There to my Heart was the Blood Applied!

During this Lenten season we have been on a journey together. We have traveled in our hearts and minds to Jerusalem. We have covered a great distance. Last Sunday, we finally passed through the city gates. We walked with Jesus through those gates and heard the cries of the people, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Jesus had come to Jerusalem to begin the new “Exodus” He spoke about with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. On Thursday, we will followed Jesus to the upper room for the Passover, then to the garden to pray. We watched in horror as Jesus was arrested. The downward spiral of mock trials and beatings culminated in His crucifixion on Friday. His death and burial are followed by days of darkness and dismay. Then, on the third day, we will gather again to share in the jubilant elation of Jesus’ resurrection.

What a grand, gruesome and glorious narrative! But, is that where it ends? Is this the entirety of the Gospel? For most of us who grew up in church, the Gospel message consisted of the following: Jesus died on the cross and on the third day rose again. In doing this, He paid the price for our sins and if we believe in Him, when we die, we will be raised like Jesus to live in heaven forever. Does that match pretty well what you were taught?

In our final meditation, we will see that the statement above is indeed a major part of the Gospel.  But there is another component to the Gospel message that is not so readily taught. This concept was central to the Hebrew understanding of sacrifice and it is spelled out for us in the pages of the New Testament. Somehow this important aspect of the Gospel has been minimized as the centuries have passed. Today, we will revisit this concept in hopes that it will bring God’s great plan of salvation history into clearer focus.

Read Leviticus 16:11-16, Hebrews 9:11-15 – Apply the Blood

In order to understand this fully, we really need to look back at the Old Covenant concept of sacrifice. Of all the sacrifices offered by the Hebrew people, none held more significance than Passover and the one offered on the Day of Atonement. On that day, the High Priest would take part in the ceremonial killing of a bull to atone for his own sins and then sacrifice a goat for Israel’s sins. He would apply the blood of the bull and one goat as sin offerings to the mercy seat in the Most Holy place.

The Day of Atonement was the only day that the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies – a room deep in the temple curtained off from everyone but the High Priest and closely guarded by the Levitical Priests. Note here that the sacrifice consisted of two parts and was not complete until both actions had been taken. First the sacrifice was made – the animal was killed and his blood collected. Second, the High Priest would take the animals’ blood into the Holy of Holies and apply the blood to God’s mercy seat. Both aspects are vital for the sacrificial mandate of God to be fulfilled.

The fact that this Old Covenant sacrifice had to be repeated every year demonstrates its inability to atone satisfactorily for Israel’s sins. But, the final sacrifice was coming as the Old Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus and His ushering in of the New and everlasting Covenant.

Did Jesus’ sacrifice follow the pattern shown to us in the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus 16? Remember, the sacrifice had two components: first, the death of the victim and the collection of its blood, and second, the high priests’ application of the blood to the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. From the Scriptural accounts, it is clear that Jesus died on the cross as the ultimate and final atoning sacrifice. His blood was shed. But, remember, the blood had to be applied within the Temple – in the Holy of Holies. Did this happen with Jesus?

On Thursday night of Holy Week, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the context of the Passover meal. That night He took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” In offering the cup of “His Blood” to the Apostles, Jesus was reinterpreting the Passover. He was also foreshadowing His atoning death as the Lamb of God. The next day, Friday, Jesus would be led to the cross and crucified. His blood would be shed there on the altar of wood. In doing this, Jesus fulfilled the first part of the sacrifice – begun at the Table on Thursday and completed at the cross. He said, “It is finished.” His sacrificial death as the Passover Lamb was accomplished – The New Covenant Passover sacrifice had been slain. But what about the second part – the next step in the sacrificial process? Is Jesus’ blood taken to the Holy of Holies and applied? Let’s find out by looking back at Hebrews 9:11.

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

As the writer of Hebrews shows us, Jesus enters the Heavenly Temple and the Heavenly Holy of Holies. Once there, He applies His blood to God’s mercy seat. He does this, not with the blood of animals, but with His own blood! Jesus follows the pattern perfectly. Leviticus 16 deals with the earthly application. Jesus takes His blood into the Heavenly Temple, further illustrating the final yet eternal nature of His sacrifice – “once for all”.  What happened once in time is applied for all time through the ministry of Jesus!

Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus, the heavenly High Priest, is there even now, mediating the new covenant. This helps explain John’s vision in Revelation 5:6. Jesus appears, “like a lamb as if slain.” Jesus was the sacrificial victim – the Lamb of God – but He is also the High Priest – whose ministry is that of mediating the New Covenant in the heavenly sanctuary – the ultimate Holy of Holies.

As a young Christian I was never taught the second part of Jesus’ sacrifice. We do a great job of teaching the cross and the fact that Jesus’ earthly task of dying for us was accomplished there. We also focus great attention on Easter and the empty tomb and so we should! But, without the heavenly application of the blood, the sacrifice is not complete.  Therefore, the crucifixion, resurrection and the ascension are absolutely vital.

The Gospel is so simple – but, so extremely profound. God has given us glimpses of His saving plan from the beginning, especially through Moses and the Exodus. As we have journeyed on the Pathway to the Passion, we have seen how Jesus is the New Moses who leads us on a New Exodus. While on this New Exodus, He offers us provisions for the journey. A New Passover and Manna are provided for us as we make our way to the Heavenly Promised Land. We also discovered how the earthly Tabernacle and Temple were patterned after heaven and how the Old Covenant Passover and Atonement sacrifices were a picture of the Once and for all sacrifice of Jesus that fulfills both. We have seen that Jesus died and was raised from the dead showing us the pattern and path for our spiritual lives. What’s more we see that He is now at the right hand of the Father mediating the New Covenant as High Priest – applying His blood to the mercy seat. And, one day He will come again so that where He is, there we may be also. This is indeed Good News. This is the Gospel. And this is the Hope that Anchors our souls!

