The Body of Christ – Holy Day Series 2023 – Part 1
The Apostle Paul tells we need to “discern the Body of Christ” when we take the Passover symbols, bread and wine. What does that mean? Learnmore in The Body of Christ – Holy Day Series 2023 – Part 1
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Two nights ago, at Passover service, we commemorated the death of Jesus Christ with two symbols – wine, to represent His blood, and unleavened bread, to represent His body. We, in our culture, know that the life is in the blood. We’ve read that in the Bible. We know the term to shed blood means to die in a violent way. Consequently, we still use that term today. We talk about soldiers who shed their blood to keep us free, for example. So, the term is a replacement for sacrifice. Christ shed His blood to cover our sins. That means He died, in the same way animals were sacrificed – killed by exsanguination.
What about His body? Do we have the same level of understanding about that as we do the significance of His shed blood? We read something at the Passover service – Paul’s words – 1 Corinthians 11:23. Every years, at Passover, we hear Paul’s words read to us in 1 Corinthians 11, beginning in verse 23:
1 Corinthians 11:23 – For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He also said, in those same scriptures that, if we don’t discern the Lord’s body – discern – that’s the word he used – that, if we don’t discern the Lord’s body, we’re not observing the Passover for its full significance.
I can’t say we’re going to understanding every bit about the significance of Christ’s body, we’re going to take a look at it today and see what we can learn from it. We’re going to discern the Lord’s body. Even if we already know the meaning of Christ’s body, since the season comes around once a year, it’s clear that God wants us to rehearse what we’ve learned periodically and annually.
I was thinking about why God instructs us to do this. I had something happen this past week that connected to me all over again. I bought a new piece of computer hardware. It’s called Extreme Deck. It’s a little bank of buttons you sit by your keyboard. You can program each button to do one or many things. As an example, I programmed one button to load all eight apps that I would need to record this presentation. One button and eight apps are loaded automatically and put in the right place on the screen. So, I was watching a video about how to program it, and the video creator made a helpful comment. He said, “It’s impossible to understand everything this equipment can do. It’s capacities are too vast. I recommend that you set the thing beside your computer, and every time you find yourself doing the same task over and over, program a button for it.” God’s salvation plan is a lot like that. We find ourselves doing Passover over and over again each year. But God has packed so much into the meaning of each holy day about His plan, there is no way to get it all in the first, or second, or fiftieth time around. He’s too brilliant for us. No matter how many times we celebrate a holy day, there’s always more to learn.
I’d like to start with what we can learn about Christ’s sacrifice from the Old Testament holy day observance. I know that people think those days are just Jewish, and yet, Jesus Christ is stamped all over all of them. All the holy days of God in the Old Testament represent a part of God’s plan that began in New Testament times. If you were a modern-day Christian and you understood that, and you could go back in time to about a month before Passover, and you were thinking about all the holy days that were going to come that year, you would be looking at the whole plan of God from beginning to end, and none of it would have happened yet. It’s only after the new heaven and the new earth, in fact, that they’ll all be historical to us. But, in the beginning, they were all future.
So, today we see Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost as looking back on what Christ did for us, and the other holy days – Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day – all looking ahead to something else. So, there is something for Christians for those days.
So, we’re going to go back and take a look at the original Passover. It’s very well-known to most of us, but I would like to rehearse it just a bit. We’ll abbreviate it.
Moses went to Pharaoh and told him to let His people go, and Pharaoh refused. The God sent His tenth and final plague upon the Egyptians. Every firstborn human and animal in Egypt died that night – most of them in their sleep, I would imagine. Prior to this, God told the Israelites to kill a young lamb, paint the blood on their doorposts – the sign of submission to God. And then the death angel passed over those homes. In other words, it didn’t exact its judgment on the homes where the blood was. They were passed over. Usually passed over is a bad thing, but, in this case, it was very good. It was because of the blood that they were passed over. It was a sign that they belonged to God.
Now, I know that most of know this already. But that evening the Israelites were to roast and eat the lamb – the body of the lamb. And it was to be nourishment for them for the journey that they would soon take as they left the slavery of Egypt. This is where our understanding might be weak, Paul tells us. We don’t know how to discern the Lamb’s body – Christ’s body.
