Water, Bread, and Cup by Dr. Abidan Shah

WATER, BREAD, AND CUP by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Baptism and Communion are the two ordinances that we observe here at Clearview Church. We just witnessed baptism – a powerful symbol of our individual identification with Jesus, our Savior and King. Now we will together take part in Communion – a powerful symbol of our corporate identification with Jesus, our Savior and King. Baptism, we observe once in our life, but, Communion, we observe often “in remembrance of” him. As you know, we just finished our series titled “Sufficient” from the Gospel of John where we looked at the 7 “I am” statements of Jesus. Many of you shared with us how much you enjoyed and grown through this series and have come to appreciate the Gospel of John in a whole new way. So, here is one more message from John where we will focus on the ordinances that are implied throughout the gospel. Main point: Believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and King takes us on a road of discovery to a deeper understanding of who he is. The Word of God, especially the Gospel of John, is full of rich meaning of who Christ is and what he has done for us. The better we come to know him, the more we are compelled to love and obey him.

John 16      25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father…29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! 30 Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

Context: If there’s one thing that we have learned recently about the Gospel of John is that it has layers of deep meanings. We learned how John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit brought out the words of Jesus in a way that the other gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) don’t. Don’t misunderstand, they are all important, but John had a unique mission. He used symbols and symbolic language to draw his readers to Christ. In fact, in the passage we just read, he used the “paroimia” (See Zimmermann, “Imagery in John” for more details. In ancient Greek literature, it was used for “proverbs.” In the LXX, the book of Proverbs was titled as “paroimia.” It is a very interesting word. It is connected to the Greek word “oimos” meaning road, path, or way. What does it mean? “Paroimia is an ‘escort along the way’ with which the recipient is led along a path of discovery.” In John, “paroimia” or symbolic language is used to guide the reader who has come to know Christ as Savior and King in a path of greater discovery and love. This is particularly true with regards to the ordinances of Baptism and Communion.

Our focus today is especially on the ordinances of Baptism and Communion in the Gospel of John. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Gospel of John does not mention the institution of Baptism or Communion. There is no Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” or Luke 22:19 “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” Why doesn’t John mention the institution of Baptism and Communion by Jesus? By the time John wrote his gospel, there was no need to institute Baptism or Communion. They were very well established. 1 Corinthians 10       1 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”

Furthermore, most scholars agree that John was the last one to write his gospel. Based on early church tradition and critical study of the gospel, it is believed to have been written somewhere between 65-90AD. That’s at least 30 years after the ascension of Jesus. The church was well on its way. The traditions of Baptism and Communion had already been established. So, what we do find in John are mentions of Baptism and Communion in language that is understood and symbolic. For e.g. If I were to say “Red, white, and blue” or “stars and stripes” or “Old Glory” or “The Star-Spangled Banner,” what am I referring to? The American flag.

We will look through the Gospel of John at both Baptism and Communion. Quick note: Scholars have been divided for a long time over how much or how little do these symbols have to do with the ordinances of Baptism and Communion. I believe that there are 3 passages that are worth studying: John 3:5 regarding Baptism; John 6:31-59 regarding Communion; and John 19:34 regarding both.

#1 Baptism:

Although there are other passages that mention baptism and water in John (John 1:26-34 – John the Baptist; John 4:1-16 – Samaritan woman; John 7:37-39 – Living water; John 9:1-7 – Man born blind, pool of Siloam; John 13:6-17 – washing of feet), there is one that clearly stands out more than others.

John 3       1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Titus 3.        3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Here water represents Baptism on a secondary level. Not that it washes our sins, but it represents the washing that has already happened.

#2 Communion:

Again, there are passages that may represent Communion (John 2 – wedding at Cana; John 15 – I am the True Vine), but this one is the main one:

John 6       4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

John 6       52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

Here, the symbol of Communion is very clear.

#3 Baptism and Communion:

John 19       31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

Here, the passage can mean that he was truly human with the hemorrhagic fluid around the lungs along with blood coming out, but there’s more. It is a representation of both Baptism and Communion based on John’s propensity for paroimia.

Invitation: Are you saved? Have you been baptized? Do you understand the true implications of the Communion?

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