As we move from the Lenten season to the Easter season, this will mark the end of this series of devotions. I pray they have been meaningful to you and your spiritual pilgrimage – all to the glory of God!

The New Covenant in His Blood

During these days we have been travelling toward the Holy City. In our time of study, we have examined Scriptural evidence concerning the, “…exodus which (Jesus) was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). We have traveled a great distance during these days and seen many wonders. God’s Providence is a marvel to behold. Augustine said, “The New Testament is in the Old concealed and the Old Testament is in the New revealed.” As we have explored the account of Moses and the Exodus, we have found that Jesus is there, prefigured in Moses. We have also noticed that the first Exodus is replete with types and foreshadowings that help us understand Jesus’ saving acts on our behalf. And, our inquiries have uncovered foundational truths about worship, Christian spirituality and our relationship with God, through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In these days of Scriptural focus, we have discovered that Jesus is the New Moses who leads a New Exodus, complete with a New Passover, New Manna, a New and greater Promised Land, and as we will see on this Good Friday, a New and better Covenant, founded on superior promises (Hebrews 8:6), and with more powerful blood (Hebrews 12:24).

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 12:18-24, Matthew 26:27-28 – What’s New?

When Moses led the Children of Israel to Mount Sinai, God offered them a covenant relationship (Exodus 24). It was in a sacred assembly of the people that Moses read the Book of the Covenant to them. In one voice they agreed to the terms God had prescribed. “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” Then, Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the people saying, “This is the blood of the covenant…”  Afterward, a feast was held in which God’s Presence was experienced. This could not be a more vivid picture of worship. The people gathered together. They heard the Word of God. Then, the ratifying sign of the covenant (a sacrifice and a meal) was shared. Afterward, the people went forth. Moses ascended the mountain to receive the stone tablets of the Law. Ostensibly, the people went forth to live the covenant to which they had consented.

While Moses was on the mountain, God had much to share with him. God instructed Moses on the offerings of the people, the furnishings of the tabernacle, the tabernacle design, priestly attire and consecration, incense, anointing with oil, and more. All of this took time. The Israelites began to wonder if Moses would ever come back. After many days, they made a grave mistake. Much like Adam and Eve turned their back on God’s prescription for them, so the Children of Israel turned their back on the Covenant to which they had just agreed. Rather than wait for Moses, they fashioned a golden calf and began to worship it. When Moses emerged with the Ten Commandments etched in stone, the infidelity of the people became obvious. He dashed God’s handwritten Law to pieces in response to the reprehensible behavior of the people.

Despite their damnable action, we must admit their unfaithfulness is not unique. We have all, “…sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This pattern is followed throughout the Exodus. It is followed through the centuries after Israel is established in the Promised Land. Frankly, it is the pattern followed by all of humanity throughout history. Painfully clear is the fact that mankind will never be found faithful on our own. What solution could God possibly devise to redeem His crowning creation from their sinful ways?

Jeremiah prophesied concerning a New Covenant. This would be a greater covenant than the one instituted with Moses and the Children of Israel. That covenant was broken by the people, despite God’s faithfulness to them – like a husband who is faithful to His unfaithful wife. Jeremiah declared that the days were coming when God’s covenant law would not be written on stone tablets, but rather, on the minds and hearts of the people. This New Covenant would not be external but internal. Rather than a list of rules to follow, this New Covenant would be based on reason and love – a matter of the mind and heart.

All of the previous covenants had failed. Humans simply could not remain loyal. Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David were all characterized by unfaithfulness. What did they have in common? They were all mediated by men. The New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah would require a different mediator. But all humans are sinful. There were no human candidates to be a perfect mediator.

Enter Jesus. Galatians 4:4-7 tells us, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” God’s solution was to send Himself to be the mediator of the New Covenant. He sent His Son, who was born of a woman. By entering into humanity and taking on flesh, a perfect human was available to represent all of us before God. And what did this God Man offer us? In Christ, we are redeemed from the condemnation we earned by breaking the law, we are adopted as sons of God (that which was lost in the Garden of Eden), and rather than follow an external law, we have been given the Holy Spirit. Indeed the law is written on our minds and hearts through the operation of the Spirit in our lives. Because of Jesus, we can call God our father. We become sons in the Son!

Jesus comes to us as the “Word” of God (John 1:14). Remember, covenants have two components – Word and Sign. If Jesus is the Word of the New Covenant, what is the sign? Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant.” In similar but greater fashion, Jesus holds out a cup to His disciples and says, “This is My blood of the covenant…”  After Moses sprinkled the blood, then a meal was shared in which God’s Presence was experienced. This reminds us of Cleopas, who truly knew Jesus’ Presence in the breaking of the Bread.” So, it was in the meal that Jesus instituted that we have the ratifying sign of the covenant – the Lord’s Supper. And His admonition to those twelve disciples was to “Do this…”

Jeremiah’s prophecy declared that the New Covenant would be with “Israel.” In the upper room, Jesus told His disciples, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30). This reconstituted extension of Israel would be the Church, lead by the disciples as they were anointed and appointed by Jesus (John 20:21-22).

In the past, animal sacrifices were made that had to be repeated every year. They were imperfect and penultimate. After the Word shared the Sign in the upper room, He went out to shed His blood. On the cross, Jesus “cut the New Covenant” in His blood. After Jesus’ “once and for all” sacrifice, there was no need for any other. His perfect blood was all sufficient. “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27).