So, let’s go to the New Testament now. Let’s look at an interesting scripture – John 1:29. This is right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and it’s talking about John the Baptist.
John 1:29 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
So, the Jews all thought the Messiah would come as a general to defeat the Romans, but this rather eccentric man – a relative of Jesus – knew that Jesus was the Christ – the Messiah – and that He was to sacrifice Himself for the sin of the world – His life for ours. He bought us back from the devil.
Blood spilled covers and saves those who have followed God’s instruction to drink of it on Passover and there accept Christ into their lives. John the Baptist understood that Jesus was pictured in the Old Testament by the Passover lamb. And the lamb’s body, symbolically eaten and digested – absorbed into our bodies – provides spiritual nourishment for our journey out of sin into God’s Kingdom – the Promised Land – eternal life with God. Jesus talked about this a lot. In John 6:47, we can read some of it. He said:
John 6:47-59 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” That wasn’t the bread of life, even though it was from God. Then He said: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John records that, immediately after He said this, people in the synagogue said: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Kind of gross. Well, let’s read what He said following that in verse 53: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father – so He’s making an explanation for us to understand our connection to Him – so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. Because I feed on the Father, so we’re to feed on Him. And, if this happens, then we’re going to live forever. Then He said in verse 58: This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He keeps repeating Himself, and that’s because they just weren’t getting it. Jesus said these things in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
So what day of the week would that have been? Yes, it would have been on the Sabbath, wouldn’t it? But He’s not talking about literally eating His physical body. It’s a metaphor. So, that’s the first thing we need to know to discern properly the body and blood of Christ. So, what does it mean to eat His flesh? Well, what’s He talking about? Let’s look at some specific things out of the Bible that we can do to “eat” His flesh – that is, to be spiritually nourished by Him in our relationship with Him and draw into a closer and tighter relationship. We’re going to cover several things now to explain what it means to discern the Lord’s body.
The first one can be found in John 4:31:
John 4:31-34 – Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” They were always taking Him literally and didn’t understand He was speaking in symbols in metaphor to them.
So, let’s think about what that means – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and accomplish His work.” Jesus said the bread – the food the Father gave Him – His spiritual nourishment – was to do God’s will. And, if He is our bread of life – our spiritual nourishment – wouldn’t it be nourishment to us to do the same thing? Isn’t that part of what it means to “eat” the body of Christ – “eat” His flesh? Well, doing our Father’s will surely lead to our eternal life. That’s the point. So, that’s part of what it means when He said that He’s the bread from heaven. That’s part of discerning the Lord’s body. Does that connect with Christ’s physical body – the body He was walking around in? I think so. If we know that when He said, “Eat My flesh” meant ‘I’m walking around doing God’s will with My body,’ are you walking around doing God’s will with Me?” “If you are, then we’re closer,” He’s saying to us today. “As you watch Me – by reading the Bible to see how I live – digesting My every move, you’re going to see Me doing God’s work. And you’re doing what you do to get on the same page with Me – My body with yours.” That’s part of the metaphor.
The next one is simply an extension of the first. As we study to follow God and Christ. We’re following His example. Christ came and set an example for us – about how to live. There’s an episode in The Chosen, where Jesus and all His disciples went to a Gentile area and they set up camp outside the town. To get there they had to get up very early in the morning and walk for hours to be there in any reasonable time. When they arrived and set up camp, crowds of sick and disabled people came seeking healing. And Jesus began immediately to pray for them and heal them. And while He is praying and giving Himself to these people, the disciples are cutting wood and setting up tents, and getting food ready, and they’re managing the crowd – taking turns at it. And, as the day wears on, they began to wonder how long this is going to continue. Some of them wish out loud that they had waited a day to get started so they could be rested up. Others wonder why they’re there and what’s going on. They feel kind of left out of the action. There’s Jesus over in a tent, praying, and they’re sitting around a fire at camp. Some complain that Jesus isn’t telling them very much. Afternoon moves into nightfall. They sit around a fire start telling their own stories about how they were called by Jesus. (Incidentally, if you watch that episode, that’s some of the best writing you’ll ever see. It was just so believable – so real.) During that exchange, some them began to argue about who should have preeminence, of course. Pretty soon, some of them are standing up, facing off, right to duke it out. And at that moment, Jesus walks by them, totally exhausted, headed for His tent – near collapse from His effort – and they all feel low. They feel like dogs. And later, they talk and agree that they need to do better. And they understood, in that moment, what it means to do God’s will. Now, that scene never happened in reality. They made that up to drive home the point of Christ’s sacrificial nature. Not a bad thing, is it? But the Bible indicates that Jesus’ disciples were not that unified in the beginning. So, the scene in the show was a device to show us what it might have been like them, trying to follow Christ, and yet, because of their spiritual weakness, causing division among themselves.
