(Shared at Northern Bays Churches combined service)
Reading: John 18:28 to John 19:16a
Joh 18:28 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. Joh 18:29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” Joh 18:30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Joh 18:31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. Joh 18:32 This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled. Joh 18:33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Joh 18:34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” Joh 18:35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Joh 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Joh 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Joh 18:38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. Joh 18:39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” Joh 18:40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.
Joh 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. Joh 19:2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe Joh 19:3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. Joh 19:4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” Joh 19:5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” Joh 19:6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” Joh 19:7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” Joh 19:8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, Joh 19:9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. Joh 19:10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Joh 19:11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” Joh 19:12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” Joh 19:13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). Joh 19:14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. Joh 19:15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Joh 19:16a Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Years ago there was a popular children’s song that went: “deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide”. The chorus went “jump right in, lose your sin”. Often the little kids needed some help and teaching on what “losing your sin” meant, – especially when they got the words wrong and sang “jump right in, lose your skin”.
In this reading today, Pilate was really trying to save his own skin. He had to keep the peace and prevent rioting or revolt, more than anything else, to keep his job and future career path open. Ironically in this passage Jesus says to him: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. That especially applied to the high priest Caiaphas who also had vested interests to do with influence and power. It’s fascinating that just six years after Jesus’ death both Pilate and Caiaphas were removed from office and deposed.
In today’s reading Jesus’ “religious” trial by Caiaphas is over, and they take him to Pilate. Verse 28 continues: By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.
There’s this curious standoff. The Jews won’t go it to Pilate’s unclean gentile home. They’re obsessed about staying clean to eat the Passover, (keeping their rituals) but strangely they’re okay with getting Jesus killed. Earlier in Pilate’s rule there had been widespread protesting because they had objected to the Roman standards his soldiers brought into the city bearing the Imperial image. Pilate gave in and had the standards removed. Ironically, the last thing the high priests say in this passage is this: “We have no king but Caesar,” (19:15). They’re happy to compromise for the sake or retaining power and control.
So Pilate would have been wary of them. He’s forced to shuttle in and out of his palace as he tries to solve this problem of Jesus. Early shuttle diplomacy. A bit like the kids’ “in and out the window” song. Except it was a grand set of doors I imagine.
1. He goes out outside to speak to the Jews (Joh_18:29-32).
2. He goes inside to question Jesus. (Joh_18:33-38).
3. He goes outside again and tells the Jews they had no case against Jesus (Joh_18:38-40).
4. He goes back inside and has Jesus flogged and mocked. (Joh_19:1-3).
5. He goes outside again to say he finds no basis to condemn Jesus, who is then brought out wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe. Pilate declares: “behold the man” (Joh_ 19:4-7). They yell out that he must die because he claimed to be the son of God
6. He’s afraid now and goes back in, taking Jesus with him and asks him: “Where do you come from?”. (Joh_19:8-11)
7. Lastly, Pilate brings Jesus out again and says: “Here is your king!” (Joh_19:12-15). He gives in and has him crucified.
There are two things that are relevant for us the conversation between this governor and Jesus. Being united from different church families today is not just important because Jesus prayed back In John 17 – “Father make them one” – and “may they be brought to complete unity – that the world may know you have sent me.” Unity is also important because the two main issues that he and Pilate talk about are more relevant now than ever before: Who is Jesus? And What is truth?
Pilate was probably amused that a prisoner in such a predicament could claim to be a king. He eventually says, “you are a king then!” But when the Jews complain that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Pilate is afraid and asks this key question: “where do you come from?”. Jesus doesn’t reply – he’d already told Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world”.
Firstly, Who is Jesus?
A king with a Kingdom which is “not from this world” rather than “not of this world” in that it’s not purely a spiritual thing – it’s a Kingdom that has broken into our world already beginning with Jesus’ ministry. We are also told to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” because this is what it’s all about. Each new believer becomes a will-doer of God and a worker in the Kingdom sharing the good news of the Kingdom. Jesus as King and Lord (which means God) is more than a theory. He has a claim on the lives of men, women, and children today – he calls them all to follow him.