In Jesus, we have a greater mediator than Moses. We have a greater covenant built on greater promises. And, we go to a greater mountain than Sinai. Hebrews 12:18 and following tells us that we have come to the heavenly Mount Zion. We are with the angels and archangels and the saints of all the ages – the church of the “firstborn.” You may have noticed that verse 18 is in the present tense. “You have come…” This is not just a far off experience, but a present reality. How can we experience heavenly worship in the here and now? The answer is, once again, through the blood of Christ. Hebrews 10:19-22 states, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

To conclude, when Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil or curtain was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). This epic physical occurrence revealed a spiritual reality. Through Jesus, the way was being opened for mankind to approach God. As we have read, this is not a distant fulfillment waiting to be realized. We have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (present tense). We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place. But, how is this possible? The answer: Jesus is the only Way! The writer of Hebrews says that our access is through the blood of Jesus and through His body which is the curtain. The Apostle Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” Is it possible that through the cup and the bread, which are a participation in the body and blood of Jesus, that we are given a glimpse of Heaven – as through a veil? For centuries this has been embraced by Believers. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” One day, we will experience the fullness of God’s glorious heaven. In the meantime, we know that Jesus is with us, through His Spirit, in the Word and at His Table. Through Jesus, we have a “foretaste of glory divine.” This is possible because He is the perfect mediator and the New Covenant is in His blood.

Today, the Pathway to the Passion has led us to the cross. Here, the New Exodus begins. It is here that Jesus is offered up as the, “once and for all sacrifice.” And, just as in the first Exodus, tomorrow we will see that the blood of the Lamb must be applied.

When Will This Service End?

Over the last few meditations we have pondered the questions, “If we had been walking by the cross on that Friday, what would we have thought of Jesus’ crucifixion?” Would we have seen a sacrifice or a common execution? For most people, no doubt, the cross of Christ looked like another sad example of capital punishment. Of course, we know that Jesus is the “once and for all sacrifice.” But, what is it that makes the cross a sacrifice? Any Jewish person knows that a proper Passover sacrifice required a spotless lamb, had to be at the Temple, presided over by a priest, and had to be part of a liturgy. We have established that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. We have determined that Jesus is a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. And, we have seen that Jesus’ body was the Temple. The first three requirements for a sacrifice are met in Jesus. What about the third prerequisite for a sacrifice? Was the crucifixion of Jesus part of a liturgy?

Read Luke 22:7-8, 15-20, 39-42 Mark 14:25-26, John 19:28-30 – It is Finished

As Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room to celebrate the Passover, everyone knew that change was coming. After saying repeatedly that His hour had not yet come, now Jesus was declaring that the hour had arrived. An ominous air of danger hung in the room like smoke. On that Thursday night, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. It was there and then that it all began to unfold. In the flickering candle light, Jesus presided over the Passover meal.

Jesus spoke of eating the Passover, but this was not the traditional Passover that He was sharing. In the past, the Seder Meal focused on the Exodus of the Children of Israel out of Egypt so that everyone would remember God’s deliverance. But Jesus did not speak of Moses. Rather, he told them about a new Exodus that would begin soon. He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them, claiming that it was His body. Then, he took the cup and claimed it was His blood – and that the New Covenant was in His blood.

Alterations to the Passover narrative must have been jarring to these Hebrew men. Everything was changing. During the evening, Jesus taught about loving one another. He even washed their feet. Also, when the meal unfolded, the four cups of the traditional meal were presented differently. Jesus offered them the first three cups of the meal, but stopped at the third cup. The Scriptures tell us that they sang a hymn and went out. The Great “Hallel” Psalms (Psalms 114-118) were always followed by the fourth cup. Had Jesus forgotten the fourth cup? As the disciples left the upper room to go to the Garden, Jesus’ message of love must have rung in their ears. And the mystery of the missing fourth cup had to confound them.

            From the upper room, Jesus and His followers went to the Mount of Olives to pray. Imagine their private discussions as they walked along. Jesus’ revisions to the Seder meal and the exclusion of the fourth cup were surely among their considerations. Their minds must have raced back to Jesus’ answer to the mother of the sons of Zebedee when she asked which of them would sit at His right and left hand in the Kingdom. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

When they arrived at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to pray. “On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

The drops of blood which formed on Jesus’ head foreshadowed His immediate future. Soon, where the drops appeared, thorns would pierce His brow. Jesus, aware of what lay ahead, prayed that God might spare Him from the cup of consummation He was about to drink. Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me. Soon, the suffering Savior would go forth, and the drops of blood would become a fountain of grace flowing from His wounded side.

Soon, Judas and a detachment of guards would enter the garden. Jesus would be arrested. After a series of trials, beatings and finally an undeserved condemnation, Jesus was led by the soldiers to Golgotha. There, Jesus was nailed to the cross and lifted up like the snake in the wilderness. In the final moments of His life, in order that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up his spirit.

In order for this scene to be a sacrifice, Jesus’ crucifixion had to be within a liturgy or service of worship. Given what we know, just how is it that this is part of a liturgy? To find the answer we must look back to the upper room. On Thursday night, Jesus shared the third cup with His disciples. Then they sang a hymn and went out. He did not drink the fourth cup. In the garden He prayed, “If it be your will, let this cup pass from me.” As he carried the cross to Calvary, Jesus was offered wine, but declined to drink. It was not time for the final cup. After hours on the cross, with His life ebbing away…in His final few seconds, a hyssop branch (the same kind of branch used to paint blood over the doorposts in Egypt) with a sponge of sour wine was lifted to His lips. This was the nothing less than the fourth cup of the Passover Seder. Jesus drank the wine and declared, “It is finished.” Then He bowed His head and died.

So, what was finished? The Passover liturgy started on Thursday had been completed at the cross. By deferring the fourth cup, the Passover was expanded to include the cross. It is precisely this extension of Thursday’s liturgy that transformed Jesus’ execution into the greatest sacrifice of all time!

