Monday, September 23, 2013

Last Supper – when did Jesus’ symbolisms start?

The Holy Communion is “fashioned” after the Last Supper; it is NOT referencing just any supper Jesus had with His disciples while He, Jesus, lived on earth, and so, it is the Last Supper that is in focus when we talk about Holy Communion.

The Holy Communion is a sacrament, and it is a symbolism.  Symbolism is meant to symbolise something or to say something.  Jesus was apt in using everyday situations to symbolise.  Coming to the time of the Last Supper, the Lord realised He has reached the critical milestone near to the end of His ministry and life (John 13:1), and He seized the opportunity to symbolise.  When did Jesus’ symbolism begin; at which point, I mean?

In other words, at which point was Jesus beginning to, by symbolism(s), told what was on His heart for the Disciples in that hour/season? Is it at the point as depicted by the Corinthians text, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, when Jesus started to make a prayer/speech about the bread and the wine as His body and blood, broken and shed for us?  The Supper might have begun there, but the thing that Jesus had wanted to say, begun earlier!

It began at Jesus’ washing of the Disciples’ feet.  In other words, there were 2 symbolisms within the entire symbolism. The common everyday thing that Jesus used then, as the first symbolism, was this: Commonly, people including guests got their feet washed, that they (in those days, and place) had come from the outside, feet covered with dust and dirt (wore sandals, NOT shoes), before starting to eat from the table; and this washing of feet was a humbling task, commonly assigned to lowly servants.  This we can see from what Jesus said, in the account of the sinful woman using her tears and hair to wipe Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:44-48):

44 Then he {Jesus} turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Now – this is revelation: Even as Abraham did what the Father God, would do, of the giving of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be sacrificed (Abraham was sacrificing his son, Isaac {although stopped just in time, by God}), this sinful woman did what the Lord would do, of washing the feet of disciples, to forgive them.  What Abraham did was prophetic, and so, too, was what the sinful woman did.  Abraham's act was prophetic of God's sacrificial love for us, through the giving of His Son, Jesus, to die; and the woman's act, of Jesus' forgiveness for us, through the washing of the feet of the disciples.

So, the message of Jesus started from the feet-washing symbolism, carried through to the symbolism of the supper (which in itself, had multiple symbolisms, like the bread symbolised the body of Christ, and the wine, the blood of Christ).  Looking at the symbolism of the supper, leaving out the feet-washing symbolism, is actually looking at Jesus’ message for the hour, NOT from the beginning or page 1! 

For the entire symbolism, I believe Jesus was NOT just wanting to say, “Remember, I shed my blood, and had my body broken; I died that you may live.”  Yes, that was part of the message, but that was NOT quite the complete message.  The entire symbolism was like an Initiation.

Recently, I went to a “White Gown” Ceremony.  What is this White Gown Ceremony?  No, I did NOT go to Heaven, witnessed or was adorned of the white gown, and came back!  It would be a great privilege, honour and favour of God, if it happens.  Still, I was very happy and thankful to God for the experience of witnessing my daughter got initiated into Medical School at the National University of Singapore. 

Only for the Medical School, the university does that, before the students even start lessons, they were initiated into the medical profession with a ceremony where the faculty doctors (lecturers, etc) took turn to put the new doctor’s white gown on each of the medical students witnessed by their parents and invited guests.  As part of the ceremony the significance of the initiation was explained.

Jesus’ washing of the feet of disciples and then the partaking of the bread and wine was like an initiation.  When we understand the dual symbolisms like a composite initiation, Jesus’ message was NOT merely “Remember, I die that you may live”.  It is that and more, and the more is “You will now on, do what I have been doing, and carry on doing”.  Remember the Apostle Peter’s initial refusal, and Jesus’ reply to him; Jesus said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."  As a whole, we could really view the entire symbolism like an initiation into the service of God; and this “initiation” is NOT just for the full-time clergy, but is for all, for all are disciples of Jesus Christ.  Having said that, the feet-washing symbolism has a particular significance, which I will elaborate more, in a while.

