Eyes and Ears, Old and New

“Whatever we ask of you, teacher, we want you to do” (Mark 10:35). So, Jesus must again reorient His twelve toward a kingdom opened by His suffering, which He described as drinking from a cup (Matthew 20:22). In God’s kingdom, greatness comes in lowliness, where God gives His grace to the humble.

Almost every Apostle of Jesus will, one day, “drink the cup” of martyrdom, beginning with James. Until called to do so, they continue to be eyewitnesses of Christ as God blesses them with breath. They experienced Jesus with their sense of sight, the most used among our five senses to verify if something is real.

Only John, the caretaker of Mary, Jesus’ mother, remains un-martyred. Now, an old, frail, and feeble man, the Lord grants him a vision of heavenly worship. The glorious coronation of the Lamb mesmerizes his aged eyes, who appeared slain but ruled and reigned into all eternity.

This last Apostle still lived, who preached and taught Jesus, with whom he earlier lived, breathed, and walked. Soon, such first-hand accounts will cease. After John dies, a dramatic shift will take place from the visual to the auditory. With Jesus risen and ascended, no one can testify to what they witnessed Jesus doing. Now, we must all receive Jesus with our ears.

The New Testament also chronicles this change. The first-generation Christians “testified” to what their eyes once verified. For the second generation, the New Testament’s words change from seeing to hearing. Why Jesus Himself expressed as much, of the new normal to come: “Blessed are those who believe without seeing” (John 20:29). The book of Romans will later teach, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Thus, Scripture denotes this change from “witness” to “confess.” So, our lives become less “experiential” and more faith-driven, walking “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

  • A contemporary of Jesus, Paul, wrote to a second-generation Christian. “Fight well for the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which God called you, which you confessed” (1 Timothy 6:12)
  • “Let us [both pastor and laity] hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
  • By your service, you [the Corinthian Christians] proved yourselves. Now, others will glorify God because of your confession of the Gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 9:13).

The shift from eye to ear is complete. The abundant life, which Jesus spoke of, comes to us through the Spirit’s doing. The Spirit joins Himself to the spoken Word, which is confessed, taught, and preached.

The first Christians “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ Teaching and the Communion [koinonia], to the Breaking of Bread and the Prayers” (Acts 2:42). Here, Luke employs a rhetorical device called a “chiasm,” which lists two or more things; next, reversing the order. The Apostle’s Teaching and the Prayers (a Jewish expression for the synagogue service) is the Word of Jesus coming to save and forgive. This Jesus also declared, with sermons meant to preach “repentance into the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).

Though how the proclaimed Word does His work may surprise us. Ponder what comes next: The Communion and the Breaking of the Bread. Both refer to the Supper received during worship.

A chiasm also highlights its center section as the main event. So, here’s what we find.

Luke’s chiasm unfolds the two primary parts of Christian worship: First, the Word, read, confessed, and preached; second, the Lord’s Supper. Each worship service contains two mountain peaks where Christ descends, making wherever we gather into His holy mountain. Of the two “descents,” Communion is the greater since Jesus is present in a more profound way—in His body and blood!

 

New-Covenant worship isn’t some optional assortment we assemble according to our choosing. No, for as Jesus is Himself the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, so too does New-Covenant worship fulfill those Old-Covenant worship forms. Consider the synagogue service, which is the Service of the Word, without any animal sacrifices. Another gathering location makes sense since most lived too far away to travel to the Jerusalem Temple each week. Thus, the synagogue supported the Temple and the sacrifices God commanded.

The worship at God’s Temple, which later incorporated Passover, became the Service of the Sacrament. All those ancient sacrifices served as signs, pointing people to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Today, Jesus offers what He sacrificed on the cross in His Holy Meal, His body and blood, though now risen and glorified.

True worship revolves around the world’s Savior, whether prophesied in the previous Covenant or resident in the New. Each Sunday, we gather to revel in the mystery of our crucified and risen Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for the life of the world.

All life originates from God. In the preached Word and dwelling within His Supper’s bread and wine, Jesus bestows His life to us. From this Bread, broken for us, and the Prayers, we live—Jesus coming to us in Word and Sacrament. Only in Christ can we dwell in the life God provides! So, worship centers on—not what we do for God—but on what He does for us.

Whenever we eat the bread and drink the Lord’s Supper cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Each celebration of Holy Communion brings us, once more, to long for the Day of Christ’s return, when He will bring our salvation to its fullness!

Until Jesus fulfills all, He strengthens us with Himself in His Supper as we wait. Thus, through toil and tribulation and tumult of our war, we await the consummation of peace forevermore. With this glorious vision, our longing eyes are blessed, and Christ’s own Church victorious shall be His Church at rest (LSB 644, stanza 4, adapted).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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