Some maintain that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was speaking exclusively of His saving work on man’s behalf. Paul claims that Jesus’ mission of redemption and salvation was not completed until Sunday. Romans 4:5 states, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Jesus’ work of justifying humanity would not be completed until the resurrection. So, on the cross, Jesus’ final words seem inextricably linked to the completion of the Passover.

To summarize, the crucifixion of Jesus is indeed the “once and for all” sacrifice. As we have discovered, all four of the requirements for a sacrifice are satisfied in Christ and His crucifixion. He is the Lamb of God. He is the High Priest. He is the Temple. And, by taking the fourth cup of the Passover on the cross, Jesus’ execution became the conclusion of the Passover liturgy. Of Jesus’ crucifixion the author of Hebrews wrote, “But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12,14). Let there be no confusion. Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate SACRIFICE – once and for all time.

Our journey has led us to Thursday and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The “liturgy” of the Passover begins tonight. When will this service end? It will end when, “It is finished.”

Where Are We?

Jesus’ death on the cross was viewed through natural eyes as a Roman execution. But, through spiritual eyes, it is nothing less than the “once and for all” sacrifice at the heart of God’s plan to redeem and restore mankind. Our last two meditations have focused on requirements for Hebrew sacrifices. In order for Jesus’ death to be a sacrifice, four things were necessary. There had to be a spotless lamb, a presiding priest, it had to be at the temple and part of a liturgy. We have established that Jesus is the spotless “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We also determined that Jesus is a “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Today we will take up the third requirement – that sacrifices had to be performed at the Temple.

Read 2 Chronicles 7:11-12, Ezra 6:3 – At the Temple

Though David wanted to build the Temple to replace the Tabernacle, it was Solomon who was allowed to complete the task. By erecting a permanent “House of God,” God’s Presence, strongly associated with this holy structure, would be firmly established. 2 Chronicles 7 records the completion and dedication of the Temple. God states clearly that He chose that place, “…as a temple for sacrifices.”

In 586 BC, after centuries of neglecting God, Jerusalem was sacked by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. As part of the utter destruction of the Holy City was the complete demolition of the Temple. This was devastating for many reasons. One profound effect was the cessation of sacrifices. How would God’s people renew their covenant with God? How would they fulfill the three annual feasts which required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to make sacrifice? A dark period of dispersion into foreign lands ensued. God’s Presence and favor were in question as the place so central to that relationship was in ruins.

This scenario should not have come as a surprise. After the dedication of the Temple, God appeared to Solomon with a strong warning concerning unfaithfulness to the covenant relationship. In 2 Chronicles 7:19 and following, God says, “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble.” God’s prediction came to pass with uncanny accuracy.

In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Hebrews to return to Judah to rebuild the Temple. There were no sacrifices made during the intervening period. The Temple was required for proper sacrifices to be made. Ezra speaks of the return to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the sacred building and the resumption of sacrifices. “Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices…”

Far less impressive than the first Temple, the second Temple received a major reconstruction under King Herod beginning in 20 BC. At the time of Jesus, this construction project had been underway for decades. It would not be completed until 64 AD. It was at the Temple that all sacrifices were conducted. When Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover, He would have witnessed the lambs being brought to the Temple to be sacrificed. The Jewish historian Josephus records in The Jewish War that in 66 AD there were 256,500 lambs sacrificed at Passover. The Temple was the place of sacrifice.

How is it possible that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice? He was crucified outside the city gates on a hill called Calvary or Golgotha. “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him…” (John 19:17-18). That Calvary is located outside Jerusalem is confirmed by the writer of Hebrews. “…And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).

Jesus gives us the answer to our dilemma. In John 2, After Jesus “cleansed the Temple” of the money changers and merchants, the people asked, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus’ response to them is instructive. He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The people thought Jesus was speaking of the building in which they stood. They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” Jesus was not talking about Herod’s Temple, But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”

How could Jesus be talking about His body as the Temple? From the beginning, God’s Presence was mediated to the people of God through His taking up residence in their midst. At first, it was the Tabernacle, then the Temple. John 1:14 tells us that in Jesus, “The Word (God) became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us.” Through the Incarnation of Christ, God had made His dwelling among men. God’s Presence was not confined to a building, but a body! Though the crucifixion of Jesus was not at the Temple building within the city gates, Calvary became the place of the Temple because Jesus’ body was there! Having established that Jesus’ body was the Temple, the third requirement for a sacrifice is fulfilled.

Jesus would be raised from the dead after three days, just as He said. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Also, just as Jesus’ words were interpreted by the people, Herod’s Temple would be destroyed. In 70 AD, the Romans laid waste to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. What emerged from the dust and rubble of the Old Covenant was the New Covenant Church of Jesus – the Body of Christ – the Temple of the Holy Spirit!

In the crucifixion of Jesus we have a spotless lamb, a high priest, and the temple. Only one prerequisite remains. Tomorrow, we take yet another step toward Calvary on the Pathway to Passion. Our meditation will ask the question, “Was the execution of Jesus part of a liturgy?”

Who is in Charge Here?

Those passing near Golgotha on the day that Jesus was crucified would have had little reason to think that this was anything more than a gruesome Roman execution. Yet, we know that Jesus’ death on the cross was the “once and for all” atoning sacrifice. Through this sacrifice and Jesus’ resurrection three days later, humankind could know forgiveness of sin and reparation of that which was lost in the Garden of Eden. But what made this death sentence a sacrifice?

