How Can We Eat of His Flesh?

How Can We Eat of His Flesh?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:53-59 (Context: v. 47-52)


As we study our way through the Gospel of John, we occasionally run into peculiar passages, difficult to understand, and sometimes hard to accept. This passage is one of them, partly because it has been seized upon to push the notion that the Lord’s Table is literally cannibalism: That we are called to partake in a feast on human flesh and blood. It has been used by some to support their religious stance, and by others (in response to them,) to accuse the entire Church of gross malfeasance and evil thinking.

The very first thing we need to do when we run across any difficult passage is to read the entire context: What was the whole passage saying? What is it teaching?

Eating the Bread of Life

Beginning in verse 47, we see that Jesus clearly said, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” Keep that in mind as we read the following passage which could seem to contradict that first, clear statement. Remember that this is God’s Word, and it all has to agree: if something seems to be a contradiction, then the chances are very good that we are misunderstanding something.

Verse 48-51. Jesus continued, saying, “I am that bread of life.” In keeping with what He had taught in verses 33-35, He reiterates that He is the Bread of Life. But in verse 51, it would be very easy to draw the conclusion that physically eating His flesh is how we gain eternal life! Please! Read verse 47 over again! He says we enter into eternal life by faithbelieving in Him!

At that point, his audience was beginning to grumble amongst themselves, questioning Jesus’s statement: They thought that they were being invited to physically consume His physical flesh. (They said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”) (verse 52)

Meanwhile, we keep re-reading that context, in verse 47, and we see it constantly reaffirmed that we are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing, as Paul also tells us, in Ephesians 2:8, 9.

But they were struggling with this whole concept; (and He hasn’t even hit the hard part yet!)

Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood

Jesus’s reply to their complaint really pushed them over the edge. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”

This was the real kicker: You remember, eating human flesh was specifically condemned in Scripture, and, even more specifically, drinking blood—any blood—was absolutely forbidden.

Eating Blood was a Crime!

Leviticus 17:10-14 spells out in no uncertain terms that drinking blood, or even eating meat that had not been properly bled out, was a capital offense. Why?  Because the blood was given to them as a sacrifice on the altar, to cover their sins! (KJV says “atonement’…it means “covering.”) Why was that important? Because the animal sacrifices were limited to covering sin, temporarily. Only Jesus’s Blood could take away sins. That is what He came to do! He came to save us from our sins by taking them away!

So, if animal blood was sacred, and if eating it was a capital offense, (meaning a crime for which they would kill you) how much more sacred should we consider the literal Body and blood of the Savior?

This was the problem the Jews were having with what Jesus taught. It seemed to directly contradict one of the key commandments God had given to Israel.

What was Jesus really commanding?

Keep in mind that Jesus is the Author of both the Old Testament and the New Testament: He was not “changing his mind” about the sanctity of blood. He was comparing Himself to the Passover Lamb: Each family took part in the blood on the night of the Passover: They killed that little lamb, they caught that blood in a basin, they dipped a bunch of Hyssop in that blood, and struck it onto the lintel and the two doorposts. (I love reading this, and physically going through the motions (or at least in my mind,) realizing that they were huddled in faith, under the same blood of the cross which we claim for our redemption.

But as individuals within each family, they were required to make the sacrifice personal: they were each to eat of that flesh, acknowledging that the blood on the lintel and the doorposts was shed for them personally. They were saying, “It was shed for me, personally, and by eating that sacrifice, I am confirming that I am under that blood: that my faith is in the completed work of that Lamb!”

Object Lessons in Scripture

Do we physically “eat Jesus’s body?” No! Do we actually “drink human blood?” No!! absolutely not!

We can further see that in 1st Corinthians 10:4, God declares that the Rock in the desert—that Rock which supplied the millions of gallons of water necessary for the survival of the Children of Israel and their livestock—that Rock was Christ! It does not say “a picture of Christ:” It says it was Him! And they all drank their “life-supply” from Him, personally.

In John 4:14 and in John 7:37-39, Jesus gave us some hints about “drinking from Him.” He told the woman at the well, in John 4, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

In John 7, on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus cried out, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

What is the answer?