My daughter could NOT say she would NOT go through the “White Gown” Ceremony, if she would want to be a doctor (remember now, it was NOT graduation).  The white gown was a symbol, and it was a symbol for being a doctor.  What did the entire symbolism mean?  Initiation into the service of God (Here, I called it, Servanthood).  Unless the Disciples were initiated into Servanthood, by Jesus’ reply to Peter, they could do NOT, what Jesus had been doing or would like to do – “no part with me”, said Jesus.  What had Jesus been doing?  Service unto God the Father and service unto one another; men.  So, the Disciples were initiated into Servanthood unto God, and unto one another (John 13:14 – Jesus said to wash each other’s feet).

The Disciples were NOT initiated into just any servanthood or that they were free to choose how and who they would serve.  They were initiated into the Servanthood Jesus established.  This Servanthood that Jesus established is NOT just for this life.  He establishes it for beyond this life, and He did it with His giving of His body and blood; He died for it.  Actually, Jesus came to RE-establish it; Man was originally created to serve God.  The Supper symbolism came in to complete the picture or message, of how Jesus re-established this servanthood. 

Before we move to the Supper symbolism, what is the particular significance of the feet-washing by Jesus that I was referring to, earlier?  It is this:

Jesus was showing to us, that He, even though, was their Lord and Teacher (given us in Apostle John’s account, in John 13), He subjected Himself to confront that which was filthy and offensive to Him, to cleanse the unrighteousness of men from sins.  Graphically, this was depicted by Jesus bending over to wash the feet of the Disciples.  Was the act referring to the very first cleansing of us of all our unrighteousness from sins, when we entered into salvation?  No, it was NOT!  If you read the account given us in John 13, carefully, you will find that Jesus talked about body being cleaned, and feet still filthy.  Body cleansing was referring to the “first cleansing”, and feet-washing, the on-going cleansing of us, as we continue to be in contact with the “filthy world” (the world is still in a fallen state, under the dominion of Satan; it is still the domain where Satan perpetuates his unrighteous ways, in an attempt to have men counted with him, away from God).

There has been much argument of at which point in time that a person is saved.  Is a person saved when he is “converted” (say, by saying the Sinner’s Prayer) or when he has been water-baptised?  In other words, there are those who argued that unless you underwent water baptism, you are NOT saved.  One argument is based on this thing that Jesus said about the body needed be cleaned, first of all.  Jesus actually said that among the 13 Disciples, one was NOT cleaned of the body; and we know from elsewhere in Scripture, the Disciple referred to, was Judas Iscariot.  You know, people argued about if Judas Iscariot was indeed saved (or converted); now one support to say that he was NOT, can be cited as from this text of John’s depiction of the Last Supper – Judas Iscariot was NOT of cleaned-body.  We will NOT go into any deeper discussion of the question raised at the start of this paragraph, but it suffices to say that body-cleaning and the feet-washing were NOT referring to the same thing; and the time that Jesus was walking on the earth, such thing as to how one was converted, needed to be looked at, as the “interim period scenario”, as Jesus then, was NOT dead and resurrected.  Just think about it: what or how the other 12 Disciples were cleaned of their body; Jesus NOT dead yet?!  They were cleaned as a result of their positive response to Jesus calling them to come to become His Disciples?  If it were so, how do we explain the case of Judas Iscariot?  As a result of baptism by John the Baptist?  If so, are we to say that Judas Iscariot did NOT go for that, but the rest did?  Or was it the words and teachings of Jesus when received in, that did the “trick”? The last one, the words and teachings of Jesus, was the answer. This is gleaned from John 15:3.