We have noted four attributes of Jesus’ crucifixion that transform it from a judicial action to a sacrifice. Our meditation for Tuesday of Holy Week is focused on the first requirement. Because the cross was so closely tied to the Passover, for it to be the New Passover sacrifice, Jesus had to be a spotless lamb. Yesterday we detailed that Jesus is nothing less than, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). After examining the Scriptures, we also found ample evidence that Jesus is “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Clearly, Jesus fulfilled the requirements to be the sacrificial lamb. But, what about the other requirements? Read on…

Exodus 32:25-26, 29, 2 Chronicles 35:10-14 – Take Me to Your Leader!

Today’s meditation examines the second necessary characteristic. For Jesus’ death to be a sacrifice there had to be a priest presiding over the proceedings. In our Scripture readings today we notice two things. First, after the “Golden Calf” incident at the outset of the Exodus, the tribe of Levi stood out as the only faithful ones. God set them apart that day for special service in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. Before the people worshiped the idol in the wilderness, the fathers were the priests. Exodus 12 indicates that fathers would lead their families in the Passover sacrifice and meal. After the golden calf, the fathers were stripped of their priestly role. This responsibility was given to the Levites.

After years of neglecting the covenant, 2 Chronicles 30 records the recovery of the Passover feast by King Josiah. Notice the place of the Levites in this passage. “They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord. Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests splashed against the altar the blood handed to them by the Levites” (2 Chronicles 30:15-16). What was performed by fathers previously was given over to the Levites. All of the priests came from the tribe of Levi, but not all of the Levites were priests. Sacrifices were to be carried out by the Levitical priests.

When Jesus was crucified, those who presided did not look like priests. In fact, those carrying out this heinous act were soldiers. To anyone who witnessed the event, they would have been hard pressed to see this as a worshipful act. Without a priest taking charge, this could not be a sacrifice.

Hebrews 6:20 begins to unfold the mystery for us. It says that there was a priest at the cross. His name was Jesus. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus, “…has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” So, Jesus, though not a Levite, was a priest nonetheless. He was in the order of the mysterious high priest and king of Salem (Jerusalem), Melchizedek. This same Melchizedek came to Abraham offering “bread and wine.”

At the cross, Jesus was not only the Lamb for the sacrifice, He was the presiding priest. But, how could this be? How could the victim also be the priest presiding? John 10:17-18 helps us to see that Jesus was in control the entire time. It says, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The old Gospel hymn says, “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free. He could have called ten thousand angels, but he died alone, for you and me.”

Finally, the robe that Jesus wore the day He went to Calvary was like that of a priest. “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom” (John 19:23). Such details are shared for a purpose. This requirement for a priestly robe is found in Exodus 28:31-32 where the requirements for all of the priestly garments are presented. The robe of the priest was to be made of one piece of cloth so as not to tear.

Jesus was referred to as the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was in authority at the cross. Jesus was wearing the robe of a priest. Scripture gives clear evidence that Jesus was the Priest who presided at Calvary. This was God’s plan from the beginning. Two of the four requirements for the crucifixion to be a sacrifice have been established.

With each passing day and each step of the way, we approach the Passion of Christ. What God had planned from before the foundation of the world was coming to pass. We must forge ahead. As the old hymn says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.”

Tomorrow we will consider the need for sacrifices to be made at the Temple.

Behold the Lamb

If you were passing by the cross on Good Friday, what would you see? As we mentioned yesterday, Jesus would have looked like just another criminal who was unfortunate enough to get caught. The cross would look like any other Roman execution. But, the Scriptures are clear. Jesus’ death was a sacrifice. Hebrews 10:10 states, “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  So, just what is it that makes Jesus’ death on the cross “the once and for all sacrifice?

Sacrifices had to have four things. First, there had to be a sacrificial victim. Because Jesus’ sacrifice is in keeping with the Passover, the victim had to be a “spotless lamb.” Second, the sacrifice had to be offered by a priest. Third, the sacrifice had to be performed at the Temple. And finally, the sacrifice had to be part of a liturgy. In order for Jesus’ death to be considered the “once and for all sacrifice,” it had to satisfy all of these requirements.

Read Exodus 12:1-11, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, John 1:29, 35-36 – Behold the Lamb

In our meditation for this Monday of Holy Week, we will look at several passages of Scripture. These verses will shed light on the first requirement, which is that the sacrificial victim be a spotless lamb. Our goal is to determine if Jesus is, in some form or fashion, a “spotless lamb”. Without an unblemished lamb, there is no sacrifice, merely the carrying out of an execution.

John’s Gospel is our first piece of evidence. John 1:29 states unambiguously that Jesus is none other than the “Lamb of God.” John the Baptist, who is preaching in the wilderness and baptizing in the Jordan River, sees Jesus coming. He says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John’s reference to Jesus as “The Lamb” is repeated just a few verses later. Verse 35 and 36 state, “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” These statements from John are part of his message in preparing the way for Jesus. As the “forerunner” or witness to Jesus, John the Baptist is announcing to the world that the Messiah has come. And the Messiah is…a Lamb.

Let’s delve a little farther into the evidence that Jesus is “The Lamb.” Revelation, the final book of the Bible, also calls Jesus by this name. Of all the images and references to Jesus in the Revelation none is a more favored title and image for Jesus than “lamb.” In fact, it is used 28 times in 22 chapters. Revelation 5:6 describes Jesus as the, “Lamb, standing as if slain”. Though John was looking for the lion, it was “the Lamb” who could break the seals of the scroll. The elders then sing that because of the Lamb’s sacrifice; only He is worthy to open the scroll. Jesus is portrayed as lamb in the culmination of the book of the Revelation. In chapter 19:9 we find the marriage supper of the Lamb. John writes, “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” There is little doubt that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament to present Jesus as “The Lamb.”

