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Sometimes people present Paul as if he were a cold intellectual. Why “cold” should be connected with “intellectual,” I am not sure. It certainly does not fit Paul. Obviously, God gave Paul a first-class mind. But he was also a man of passionate intensity.
In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul testifies that, on the one hand, his joy knows no bounds (2 Cor. 7:4); on the other hand, this joy has resulted from some news of the Corinthians that Paul received when he went to Macedonia. For on his first arrival in Macedonia, Paul had experienced no rest, but was “harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Cor. 7:5). But then his fears and conflicts turned to joy when he received the good news about the Corinthians
What prompted this vast transformation in the apostle’s outlook?
(1) Whatever the mechanics, Paul recognizes that the transformation was brought about by God, “who comforts the downcast” (2 Cor. 7:6). In this case God brought comfort to Paul by restoring Titus to him, who brought with him some news of the Corinthians.
(2) The news Titus brought was that the Corinthians, however much they had been wounded by Paul’s previous visit and by the painful letter he had sent, had regained their equilibrium. They now longed to see Paul and expressed “ardent concern” for him (2 Cor. 7:7). Titus brought the news that the sorrow evoked by Paul’s letter turned out to be a “godly sorrow” in that it led to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8–10). Sorrow that generates repentance “leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10). All this news of the Corinthians’ reactions has filled Paul with joy and encouragement.
This indicates, of course, that Paul is intimately involved in the lives of the people to whom he ministers. His own emotions may go up and down as a function of how they relate to him. But what is striking is that Paul avoids two very common traps. (a) Obviously, he avoids the kind of professional distance projected by some ministers as a protective shield. (b) Although his own joys and sorrows are clearly tied to what the Corinthian Christians think of him, that link is not primarily a personal link. When that is the case, the minister loses his prophetic voice and will say and do only what he thinks will maintain the affection of the flock. Paul has felt duty-bound to reprimand the Corinthians, in person and in writing; he has not flinched from that responsibility. His joy that they have returned to him is thus inseparable from his joy that they have returned to faithful allegiance to the Gospel—the heart of his unbounded delight.
The New Testament accounts of the “words of institution”: — i.e., the words that institute the Lord’ s Supper as an ongoing rite — vary somewhat, but their commonalities are striking. Luke 22:7–20 allows us to reflect on some elements of one of those accounts.
All three synoptic Gospels indicate that Jesus ordered his disciples to prepare for a Passover meal; Luke stresses the point (22:1, 7–8, 11, 15). Jesus wants his own actions and words to be understood in the light of that earlier traditional feast. The Passover celebrated not only the release of the Israelites from bondage, but the way that release was accomplished: in God’s plan, the angel of death “passed over” the houses protected by the sacrificial blood, while all the other homes in Egypt lost their firstborn. Moreover, this miraculous exodus set the stage for the inauguration of the Sinai covenant. So when Jesus now takes bread at a Passover meal and says, “This is my body given for you” (22:19), and when he takes the cup and says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (22:20), one hears more than overtones from the old covenant ritual. This side of the cross, one cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus sees his own death, the shedding of his own blood, as the God-provided sacrifice which averts the wrath of God, that he himself is the Passover Lamb of God par excellence, and that his death establishes a covenant with the people of God by releasing them from a darker, deeper slavery.
Someone has said that the four most disputed words in the history of the church are “This is my body.” Without entering the lists on all that might be said about this clause, surely we can agree that one of its functions, as it is repeated in the ritual that Christ Jesus himself prescribed, is commemorative: “Do this in remembrance of me” (22:19). It is shocking that this should be necessary, in exactly the same way that it is shocking that a commemorative rite like the Passover should have been necessary. But history shows how quickly the people of God drift toward peripheral matters, and end up ignoring or denying the center. By a simple rite, Jesus wants his followers to come back to his death, his shed blood, his broken body, again and again and again.
It is also an anticipatory rite. It looks forward to the consummated kingdom, when the Passover and the Lord’ s Supper alike find their fulfillment (22:16, 18). We eat and drink as he prescribes “until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), when commemoration and proclamation will be swallowed up by the bliss of his presence.
19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”
When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;1 whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
22:1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus1 sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it2 until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.3 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,4 that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter5 said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus6 said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.7 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant8 of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
37:1 “At this also my heart trembles
and leaps out of its place.
2 Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
4 After it his voice roars;
he thunders with his majestic voice,
and he does not restrain the lightnings1 when his voice is heard.
5 God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
6 For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
7 He seals up the hand of every man,
that all men whom he made may know it.
8 Then the beasts go into their lairs,
and remain in their dens.
9 From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
and cold from the scattering winds.
10 By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
12 They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
13 Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.
14 “Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them
and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
16 Do you know the balancings2 of the clouds,
the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,
17 you whose garments are hot
when the earth is still because of the south wind?
18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
hard as a cast metal mirror?
19 Teach us what we shall say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of darkness.
20 Shall it be told him that I would speak?
Did a man ever wish that he would be swallowed up?
21 “And now no one looks on the light
when it is bright in the skies,
when the wind has passed and cleared them.
22 Out of the north comes golden splendor;
God is clothed with awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power;
justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore men fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”3
7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body1 and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
2 Make room in your hearts2 for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted.
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.