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Sunday Mass Study Notes for Sunday, 06-03-2018

Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes. This week we open with the Old Testament book of Exodus and learn about the giving of God’s Law and the people’s response to it. Then we move to Hebrews in the New Testament, where Jesus is shown to be our high priest, fulfilling the role pictured in the Old Testament offering of sacrificial blood to cover sin. Finally, we conclude with the Gospel of Mark where we learn about the Last Supper. Here Jesus clearly spoke of the significance of Communion, the offering of His body and blood. As you study all three, look for a common theme among them.

Introduction to the First Reading:

The first reading is from Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). As the name implies, it records the story of Israel’s deliverance after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the long journey of forty years to the Promised Land. After the Exodus from Egypt and during the long journey through the wilderness, God appeared to Moses on Sinai Mountain and delivered to him the Law. The summary of it, the Ten Commandments, is in chapter 20, and the next several chapters explain more fully the covenant God is making with His people. Laws and regulations relating to worship, offerings, sacrifices, and the building of a tabernacle for His dwelling place are given in great detail.

First Reading:

Exodus 24:3-8 NAS95 3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!" 4 Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!" 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

We have read now about the people’s response to the giving of God’s Law. When Moses came down from the mountain and revealed the Law the people twice agreed to obey the Law completely, first in verse 3 and again in verse 7. After hearing the people’s response to the Law, Moses wrote down the words that God had told him (v. 4). Then, he built an altar and made the sacrifices that God had commanded, including the sprinkling of blood on the altar. The blood from the sacrificial animals represented the covenant, in a similar way as we remember the shedding of the once for all sacrificial Lamb Jesus through celebration of communion. This was the beginning of many years of sacrificial offerings which prefigured the ultimate sacrifice of blood to be made by the Messiah Jesus many centuries later. When Moses read from the “book of the covenant” that he had written down (v. 4a), the people they once again vowed to obey the Law.

We know how all of this turned out. Although the people agreed to obey the Law, they very soon broke away from strict observance of it to the extent that God prevented any of them except Joshua and Caleb from entering the Promised Land. In subsequent generations the people fell into cycles of sin, punishment from God, and return to following His Law. At the end of the Old Testament when the voice of the prophets fell silent, the people began increasingly seeking the coming Messiah. Obedience to the Law became codified by the scribes and Pharisees into the Jewish religion through which the doers of this “law” felt justified.

As Christians we too are called to obey God’s Law but through a new relationship granted to us through the New Covenant initiated by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Like the Jews in the reading, we agree that we want to obey God. However, unlike those in the reading, our ability to obey God’s teaching is granted through the new heart given to us from above (John 3:3). Although obedience ought to be our response when we hear God’s Word, God knows that we will continue to struggle with sin (Romans 3:23). Through our relationship with Jesus Christ was have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who intercedes on our behalf with our Father God. Saint John said, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:1-3). We should not look back at the Jews and think that we would do any better than they do. Instead, we have a unique empowerment through God’s Holy Spirit living within us that they didn’t have. This should provide us with a sense of even greater responsibility since to whom much is given, much is demanded (Luke 12:48).

Introduction to the Second Reading:

In the First reading we saw how God’s covenant was display to His people Israel through the observance of the sacrificial practices in the Law. In this passage from Hebrews we read of a “New Covenant.” Although the old covenant was sealed with through the repetitious offering of the blood of sacrificial animals, the New Covenant was sealed with one single offering of the blood of Jesus. In the reading we will see how Jesus is shown as the High Priest Who offers this single, acceptable sacrifice (His death burial, and resurrection) to atone for our sin.

Second Reading:

Hebrews 9:11-15 NAS95 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

The Old Testament priests had to repeat the sacrifices in the Tabernacle and the Temple, which were mere symbols of the dwelling place of God, for “the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands” (Acts 7:48). But Jesus entered into “the greater and more perfect tabernacle”—into the very presence of God—to present the sufficient sacrifice of His blood. So, not only has Jesus paid the price for our sin, He has also become the one mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5). Therefore, as Christians we can rejoice that through the work of Jesus on our behalf, we have the “promise of the eternal inheritance,” ever to be with Jesus in heaven.