Clearly, this is determinative of Jesus’ identification as “The Lamb.” But, there is more required than that. The lamb must be spotless. No blemish and no broken bones were allowed. Exodus 12:5 states, “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect…” These chosen lambs had to be perfect and in the prime of their lives. Exodus 12:46 states, “Do not break any of the bones.” For human beings to be “spotless and unblemished,” that means they would have to be without sin. This narrows the pool of available humans dramatically. In fact, the Scriptures are clear. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23). In order for Jesus to be seen as a sinless sacrifice, we need to find Scriptural support.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:21 a definitive statement on the matter. He says of Jesus, “God made him who had no sin to be sin (a sin offering) for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Further, Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus, “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.In Hebrews 7:26, the author says that the Lord Jesus, “is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” In 1 Peter 2:22, Peter writes of Jesus, He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” The apostle John informs us that, “In him is no sin(1 John 3:5). The overwhelming evidence of the New Testament is that Jesus was sinless – spotless and unblemished. There is no ambiguity or disagreement in the Scriptures on this point. To the contrary, there is universal agreement.

Now that we have established Jesus’ identity as “The Lamb,” and as One who is spotless, let’s turn to the “no broken bones” requirement. John 19:31-33 is very helpful in this regard. It says, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” Is this merely a coincidence? Taken alone, one might think so. But, with the establishment of Jesus as the “Spotless Lamb,” it stands to reason that His legs would not be broken. Because the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, all of the expectations for the Passover Lamb are fulfilled in Him.

For the crucifixion to be a sacrifice and not just a Roman execution, there had to be a spotless lamb, a priest to preside, it had to be at the Temple, and part of a liturgy. We have established that Jesus fulfills the first requirement. He is none other than, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Our hearts are beginning to beat faster as we move step by step on the Pathway to the Passion. The intensity is growing. Voices of praise will soon turn to murmur and then calls for crucifixion. Despite the gathering darkness, our steps must remain sure. “We will follow the steps of Jesus, where e’er they go.”

In tomorrow’s study we will move to the second requirement. There had to be a presiding priest.

Execution or Once and for all Sacrifice?

Today we mark the entrance of Jesus into the Holy City. Palm Sunday moves us closer in time and proximity to the Passion of the Lord. For those in the Jerusalem, the Gospel was unfolding before their very eyes. There are many things about the Gospel that we take for granted. We live on the New Covenant side of the cross. In fact, we are living in an era some two millennia after Jesus walked the earth. So, ideas like the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ (fully divine and fully human), even the existence of the Bible are just assumed. More to the point of this meditation, we often take for granted the crucifixion of Jesus. For most of us, there is no issue whatsoever believing that Jesus died, was buried and rose again on the third day. This is a basic idea of the Christian faith. But have you ever considered just what made the crucifixion of Jesus a “sacrifice”? Our Scriptures for today reveal that Jesus was nailed to a Roman execution device called the cross. Yet, who of us thinks of Jesus as having been executed. We believe He was sacrificed. For us, it is quite easy to see!

What would we have seen if we had walked by the cross during the hour that Jesus died? Most people of that day would have assumed that another unfortunate Jew was experiencing the horrors of capital punishment. There was nothing in that gruesome event that would have convinced the casual passerby that this was anything more than a criminal being put to death.

So, why is it a sacrifice instead of a brutal form of execution? What makes the cross into “the once and for all sacrifice”. Over the next few days we will consider what the Scriptures have to say in answer to this question. In our study will see that Hebrew sacrifices had to have four things: A sacrificial victim – a spotless lamb, a priest to perform the sacrifice, it had to be at the Temple, and it had to be part of a liturgy.

Read John 19:16-18, Hebrews 10:10-14, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 – Executing the Sacrifice

A cursory glance at the spectacle does not readily reveal that Jesus’ death is anything but an execution. From the natural perspective, Jesus is a man, not a lamb. Jesus is a carpenter’s son and a Judean, not a Levite, much less a priest. Calvary was not at the Temple. In fact, it was outside the city gates. And finally, there was not a liturgy taking place. There was no service of worship going on when Jesus was killed. On the face of it, this looks just like the carrying out of a Roman death sentence.

What we know to be true is that the cross is the centerpiece of human history. In Jesus’ perfect act of self-disclosure, He repairs what was lost in the Garden of Eden, fulfills Covenant Promises offered to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22, and to David in 2 Samuel 7. And, Jesus is the typological fulfillment for the Old Testament drama of Salvation History (including connections to the Exodus). Further, the cross is the place of atonement (“At one-ment”), where the sinfulness of man meets God’s gracious provision. BUT, all of this hinges on the cross of Jesus being a SACRIFICE. How can the cross be a sacrifice? We will begin to find out in tomorrow’s meditation as we continue down the Pathway to the Passion.

Jesus is the Rock

Hunger and thirst were two of the major complaints the Israelites leveled against God and Moses. How could God lead them out into the wilderness only to starve them and deprive them of water? God had no such intention. But, rather than prayerfully requesting these provisions, the Children of Israel grumbled and complained. As Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 10, God’s grace was made evident despite their whining. But, God’s wrath was also made evident when His gracious gifts were met with disdain or disobedience. Today we discover how God’s gracious provision is still coming from the Rock. Read on…

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 – Rock of Ages

In the tenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing about the Lord’s Supper. We have already noted that this meal was instituted by Jesus in the upper room and is nothing less than the New Exodus Passover feast. Paul is addressing abuses by the Corinthian Church in the way they were approaching the Table. And, he is pointing out that the wilderness wanderings serve as an example to these followers of Christ. Paul wrote, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”

Yesterday we studied God’s provision of water to satisfy the thirst of the Israelites. At the beginning of the Exodus and at the very end of the 40 year journey, God instructed Moses to draw water from a rock. In the first instance, Moses was to gather the elders and people at Horeb. There, God would stand with Moses as he struck the rock with Aaron’s staff. When he did, water came forth from the rock. This scenario played out a second time four decades later. This time, God instructs Moses to “speak to the rock” in order to extract water. Sadly, Moses takes it upon himself to strike the rock twice. God fulfilled His promise to give water to the people. But this blatant disobedience deprived Moses and Aaron of entering the Promised Land.