So, what should we conclude about the statement regarding “eating His flesh and drinking His blood,” here in John chapter Six? Given both the immediate context of verse 47 and the remote contexts of chapters 4 and 7, what should we understand that Jesus was saying in chapter six? There are huge numbers of people who ignore the context and conclude that the elements of the Lord’s Table literally become the Body and Blood of the Lord, and that we are committing a literal act of cannibalism, as well as defying the Lord’s clear command to not drink blood.

If we examine the facts of the night when the Lord’s Table was instituted, we see two key things:

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper:

  1. He was living in his physical body: He blessed, and broke, and offered them unleavened bread, saying “This is my Body, which is broken for you…” When people today speak out against recreational drug use, they may hold up an egg, saying “This is your brain” and then they fry it, and say, “This is your brain on drugs! Any questions?” But NO one answers, “What? My brain is a chicken egg?
    Jesus set out unleavened, blessed, broken bread as an object lesson regarding His coming sacrifice. The disciples felt no confusion about the relationship between that physical bread and His physical Body. They knew that Jesus intended an object lesson.
  2. His blood was in His veins, keeping His body alive! That is what God said it was supposed to do, in Leviticus 17:11 “The life of the flesh is in the blood!” As long as Jesus’s Blood was in His body, He was alive, and we were still in our sins. But when His blood was poured out on the ground, satisfying the righteousness of the Holy God who sent Him, then He died, and our sins were fully paid for: He cried out “Tetelestai!” (It is Finished! Paid in full!”) But His Blood had to be poured out, for that to happen.

Without the pouring out of His Blood, we would still be lost.

The moment you trusted Jesus’s shed blood as full payment for your sins, He took your sins away forever. (Think back again, now, to verse 47: How did He say we are to gain everlasting life?) “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” But in Hebrews 9:22 He says, “Without the shedding of Blood there is no remission.” Without His voluntary, physical, one-time sacrifice, we would still be lost.

But we do not “re-crucify Jesus” when we take communion. I was at a funeral where the presiding priest actually said, regarding the Eucharist, “this is our sacrifice, and Jesus is our victim.” My friends, that is blasphemy! Jesus said, in John 10:18, “No man taketh my life: I lay it down of myself” He is not our “victim:” He is our Kinsman-redeemer. Yes, my sins are why he went to the Cross, but He went there voluntarily on my behalf.

And He did it once, for all eternity. It was never to be repeated, and never to be continued. It was finished at the Cross!

How do we “take part in this sacrifice?”

  1. How do we initially take part in that sacrifice? We enter in by faith, by believing in Him as our Savior: Jesus said that is what God requires, in John 6:29, and 6:47. This is a good example of why it is so important to read the context in which a verse appears…not just the one verse or passage, by itself.
  2. How do we “feed on Him on a continuing basis?” We do so by continuing to feed on His Word, believing that His blood has cleansed us. (In John 1:1-3, 14, and Revelation 19:13, He is identified as being the Living Word of God.”) 1st Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”
  3. We continue to drink of the fountain that He has opened as we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us.

But we commemorate that sacrifice when we take Communion. We do not reenact it!

The Lord’s table is not a sacrifice, at all! God says very specifically that Jesus died once for all, and that His work as the sacrifice was completed on that Cross. Hebrews 10:10, 12 says, “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all… this Man, after He had offered One Sacrifice for Sins, forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”

He still acts as our High Priest, but He does not continually offer more sacrifice. His work was so completely finished that it says in Hebrews 1:3  “When He had by himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.” (Where could the High Priest sit? There was only one “seat” in the Holy of Holies…it was the Mercy Seat… the top of the Ark of the Covenant! God’s throne!) So what we see here is thatJesus, God the Son, completed His work as our high Priest, and sat down in the throne with God the Father.

Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Table?

1st Corinthians 11:25-26 says, “Do this in remembrance of Me…as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death until He come.” It is a commemoration only, and a physical, outward demonstration of something that happened historically, and which has taken effect inwardly, and continues to take effect as we walk with Him.

Lord Jesus, please help us to completely understand the sharing that takes place in the Lord’s table and to see it as a holy fellowship before your throne, as well as a testimony to one another as well as the Unbelieving World.

