“he…in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”….Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…. he had to be made like his brothers in every respect…to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:10-18).
click to open or close
Led by the above scripture we struggled for two and a half hours to finally receive illumination in an unexpected direction. When insight came it was clear and connected. In the end the material reality of the Incarnation and its connection to spiritual growth became unavoidably transparent. Our story begins in Eden.
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
Eve was formed from the flesh and bone of Adam in the most intimate way (Gen 2:20-24). Undoubtedly he was the one who relayed to her God’s command concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17; 3:6).
Why then did she not consult Adam when approached by the serpent (Gen 3:1)?
This question provides insight not only into the first marriage in Eden and marriages today but into the Church’s struggle to relate to Jesus as her Lord. As Paul teaches, ““Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32).
It seems that Eve’s intimate association with the flesh and blood humanity of Adam led her to assume she knew what he would say if she asked him how to respond to the snake. She assumes she already knows her husband’s will. She certainly behaves as if the serpent has more wisdom than could be found from the mouth of the one God appointed as her head (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22).
This was a choice for an “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom over “wisdom from above” (James 3:15, 17). The miracle of a talking animal with seeming occult insight was far more intriguing that the gift God had given her of a weak mortal husband (Gen 3:1-6). For Eve followed by Adam the familiarity of the earthly realm bred dissatisfaction. Treating their Creator with contempt they tried to open a door beyond this world to move beyond all possible suffering and death (cf. Heb 2:9).
Tragically, by sinning they lost the very pleasing presence of eternity they were seeking. The revelation of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” remain “clearly perceived…in the things that have been made…”. Without sin our finite mortality would have highlighted the greatness of “the glory of the immortal God” as one for rather than against us (Rom 1:19-20, 22-23).
But rejecting the goodness of the limits of our flesh and blood led humanity to idolatry and a fear of divine wrath (Rom 1:18). PTL Jesus changes everything.
DEAD AND ALIVE
Whilst the purity of the one flesh connection between Eve and Adam was ruptured by an unholy attempt to escape their finite humanity Jesus heals this rupture with his Bride/Body by embracing our “flesh and blood” to the point of death (Heb 2:14).
In the weakness of death he has crossed the greatest of all shame barriers and reconciled us as brothers to God as our Father (Heb 2:10-13). The mortality of the humanity of the Son of God is the lynchpin of his power as redeemer.
Jesus accentuates his real physicality by encouraging us to consume him; ““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” (John 6:53).
This language was so scandalous it caused most of Jesus’ disciples to fall away (John 6:66). Not only does it sound cannibalistic, but seekers after the secret of eternal life know that weak mortal “flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).
Most of the disciples fell away because like Adam and Eve they were seduced into seeking immortality through strength rather than weakness. The gospel mystery is that Jesus is “crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death….he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Cor 13:4; Heb 2:9). This is a revelation for us that the only way to the holy grail of immortality is through sharing in Christ’s own impotence in death (2 Tim 1:10).
The Spirit has told us that the special place Christ has prepared for his Church to find power through weakness is the Lord’s Supper. Here by divine command, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26).
Few congregations seem to grasp what this means. In the more zippy churches the Supper is infrequently taken, and when observed stress is laid not on the prophetic testimony of broken bread and poured wine to a body broken and bloodshed but on the strength of our remembering Jesus. More traditional churches may celebrate communion regularly, but where is the Supper experienced as life transforming gospel power?
We have ritualised the Eucharist so that Christ is treated as a dead powerless person, or like the sinners in Eden the Church goes to communion as an immediate source of supernatural power. These are expressions of idolatry. God’s plan is for the Supper to lead us to a dead-and-resurrected person through whom we find increasing spiritual power through advancing natural weakness; “For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” (2 Cor 13.4).
When the Church wisely clothes herself in the ordinary humanity of the flesh and blood Jesus so that he might be glorified through us she reverses the direction of aspiration that led to the Fall and she grows ever stronger in the Lord. Clothed in Christ she fulfils the promise of another feast; “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Rev 19:7-8).
It was always the will of God to raise humanity to the glory of eternity, not by strength but through weakness. From the beginning sin in its arrogance has sought to hurdle the wisdom of God’s way of humble brokenness and to grasp the prize of immortality (James 1:14-15).
The attitude of today’s Church to the Lord’s Supper exposes our ongoing failure to understand the way of God in the gospel of eternal life. As the eating in Eden led to death as a judgement so the Last Supper proclaimed a death that would be our salvation. We desperately need to learn how to eat again, this time in God’s way of strength through weakness.
As a weak persecuted minority early Christians knew an experience of intimacy with Christ in Lord’s Supper and Marriage Supper could not be divorced. This intensely spiritual knowledge was powerfully expressed by the second century martyr Ignatius.
On his way to face the beasts in the Colosseum he eagerly fed on the communion of Christ’s body and blood calling it the “medicine of immortality.”
This is where we must go to eat again moving forward in Christ-likeness to the glory of the resurrection.
It is time to eat again of the healing powers of the real presence in the Supper of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 11:29-30).
Author: Dr. John Yates