Deriving water from a rock is not natural! This was supernatural. Of this, Paul wrote, They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.As we saw on Thursday, Jesus proclaimed that He was the true bread sent down from heaven. And now, we find out that He is also the Rock out of which water came. In this teaching extended teaching about the Lord’s Supper, what was Paul trying to communicate? Why did Paul place this stunning statement about Jesus being the rock that provides “spiritual drink” in a section of 1 Corinthians pertaining to the Lord’s Supper?

Consider this – Moses was told to strike the rock, and then to speak to the rock. In both instances, life giving water flowed from the rock. How can this be seen as Jesus? When Jesus was on the cross, he was struck. His body was broken and His blood was shed. A soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:34). The parallel of Moses striking the rock is unmistakable. Isaac Watts wrote, “See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.” God’s grace flowed from the side of Jesus when He was struck!

How about when Moses is told to “speak to the rock” and water would flow? Is there a parallel to this in Jesus’ Passion? When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He took a cup, gave thanks and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you(Luke 22:20). By offering a prayer of thanks and speaking the “words of institution,” bread and wine became the Lord’s Supper. As we have read, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” This is not true of most bread and wine – only that which is dedicated for the Supper of the Lord! When we gather at the Table of the Lord, He is not struck again – there is no “re-sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus. He is the “once and for all sacrifice.” But, just as Moses was supposed to speak to the rock and it would issue forth God’s gracious gift of water, so too, when the prayer of thanks is offered, and the Words of Jesus are spoken, simple elements of bread and wine become set apart as a gracious gift of Communion with Jesus and His Church. Verse 17 says, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”

As we follow the Pathway to the Passion, may we reflect on the One who is the Rock. Soon, on this Scriptural pilgrimage, we will come to the cross where He was struck only once – then water and blood flowed from His side. Also, on this journey, we will gather at the Lord’s Table where He is not struck again. But, following the Scriptural mandate, a word of prayer will be offered, Scriptural words will be spoken, and bread and wine will be set apart as the Lord’s Supper. The parallels from the Exodus and the Passion are too rich and beautiful to miss. Augustus M. Toplady wrote, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, from the wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.”

Water From the Rock – A Striking Problem!

Like children who are not getting their way, the Israelites had a nearly endless capacity to complain. Six weeks into the Exodus, the memories of God’s dramatic rescue must have faded from their collective memory. At first, the grumbling was over the “grub”. So, God responded by providing daily bread each morning and quail each evening. Surely that would be enough to satisfy the highly critical crowd. Sadly, a multi-faceted miraculous rescue, and supernatural bread and birds were not enough to quell the complaints. What could possibly go wrong next? Read on…

Read Exodus 17:1-7 – Strike the Rock

Next on the agenda for critical comment was the lack of water. The people accused Moses and God of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them in the barren wilderness. Apparently their quarreling with Moses was on the verge of turning violent. Before the people had a chance to stone him to death, Moses cried out to the Lord for a solution. God offered Moses another miracle.

God instructed the prophet to take Aaron’s staff, the one that had struck the Nile and turned the water to blood. Moses was to position himself in front of the people, accompanied by some of the elders. God would stand before Moses by the rock at Horeb. With the staff, Moses was to strike the rock. When he did, water flowed from the rock. God had done it again! Rather than respond in kind to the whiners and grumblers, God offered His people a gracious gift of water. The elders and the people witnessed God’s power to provide. The place where he struck the rock was called Massah (which means “testing”), and Meribah (which means “quarreling”). What a lovely legacy!

Read Numbers 20:1-13 – Speak to the Rock

Complain, complain, complain! It’s déjà vu all over again! While Numbers 20 is at the very end of the Exodus journey, it sounds strangely familiar to Exodus 17 and the beginning of the escape from Egypt. Many from the older generation had died. Even Miriam, Moses’ sister, had died. Those who were under twenty when the spies returned from the Promised Land were the new generation. They were poised to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:29-35). Despite the lessons of 40 years, what do we find the former generation doing? They are still complaining and quarreling with Moses – even so far as to wish that they had fallen in the wilderness like their brothers. For many, this death wish would come true soon enough! After reciting all of the culinary delights they were missing since being removed from Egypt, they proceeded to lament the lack of liquid.

Once again, God offers Moses an answer to this dilemma. God instructs the prophet to do what he had done before, with one major exception. Moses, accompanied by Aaron, was to take the staff and stand before the people. Rather than strike the rock, as he did before, God commanded Moses to, Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.”

With these unambiguous instructions issued, Moses took the staff and assembled the people. Then, rather than defer the glory and honor to God, Moses claims that he and Aaron will be the ones to work the miracle. Moses says to the complaining crowd, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” To compound the crisis, Moses took the staff, defying God’s clear instructions, and struck the rock, not once, but twice. God told him to speak to the rock, not to strike it! God’s gracious gift of water was not withheld from the people. Despite Moses’ unfaithfulness and arrogant defiance, water came from the rock. But, Moses was held accountable for his actions.  God said to Aaron and Moses, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Tragically, the incessant complaining of the older generation, and the defiance of Moses and Aaron would deprive them of entering the Promised Land. It would be Joshua (which is the Hebrew form of “Jesus”), who would lead the new generation into the land, “…flowing with milk and honey.”