Baptism and the New Testament Church

Baptism and the New Testament Church

© 2021 by C. O. Bishop

What do we actually know about the New Testament Church?

There are many books written on this subject. I don’t propose to rewrite them. I do think it would be well to summarize:

The New Testament Church was:

  1. Indigenous. In no case was an outside person, thing, or material necessary to the function of the local church. (Titus and Timothy were sent to help, later, but they were commanded to get the job done, and get out. 2 Tim 4:9, 21; Titus 1:5; 3:12)
  2. Self-governing. No Church was subject to a distant board of overseers, or any kind of hierarchic structure. (Acts 15 was a request by an apostle for confirmation, from other apostles. It was not a board of cardinals, [or other “birds”] stepping in to correct a local church which was in need of correction.)
  3. Self-supporting. No Church was to depend upon another for its sustenance, but every church was concerned about the others, and stood ready to help in time of need. (2 Corinthians 9)
  4. Self-Propagating. No Church depended upon professional or foreign evangelists to bring in souls, or to carry out the work of the ministry. Leaders were raised up from within the congregation, and every member was expected to function in the ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-16) This is critical to the health of the church.
  5. Under the headship of Christ, with a plurality of human under-shepherds.
  6. There is no scriptural example of a singular leader in a church, except possibly Diotrephes, in 3rd John.
  7. Every example, either by anecdote or command, is “elders” (plural) of the “church” (singular).
  8. The headship of Christ is constantly underscored throughout the epistles.
  9. Free to fit the culture in which it has been planted.
  10. This, of course, is not a license to sin, but a recognition that the style of music, worship, and preaching will vary with the culture, and be used by God accordingly.
  11. If the church is unnatural to its environment, it becomes questionable what makes the people different—is it the indwelling presence of the person of Christ, transforming their life, and making them holy, saying “Come out from among them and be ye holy!”? Or is it the abiding presence of an outside influence that tells them “Live according to this creed, and God will be pleased.”? One is the voice of the Liberator; the other the voice of the Legalizer. One sets them free; the other enslaves them. We need to avoid error in this matter.
  12. Committed to the study and preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
  13. This one is obvious all through the epistles.
  14. The leadership gifts of the local assembly are all to bring about the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:12)
  15. Committed to obedience to the Written Word, administered by the Living Word.
  16. This one is harder to achieve, but we have to prayerfully, respectfully pursue it with our whole heart. This is where we live or die. It is the foundation to everything else.
  17. Those who desire genuine submission to Christ continue to purify their own lives, and keep going back to the Word, for the purpose of transformation. And God honors this desire, and gives them an even stronger desire to draw near to Him, and walk with Him.
  18. Devoted to the Love of, Worship of, and Obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ; and the Love of, Care of, and mutual commitment to one another.
  19. This is the heart of what makes genuine Christianity work. If you don’t love the Brethren, you don’t love the Lord. And the reverse is true as well. If Christ is the center (imagine a spoked wheel) and we (“the spokes”) desire to draw near to Him, we can’t help desiring to draw near to one another as well.
  20. Devoted to fulfilling the Great Commission.
  21. This is not a grievous task, but the natural outworking of a spiritual “chain-reaction” that has begun in the life of every believer. If we are doing what the Lord wants us to do, we will have opportunity to share our faith, and we will desire to do so. (1 Corinthians 15:34; Romans 15:20)

What about Today?

It seems to me that we should continually make it our aim to make a clean start, unfettered by tradition, whether recent or ancient, except where those traditions are plainly in obedience to Scripture, or where they are harmless, and in an area in which we have freedom to choose, anyway. (Church potlucks, Bible Studies, etc.)

It further seems to me that we should make every effort to not carry “baggage” from our former church or churches, but focus our attention on “What does God’s Word actually say?” and “How can I rightly apply it to my life?” We need to step away from the old baggage and move forward, not be constantly looking back.