In this post-modern age where people want every viewpoint to have equal validity, Jesus’ claim to be God and the way back to God might well upset people. But just as Jesus was not afraid to debate this with authority, nether should we. We need to be united in our witness in the world as to who he is. At the very least we need to be giving a reason why he gives us hope.
Then secondly, What is truth?
The question “what is truth?” that Pontius Pilate asks is key to our witness today. At school, university and in society in general solid objective truth is disputed. In some current educational theories, people make their own truth and meaning.
As Christians from all kinds of backgrounds, we need a united witness to say – but wait a minute. Just from a logical point of view – two opposite things can’t both be true. This is really important for our values, morals, ethics, relationships, and a host of other things.
Pilate was so obsessed with keeping the peace and his job, that he missed the point of it all. Truth was staring him in the face. Jesus was and is the truth.
Of course, some would say that Pilate’s other mistake was to ignore the truth when he didn’t listen to his wife who warned him when he was sitting on the judge’s seat with this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” (Matthew’s gospel).
We are called to work together for this king in seeking and extending his kingdom. And it means boldly speaking truth when we have the opportunity. Surprisingly, people are more open than we think. And more in need of help, purpose, meaning and confidence in life in this crazy covidised age of uncertainties and disappointments.
When we get to know this King Jesus and follow him, our lives become more purposeful and meaningful, which is a great antidote to the struggles of this age, of uncertainly, anxiety, pointlessness, and depression. We can live through anything when we have someone so captivating and inspiring to live for. Truth that’s at least worth serious debate.
If the struggles of this age are getting to you, talk to someone who can pray with you to find a way forward – in the way, the truth, and the life that Jesus the King offers.
Readings: Exodus 17:1-7; John 4:5-10; 39-42
MESSAGE – where is your bucket?
If Nicodemus struggled to understand the new birth, even though he was a teacher and trained in his faith, its not surprising that a Samaritan woman with a fairly muddled life couldn’t get around Jesus’ offer of living water.
Jesus starts the conversation by asking for a drink at this well.
The woman is perplexed, to say the least.
Joh 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Joh 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Joh 4:11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
- Where’s your bucket?
- How do you get this water out of a deep well?
- But she is keen at least – even if to save on the daily chore.
Joh 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus must have been an interesting person to have a casual conversation with. He always managed to take people in another direction.
If you don’t know the story, well Jesus reply is certainly not what she would have expected. He gives her a curious instruction.
Joh 4:16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Joh 4:17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. Joh 4:18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Joh 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
You’d think this woman was a contemporary Christian. When it gets personal, talk theology. Have a debate. She avoids the discussion about here failed love life or relationships.
Aa a Samaritan she would have been familiar with the differences between her people and the Jewish religious traditions. They had their own Bible in their script. Their own temple. And they didn’t get on.
Which makes the whole encounter quite unique. In addition as we see when the disciples come back from their shopping trip, they are surprised to find him talking to a woman. It just wasn’t done.
It’s to this woman – who comes alone at the heat of the day – probably avoiding the critical eyes of others because of her failures – to who Jesus reveals the most profound truths. Especially this statement: Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
She responds with some insight here: Joh 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Joh 4:26
But Jesus responds: “I who speak to you am he.” What an amazing revelation.
The disciples come back from the shops at this point. The woman is so challenged and perplexed by this that she leaves here water jar and goes back to her people. We read on: Joh 4:28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Joh 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
The result is startling in the next verse: Joh 4:30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. A whole entourage of Samaritans come out to meet this man.
There’s another message within this passage that follows as we see the conversation between Jesus as his disciples. This time it’s about food. Listen to this: Joh 4:31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” Joh 4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Joh 4:33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” Joh 4:34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Like the new birth – the water in the well – the food – another teaching session flows out of this about their work reaping the harvest. And again – it’s not about agriculture, but about reaching people.
I love the outcome of this story: Joh 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” Joh 4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.
