Embracing Grace: The New Covenant, Part 4

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 65

Scripture: Romans 2:28-29; Galations 6:15; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24; John 14:2-4; Matthew 25:13; 2 Peter 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:11-12; Philippians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:30-32.

Good Friday procession in Mumbai by Indian Roman Catholics, depicting the Way of the Cross. Photo credit: Masalai / CC By-Sa 3.0

Christianity recognizes today as Good Friday, or, alternately, Black Friday or Holy Friday. In the Catholic Church, the Book of Common Prayer sets aside this day for fasting, abstinence, penance, and the giving of alms. No church bells are rung on this day and holy water fonts are emptied until the vigil on Easter. A solemn procession of icons is attended by thousands.

Cross way, Good Friday 2007, Coliseum and Arch of Constantine, Rome / Bopox / CC by-sa 3.0

For traditional Christianity, Friday is a day for somber reflection, marked by a special service which may be referred to as Tenebrae (Latin for ‘shadows’ or ‘darkness’) but actually applies to the three days prior to Sunday. Matins and Lauds are attended in Catholic Churches and the format is the same for all three days. Orthodox churches typically observe Tenebrae with Matins on Friday. Anglicans and Episcopals hold a Wednesday service called Tenebrae. The Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations give the name, Tenebrae, to their Thursday and Friday services during Holy Week. In the Lutheran church of my youth, we occasionally reenacted an actual Passover meal on Wednesday evening. All of these are, in their own way, methods of acknowledging the Passion of the Christ.1

None of these observances were practiced in the early church. By and large, the early church continued observing Jewish feast days and traditions, though circumcision was no longer enforced on Gentile converts, until the time of Constantine.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.2

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.3

Since in Jewish culture the day begins at sundown, the observance of Good Friday includes the arrest by Herod and the sentencing of Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Our western minds don’t think in terms of a day beginning with sundown. It may even have taken more than one evening to transport Jesus back and forth several times between the courts of Herod and Pilate. We do know the Shabbat, or Jewish Sabbath day begins at nightfall each Friday. It is the seventh day in the Jewish week and coincides with the first holy day declared by God in the Bible, when He rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3). Observance of the Sabbath was first commanded by God when Moses presented the Law (Ten Commandments) to the people in the wilderness, Exodus 20:8-11, and in again in Exodus 16:26, related to God halting the daily Manna.

During the Passover Seder, four cups of wine are drunk. “Each cup is imbibed at a specific point in the Seder. The first is for Kiddush (קידוש), the second is for ‘Maggid‘ (מגיד), the third is for Birkat Hamazon (ברכת המזון) and the fourth is for Hallel (הלל.) The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God in Exodus 6:6-7: ‘I will bring out,’ ‘I will deliver,’ ‘I will redeem,’ and ‘I will take.'”4

Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Ecce Homo with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century.

In the ancient Jewish marriage ritual, at the time of sharing the first cup of wine, a blessing is spoken. This first cup of wine was called the kiddushin and meant “holy” or “sanctified.”  The breaking of bread and passing the wine cup during the Last Supper reveals a new layer of meaning when compared to this marriage ritual.

When Jesus said to “do this in remembrance of Me,” it is possible He held this third cup of the Passover wine, the cup of redemption, but I think what He spoke was said with the first cup of Passover wine, the cup of sanctification, for that literally is what Kiddush means and is what the bridegroom and bride are doing when they drink from the first marriage cup.5 I believe this because the bride of Christ still awaits the return of her bridegroom, therefore we still are in the betrothal period, awaiting His return.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is brokenfor you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.6

According to Jewish law, the couple was officially married, though they would be apart for a year or more. After they had drunk the cup of sanctification, being set apart, sanctified for each other, the bridegroom would leave his bride for an extended period of time. He returned to his father’s house to prepare a room for his bride, once called a chuppah. The chuppah canopy in a modern Jewish marriage ceremony comes from this ancient practice.

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.7

Cristo de San Plácido by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)

Jesus left His bride, the church, when he died on the cross. He arose from the grave only to ascend into Heaven. There, He not only sits at the right hand of God, but He also is preparing a place for His bride.

Jewish custom was that only the bridegroom’s father knew the day or hour of his return. It was during this time that the bride was to prepare herself for marriage and be on the alert, always looking for his return.