Introduction to the Gospel Reading:

All three of the readings today made mention of a covenant. In the first reading from Exodus it was God’s covenant with man that required the keeping of the Law, including blood sacrifices as a picture of cleansing. In the second reading from Hebrews the writer reminded us of a New Covenant that God offers to people through the sacrifice of Christ’s blood that satisfied God’s demands for justice. Finally, as we look at today’s Gospel reading, we have the account of the Last Supper with its deep, significant teaching of essential truth. In the reading we will see Jesus celebrate His last Passover meal with the twelve disciples.

Gospel Reading:

Mark 14:12-26 NAS95 12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?" 13 And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 15 "And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there." 16 The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. 17 When it was evening He came with the twelve. 18 As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me--one who is eating with Me." 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, "Surely not I?" 20 And He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. 21 For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." 22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body." 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus had evidently conferred with the person whom the disciples met regarding the place with they were going to prepare the Passover meal. However, only Jesus could have known that at the instant when they went into the city they would meet this certain man carrying a pitcher (v. 13). The disciples then prepared the meal perhaps not understanding the full significance as we do with the benefit of hindsight. The Passover supper provided clear illustrations of God’s grace and mercy to sinful men. First, it pointed back to the delivery of Israel from Egypt. When the angel of death fell upon the Egyptian households, their firstborn children died. But the Jewish children survived because the families had sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb (representative of Jesus, the Lamb of God) on their doorposts. The celebration of Passover for the Jews is a vivid reminder of deliverance by blood. Now, on this special night in Jerusalem Jesus used object lessons to demonstrate that it was essential to identify by faith in His blood and body in order to receive the offered gift of salvation and a personal relationship with God. In stark contrast to this gracious offer, Jesus points out that one of the Twelve, who had walked and worked with Him, would betray Him. In fact, before the night was over, all of the disciples would fail the Master (however eleven repented and returned to Him).

As we look back at Jesus’ Last Supper, we recognize the great importance of our communing with Jesus through the celebration of the communion meal. Communion helps us to recognize how our Savior willingly offered His body and blood as the supreme sacrifice once and for all. Although we take communion many times, each time we look back to the single sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf forever. Unlike the priests in the Old Testament who had to offer repeatedly the same sacrifices which never took away their sin (Hebrews 10:11), when we celebrate communion we recognize how our Great High Priest Jesus sat down at the right hand of God after offering Himself once, taking away our sins forever (Hebrews 10:12). Communion provides a time for us to reflect upon our unique relationship with God through the New Covenant, one in which we no longer have to rely upon the Old Testament priests offering sacrifice on our behalf, as we saw in the first and second readings today.

 

Reflection Questions

1. In the second reading we saw some powerful statements about both the identity and the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ towards believers. Study the text of this reading again and answer the questions that follow.

Hebrews 9:11-15 NAS95 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

A. The author of Hebrews described how Jesus as the eternal High Priest entered not into the tabernacle built by Moses but into a far different place. Describe the attributes of the “more perfect tabernacle” (v. 11) into which Jesus entered. In what ways is this tabernacle different from the one built by Moses?

B. Verse 15 begins with the phrase, “For this reason.” For what reason is the author or Hebrews referring?

2. In the Gospel lesson we read about Jesus’ last supper with His disciples and His call to the disciples to reflect upon whether they would be the one who betrayed Him (v. 18). How does what you learned today about the eternal nature of the ministry of Jesus as our highly priestly King enable you to better answer a question about your own ability to take a stand for our Lord?

About the Author:
Jesse Deloe Edited by Jim Hill
Jesse Deloe lives in Winona Lake, Indiana, with his wife Gladys. They are the parents of two adult sons and enjoy their four grandchildren. Both are retired but remain active in church and community activities. Jesse has served in a variety of pastoral and administrative positions in church-related organizations. He also was senior editor in a Christian book publishing company and continues to work as a free lance editor. Jesse graduated from Indiana University with a major in French and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Grace Theological Seminary. He also did doctoral studies at Ball State University. His goal is to develop written material that will enhance a Christian’s Bible study and enable him or her to grow as a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

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Tags: Lectionary 168, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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For a listing of readings for the Roman Catholic Mass visit: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB
Online Scripture verses for most Bible versions can be found at:
http://www.biblegateway.com/