Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly® 

Sacrament

from the Golden Text

I Corinthians 5:8

Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Passover is the feast mentioned in this verse. This annual celebration required disposing of all leaven (a yeast-like substance used in making bread) in remembrance of the Exodus. At that time, the Israelites needed to be ready to leave Egypt quickly, and only unleavened bread could be made in a short time. 

Just as Jews purified their homes every year by removing every bit of leaven, the Christian is to remove “the leaven of malice and wickedness” from thought and life—and to replace it with “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

malice: desire to harm someone
sincerity: honesty; purity of thought

from the Responsive Reading

John 6:2, 28–31

A great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. . . . Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 

In asking “What shall we do?” the crowd likely expects a list of good works to perform. Jesus’ reply is simple and direct: The work they are to do is to believe in God’s Son. A commentator notes, “John here adopts the terms . . . faith and works, but, instead of replacing works for faith, interprets true work as faith.”

The people then shift the focus from themselves, demanding to know his work before they will believe him. Yet it’s puzzling that they ask for a sign—especially one comparable to their provision of manna in the wilderness—since this interchange takes place the day after his feeding of the five thousand. The Savior immediately raises the level of the discussion, first identifying God as the provider and then declaring himself to be the true bread—the substance that sustains and satisfies (see vv. 32–35 ).

John 6:38

I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

will: desire, intention

from Section 1

1 | Proverbs 16:1

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. 

Translation

We can make our own plans, 
      but the LORD gives the right answer.

—New Living Translation

2 | Psalms 10:17

Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.

Translation

LORD, you listen to the desires of those who suffer.
      You steady their hearts; 
you listen closely to them, . . .

—Common English Bible

3 | II Chronicles 30:1, 13, 17–20

Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel. . . . And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation. . . . there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: but Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.

Observance of Passover, combined with the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, was a time-honored tradition for all Hebrew people. But the establishment of two kingdoms (Israel and Judah) two centuries earlier meant that even important feasts were held in far-flung locations. Now Hezekiah includes Jews from both kingdoms in his invitation, turning what had been largely a family celebration (see Exodus, chap. 12 ) into a public festival.

The king makes some notable accommodations as well: He postpones the event from the first to the second month (see v. 2 ) to enable far-off travelers to attend, and sets aside strict rules about ritual purity for these visitors. Scholars commend these decisions as examples of putting the spirit of the law above its letter.

sanctified: purified; cleansed of sin

4 | Hebrews 3:1, 14

Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; . . . For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.

Translation

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. . . . We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

—New International Version

Apostle and High Priest are significant titles. Apostle (used of Christ Jesus only here) means one who is sent—an apt description of the Savior, and one he emphasizes in his ministry (see John 4:34 6:38 7:28, 29 8:16 ). High priest—referring to the exclusive role of entering into God’s presence in the Temple—occurs repeatedly in the book of Hebrews as a title for Jesus (see another instance in 7:24–28 ). A Bible authority writes, “Jesus as the one sent by God represents God to humanity; Jesus as high priest represents humanity to God.”

Katanoeō, the Greek word rendered consider, describes focused reflection and perception. It is sometimes translated behold (see example in Acts 7:31 ). Confidence is translated from hypostasis, the term rendered substance in Hebrews 11:1 : “Now faith is the substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

partakers: people who share an experience
stedfast (steadfast): unwavering; steady

5 | II Thessalonians 3:5

The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

Translation

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

—New Living Translation

from Section 2

7 | Exodus 23:25

Ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

God’s covenant promises, first made to Noah and Abram, were renewed over the centuries. Each renewal is a critical point in Hebrew history, illustrating God’s continuing commitment to protect and save His nation. According to one source, these divine pledges demonstrate to the Israelites that “their identity and lives hadn’t come into being haphazardly but were God’s purpose for them since the beginning.”

The agreement in Exodus, known as the Sinai covenant, differs from some others. Where the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (see Genesis, chap. 15 II Samuel, chap. 7 ) are freely given grants, for example, the Sinai covenant comes with requirements. It demands obedience to God’s law—and God guarantees His blessing, as described in this verse, when the people honor this condition.

8 | II Corinthians 4:6

God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Translation

. . . the same God who said that light should shine out of darkness has given us light. For that reason we bring to light the knowledge about God’s glory which shines from Christ’s face.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

9 | Luke 14:12–14

When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Jesus counsels against inviting friends and wealthy neighbors, who may then reciprocate the favor. True generosity—the kindness that earns God’s approval—is that which is extended to those who cannot return the invitation or make repayment. Although his warning specifies hospitality traditions, the Master’s words relate to God’s kingdom, indicating that it is the kind and merciful who are truly worthy of it.

Jesus’ admonition would have been arresting, if not shocking, to many of his listeners. Afflictions were seen as the result of sin, and eating with sinners was believed to bring defilement. But as a commentator points out: “The very standards and practices of discrimination will be overthrown. The outcasts will be accepted as equals. Those who live by kingdom standards and values will not only bear witness to the kingdom but also will be rewarded in ‘the resurrection of the righteous’ . . . .”

kinsmen: family and relations
recompense: repayment 

from Section 3

11 | Mark 14:1

After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.