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.8

The bridegroom adopted the nickname, “the thief in the night” as a result of this practice.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.9

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.10

“…the term “no man knows the day or the hour” is a catch-phrase for the Feast of Trumpets—Rosh ha Shanah—for it is always over 2 days around the earth. Three trumpets are blown during that 2-day time period. And, everyone waits for the “last trump”, when according to Jewish tradition, the gates of heaven open and the righteous ascend to heaven, while the fate of the wicked is sealed.”11

Some scholars cite this knowledge as evidence that Jesus will return some time during Rosh ha Shanah at some point in the near future. Perhaps He will come then, but we need to be ready and looking regardless of when Jesus returns.

Tradition held that the bridegroom’s return would be at the midnight hour, so the bride and her attendants had to be ready at a moment’s notice to join the groom for the remainder of the marriage ceremony. When he arrived, the bride’s attendants would light lamps and accompany the bride to her new home. Once there, the ceremony was concluded then the couple ushered into the bridal chamber.

The Biblical story of the ten virgins gains clarity in light of the ancient Jewish marriage rituals:

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hourin which the Son of Man is coming.”12

Any serious student of the Word will recognize that oil here is representative of the Holy Spirit. The conclusion, then, must be that in this parable Jesus told about the wise and foolish virgins speaks directly of the church. A favorite evangelist of ours preached on this passage of scripture once, saying he prayed to God it didn’t mean that only half of the church will be ready for Christ’s return, that only half will be admitted to heaven, to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”13

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 14

We all love a good ritual. It is what ties us to the past and gives us hope for the future. But I think we sometimes get so caught up in observances and enjoying the pageantry that we forget the simplicity of the gospel. I don’t advocate we leave it all behind, but I am saying that all of us find it too easy just to go through the motions without truly examining our hearts. Once the seeds of doing church by rote are sown, we slide into that subtle yet deadly pattern of thought that says our actions are what make us holy. Holiness comes from who lives inside us, not by how we dress up the outside.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” is a quote from Sir Walter Scott’s poem, Marmion. The function of a spider’s web is to trap insects to consume. When caught, they try to wriggle out of the sticky threads, only to get all the more entangled. Scott is saying here that this is like lies which are spun, only the lie is weaving a trap for self destruction, inoculating the liar against impending doom until it is too late to escape.

Photo credit: Daniel Speck, freestockphotos.com

This is what happened to the foolish virgins. They duped themselves into thinking they had time when they really didn’t. Their lamps (their souls) had no oil (Holy Spirit.)  They deceived themselves into thinking they would have plenty of time to fill their lamps when the time came.

Some might argue this point, saying that being baptized in the Holy Spirit is a onetime event, but this simply is not true. We are leaky vessels. To supply an example from scripture demonstrating our need to be filled repeatedly, take a look at what happened with Peter and John, after they had been arrested and interrogated by the Sanhedrin then released over the healing of a man:

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.’

“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.  Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.15

Peter and John were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on each of them in tongues of fire. Why would they need to be filled again unless being filled with the Holy Spirit is a daily need?

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something we need every day. On any given day, our hearts are either cooling and growing distant from God or burning and drawing closer to God. Grieving the Holy Spirit is a lot easier than you think. Why else would Paul have stated “I die daily,” or “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”?

The heart that is cold toward God does not recognize danger until it is too late.

Read: Romans 2:28-29; Galations 6:15; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24; John 14:2-4; Matthew 25:13; 2 Peter 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:11-12; Philippians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:30-32. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for the fire of Your Spirit. Burn in me, ‘til all that remains is of You. For the sake of the Bridegroom, purify me as I wait on You. Make me clean as the snow and open to however You wish to move in my life. In Jesus’ name and for Your kingdom, amen.

_____________________
1Wikipedia contributors, “Good Friday,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Good_Friday&oldid=425342071 (accessed April 22, 2011).
2Romans 2:28-29. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
3Galations 6:15. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
4Wikipedia contributors, “Passover Seder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Passover_Seder&oldid=425192711 (accessed April 22, 2011).
5 Wikipedia contributors, “Kiddush,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kiddush&oldid=417571493 (accessed April 22, 2011).
61 Corinthians 11:23-24.  Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
7John 14:2-4 Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
8Matthew 25:13. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
92 Peter 3:9-11 Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
101 Thessalonians 5:1-3. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
11Lay Down Life Contributors. “The Ancient Jewish Wedding Ceremony.” Lay Down Life.  http://www.laydownlife.net/yedidah/AncientJewishWeddingCeremony.htm (accessed April 22, 2011).
12Matthew 25:1-13 Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
132 Peter 3:3-4. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
141 Corinthians 10:11-12. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
15Acts 4:23-31.  Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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