What is it that rendered the grumbling factions of the Israelites unable to appreciate the outpouring of God’s grace through miracle after miracle? Why was their tendency to see the negative and to complain at every turn? Simply put, they did not revere and honor God. Instead they lived as those entitled to God’s favor. They did not trust God. Rather than making their requests known through prayer, they chose to coerce God by accusing Him of wanting to abandon them, or worse, murder them in the desert. They did not remember. God had shown them over and over that He would graciously provide for them. But, their attitude was, “what have you done for me lately.” They failed to remember.

Remembering is absolutely vital if we are going to revere, honor and trust God. Perhaps that was why the Passover was instituted as a yearly memorial of the Exodus. That is why the New Covenant Passover Feast is also a meal of remembrance. The Apostle Paul wrote about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. At the beginning of chapter 10, he invokes the story of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. Paul writes, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

Tomorrow, as we continue to walk the Pathway to the Passion, our explorations of the Scriptures will focus on the connection that Paul draws between the rock of the Exodus, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The True Bread from Heaven

As we studied yesterday, in response to their groaning and complaining about being hungry, God offered provisions for the Children of Israel. Manna and quail were given to the people for forty years until they reached the Promised Land.  Psalm 78:23 and following says, “God commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; and he rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance…” This was nothing less than supernatural bread provided by God and sent from heaven. What could be greater than that? Read on…

Read John 6:32-35, 41-43, 48-51

Over the last few days, we have encountered passages related to Jesus as the New Moses who would bring a New Exodus. Two days ago we saw that Jesus institutes a New Passover. Today we will also see that Jesus feeds His followers with New Manna – the, “True bread which has come down from heaven.” This is demonstrated nowhere more clearly than the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.

John 6 is packed with overtones from the Exodus. Consider for a moment these amazing typological connections. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus feeds a huge crowd by multiplying five loaves and two fish. There in the grassy wilderness, thousands were fed, and amazingly, there were twelve baskets full left over. Feeding the people miraculous bread certainly recalls the Exodus. Twelve baskets are reminiscent of the twelve tribes. It is no surprise that the people wondered if Jesus was the “prophet”. What Prophet might feed people with miraculous bread? Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 may reveal the answer. In this passage, we discover that God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses…only greater (Hebrews 3:3)!

After Jesus’ feeds the crowd, what happens next? Jesus walks on the water of the sea. In the first Exodus, Moses walked through the water. But, Jesus, the new and greater Moses didn’t walk through the water. Jesus walks on top of the water. Jesus is, indeed, greater than Moses!

Realizing that Jesus has crossed to Capernaum, the people get into boats and follow him there. Jesus discerns that they have come for more of the miraculous bread. So, He instructs them not to work for food that spoils, but rather to seek food that endures to eternal life. Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Imagine the gall of this. Less than twenty four hours before thousands had been fed miraculously with five loaves and two fish. Yet, they still ask Jesus to show them a sign. Just beneath the surface of their statement lies their true intent. They believe Jesus is the New Moses. The New Moses would give them “daily bread,” like Moses fed the Israelites manna. That’s why they say to Jesus, “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The New Moses was about to teach them about a greater manna. The first manna only sustained the physical lives of those who ate it. The New Manna would be for spiritual sustenance! In John 6:48 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

It was Passover when Jesus fed the five thousand and taught them about the new and greater manna. One year later, again at Passover, the disciples gathered in the upper room and there, Jesus echoes what he taught the crowd in John 6. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body, given for you” (Luke 22:19).  That night, they received the bread that comes down from heaven…only this time it was not from the angels, but from Jesus, Himself. The manna in the wilderness was a type or prefiguring of the true bread that Jesus came to offer. There is a Scriptural principle that applies here. No type is greater than its fulfillment. We have already established that the manna of the Exodus was supernatural bread. What kind of bread was Jesus offering the Disciples, and to us? If the Biblical axiom is true, then the bread we share at His Table is greater than the manna in the wilderness.

What makes the New Manna greater than the old? Clearly, God provided the miraculous bread from heaven during the first Exodus.  Now, Jesus offers us the New Manna and He says, I am the true bread come down from heaven.” Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” While the first manna was from God and was bread from heaven, the New manna is from Jesus who IS the True Bread from heaven! By associating the New Manna with Himself, it surpasses the previous provision.

So, from the Passover we learn that we need an unblemished sacrificial lamb. Of all the human beings who have ever lived, only one could fulfill the requirement. His name is Jesus – the Son of man, the Son of God. From the manna, the supernatural bread sent down from heaven, we learn that Jesus offers us even greater bread! You see, manna met physical needs. The bread that Jesus offers us applies to spiritual hunger.  We can rest assured, when we gather at the Lord’s Table; it is no ordinary meal He sets before us!

Let’s conclude with one more observation. The first manna had the flavor of honey. It was, therefore, a foretaste of the Promised Land, “…a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). It stands to reason that when Jesus gives us the True Bread from Heaven and says, “This is my body…” that we, too, are receiving a foretaste of the Promised Land. But, this is not Canaan. This Promised Land is HEAVEN. You see, in the New Jerusalem, Jesus is the Temple! Revelation 21:22 states, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” At the Table of the Lord, we have a taste of heaven!

The New Moses leads a New Exodus to the Greater Promised Land. Along the way, we have upgraded supplies. Paul wrote, “Christ, our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast…” Jesus is not only our Passover Lamb; He is also the “True Bread from Heaven.” The old hymn says it well. “Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more!” What blessed gifts have been given to us! Unlike the Israelites and the crowd at Capernaum, may we never grumble or complain about these precious provisions for the journey – they are a foretaste of glory divine!