She models our responsibility doesn’ t she – tell people about Jesus – and let them come and see. These Samaritans persuade Jesus to stay for couple of days. And despite the fact his was just a stop over, he agrees.
It ends really well: Joh 4:41 And because of his words many more became believers. Joh 4:42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Isn’t that our desire too? To help people get to that point?
We can do it.
If we share our story about how Jesus has touched our lives. “Come and see” remains a key part of the Christian’s witness in the world.
Readings: Psalm 95:-17; John 4:5-24
I hope you enjoyed the Star Wars video. It was a suitable contrast I imagine to the “total devotion” of the song from Grease a couple of weeks ago. Even Darth Vader can fall in love. There is hope for all. The truth is that Rob kindly edited out the sad bits of course. It turns out that the lovely lady in pink already had a boyfriend called Chris.
A bit like our lady in John 4 – the woman at the well – relationships are not always simple.
She had been through a series of husbands – and Jesus knows about them all. And the current partner she is living with who is not her husband. It explains why she is fetching water at midday – no one else would normally be there. She might have been a social pariah – an exile.
Jesus has a way of getting people’s attention.
And it’s not surprising that the conversation turns to worship.
After all Jesus is really after her heart.
Did you notice that the Psalm today neatly covers all the aspects of this relationship with God we call worship.
The Psalmist calls us to
- sing for joy
- shout aloud (v1)
come before him with thanksgiving
- extol him with music and song (v2)
- bow down in worship,
- kneel before the LORD our Maker (v6)
It’s all there.
We call it praise and worship.
It’s all part of a relationship of worship – living our lives daily in the realisation that he is WORTHY of recognition for all He is and all he does.
CS Lewis put it like this:
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. If it were possible for a created soul fully to ‘appreciate,’ that is, to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme blessedness. To praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression. Our joy is no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.
The woman at the well discusses theory – that kind of conversation is theological. We study and discuss how our lives intersect with God, and look at what is acceptable and what is not.
After his surprising revelation that he knows all about her, she puts out a theological proposition which should have stimulated theological discussion:
Joh 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Joh 4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
His response is to the point:
Joh 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Joh 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Joh 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Listen again: the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
So often we read in scripture that we are the seekers.
For example these well known passages:
- Deu 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Or David’s song in 2 Chronicles:
- 1Ch 16:8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 1Ch 16:9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 1Ch 16:10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Or the beautiful Isaiah 55:
- Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Or the rich imagery of Hosea 10:
- Hos 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
Or Jeremiah’s promise to the exiles that God has plans for them – not to prosper them or harm them, but to give them a hope and a future. He goes on to say:
- Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
We seek Him – and he seeks worshippers. The two must intersect. They do – in the person of Jesus Christ.
It’s not about the place – says Jesus to the bucket lady at the well. It’s about me. This is Jesus the way, the truth and the life. Worship is in spirit – in God who is spirit – and in truth – in Messiah Jesus.
Read the rest of John 4 at home. It’s a remarkable meeting and transformation. Would be great to know what happens at home as she talks to the man who is not her husband about Jesus.
There would have been a conversation about the man who “… told me everything I ever did.” (verse 39).
And about living water:
Joh 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, Joh 4:14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
There must have been a conversation about what it means to have your thirst for love and life really quenched. Real satisfaction.
And about this God who seeks our hearts and devotion.
Who changes our hearts.
Whom we love with all our hearts… and everything else we are.
Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:19-27; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
I went for a walk in Bayside yesterday – there is this dam – dogs and kids walking happily around. A man was cleaning his high windows with an extended brush. Others were enjoying their upgraded houses and pools and trampolines in the back garden.
Like the vicious dog on the corner – hidden behind high walls – you don’t know what’s on the inside of those houses.
And on the water you find ducks and in season their ducklings. Pukekos in and out of the bush. Tuis in the trees and no one playing dangerous games on the green overlooking the water. Like rugby or football.