Peter talks about why we need to follow His example and under what conditions. It’s in 1 Peter 2:20.
1 Peter 2:20-21 – For what credit is it – he says – if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. So, Jesus shows us by example what to do with our bodies when we’re being beaten for His sake.
He says in 1 Peter 2:22:
V-22 – He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. Didn’t try to lie His way out of it. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. So, the key there to doing God’s will and following Christ’s example of sacrifice is to know that God is going to sort it all out and make a just judgment in the end. We’re not going to be left hung out to dry.
And that leads us to the third thing to think about as we take the broken piece of unleavened bread at the Passover service – the high cost of being the Lamb of God. Let’s go to Isaiah 53:4. It starts out:
Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows – do you ever grieve or have sorrow? Well, He has born our griefs and has carried our sorrows – yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. It’s because of what He suffered in His body and because of the blood He spilled that our griefs and our sorrows can be lifted. He was crushed for our sins. That’s about His body, not His blood, isn’t it? His body was scourged until He was almost unrecognizable and His body hung on a stake where He writhed for six hours fighting for breath before He died.
In verse 10 of Isaiah:
V-10 – Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt. So, when Jesus was on the cross, crying, “Abba, Father,” and “Why have You forsaken Me?” that grief…because He grieved, our grief can be lifted.
So, if God is going to resurrect our bodies to undeserved Spirit life, Jesus’ body had to be crushed instead of ours.
1 Peter 2:24 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. That we might die to sin and live to righteousness. We need to set a good example for those around us with our bodies – the way we carry it, the way we move around, the things that we do. That’s discerning the Lord’s body.
So, we can see here that it goes back to following His example in service, sacrifice in our bodies if called upon. And when we take in that piece of unleavened bread, we are to know that the crushing of His body teaches us that we need to give up sin and live like He did with His body.
There’s another very specific thing that the apostle Paul tells us – something curious in His explanation of the Passover – where we were reading before – 1 Corinthians 11.
1 Corinthians 11:k5923-24 – For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
And then down in verse 27, he says:
V-27-30 – Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. And now he’s going to explain what that means in verse 28: Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.Wow! So, what’s the connection between sickness and the body of Jesus Christ?
Well, there are two Bible stories that might shed some light on this. There were some people asking Jesus about some people who were killed in the temple by Pilate. And He asked them if they thought these people were worse sinners than all other Galileans? They were from Galilee. And He said, “No. Unless you repent, you’ll all likewise perish.
I’ve talked to many people in our church who believe this way. They think that, if someone gets sick, or something bad befalls them, God is punishing them for something they did. And His answer was, “No. Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” So, He put everybody in the same box. We’re all sinners. So, we’re all going to die, if we don’t repent.
We know that God causes rain to fall on the good and the evil. And the same goes for curses. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,” we’re told, “as well as the unrighteous.” So, it may be that sin in the world has caused some diseases and birth defects, but to be sick is not a sign of God’s wrath directly upon a person. If you think God has given you cancer, or allowed someone you love to die because they or you sinned, stop thinking that way! It’s a lie! It’s not true. That’s not how it works in the world or with God. Life has a huge random element to it. But there’s one thing we can bank on – one thing for sure – we are all sinners who need to repent, or we will all die.
So, here’s the second story. It’s in Luke 5. Some people were trying to get a crippled man to Jesus so he could be healed. They couldn’t make it through the crowd, so they took him up on the roof and let him down through it. Back then, up on the roof was the place where work was done. It was a part of the house that you lived in. Jesus said to this man, as He prayed for his healing, “Your sins are forgiven.” James says, in 5:15, that when we asked for healing, we will be saved, and, if we have committed any sins, they will be forgiven. Well, this outraged the Pharisees who were present. Then ensues a deeply telling conversation. They were thinking, “Who is this man who clearly has the power to heal and who says He has the authority to do something only God can do – forgive sins. Who does He think He is? God? That’s blasphemy!” Well, Jesus read their minds and He repeated what they were thinking right to their faces, and then asked them, “Which is easier? To say, ‘You’re healed,” or ‘Your sins are forgiven?’” He then tells them that He not only has the power to heal, but, as they suspected, also the authority.