2 key significances in this portion of the “initiation”- feet-washing:

(1) Jesus was saying we would get “dirty” from our continual contact with the world, even as we serve Him and God, but He would cleanse us.  The point to note is that the Disciples did NOT have to do anything to merit Jesus’ washing of their feet, and so, in spiritual significance, Jesus’ forgiveness and so, the attending cleansing thereof, was continued on a grace basis (by grace, the Disciples were called {to be His followers}).  In other words, Jesus was alluding to 1 John 1:9 - when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us, and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. The feet-washing was speaking about forgiveness.  The Lord forgives us, and when Jesus instructed the Disciples to do the same, with one another, we are to forgive, too, one another; and it is to be in like manner, by grace (so, please you and I have to forgive another, by grace, just as God forgave us – Col 3:13).

(2) If we do NOT seek the Lord’s forgiveness and cleansing of our unrighteousness from sins we committed while in the world (after we have been body-cleaned – imputed of righteousness on conversion or entry into salvation), we will have no part with the Lord.  In other words, we will be unable to function in the service unto God (or here, I called Servanthood).  The works (and life) of the Lord, we cannot come into – no part with me {John 13:8).   Many people argued that Matt 6:9-15  (referring to the Lord’s Prayer) that said (in v15) that we have to forgive one another, before God will forgive us, as an “isolated verse”.  No, if we are right that the feet-washing was alluding to “to forgive”, here is the exhortation again by the Lord, by the feet-washing, that we have to forgive one another.

To abide in the Lord, what this feet-washing symbolism is telling us is that, we have to be forgiven by the Lord, and be cleansed, on-going; failing which we abide NOT in the Lord, and the Lord, in us. When we abide NOT, how can we be in agreement with the Lord and be doing His works, and so, share His life, as to His on-going works on earth.

As said, the Supper symbolism came in to complete the picture or message, of how Jesus re-established this servanthood.  Jesus’ giving of Himself, as symbolised in the elements of the Eucharist, made it possible for men to serve God and serve one another while living the mortal life, and  it made it possible for the service or servanthood to extend beyond our mortal life (into life after life; to be still serving God, i.e. for eternity). 
Brother Anthony, wait a minute, are you saying the feet-washing was symbolic of forgiveness or servanthood?  The “initiation” was into servanthood, the specific symbolism of the feet-washing was forgiveness. And what it means is that unless the Lord forgives you and I, we cannot serve Him, and likewise, if we forgive NOT, another, that person could NOT really serve us, too.  Is it NOT true, if you NOT forgive a person, what that person does, you are likely to reject it, even when it is good thing he/she is wanting to do.

I don’t like to hear people speaking out generally that all the works of believers are filthy rags (quoting Isaiah 64:6); it is incorrect, if the intent is to say that no matter what good works believers do, they are as filthy rags to God.  No, without Jesus’ giving of Himself, it was true, all the works were as filthy rags to God, because from the Fall of Adam and Eve, servanthood was wrecked. Jesus (His forgiveness) made it possible that our good works are no longer necessarily as filthy rags to God.
Yes, we are to serve one another, but the feet-washing symbolism was NOT specifically pointing to the Lord is to serve you and I (like genie in a bottle!), or that we are to serve one another, although rendering forgiveness is a service.

The complete message of Jesus for the occasion of that Day is this: I will be re-establishing the Servanthood; I will accomplish it by giving of my body and shedding of my blood; I will die to establish it (remember this), NOT just that you can once again serve God and serve one another, but also that the Servanthood of which I have initiated you (the Disciples) into (Of which I am the Firstfruit), it would survive mortal death, into eternity. 

I have still chosen to use servanthood and servant, even though, in John 15:15, the Lord said that for those who know the Master’s business, He no longer call them servants but friends; it is a posture of humility to remember we are servants of the Lord and God, in the first place (Generally, you get to know the Master’s business when you are abiding in Him).