When Paul went into a new area, he went to the local gathering-places (the marketplace, waterhole or well, the synagogue, etc.), and he preached. When some responded positively, he spent more time with them, and taught them, confirming them in their new faith. He spent further time, training up leaders, and ordaining them to the work of shepherding the local flock. He gave them two ordinances (Baptism and the Lord’s Table), and adequate instruction, and then he left, and began again elsewhere. Later he sent men to further instruct, train and encourage the new believers, but the fledgling churches were largely left in God’s hands, and, (amazingly!) they mostly flourished!

Is there any real reason the above principles cannot be applied in North America, in the 21st century? I can’t see any. The only thing that has limited the abilityof the Holy Spirit is the availability of Man. When we don’t do what God says, usually it is because we don’t choose to, not because we “don’t understand.” The door to the truth is the will, not the intellect. It is important that we feed the understanding, and we seek to do just that, here at True Hope: but we must also appeal to the will of every believer, to make a decision to walk with Jesus; to attempt obedience to the instructions in the epistles.

When we share the Gospel of Christ with people, we give them information sufficient to make a decision to receive Jesus as their Savior. But we also appeal to the will, asking them to believe. Again, the door to the truth is the will, not the intellect. When Noah was building the Ark, he was a Preacher of Righteousness according to 2nd Peter 2:5. All those around him knew what he was building, and why. But the only ones who were persuaded to believe were his own family, who obeyed by faith, and entered that Ark.

We obey the Gospel by faith, placing our trust in the Blood of Jesus at the Cross, as complete payment for our sins, and as our only hope for eternal salvation.

As believers, we see that two ordinances have been given: Water Baptism, and The Lord’s Table. We explain the nature of the Lord’s Table every month when we take communion, but we haven’t talked much about baptism. Both are an outward testimony of something that has already occurred inwardly, and a physical, visible demonstration of a spiritual, invisible reality. Communion testifies through the symbols of the bread and the cup that “Jesus died for me: His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we take part in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes: which means we also express our confident assurance that He is indeed returning!

When we celebrate communion, we are testifying that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for our sins. (Remember the Passover Lamb: the people who placed themselves under the blood of that Lamb for protection against the Wrath of God, did not just “stand there and watch:” they each ate of that lamb!) We eat (as we were told to do) as a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we are laying our hands upon that sacrifice, and claiming it as the substitute for our own lives. And in doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.

What about Baptism?

There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for salvation, but has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and is in no way required for salvation…but it does stand as a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it.

Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This chapter is entirely given to understanding the gifts of the Spirit, and how He, the Holy Spirit, builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He makes the choice as to who will do what task, and, just as individual cells in a body are not given the option to choose their individual tasks or locations in the body, believers are given their assignments by God, the Holy Spirit. Without going into a lot of detail about the gifts of the Spirit, this verse, in the midst of the larger passage, tells us a key point: every single believer has been “Baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” That fact is what makes you a “Member” of the Body of Christ at large.

When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership God addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themselves to that assembly and serve there, as a functioning part of the Body of Christ. Every member is to function.

Some churches have a “membership roll,” as if they are a country club, or something. No such idea is suggested in scripture. Some literally require that you be water-baptized (again) into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical. Some require that you be “vetted” by a governing board, and deemed “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that to be repugnant. If Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, which made me clean enough to stand before a Holy God, and address Him as Father, is not enough to make me “worthy” to be in some human outfit, then I don’t belong there! (Is there “church discipline” in the Bible? Yes, but it has nothing to do with membership. We will discuss that at another time.)

Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the only kind of baptism necessary for salvation, and it occurs the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior, even if you are unaware that it is happening. So let’s talk about the otherkind of baptism: water baptism.

Water Baptism

First, let’s discuss the actual meaning of the word, “baptize.”

Oddly enough, the Greek word for “baptize” is pretty much just “baptize.” The problem was that when the first English Bibles were being published (particularly the King James Version which was “authorized” by King James, the then monarch of England, who was also the head of the Anglican Church)…since they had to not contradict the Church of England, the translators could not write in the actual meaning of the word for baptism. The Church of England (which was scarcely removed from Catholicism,) was practicing baptism by sprinkling, while the actual meaning is “To Dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is translated, and is always translated “Dip.”

In the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, by Lawrence O. Richards (pp. 100-101,) under Baptizō, it says: “Baptō is the basic verb. It means ‘to dip in’ or ‘to dip under.’ It is often used of dipping fabric in a dye. Baptizō is an intensive form of baptō. From early times it was used in the sense of immersing.”

