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!
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.
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.
What is a yoke used for? In Matthew 11:28–30 Jesus not only describes his yoke, he invites you to take his yoke.
Take Christ’s yoke upon you. Christ calls you to take his easy yoke. The yoke symbolized bondage and toil. The yoke was what the ox pulled against as he plowed. A symbolic yoke, formed by three spears tied together, formed an frame through which those defeated by Rome’s armies passed as they entered slavery. A yoke was used by people to carry burdens. The law, particularly as it was interpreted and applied by the rabbis, became a cruel, unbearable, yoke for God’s people, Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10. Ultimately the law is a burden because we are sinners, rebels against God. In contrast, the yoke Jesus offers is easy. He opposes the superficial legalism of the Pharisees, see Matthew 12:1–14. He offers himself as the Savior. “This yoke is easy and this burden is light, not because these commandments are no heavy demands to man’s self-love and self-assertion (cf. Matt. 7:13ff), but because it is Jesus who teaches them. For he is ‘meek and lowly in heart.’ He himself is one of the ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘the meek,’ to whom he preaches the gospel. He is the Lawmaker, but he is also entirely dependent upon God, rejected by men, on his way to the cross.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 254). Still, Jesus does require a commitment. His invitation (because it comes from him, it is really a command) is to take his yoke upon you. As the Messianic King he summons you to take his yoke, to be part of his kingdom.
What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? In Matthew 11:20–24 Jesus takes the judgment that fell on Sodom, and warns that the inhabitants of Sodom will be in a (relatively) better position in the day of judgment than those who reject him.
Responsibility accompanies privilege. The towns of Galilee witnessed Christ’s powerful works. Much of Jesus’ ministry had been focused in Galilee. The miracles of which Jesus speaks are specifically works of power. As Jesus overcame blindness, healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead, the dynamic power of his kingdom confronted and overcame the kingdom of darkness and its effects. These miracles were powerful enough that, had they witnessed them, the inhabitants of the notoriously wicked cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have repented. (These words are spoken by the One who is the God-man, and knows all things.) Those cities were wicked, and had experienced God’s judgment. These inhabitants of the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had witnessed these miracles. Their failure to turn from their sins and acknowledge the messianic King made them liable to judgment.