Now, I know some may object to me, alluding the entire symbolism to “initiation”; one ground is that Jesus mentioned “covenant” in the supper symbolism and that we do take Communion regularly (purportedly, initiation only happens once).  Firstly, many initiation rites are covenants, blood covenants, actually, binding the persons in the whatever-hood that they commit or have committed themselves into.  Although it is true that generally, between men, initiation rite is done once, but the spirit of it is always to remember what they have committed themselves into.  Because the Lord used the common daily event, and the common Eucharist elements, of bread and wine, and so, it can be easily forgotten (if you have to do some dramatic feat, perhaps you would remember it always, for, perhaps, you would have been boasting about it, every so often!), His way was that we are to remember whenever we do it, eat of the bread and drink of the wine, that we are in this servanthood He has re-established. 

In case people say that I have NOT done justice to the Supper symbolism, and the Gospel too, let me say that the Supper symbolism is (1) God so loved that world that He gave His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross, so that whoever believe in Him, may have eternal life; and (2) the Lord, Jesus’ service unto God, in love and obedience, to give up His glory in Heaven before God, to come down to be born of man, and to die on the Cross, so that He, though sinless, could be ransom for our lives, freeing us from the curse of death (2nd death – Hell) from our past sins, including that of the Original Sin, coming through to us, from the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  By His (Jesus) giving of Himself, be broken of body, shed of blood, and dying on the Cross, crucified, NOT only the everlasting life is now possible for us, men, again, His sacrifice has also re-established the works dimension of our lives, from Creation; God created Man to serve Him and please Him.  The Eucharist elements are to remind us of the redemptive works of our Lord.  By the way, those interested to have a fuller understanding of the redemptive works of the Lord, can go read this: Works of Redemption by Our Lord.
We can see how shallow the message the Last Supper had become.  If you are insistent that the feet-washing and the supper are two distinct items that ought NOT be looked together, read John 13 carefully, and you will see that the meal was being served (v2), Jesus was already seated at the table, and He got up (v4 said He got up from the meal), and He then started the feet-washing.  (It is, however, NOT after the meal, for v26 {...”I will give”...}, indicated so).  It was NOT a picture of before they were ready to eat, say, they had all just come into the hall, and Jesus wanted to wash their feet; they were all ready to eat.

Today’s typical Eucharist message: Remember Jesus died for you that you may have eternal life.  That is a far cry from the complete message Jesus was trying to give on that Last Supper occasion.  It is more of Jesus has put us back into active service. 

Romans 3:10-12 - 10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Isaiah 64:6 - All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Romans 3:23-26 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Eph 2:10 -  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Isaiah 64:8 -  Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Jeremiah 18:1-6 - 1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Who goes to Heaven? Matt 7:19-23 – 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Salvations by works?!  No. But by his fruit, and so, his works (for fruit is from his works), it is clear if one is saved.  No matter how we “slice it”, like we love God, etc., we cannot run away from “mere words are NOT enough”, we got to have fruit (from works) to show it.  I believe God employs, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”.  In the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30), it is clear that one of the servants did nothing with the talent, and we can read what happened to him.  Yes, nowhere in Scripture is it quantified as to how much fruit/works is sufficient, but what happens to the idle servant, will serve as the base scenario, from which we are to improve upon.  The Lord knows what is do-able for you and I, and He deserves our best effort; He alone judges (including how much), and we should profane NOT, His grace.  Be aware and be warned; you are in servanthood unto the Lord and God.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: Although it is NOT uncommon that the washing of feet be expounded to illustrate we need to be humble (humility); in view of the context of Jesus making reference to body-cleaning, it was NOT the central theme of Jesus then.  Humility is of course, an integral part of servanthood, and the theme there was about servanthood, and so, when we pluck humility into the equation so to speak, it does NOT appear out of place, at all.  For example, it is fine to say "Without humility, Peter, you will have no part in me", when as I believe, Jesus' true intent was to say, "Without being forgiven by me, you will have no apart in me".  Is it wrong to teach humility using this feet-washing text?  No, but like I say, it was NOT the central theme.  The on-going need to be cleansed, was.

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