So… had they consistently translated the word to what it actually means, John the Baptist would have been John the Dipper! But when Jesus “dipped” the sop in the cup, and passed it to Judas, the word “baptō” was actually translated: and no one called that a baptism!

We can see, then, that the concept involved immersion, and that the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance it was dipped in. The sop Jesus handed to Judas was soaked in whatever was in the cup. Cloth that has been dipped in a certain pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. In fact, all the cloth that came through that specific pot is together identified as a specific “dye-lot.” If you have been born again through faith in the Blood of Jesus, then The Holy Spirit has immersed you into the Body of Christ, according to 1st Corinthians 12:13, and you are permanently identified with Him in every way.

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized so that He was identified with the message of John: John preached the Gospel of the coming Kingdom—the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth. Jesus is the promised King! So He needed to be identified with the Promised Kingdom.

We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! It commemorates in the life of each believer the fact that the Holy Spirit has already placed us into the Body of Christ. He has immersed us into Jesus, so that we are fully identified with Him, forever, in every way. We do this once, as a believer, to testify of our new position in Christ. It is not how we “join a church,” or “repent of our sins” or any other such thing. This is a believer’s baptism.

What happens if you don’t get baptized? Nothing, as far as I can see: But Jesus commanded the eleven to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” There is a spiritual “chain reaction,” there, which requires that this command, called the “Great Commission” is our marching orders, just as it was for the eleven. And that includes believer’s baptism. So, even though we may not really be sure how it works as a testimony, we do practice water baptism by immersion. We do not require it of anyone, and only offer it as it is requested.

It is interesting to read in 1st Corinthians 1:10-17, where we can see how the Apostle Paul felt about Baptism. He saw that it had already fostered some divisions among the brethren: (“Paul baptized me!” “Well, Apollos baptized me!” …etc.)

Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and concluded that “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul did practice water baptism, but it did not have a very high priority in his mind. The reality (being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ”) came about through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism was just a picture of the real thing.

Water baptism does not require any special clothing or ritual, or oath-taking or any other such thing: upon public confession of faith in Jesus and His finished Work at the Cross, a believer is qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth.

One person in our fellowship, already a believer, has requested water baptism, so, next week we plan to fulfill that ordinance for that person! If there is anyone else who would also like to be baptized, please let one of us know, and we will extend the offer to all believers. Rick Flemmer and I will serve together to carry out the baptisms.

Next week is also communion Sunday, so we will be observing both ordinances of the church on the same day. That seems pretty special to me!

Lord Jesus, please help us to focus our attention on you, and not the “outward things” that so easily attract our eyes and our minds. Let us learn to walk with You in obedience.

The Promise of the Ages

The Promise of the Ages

© C. O. Bishop

Genesis 3:15, 20, 21; Exodus 12; Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-12


The Christmas Song

by Don Francisco

The center of the ages, and the Lord talks with a girl
And by the words He speaks He gives a Savior to the world
The fullness of the time has come, and Mary’s Son is born,
The promise’s fulfillment lies asleep now in her arms.

He didn’t come to terrify, to judge or condescend–
To call us all His servants, but to lift us as His friends
To save us all from Satan’s power, to reign at His right hand
In the little town of Bethlehem, when God became a man.

Today the God of Majesty has given to the Earth
A gift of such magnificence we could never plumb its worth
And the rudeness of the setting just ignites the jewel’s fire
A pearl beyond the greatest price, the joy of man’s desire.

He didn’t come to terrify, to judge or condescend
To call us all His servants but to lift us as His friends
To save us all from certain death, to reign at His right hand
When, once for all eternity, God became a man.

The first mention of that Promise: Genesis 3:14, 15

14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

When the human race fell into sin, and, as they had been warned, judgment fell, the means was also given to go beyond judgment to Grace. God said that someone called “the Seed of the Woman” would undo the damage caused by Satan, there in the Garden of Eden. The Promise was quite vague at that point, and cloaked in mystery; but Adam believed the promise of God, and God responded by clothing him and Eve with the skins of slain animals, in what turns out to have been the first blood sacrifice for sin. Their own works (the fig leaves) could not cover their sins, but God’s Chosen Sacrifice could!

