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

Sacrament

from the Golden Text

Psalms 16:5

LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.

—New Living Translation

For some scholars, this verse recalls God’s mandate to Aaron that the tribe of Levi—chosen as the priesthood of Israel—was to rely solely on God, without the inheritance of land that the other tribes were given: “I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel” (Numbers 18:20). One way God provided for the Levites was to require the Jews to support them through tithing (see Numbers 18:24).

In Hebrew Scripture, cup often refers to one’s destiny or circumstances in life. As a host gives wine to his guests, God supplies a “cup of blessing” to His people. Elsewhere the Psalmist celebrates God’s blessings with the declaration “My cup runneth over” (Psalms 23:5).

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 117:1, 2

O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the psalms and the shortest chapter in Scripture. In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul quotes it to emphasize inclusion of Gentiles—“all ye nations”—in the Christian message of salvation (see Romans 15:11).

endureth: lasts

Psalms 51:1, 2, 7

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 

â, the term translated blot out, signifies utter eradication. This divine action is not superficial but deep and thorough (indicated by the words wash, cleanse, and purge), destroying every sinful thought and act.

Hyssop (a member of the mint family) was used for ritual purification, especially of lepers, in Bible times. It is also specified as the branch employed for placing protective marking on Hebrew doorways in Egypt, before the plague that destroyed the firstborn of every Egyptian family (see Exodus 12:21–23). Centuries after this, hyssop is the means of extending a vinegar-soaked sponge to Jesus during his crucifixion (see John 19:29).

mercies: kindnesses
throughly (thoroughly): completely 
purge: make clean; purify

Psalms 16:6, 10

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. . . . Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

lines: boundaries of a property
corruption: decay; impurity

from Section 1

1 | Psalms 116:12, 13

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

Translation

What can I offer the LORD
     for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
     and praise the LORD’s name for saving me.

—New Living Translation

Intended as an offering of thanksgiving, “the cup of salvation” alludes to the wine imbibed at a religious feast or in the temple. One source clarifies, “It is a ‘cup of rescue’ because the libation expresses the celebrant’s thanks for having been rescued by God.”

2 | Matthew 9:35–38

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. 

Translation

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

—New Living Translation

Sheep without a shepherd is a common Hebrew Bible image. For instance, the prophet Micaiah (distinct from Micah) warns King Ahab, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (I Kings 22:17).

A scriptural authority explains that shepherds care for their sheep in four basic ways: freeing them from fear, keeping harmony in the flock, ridding them of pests, and ensuring that they are fed. “Sheep having no shepherd” describes those who are without the essential provisions of Christ’s spiritual guidance and protection.

“Because they fainted” depicts more than physical weariness. In Greek, the verb skyllō suggests harassment and trouble, and can signify despondency and faintness of heart as well. Commentators conclude that Jesus yearned to relieve the distress of ignorance and false doctrines and supply the pastoral care not furnished by the scribes and Pharisees.

3 | Matthew 10:1, 7, 8, 38

When he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. . . . And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me.

Translation

Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them authority to force evil spirits out of people and to cure every disease and sickness. . . . As you go, spread this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Cure the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse those with skin diseases, and force demons out of people. Give these things without charging, since you received them without paying. . . . Whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me doesn’t deserve to be my disciple.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Taking the cross is a concept borrowed from an ancient Roman practice requiring a convicted criminal to carry the crossbar of his cross to the place of crucifixion (see John 19:17). Later, the Master pairs this injunction with the phrase “Let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24), reinforcing the “all in” nature of following Christ. 

For the disciples, this would mean experiencing—and overcoming—humiliation and rejection, as Christ Jesus did. And though some would falter, over time their devotion in the face of adversity shaped several of them into leaders and examples for the faithful in every age (see Acts, chaps. 1–581011). A scholar observes, “Jesus chose these men not only for what they were but also for what they were capable of becoming under his influence and in his power.”

worthy of: deserving of; fit or sufficient for

from section 2

4 | Matthew 20:18, 19 

Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

scourge: whip

4 | Matthew 20:20–22

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 

Translation

Then the wife of Zebedee came to Jesus. Her sons were with her. The mother bowed before Jesus and asked him to do something for her. Jesus asked, “What do you want?” She said, “Promise that one of my sons will sit at your right side in your kingdom. And promise that the other son will sit at your left side.” But Jesus said, “You don’t understand what you are asking. Can you accept the kind of suffering that I must suffer?” The sons answered, “Yes, we can!” 

