Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Roast Lamb and Four Cups of Wine

Apparently my article in the October 2006 issue of the Spiritual Sword struck a nerve with some who are sold on getting the instrument into the church and who oppose the idea of prohibitive silence. One brother has challenged me personally to answer his hobby argument.

For some time he has talked loud and long about the four cups of wine that were compulsory for Jews to drink at the Passover feast. That Jesus drank fruit of the vine at the Feast is undeniable (Matt. 26:28-29). Jesus used this cup to commemorate his blood, which was shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Whether it was COMPULSORY for Jesus to drink FOUR cups of wine at the Passover feast is, however, an assumption. Hastings Dictionary, Edershem and ISBE can tell you what they discovered in the Rabbinic tradition. They can tell you how the Jews in Jesus day observed the Passover, but Jesus was not a Pharisee. We have no reason to believe that Jesus bound himself in the traditions of the Rabbis.

Matthew 15:1-14 makes it very clear that Jesus did not bind himself with the self-made religion of the Pharisees in the hand-washing ritual. Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath did not give in to their human, legalistic laws related the Sabbath. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees because he refused to play their legalistic games. Interestingly, our critic in order to promote his views of silence makes Jesus subject to their legalism. There is no evidence that Jesus lived by the oral torah or Jewish Rabbinic tradition. All evidence points to his opposition to their presumptuous practices. He condemned their kind of judging.

The critic of the recent Spiritual Sword issue has called its authors "legalistic patternists." While I readily agree that the Lord has given us patterns for the church in our worship, I do not regard listening to and obeying the Lord (without adding to or taking away from his instructions) as legalism. Obedience is not legalism; legalism is making one's own laws and binding them on others as the Pharissees did.

The Pharisees were involved in going beyond the instructions to make their own laws and rituals. Like the critic of the Spiritual Sword issue, they felt free to press everyone into their own mold of self-made religion and attack others who do not agree with them.

Why was wine present at the Passover? Was it to fulfill the traditions? Was it compulsory for Jesus to drink Four Cups of Wine? Perhaps it is helpful to see a completely different side of things that is far more realistic.

The Jews who made drinking wine compulsory to observe the Passover were wrong to do so. They were binding their practices. Jesus knew what the command of Exodus 12 was.

But having a beverage to drink at a formal meal, a beverage that did not have a religious significance is no different than having lights or having cushions. Jews had wine at every formal meal, just like they had plates and bowls.

As far as the situation with Jesus and the disciples observing this Passover, Jesus is the one who gives religious significance to the wine. There is no evidence that he is drinking it in order to fulfill Rabbinic tradition. There is no evidence that Jesus gave any religious significance to the Passover wine. What he spoke about was related to his death--not the Passover.

By the way, Jews normally reclined at every formal meal. They ate in haste in Exodus with the idea of leaving the next morning. The disciples at the Passover weren't leaving on a journey.

When this critic can show that Jesus was caught up in Rabbinic tradition, he may have something to say. As it is, all he can do is talk about the way Jews engaged in man-made traditions. Jesus in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 understood Isaiah:

And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

Jesus separated traditions of men from the word of God. He did not confuse them.

for the truth,



JD said...

Phil, respectfully, I think you missed Al's point (unless I did). I think the only point to be made is that Jesus participated in something religious for which there is no scriptural authority... there is silence in regard to the cups. If our case is that there is nothing that can be done of religious significance without specific authority, then Jesus broke that rule. Even 'general authority' ... there is NO authority for the cups at the Passover. That's the point... again... unless I'm missing it. Interesting discussion.

Phil Sanders said...

Actually, JD, I did not miss his point either on the four cups of wine, which Al boasted could not be answered or that the wine was present at all.

That wine was present is undeniable, but wine was present at every formal meal. Jesus admits in Matt. 11:18-19 that he came eating and drinking, and his critics assumed he was a glutton and a drunkard. "Wisdom is justified in her deeds."

The fact is that wine was normally served at every formal meal in first century Israel. One would expect it to be present.

It is another thing altogether to assume that their beverage (the fruit of the vine) was used in conjunction with the Passover. Was it there because they were eating a meal or was it there because they were observing a Rabbinic tradition? That makes all the difference. Jesus knew what Exodus 12 commanded and what was to be observed in keeping the passover. We have no proof whatsoever that Jesus drank wine to celebrate the Passover--what we have is proof that Jesus used the fruit of the vine to institute the Lord's Supper.

No, JD, I didn't miss his assumption.


JBlogger said...

Phil said, "We have no reason to believe that Jesus bound himself in the traditions of the Rabbis."

- Did he ever attend a synagogue?
- Did he attend the celebration of Hannukah?
- Did he not tell his listeners to live as the Jewish teachers taught (but not as they lived) because they sat in Moses' seat?