We can see in the next chapter that Abel understood that connection, and by faith, brought a blood sacrifice for sin. That is confirmed in the New Testament, in Hebrews 11:4.

The Passover Lamb: Exodus chapter 12

There were many other examples of a blood sacrifice for sin, in the book of Genesis, and in that book, also, it is clearly shown that we enter into the Grace of God through faith alone. That truth is spelled out for us Genesis 15:6, where Abram believed God, and was declared righteous. His faith is expounded upon in Romans 4, thousands of years later. But the one huge picture that has been maintained throughout history is the Passover Lamb, spelled out in Exodus 12. The lamb was described as a perfect male lamb, chosen in advance, kept separate for the express purpose of the sacrifice, and his blood was to shield the believers from the wrath of God.

In fact, in that first Passover, the blood was to be struck on the lintel and the two door posts, forming a cross, 1500 years before the crucifixion! Also, every individual had to eat of that sacrifice, personally. It was not just a general blanket-covering for sins. Every person in each believing household was to take part in that sacrifice, just as today, every individual has to make a choice to receive Jesus as Savior! So the picture was becoming more and more clear!

In Psalm 22 the crucifixion was described, more than 1,000 years before the event. In Isaiah 53, the crucifixion was explained, 700 years before the event. The Promise was drawing nearer and nearer to fulfillment: but the fulfillment still had to “begin” somewhere! In Micah 5:2, God promised that the birth of that fulfillment would occur in Bethlehem Ephrata, the same city where King David was born, and Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was buried. I love the fact that, in that little verse, it also points out that the Savior is eternal: that “His goings forth were from of old, from everlasting.”

The very last promise was in Malachi 4:5, 400 years before Christ, only saying that a prophet would come before that fulfillment. Jesus later said that John the Baptist fulfilled that promise, though the promise had actually said Elijah was coming. (Elijah is still coming, by the way! God fulfills His promises to the letter!) John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah will come in person, as one of the two witnesses, during the tribulation. (See Revelation 11:3-12)

But the Passover has been celebrated every year, for 3,500 years, as the Jews are still looking for the coming Messiah, who will take away the judgment. The Jews have longed for the fulfillment of that ancient Promise, the Promise of the Ages, all these thousands of years, when the reality was met in the Person of Jesus, 2,000 years ago!

When John the Baptist introduced Jesus, he didn’t say, “Look! There’s my cousin, Jesus!” He said “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the Sin of the World!” (John 1:29)

He introduced Jesus as the fulfillment of that Promise!

So, let’s look at the Promise, and the Fulfillment:

The Fulfillment of the Promise: Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-12

Remember that the original Promise (however vague) said that the person would be “The Seed of the Woman.” Billions of people have been born throughout the millennia, but all were the offspring of a man and a woman… not the seed of the woman. So, Isaiah 7:14 says that “…a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (meaning ‘God with us’.)” Now, there are many who will protest that the Hebrew word “alma” (translated virgin, here) really only means “a young girl.” In a sense, that is true, but in that culture, it specifically indicated a girl young enough that she was not married, hence a virgin. And the translators of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, over 150 years before Christ, understood that, and deliberately chose the word “Parthenon” as the Greek word by which to translate “the Hebrew word “Alma.” The word “Parthenon” specifically means “virgin,” and is not even gender-specific, as it can be applied to a virgin male, too, as it is in Revelation 14:4, regarding the 144,000 young male Jewish witnesses during the great tribulation.

So, when Mary was chosen by God, in Luke 1:26-38, and she protested that it was impossible for her to have a child, as she had never known a man, (verse 34), it fit the prophecy exactly, and the stage was set: why? Because, for the only time in history, there would be a man born of a woman, without a human father, and who would literally be sired by God. He was the only fulfillment of the promised “Seed of the Woman!”

But there was still another issue: Mary lived in Galilee: the prophecy said that the Savior was to be born in Bethlehem! We even sing about it: “O Little Town of Bethlehem!” So let’s see how all of that unfolded: (Turn to Luke 1:26.)