—International Children’s Bible

Zebedee’s sons are James and John. In the Gospel of Mark, they make this request themselves (see 10:35–40); here, it comes from their mother, one of the women later present at the crucifixion and at Jesus’ tomb (see Mark 15:40; 16:1). Bible authorities surmise that the petition is a response to the promise Jesus has just made: “Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). 

Along with Peter, the two brothers had been given some special opportunities, witnessing the transfiguration, the healing of Jairus’ daughter, and the Savior’s mental toil at Gethsemane (see Matthew 17:1–9; Luke 8:51; Matthew 26:37). But Jesus had recently condemned a disagreement about who would be greatest among the apostles, giving them the example of a young child (see Matthew 18:1–6). 

Though the brothers’ ambition may seem blameworthy, it’s worth noting that their appeal comes after Jesus’ announcement that they are heading to Jerusalem, where betrayal, a death sentence, and the crucifixion await him (see 20:18, 19). While he mentions his resurrection, he is forthright in telling of the persecution and violence before him. A commentator writes: “It is of immense significance to see that, even in a world in which the dark was coming down, the disciples would not abandon the conviction that the victory belongs to Jesus. . . . If to concur with Christ meant to suffer with Christ, they were perfectly willing to face that suffering.”

4 | Matthew 20:23, 26, 28

He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. . . . Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; . . . even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Translation

Jesus said to them, “Truly you will suffer the same things that I will suffer. But I cannot choose who will sit at my right side or my left side. Those places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them. . . . If one of you wants to become great, then he must serve the rest of you like a servant. . . . So it is with the Son of Man. The Son of Man did not come for other people to serve him. He came to serve others. The Son of Man came to give his life to save many people.”

—International Children’s Bible

In this passage, cup and baptism denote Jesus’ future trials. The Master hints at this import with the assertion that he is to “give his life a ransom for many.” Ransoms were usually payments to free prisoners and slaves. “Similarly,” according to a scholar, “Christ paid the ransom price of his own life to free us from the slavery of sin.”

from section 3

5 | Matthew 26:27–29

He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

In Jewish ritual, the blood of sacrificial animals signified the confirmation of a covenant (see Exodus 24:6–8). Christ Jesus’ use of wine to symbolize his blood foreshadows his own supreme sacrifice and signals an entirely new testament or covenant (both translations of the Greek diathēkē) between God and man. 

In the Savior’s giving of thanks at this feast, thanks is translated from the Greek verb eukharisteō (source of the term Eucharist, the heartfelt observance of Christly communion with God). “Drink ye all of it” is a charge that each one drink from the cup rather than that all of the wine be consumed.

Vows of abstinence until a certain event took place were typical in Hebrew culture. At this meal, Jesus pledges not to drink wine again until the arrival of God’s kingdom. One scriptural authority remarks, “. . . the meal which Jesus was celebrating with his followers was a foretaste of the full fellowship to be experienced when the kingdom of God has come and all God’s people are gathered into one.” Some sources view this event as the Messianic banquet pictured by the Revelator: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

remission: forgiveness
henceforth: from this time on

5 | Matthew 26:30–32

When they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Commentators believe that the hymn sung here is the Hallel, a traditional Hebrew prayer recited at Passover. Specific verses, particularly those of Psalms 115–118, were identified for paschal use. One includes this message of courage: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (118:6).

Citing Zechariah 13:7, Jesus predicts his disciples’ desertion of him. Skandalizō, the Greek word translated offended, means to place a snare in someone’s way. It is employed to caution John the Baptist (after he questions whether Jesus is the Messiah) and to portray the reactions of citizens of Nazareth and the Pharisees to Jesus’ teachings (see Matthew 11:6; 13:57; 15:12). 

In Jesus’ parable of the sower, skandalizō appears in the description of someone lacking deep commitment to the Word: “When trouble or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended [skandalizō]” (Matthew 13:21). This metaphor aptly illustrates the disciples’ actions. Although Peter immediately protests Jesus’ prediction “All ye shall be offended because of me this night,” each of them does indeed forsake him (see 26:56).

