Wilson promoted kin selection as the best explanation. For me, this argument demonstrates how difficult it is to overturn scholarly consensus.

The Barna Group reports on what Americans believe about universalism and pluralism.

Historian John Fea is halfway through a four part series on “the Civil War as a battle between two ‘Christian’ nations”: Part 1 is “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.” Part 2 is “God’s Judgment Upon the South.” Fea is author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? Mark Noll has an excellent book on the Civil War you might want to read if you like Fea’s series: The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Ben Witherington posting a chapter-by-chapter critique of Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writings in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter2 , Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapters 7 and 8.  I’m reading the book too and hope to have a (much shorter) review up in the next few weeks.

James Hannam argues that science and Christianity can get on better than you think. I always thought they can get along just fine, but evidently there are some atheists who think otherwise. Hannam is author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, which I’m also reading and hoping to review in the near future.

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