Being a Scriptural Detective: Gathering the Evidence
Readings: Exodus 12:3-16, 1 Peter 1:13-21 and Luke 22:7-22
Is anyone a fan of murder mysteries? Anyone like a whodunit? What are people’s favourites? I love the daft ones, like death in paradise, that kind of thing. Its such a popular genre isn’t it that I think for TV script writers, it can be a bit of a struggle to come up with some ingenious new way that the baddie dispatches the victim. This becomes clear when you see some of the daft solutions to a murder. I’ll never forget watching one Johnathan creek, where the murderer, to get away with the murder had to hold themselves horizontally on a fence to keep themselves from being discovered while one of the characters opens the gate not noticing the killer hanging on the other side. It’s so daft isn’t it, as if anyone could do that. But what happens inevitably at the end of these shows, or at least the basic ones that I watch, is that the mystery will deepen as new bits of evidence that either seem impossible or unconnected pop up. That is until the lead character in the last 10 minutes of the show, often from Belgium, will ask for the suspects to be gathered. At this gathering the detective will show through their sheer genius, how all these little bits of evidence told the complicated tale of how the person was murdered. At the end of the show the killer is brought to justice and we the audience have this ‘Ah ha!’ moment as we suddenly see the answer to the riddle that has played out through the best part of an hour. This is perhaps what makes these programs so popular, as these random bits of evidence coming together gives a deliberate depth to the story.
During this season of epiphany, we celebrate the ‘Ah ha’ moments of our faith, those times when Jesus revealed Himself, we celebrate the wise men finding Jesus, the first revelation to the gentiles, i.e., to people like you and me. We celebrate the baptism of Jesus and the first revelation of Jesus as God’s Son. We celebrate the calling of the disciples. But what we fail to do some times is to look back at scripture, because all the clues to the whole life and purpose of Jesus are there as plain as day. With a good understanding of scripture, we can see how it all points to the centre of our faith. Nothing in this book is there by accident and all of it points to Jesus which is about pointing towards salvation and true life. Today I want to invite you to be scriptural detectives and using one example just see how God works so marvellously and how that seeing all of scripture can help increase our understanding why we do what we do in church and I hope deepen our faith.
In our Gospel reading we hear about the last supper from Luke. Many of the words are familiar, as we remember the last supper at the eucharistic table. We hear how Jesus tells His disciples to prepare the Passover lamb. We hear how Jesus breaks the bread – this is my body broken for you – and shares it with the disciples. We hear how Jesus share the wine saying This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. We understand, I hope, that this is what we do when we receive communion. But actually, it is so much more than a simple ceremony to commemorate Jesus dying for us. This is where knowing our scriptures helps us see just how much more important the eucharist is, how God has in His word, revealed for us the significance of this weekly act.
One such part of scripture is found in our Old Testament reading. Here we hear about the instructions for the first Passover, the strange ceremony that the Israelites were ordered to do that night and yearly, as they escaped from Egypt. You’ll remember the story of Moses being told to speak to Pharoah, and how the Egyptians suffered ten plagues and the last, the most terrible was that the first-born son of everyone would die in Egypt. To avoid this fate the Israelites are told to sacrifice a spotless, blemish less lamb, to use the lambs blood to pain the doorposts and lintels so that the angel of death would know to Passover that household, to leave them alone, to let them live. More than that they were to eat an unleavened bread, for they had no time for the dough to rise before they fled. Can you see the connections with communion?
The connections can quickly become clear. Jesus is the Lamb of God, whose lived a sinless and spotless life. Can you see the connection? He is our eternal Passover lamb. More over, the bread the Israelites ate that day, and the bread we eat every Sunday is unleavened, is the body of Jesus. The blood that the doors were painted is the same blood we see in the wine when we celebrate each Sunday, a sign that the angel of death should Passover us so that we might inherit the Kingdom and receive eternal life. None of this is accidental. The Passover prefigures, prepares and premeditates the life, death and ressurection of Jesus that leads us to eternal life. This is why Peter, in our second reading can say ‘You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish’. The connections God has put throughout history are plainly there. What we do at communion is so much more than a simple ceremony, it is an act of covenant, of saying yes to Jesus and taking our part in what Jesus did for us. Just as the Passover points to the Last Supper from the past so does communion point to the Last Supper from the present, and within it all is a radical invitation to be the people of God so that the angel of death may pass over us also. Our God is a God of promises and we accept those promises in the sacraments, in baptism and in communion. Knowing this deepens our understanding and faith in the God who not only saved us through Jesus, but revealed him throughout all scripture. There are so many more connections between the sharing of the bread and wine and the rest of scripture as well – another example that is so clear is to see what God commands the Israelites to have in the tabernacle or manna in the desert you could go on.
There are many more examples of these revelations of these epiphanies throughout Scripture, not just to do with communion but with Jesus and the whole of our lives. Each time you find one it just helps us understand something of God’s divine work here it deepens our knowledge and grows our faith. So can I encourage you to try two things. The first is simply to have your own epiphanies. Ever been confused by a random part of faith or something we do or say in church? Ask – there will almost certainly be a reasoned motive behind what we do. When we have these epiphanies, they really compliment, grow and season our faith. Like the wise men, we cannot expect revelations or epiphanies unless we go on a journey of discovery.
Secondly, what I hope you find, particularly around the communion table, as you enter into covenant with God, is you find yourself in God’s story, indeed you find that od’s story wasn’t written for you but rather you are one of the main characters, it’s your story, and by taking communion you enter into it. The scriptures are not a dusty historical record, the act of communion not some ritualistic act but are living and breathing faith and when we take part in them or read of them, we enter into God’s story, we are part of that story today, revealing epiphanies of God’s love for all around us.
So, explore your faith, look at the evidence, gather the suspects and reveal the wonderful mystery of God to your heart, which will deepen your faith and lead you and those you love to life. I can think of no better drama I would rather be part of.