Wineskins Archive

December 16, 2013

The Message of the Table: A Pleasing Sacrifice (Jan 2012)

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By Keith Brenton

When the sons of Adam and Eve brought their offerings to the Lord, He looked with favor upon the fat portions of the flocks given by Abel, but not upon the fruits of the soil offered by Cain. Scripture does not tell us why.[1] It doesn’t even say that jealousy over God’s favor was the motive Cain had in angrily murdering his brother – or even that murder was his intention. But before it happened, the Lord warned Cain that if he did not do what was right, something that desired to have him would lie crouching at his door – and that “something” had a name. God spoke the word “sin” into our lexicon in that warning.

Confronted later by the Lord about his sin, Cain seemed to know that he deserved to die.

Yet in spite of the curse that he would wander the earth as a vagabond, the Lord showed him mercy – and put His mark of protection on him.

When Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, the religious leaders’ reaction was clearly jealousy over what they feared people would perceive as God’s power in the vagabond Preacher of repentance from sin. Even while plotting His murder, their high priest Caiaphas could not seem to keep from uttering the prophetic words: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”[2]

Yet in spite of the fact that Jesus was God’s very own Son,[3] the Lord did not put a mark of protection on Him, nor prevent His murderers from showing no mercy.

Something within the heart and head of every descendant of Adam with a working heart and head hears these stories and cries out: “That’s not fair! Cain deserved to die! Jesus did not deserve to die!”

And we are perfectly correct. Maybe the offering that Abel gave pleased the Lord because it recognized that the sin of Adam’s children leads to death; that sin requires sacrifice; that the blood of the innocent cries out from the altar, from the ground, even from a cross – and that God hears its cry.

A Prayer for the Bread
Holy God, You have put within us a sense of right and wrong; of justice and mercy. You have refined it through Your teachings. You have perfected it in Your Son. We have all failed to live up to His example, and our self-righteous posturing and jealousy of each other would be sin enough to make us unworthy of His sacrifice. But the good in us still yearns for Your favor; to be the body of Christ as He gave His body for us. Through Him we ask Your blessing on this bread, His body. Amen.

A Prayer for the Cup
Righteous God, we ask Your forgiveness for all those times when we have murdered others, just a little – by wishing them ill or judging them or dashing their hopes or stealing what they treasure. We know their blood cries out to You even while it still flows within them. We know that the only thing that can make it right is Your Son’s blood flowing in us, which He gave for all. Through Him we ask Your blessing on this cup, His blood. Amen.

1. Genesis 4

2. John 11

3. John 3:16

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