But under the water? What’s really there? Not big enough for a Nessie. But there are fish and eels. And who knows what lurks down there?
You just don’t know what’s underneath – or what’s on the inside of people. Jesus knew. He spoke to religious people in a scathing onslaught – comparing them to whitewashed tombstones – clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones beneath.
Mat_23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
1. So what have we been saved from?
When the Israelites celebrated liberation from slavery – they knew what they were saved from.
When the angel passed over Egypt the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintels and doorframes of their houses saved them from death. And then they were rescued from slavery – set free!
They knew what they were saved from.
Do we? This Sin?
Sin is pernicious. Malicious, wicked, evil and malevolent. As God said to Cain before he killed Able – when he was so enraged because God rejected his thoughtless offering (does he reject our shoddy little offerings when they too are second best? Great question!) “Sin is crouching at your door!”
Gen 4:3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. Gen 4:4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, Gen 4:5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Gen 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Gen 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
That’s what we are saved from! Something that can send us into the wilderness far from God and life!
Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Gen 4:11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. Gen 4:12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
At this meal – this communion meal – this new Passover in Christ -there is much to be thankful for! This is no McDonalds Happy Meal! This is a major coup! A huge victory! The liberation of a greater concentration camp than Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald (there were more than 70 of them) of all the refugee camps and war zones, and of all places where people are enslaved – more than all of these across the world combined! (John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave…”. 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “one died for all”. 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ died for sins once for all”).
When the commandments are given in Exodus 20 – this is how they begin: Exo 20:1 And God spoke all these words: Exo 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Exo 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
When we gather we should always declare that through CHRIST’S DEATH we have been brought out of our slavery and darkness into His wonderful light! (1 Peter 2:9)
But wait! And there’s more! There’s freedom from slavery to sin. The transformation means we become slaves to righteousness, with an addiction to truth and holiness.
And if you remember anything from our study of Galatians you may remember this: Gal 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
And then Romans 6 reminds us: Rom 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Rom 6:19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
Our salvation is through Christ the Passover Lamb. (Remember those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” – spoken by John the Baptist in John 1:29,36).
We are rescued! We should know what we were saved from!
And were are baptised into Christ (Galatians 3:27) – into his death (Romans 6:3)– and by the Spirit into his body ( 1 Corinthians 12:13) which is the new family of God in which we are meant to die to sin. (Gal_5:24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
SIN IN CHURCH
So when Paul talks about the problem of sin in the church – you can see where he is coming from when he wants it removed like a cancer that lurks beneath, or an infection that eventually spreads through the whole body.
Which brings us to that marvellous passage of 1 Corinthians 5.
2. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us – the bread of sincerity and truth
This is what characterises a Christian church and community. Paul talks about what’s on the inside when he talks about yeast. Leaven. Something that works on the inside unseen in itself but obvious when the bread rises.
The Communion Festival celebrates Christ our Passover sacrifices for us. He says:
1Co 5:7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1Co 5:8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
Leaven initially about leaving in a hurry? No time to wait. What is this leaven story?
Kenneth Chafin’s Commentary is really helpful here: The analogy of the leaven, used by Paul in verses 1Co_5:6-8, came from the process of preparation for the Passover. Here he compares the immorality that cannot be tolerated and must be rooted out from the church with the leaven that had to be discovered and gotten rid of before the time of the Jewish Passover.
On the first day of Passover all leaven must be removed as a symbol of Israel’s liberation from the sins of Egypt. No leaven could be present in the bread that was eaten in the Passover meal lest there be risk of contamination.
Paul was saying, “If this is not handled promptly and incisively, it will eventually permeate the whole church.” Paul had learned that a church will eventually adjust to what it tolerates, and he had a dream of a different kind of church. (The Preacher Commentary – Kenneth Chafin).
We see this today! It’s not okay! And what a great picture – a dream of a DIFFERENT kind of church indeed.
And of course if you read the whole of 1 Corinthians 5 you will see how bad the sin in that community was at the time.