“After I am risen again” shows Jesus’ confidence that he will be triumphant in his imminent passion. His closest followers may not have perfectly understood him, but they would likely have taken heart from his affirmation “I will go before you into Galilee.” These words convey the pastoral assurance of a shepherd leading his flock (see John 10:4)—and the Master does return to regather his sheep (see Matthew, chap. 28Luke 24:36–51John, chap. 21, citation 11).

6 | I Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

Translation

Is the cup of blessing which we bless [at the Lord’s Supper] not a sharing in the blood of Christ? [Indeed it is.] Is the bread which we break not a sharing in the body of Christ? [Indeed it is.]

—Amplified® Bible 

Originally one of four cups of wine taken at Passover, the cup of blessing represented fellowship (from a custom in which the sharing of wine created a bond among participants). Paul adopts the shared cup as an image for Christly communion—not as a passive association with like-minded individuals but as active participation in a mutual unity with God and His Christ.

from section 4

7 | Matthew 26:36, 38, 39

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. . . . My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

To fall on one’s face was to be in a position of utter reverence, humility, and submission. It was a posture often assumed spontaneously in moments of profound respect or devotion, recorded in stories of many Hebrew Bible characters (see Genesis 17:3Joshua 5:14Ruth 2:10I Samuel 20:41; 25:23, for instance). In Jesus’ ministry, the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration “fell on their face” (Matthew 17:6), and two lepers fell on their faces at Jesus’ feet in petition and gratitude (see Luke 5:12; 17:16). 

Christ Jesus’ struggle in the garden poignantly reveals his humanity. Although fully cognizant of his mission to give his life to redeem mankind from sin (see Matthew 20:28, citation 4), he labors to surrender his will. Both his prostration and his acquiescence to God illustrate his deep humility, as well as his love for God and his fellow beings. 

8 | John 18:11

The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Jesus’ question, spoken just before his arrest at the garden of Gethsemane, rebukes Peter’s attempt to stop the soldiers (see vv. 3–11). In his trial, the Savior declares to Pilate, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (18:36). And in Matthew’s version of the arrest story, Jesus expands his words to Peter: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Christ Jesus is clear: Judas’ betrayal and its consequences do not constitute a threat but symbolize fulfillment of Scripture—the “cup” Jesus is resolved to drink.

from section 5

9 | Matthew 27:1, 27, 29, 30, 35

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: . . . Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. . . . And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. . . . And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots.

By outfitting and treating him as a king (with a crown made of thorns, a reed as a scepter, a mocking bow, and a royal greeting), the Roman soldiers add to the indignity of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and coming crucifixion. Spitting on him, a sign of contempt, heightens the ridicule. Yet these men likely act from ignorance of his ministry and doctrine—unlike the Jews who accused him, who were motivated by hatred (see John 15:25, quoting Psalms 35:19). 

Confiscation of prisoners’ belongings was deemed part of their punishment, and the removal of clothing was an especially grievous humiliation. Jesus’ clothes probably included a rectangular cloth for draping around the body, and a long, tight-fitting garment generally made of two pieces of cloth sewn together. His was seamless, a characteristic of the robes of high priests. It was this valuable garment, possibly made by his followers to honor him, for which the soldiers cast lots (see John 19:23, 24). This act is viewed as fulfillment of Psalms 22:18.

elders: senior church leaders
took counsel: talked about; made a decision
platted: woven
casting lots: deciding something by a game of chance (similar to throwing dice)

10 | Luke 24:46 

Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.

behoved: was necessary for

from section 6

13 | Acts 4:33 

With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

Translation

With great power the apostles were telling people that the Lord Jesus was truly raised from the dead. And God blessed all the believers very much.

—New Century Version


Read a related article, “Lessons from Gethsemane” by Judy Cole, at
jsh.christianscience.com/lessons-from-gethsemane

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

GT: New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL. All rights reserved.

Cit. 1: Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 3, The Writings: A Translation with Commentary. New York and London. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Cit. 2: Keller, W. Phillip. The Shepherd Trilogy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Cit. 3: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04. 

Cit. 4: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04; The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

Cit. 5: Laymon, Charles M. The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971.

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