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Communion Meditations (2016)

A Ransom Shared

Originally scheduled for January 10

Exodus 30:15 NASB  "The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves.

 

It is a statement cherished by all free men, but most particularly by Americans: “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” It is no great secret that the Founding Fathers were Christians and were greatly familiar with the ideas of the Scripture. Here, from the time of Moses, we see the fundamental equality of all people. How so?

·         We are equal in Christ. God is no respecter of persons; the ransom to be paid is the same for the rich and the poor.

·         We are equal in sin. All of us are sinners, and have fallen short of the glory of God. We are also equally in danger of the fires of hell.

·         We are equal in the value of our souls before God. He has made it clear here that he values us equally; we know that Christ died for all.

It is interesting here that the poor and the rich must bring the same amount. It’s not a very large amount of money; indeed, the medieval Jewish sage Maimonides said that this amount was so small that even a beggar should bring it — and it was permissible for him to beg for it first.

We see the same equality in communion as well. Our atonement is the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore we all take the bread, which represents his body. We all share in the cup, which represents his blood. None of us is so favored as to get more, or less, than anyone else. This is a ceremony in which we are all, inherently, equal. Christ is our atonement; therefore there is no respect with regard to what you might or might not have done in your life. You are not being evaluated; you are being forgiven.

Interestingly, in the New Testament this atonement becomes known as the “Temple tax.” Peter is challenged on this, as to whether or not Christ will pay this tax (Matthew 17:24-27.) In that familiar passage Jesus tells Peter that he, Jesus, is exempt from paying this tax. This is a reflection of the fact that the Christ is sinless, and is therefore suitable to be an atonement.

But notice what Christ does with it. He takes it upon himself to pay that tax, not only for himself but also for Peter. Now, it must be admitted that his method (going fishing for shekels) is designed to make the point. But within this we must also see that Christ voluntarily submits to the law of Moses. He is setting the example for one and all, just as he did at his baptism. It is a ransom, but it is a ransom shared. He took upon himself human form, sharing it with us, in order that he might pay the price of human sin — yours and mine. As you partake this morning, remember the price he paid voluntarily that he might be the atonement of our sins.

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