The yearly Passover feast brought thousands of pious Jews to Jerusalem. With the dramatic increase in the Hebrew population, Roman oversight—and opposition to Roman domination—intensified. Fearing crowd reaction in this volatile setting (see v. 2 ), Jesus’ enemies didn’t immediately act on their plans to capture him. Soon, however, Judas Iscariot proposed betrayal of Jesus, and secret schemes were put into action (see vv. 10, 11, 43–49 ).

sought: looked for
craft: trickery

11 | Mark 14:22–24

As they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Christ Jesus’ actions at this meal follow the Jewish tradition of blessing bread and wine before sharing them, a practice he regularly observes (see 6:41 8:6 , for instance). And he had earlier alluded to his sacrifice for many (see 10:45 ). At this meal, though, his symbolic words—“this is my body” and “this is my blood”—prepare his disciples for the impending passion events.

“Blood of the new testament” echoes the words of Moses, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you” (Exodus 24:8 ) and Yahweh’s promise to deliver the captives of Zion “by the blood of thy covenant” (Zechariah 9:1 1). “New testament” relates to Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31 ).

One Christian interpretation explains: “The new covenant was a relationship between man and God not dependent on law but on love. In other words Jesus says, ‘I am doing what I am doing to show you how much God loves you.’ Men are no longer simply under the law of God. Because of what Jesus did, they are forever within the love of God. That is the essence of what the sacrament says to us.”

12 | Colossians 2:6

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.

Translation

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, . . .

—New International Version

from Section 4

13 | Psalms 96:2

Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. 

Translation

Sing to the LORD! Bless his name! 
      Share the news of his saving work every single day!

—Common English Bible

14 | I Corinthians 15:3, 4

I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Scholars cite Isaiah 53  as Paul’s reference for asserting that the Savior “died for our sins according to the scriptures.” The oracle reads in part, “He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (v. 8 ). Acknowledging scriptural authority for these events, the apostle links himself to the basic tenets of Christian teaching—tenets he did not originate but “also received.”

As Jewish tradition for counting time encompassed parts of days, the “third day” indicates Sunday morning (after Friday afternoon and all of Saturday).

15 | Mark 16:14

[Jesus] appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Jesus’ censure here references two cases of the disciples’ unbelief at reports of his resurrection—from Mary Magdalene and two travelers to Emmaus (see vv. 11–13 Luke 24:13–15 ). Several rebukes of his close followers appear in the Bible (see examples in Mark 8:31–33 Luke 24:25 ), corrections that are blunt and uncompromising. (Other mentions of hardheartedness in the Gospels occur in Mark 3:5 6:52 8:17 10:5 John 12:40 .)

After Judas Iscariot’s death, the disciples were known as “the eleven” for a short time. It is Peter who speaks of the need to appoint another disciple, and the names of two companions are put forward: Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias. Asking God to show them “whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship,” the group casts lots. Matthias becomes the twelfth disciple (see Acts 1:21–26 ).

upbraided: scolded

16 | John 21:1, 3, 4, 12

After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; . . . Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. . . . Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

Failure to recognize the risen Jesus is recorded two other times in Scripture: Neither Mary Magdalene nor the believers on the road to Emmaus know him at first. In all three instances, it is his words or actions that open their eyes—the speaking of Mary’s name, the recounting of biblical prophecies about his Messiahship, and the multiplication of fish and hosting of a meal (see John 20:11–18 Luke 24:13–16, 25–32 John 21:5, 6, 9–13 ).

durst: dared

from Section 5

18 | Acts 5:12

By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.

In this statement apostles refers to Jesus’ closest disciples, but others become known as apostles as well. Paul calls himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (II Corinthians 1:1 ). And Barnabas, Andronicus, and Junia are also described this way (see Acts 14:14 Romans 16:7 ).

Wonders and signs enacted by the apostles prove their divine authority and signal that they are continuing the works of Christ Jesus. Some sources view their success in healing as an answer to the prayer of Peter and John: “Now, Lord, . . . grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (Acts 4:29, 30 ).

19 | Acts 2:44, 46, 47

All that believed were together, and had all things common; . . . And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Translation

All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. . . . The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

In the book of Acts, Luke highlights the strong sense of community among the earliest Christians. These adherents shared everything from food to belongings “as every man had need” (v. 45 ). One commentary suggests, “A fellowship of believers shares more than common beliefs and core values; they display a profound regard for one another’s spiritual and physical well-being as a community of friends.”

common: equally shared
with one accord: in complete agreement

20 | II Corinthians 13:14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Translation

The grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (so be it).

—Amplified® Bible Classic

The English word communion derives from the Latin communio, meaning association or fellowship. The corresponding Greek term (koinōnia) applies to business partnerships, marriages, fellowship between friends, community associations, or a spiritual relationship with God. 

Luke uses koinōnia in introducing his depiction of communal sharing among the faithful: “They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship [koinōnia]” (Acts 2:42 ). And Paul speaks about being “called unto the fellowship [koinōnia] of . . . Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:9 ).


Read a related article, “Cast the net on the right side” by Jorge Díaz Rosales. 

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

RR: Eiselen, Frederick Carl., Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 4: Hagner, Donald Alfred. New International Biblical Commentary—Hebrews. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Cit. 7: Green, Joel B., et al., eds. The CEB Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Common English Bible, 2013.

Cit. 9: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 8, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 11: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

Cit. 19: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 9, Acts. Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

NEXT IN THIS ISSUE
Letters
Letters & Conversations
July 5, 2021
Contents

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.

Submit