A final story from my life: I was first elected onto a Board of management in a church almost 40 years ago I think. My minister wanted a youth representative there. And I learned what happens when you put things off that are festering underneath. The church hall was a massive place – bigger than the massive church. The board was often afraid that God wouldn’t provide – so they didn’t always fix things or attend to what was beneath.
It was either wood borer or wood rot that did them in years later. One night – by God’s grace when no one was in the building – the hall roof fell in.
You have to deal with what’s going on within – underneath the veneer.
As we draw this to a close we hear from TOM WRIGHT – these final thoughts from this amazing New Testament thinker are really powerful, especially when he shows that leaven here represents our old behaviour (from which we have been rescued):
At the first Passover, each family slaughtered a lamb for their evening meal, and put its blood on the doorposts of the house so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ them and spare them, while the firstborn of the Egyptians were killed. When Jews of Paul’s day kept the Passover festival, they sacrificed lambs in the Temple, continuing the tradition and keeping fresh the memory of God’s great deliverance. The early Christians saw Jesus’ own death as the climax, the culmination, of this whole tradition. He was the real Passover lamb, and his death had won deliverance for the whole world.
The whole Christian life, from this point of view, becomes one long Passover-celebration! That’s what it’s all about. Every breath a Christian takes is a silent Passover-hymn of gratitude to the God who has acted to save the world through Jesus, the true Passover lamb. Every action a Christian performs is part of the endless ceremonial of the Passover-celebration.
And at this Passover there must be no leaven. Paul does not, of course, mean that Christians must not eat leavened bread. It’s picture-language. The equivalent of leaven within this new Passover-life that Jesus’ people are called to live is the behaviour which goes with the old way of life: ‘the leaven of the old life’ is the kind of behaviour that pagans engage in before conversion, and ‘the leaven of depravity and wickedness’ is the kind of behaviour that Christians can be lured back into if they aren’t careful.
Leave old behaviour
What they need instead, Paul insists, is the ‘unleavened bread’ of genuine Christian living. We might have expected him to explain that as ‘holiness’ or ‘purity’, but instead he speaks of ‘sincerity’ and ‘truth’. ‘Sincerity’ doesn’t just mean ‘doing what you really want to do’; some of the wickedest things in the world have been done by completely ‘sincere’ people in that sense. No one was more sincere than Adolf Hitler.
The word Paul uses speaks of a purity of motive. It isn’t just that motive and action must be in tune with each other; that’s true of most criminals. Both alike must spring from the purified source of a will realigned to the purity of God himself. The mention of ‘truth’ indicates that at the heart of all misbehaviour there is a lie: the lie that says God doesn’t mind, the lie that pretends this one time doesn’t matter, the easy but deadly lie that imagines that this was after all how humans were supposed to behave. (Wright, Tom (2003-03-21). Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 61). SPCK. Kindle Edition.)
In my words – it’s not okay!
Finally – in summary – watch out for:
- What lurks beneath
- Sin is crouching at your door
- That we go for the bread of sincerity and truth!
(The rest of the message not shared on Sunday follows in summary)
3. The New covenant
I love the passage from Jeremiah 31 – “they will all know me” – in the church.
How well do you know him? (Last week we talked about how knowledge about God’s character helps us live it out).
And knowing him is allowing him to speak into our lives and clean out the leaven.
Servanthood is it in this new Covenant celebrated in the New Passover – Christ our Passover. There is nothing surprising that we should serve.
So just after the institution of the Communion meal it’s no surprise that this takes place;
Luk 22:24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
Luk 22:25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.
Luk 22:26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Luk 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
It all fits together with the example of the lamb of God Jesus. Remember Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
4. The visible gospel in the bread and wine.
The meal of this New Passover proclaims the message of the good news of Christ’s death as the Passover lamb.
This is a visible gospel sacrament. We heard this well known verse read to us today:
1 Cor 11:26: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
This is action and proclamation. This is about our alliance with Him. Our loyalty to Him. Our public support of the Gospel cause.
The visible sign represents not just servanthood but sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”