The Chosen Ruler

By Tuesday night we may have an idea who will fill the office of President of the United States for the next few years. What kind of character will this person have? I’m not telling you how to vote nor what my vote is. But Matthew 12:15–21 describes a ruler who does not fit the mold of those running for president or for other offices in the election this week.

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“Prepare As You Come to the Table”

Yellow warning signs become so familiar that you begin to tune them out. Perhaps you’ve become too familiar with the warnings associated with the Lord’s Supper such as those found in 1 Corinthians 11:27–28. But the warnings are important, because there are dangers involved, as well as great blessings.

Beware of failing to prepare. Do not sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Paul, who had not been present at the first Lord’s Supper, quotes what the Lord had revealed to him. About the bread, Jesus said, “This is my body.” As he gave the cup he said, “This is my blood.” There is something solemn and mysterious about that. But the Corinthian love feast had degenerated into chaos. The feast started out as a fellowship meal, but slipped into a combination of hunger and drunkenness. This church (which receives no praise from Paul on this account, verse 17) treated the Lord’s Supper as an ordinary meal. The problems here grew out of the party spirit evident earlier in the book. Don’t treat the Lord’s Supper as something superstitious or magical. The doctrine of transubstantiation led to veneration of the elements, which became a form of idolatry. Do not treat the sacrament casually, as Corinthian church did. This is not just an ordinary meal. Do not come merely out of habit or custom. Do not come if you are not trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. This meal is a proclamation of the Lord’s death. In coming you express your trust in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. If you do not yet trust, wait until you do before you come. If your life contradicts your profession, make getting that straightened out your priority.

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A Meal for the Body of Christ

At its very heart Biblical Christianity is mysterious. Something of the mystery of our salvation in Christ Jesus carries over into what the Word, as we focus today on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, teaches about the Lord’s Supper. Guard against reducing God’s revelation to something that we can comprehend.

Flee idolatry. Early in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul warned against idolatry as it came to expression in the life of Israel in the wilderness. The idols are not gods, but behind them are demons, evil spirits. Paul’s warning takes on urgency in the context of the Lord’s Supper, which involves table fellowship with your redeemer. The warning is appropriate today. Avoid any involvement with the occult. Avoid looking to anyone else than God as the source of power, knowledge, and revelation. Spiritism, witchcraft, astrology, channeling, are all prohibited. An idol is anything in your life which is more important than God. It is easy to condemn the idolatry of ancient Israel, of Corinth, or of pagans today, but Paul’s point is that idolatry must be avoided by you! See 1 John 5:21. Examine yourself to determine what your priorities are. Remember that Paul calls greed “idolatry,” Colossians 3:5. Live as one “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come,” verse 11. (The New Testament considers this the whole period bracketed by Christ’s comings.) At first glance urbane, sophisticated, immoral Corinth might seem to be worlds away from the “primitive” world of Israel wandering in the wilderness. But Paul connects them. Israel had been united with their deliverer in the cloud and in the sea. They had been baptized into Moses. The Passover was a meal eaten in the presence of God. God assured them that they were his people, redeemed by the blood of the lamb. This looked beyond Moses to the reality which you have. You have been baptized into Christ. You have union and fellowship with him. What had been shadow and promise is now an accomplished reality. Baptism marks your union with Christ at the beginning of the Christian life. Recognize the awesomeness of God’s presence in salvation and judgment. Rejoice in the privilege of living in the time of the revelation of God’s salvation. The Lord’s Supper does have a note of celebration, blessing, and thanksgiving in it! No wonder that the glory of the new heavens and earth is described as a rich feast!

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You Are God’s People

Assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai were Israelites, freshly escaped from centuries of captivity in Egypt, along with many other people. This motley group, this “mixed multitude” was about to be brought into a covenant relationship with God. They would be made his people, his nation. The New Testament church is no less a unit, a body, a people chosen by God to be his own as 1 Peter 2:4–10 points out.

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Lord of the Sabbath

How does the Sabbath function in your life? Do you disregard it as a requirement for Israel that has been fulfilled? Does it get buried under the busy demands of your schedule? Is it an inconvenience in our secular culture? The Sabbath, according to Matthew 12:1–14, is an area over which Jesus claims lordship.

Christ claims divine authority. Christ’s relationship to the Sabbath shows his majesty. The name, “Son of Man” indicates divine authority. Jesus already used that name as he claimed the authority on earth to forgive sins, Matthew 9:6. The source of the term is the majestic figure of Daniel 7:13,14. The Sabbath shows Christ’s authority. The Pharisees presumed to be experts in the interpretation of the law. But Christ authoritatively defines the meaning of the commandment. The Son of Man calls himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” He takes to himself the term that was used to translate the Hebrew name of God, YHWH. He claims sovereignty. The connection between Jesus acting on the Sabbath and his claim to sovereignty is made explicit in another incident in claim to sovereignty is made explicit in another incident in John 5:16–18.

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