Now, think about this: If we believe like the Pharisees did – that sickness is God’s punishment – what would we think of someone who would interrupt God in His work? Well, we would believe only God would have the authority over judgment and punishment. So, when Jesus told them He had the authority, it meant, to them, that He was saying He was God. And that’s what He wassaying! And that’s why they got to angry with Him. They didn’t believe that He was God. And we would ask, “Well, how did He get that authority to do this?” This is the important part of the story I’m telling you. How could He forgive sin? How was it that He could heal people? Well, the same way that He could take our sorrows – by being sorrowful Himself. So, the answer is, that He earned the authority. “This is My body, which is broken for you.” That’s how He became the Lamb of God who saves His people from their sins. He shed His blood to cover our sins, and His body was broken to give Him the right to heal us. He knows what it’s like to be in pain as a human because of what they did to His body. I think that’s why Paul says we don’t have a High Priest who cannot be touched by our difficulties, but who went through being human. He did that by dying for us – one for many.
I learned a new element about His human experience that I had read over in the Bible. I was watching The Chosen, and John and Mary were talking years after Jesus had died. John explained that he wanted to capture as much as he could for those who would come after. That certainly was the motive, not only for John, but all the rest that wrote. In this conversation that he was having with Mary, he explained, “He put up with so much from us.” After all these years, I can look at my history with God, and say, “In all this time, nothing’s changed. I’ve been a real pain at times.” But He knows what a pain it is to be human. And so, we have a High Priest who understands us. And He understands that because He had a human body. When it comes to being healed, it’s not His understanding of us that’s the problem. It’s our lack of understanding about what He went through, and the connection between that and our healing. As Paul said, “Many of us are sick and die, because we don’t understand the Lord’s body.” We don’t discern it. And every time we ask God to heal us, every time we ask to be anointed, we need to remember what it cost Him to be able to heal us. And that’s only because He was willing to do that for us – that we can be healed.
But it even goes beyond this. Once His human body was resurrected to spirit life, He was then able to give spirit life to all the rest of us. That is why Paul said, in Romans 5:10:
Romans 5:10 – For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.
So, His blood reconciles us to God – covers our sins – but the sacrifice of His body is the example – the food – that makes resurrection possible.
Let’s look at another element of all this. If we are to follow Christ’s example, and He was a Lamb of God, what does that mean? Well, that means that we’re lambs too, doesn’t it? He’s the Lamb. When we take the piece of broken bread, we are able to discern that we are also lambs of God – one with Christ. Not that our lives will pay for the sins of others, because we ourselves are sinners. Our lives don’t pay for it. His life does. So, if it’s not that, then how are we lambs? Well, Isaiah said, “We’re all like sheep who have gone astray.” How are we like the Lamb of God? Well, Jesus said that God have Him authority because He was following His Father’s will. So, it’s in that way that we become the lambs of God’s flock. It’s about sacrifice. Christ sacrificed His life for us, and we give up our lives for Him to God.
As we crunch on that piece of unleavened bread at the Passover service, we’re to know that our hearts, our minds, our bodies belong to Him now and we are to use them for the will of God – not what we want, but what He wants. That’s what Jesus Himself said, wasn’t it? “Not My will, Father, but Yours.” If we remember all that, then we’re eating the bread of life in a worthy manner.
Now, Jesus summarized everything that we’ve already read today. It’s in John 6:35:
John 6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
V-38-40 – For I have come down from heaven – with His body – not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
It’s not just that we will be healed in this life, if we discern Christ’s body, nor is it something we know only when we eat that bite of bread. It’s something we do with our bodies as we live our lives every day. We live in joy, doing God’s will, because we know Christ’s body was crushed so we could enter into eternal life with Him and the Father. It’s about not only knowing about the pain He suffered, but also where we will all go because of it.
And Jude, writing at, pretty much, the end of the apostolic era, said it about as good as anybody ever has.
Jude :24-25 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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