Luke 1:26-38

26 And in the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist) the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused (betrothed) to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 2:1-19

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

We saw, then, that Gabriel was sent to speak to Mary, as God’s spokesman in that particular event: God spoke to Mary through Gabriel. And, Mary lived in Galilee. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph: they were engaged, as we would say today. That was a very serious contract, in that culture, and required a divorce to break it. And that is what Joseph had intended to do, over in the Matthew 1:19-25 account. He initially assumed that Mary had somehow been unfaithful to the betrothal. It says that he was a just man, and did not want to humiliate her, but intended to quietly, secretly, break the betrothal. But Gabriel was sent to him as well, to assure him that Mary had not sinned, and that the Child who would be born would be called the Son of the Most High! So, Joseph went ahead and married her, but did not have relations with her until after her firstborn child was born. And he called the name of that child “Jesus.”

But remember: when Gabriel visited them, they were still in Galilee: and, under normal circumstances, Mary would have given birth there. Joseph was a very poor man, as we discover later, but regardless of income-level, a decree went out from Caesar, that there was to be a census taken, and for the purpose of that census, everyone had to travel to their hometown, to be counted (and apparently taxed.) Well, Joseph was from Bethlehem! So, off they went! Tradition says that Mary was riding on a donkey, but the Bible simply doesn’t say anything about that. Personally, I hope she did get to ride there, because it is about a 90-mile walk to Bethlehem from Nazareth, and she was nine months pregnant!

One way or another, they arrived in Bethlehem, and the place was packed: everyone had received the same notice, and there were lots of folks in town just for that census. Therefore: no room at the inn. So, they found the next-best place, a stable. I’m sure that “born in a barn” didn’t have quite the same connotation then, as it does now, but it still wasn’t ideal: her mother, or sisters or aunts, who might have served as midwives, were not there. But God was there: she had the best care in the universe, though she probably wasn’t fully aware of it.

A manger, even today, is a raised feed-trough for livestock: it keeps the hay or other feed off the ground, so it will stay clean. That was the bed for Jesus: a clean bed of hay or straw. And Mary, being a country-girl, used the old-fashioned “swaddling clothes,” which were already becoming uncommon in that day. But it turned out to be an important choice, because that was one of the signs given to the Shepherds: They were to “find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger:” and that is exactly what they found!

That was the birth of God’s Promised Messiah: of course, we know the rest of the story: He began His earthly ministry 30 years later, and ultimately gave his life as a ransom for the entire world. This is God’s Provision for Salvation from sin, but it is a provision which must be entered into by faith, on a personal, one-by-one basis….just like the Passover Lamb! Unlike the Passover Lamb, however, His blood takes away our guilt, rather than just “covering” it for another year. Hebrews 10:4 says “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” All those old sacrifices could do was cover sin: But they all looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s Promise to take away our sins, as Psalm 103:12 says.

Each of us, as believers, have personally placed our trust in that one final Blood-sacrifice for our sins. We confess that “Jesus died in my place: His blood paid for my sins!” When we look back to the Cross in our commemoration at communion, we give thanks and worship to the “Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the World,” as it says in Revelation 13:8. We find, through the rest of the Gospel account, that Jesus was literally “God in the Flesh,” as Isaiah promised. John 1:1-5, 14 makes it clear that He is the Living Word, God the Son, the Creator, and the Light of the World, as well being God in the Flesh. John 5:22 states that He is the only Judge, though he did not come to judge us, on that occasion: He came to save us! He has already saved us from Satan’s power, and, according to Ephesians 2:6, He has already raised us to sit with Him in the throne! What an amazing story! What an incredible gift!

The Memorial of the Promise

The Passover celebration looked back to the Exodus from Egypt, but also looked forward to the Cross. When we take communion, we look back to the Cross, and look forward to His Return.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember the birth of Christ, the beginning of fulfillment:

When we celebrate Easter, we remember the resurrection of Christ the proof of fulfillment.

When we celebrate Communion we rejoice in His entire ministry, but we declare his death as our hope before God, until He comes for us!

And in His presence with us, here, we find abiding Joy!

(Communion Service)