Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Lord’s Supper

Are We Suffocating Christian Children?

Are We Asking the Wrong Question?

Last week Tim posted an interesting collection of articles relating to the issue of baptism. Specifically, the issue being debated was, ‘At what age should we baptize?’ That in itself is an interesting question, because it is one that the Bible never asks or answers. Age is never given as a prerequisite for baptism, nor is it listed as even being a hindrance to baptism. It’s simply a non-issue.

The wrong question is, ‘What age?’ The right question is, ‘Does this person make profession of repentance and faith?’

What Are We Afraid of?

Nevertheless, wisdom and pastoral experience must be brought to bear on an issue that has certainly brought some level of difficulty and pain into the lives of many people. Right?

In all of the discussions I’ve read over the years on this topic, one of the nagging questions that keeps coming back to me is this: ‘What are we afraid of?’ I think that the answer is sadly, not a biblical one. Oftentimes it appears that we’re just afraid of being wrong. We think, ‘What if we baptize someone who ends up not really being converted? Then what?’ Our minds turn then to problems of ‘re-baptism’ and giving false assurance.

Isn’t This a Healthy Fear?

But we ought not be afraid of this, I think, for at least two reasons.

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Singing a Hymn with Jesus

The Last Supper

Mark 14.26 has always struck me as a bit of a funny verse. I’ve always wondered just why Mark felt it was necessary to insert this little detail into the narrative of Jesus’s last night. After they finish eating the Passover meal, where Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, we hear this: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Why do we need to know that, I wondered.

As it turns out, this was part of the Passover meal as celebrated according to the Mishnah. The Hallel Psalms (Psalms 115-118) were sung at various points in the evening, especially toward the end, with the drinking of the fourth cup (there are four total). And it all wraps up around midnight.

So this detail is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which that it specifies the chronology of events as passing from evening (14.17) to midnight (here), to cock-crow (14.72), to morning (15.1), just exactly as Jesus had predicted the previous day in the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13.35). This is unfolding exactly as Jesus has predicted the ‘coming’ of the Son of Man would.

But beyond that, my (hopefully sanctified) imagination got working. The disciples got to sing a hymn with Jesus. What would that be like? How cool would it be to sing with my Lord? And then I got to thinking about what they would have actually been singing; so I went back and read those Hallel Psalms.

Psalm 118 is significant, of course, because it’s the Psalm that the people are reciting when Jesus approaches Jerusalem in Mark 11. Psalm 117 is glorious, but short, so probably not what they would have been singing (or at least not all that they would have sung). Psalm 115 would probably have been sung earlier, leading to them likely (this is definitely speculation) singing Psalm 116 as Jesus prepares to go out to Gethsemane.

Can I challenge you with something? At some point today, read Psalm 116 as Jesus would have sung it that night. Imagine what was going on in our Lord’s heart as he prepared for Gethsemane and Golgotha. Imagine how these words took on meaning like never before:

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116, ESV)

And now, think about us. How amazing is it that we can sing about God hearing our pleas for mercy because Christ went to Golgotha? How precious is it that he inclines his ear to us because he did not incline his ear to his Son in Gethsemane? How wonderful that the snares of death which encompassed Christ have been defeated so that I will never feel the pangs of Sheol! I can call on the name of the Lord and ask him to deliver me, and know for certain that he will because he first delivered Jesus, the firstborn from the dead.

Now I actually can sing Psalm 116 with my Lord in an even truer sense than the disciples did on that fateful night. What they sung, unaware, I sing with retrospective faith, believing that Jesus has forever filled up the meaning of this Psalm, and will always sing it with me.

Remembering: A Means of Grace

Last night I was blessed to be able to open the word of God from Psalm 77 to the saints at Grace Fellowship Church. The message was titled ‘Remembering God.‘ As I reflected on Asaph’s experience in battling with discouragement and despair, this one thought overwhelmed me: Rememrance is a means of grace.

God knows our frame. He knows that we are weak and prone to forget the most important things in the most important times. In his grace, he gives the church rites of remembrance so that we will always be forced to remember the most important things.

In the OT, they celebrated Passover once per year. Each year the Israelites were to ‘act out’ that fateful night again. By taking the Passover in the prescribed way, they were to participate in the greatest event of God’s deliverance all over again. They were to remind themselves and their children of the reality of God’s deliverance.

In Psalm 77, Asaph displays the fruit of this type of Exodus-centred worldview. When he faced discouragement, doubt, and despair, he reminded himself of who God is by reminding himself of What God has done. The despair of the first nine verses disappears once he encourages his heart with the ‘years of the right hand of the Most High’ and all his works.

In the NT–as is always the case–it only gets better. Where the OT saints remembered once per year, the Christian is called to use the Lord’s Supper to remember all the time (at GFC we do it every two weeks).

More than just increased quantity of remembrance, the Christian has increased quality of remembrance. We don’t look back on a physical deliverance from a physical enemy, that never finally delivered the people (they left Egypt to die in the desert!). The Christian looks back to God’s greatest work of deliverance: the cross. At the cross we see an eternal deliverance from the greatest enemy, which has finally and completely delivered all God’s people for eternity.

Just like the Israelites were to look back at God’s work to behold God’s character, the Christian looks back to Christ’s work to remember God’s character in the hardest times of life. That’s what it means to be ‘cross-centred’ in our lives.

When we are weak, uncertain of the future, despairing of hope, doubting God’s goodness, or whatever our trials, we must remember. We must remember the cross and see a God who is holy, who has an eternal wise plan, who loves sinners, is strong enough to accomplish whatever he wants, and who is ultimately committed to the good of those he loves.

This gives my soul good comfort! Remembering God and his work is a wonderful and merciful means of grace.

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