Just last month, a new study came out from researchers at three universities in Australia: Monash University in Melbourne, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, and the University of Melbourne. The study “has found that more than half of car drivers think cyclists are not completely human, with a link between the dehumanisation of bike riders and acts of deliberate aggression towards them on the road” (“Face off —Cyclists not human enough for drivers: study,” eurekalert.com, 26 March 2019). According to a press release:
The research … notes that cyclists have been conceptualised as a minority group and a target of negative attitudes and behaviour.
The study, involving 442 respondents in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, identified people’s attitude to cyclists and whether they were cyclists or non-cyclists themselves.
… 55 per cent of non-cyclists and 30 per cent of cyclists rated cyclists as not completely human.
Acts of aggression towards cyclists were not uncommon, with 17 per cent saying they had used their car deliberately [to] block a cyclist, 11 per cent had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist and 9 per cent had used their car to cut off a cyclist.
The reporting of such precise measurements sounds quite scientific, so certain, and so reliable. The research must have been conducted with as much care as is humanly possible. The researchers must have taken great pains to keep any personal bias from corrupting the results. They must have observed and recorded the interactions of drivers and cyclists very carefully for months in order to report their results with such confidence.
Except they didn’t. Observation of the road behaviors of motorists and cyclists was not at all part of the researchers’ methodology. How, then, did they conduct this study? “Participants in the study were given” one of two charts, “either the iconic evolution of ape to man image, or an adaptation of that image showing the stages of evolution from cockroach to human.” [Show chart.] The lead author of the study “said the insect-human scale … was designed for the study because of the many informal slurs against cyclists comparing them to ‘cockroaches’ or ‘mosquitoes’.” Despite the use of scientific-sounding language and seemingly precise numbers, this study seems deeply flawed and decidedly unscientific. One of co-authors of the study “said there was a growing push to avoid the word cyclist, which many viewed with negative connotations.” “Let’s talk about people who ride bikes rather than cyclists,” she said. No, let’s not. ‘People who ride bikes’ is not as clear, precise, and concise as ‘cyclists.’ Good and proper science depends on, among other things, precise language, clear, unambiguous meanings of words. These ‘researchers’ advocate instead the mangling of the English language and the use of unclear, ambiguous word meanings.
Another field that requires clear, precise language and unambiguous word meanings is the legal realm, especially contract law and inheritance law, the laws governing the language of last wills and testaments. In our text for Holy Thursday, the Apostle Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus
took bread, … and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Cor 11:23–25). Paul, as a messenger called and chosen by the Lord, received, and the same thing he then delivered, handed on, to the believers at Corinth, and on down the line, through the years, to us here and to all believers in Christ through all time and space. Paul uses language that is also used with a last will and testament. Indeed, the word he uses from the Lord for what is “handed on” is testament. (Many translations say ‘covenant,’ but testament is the better, more accurate translation.) This Supper of the body and blood of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is Jesus’ last will and testament, His bequest, His inheritance, for His heirs, the members of His family. The Epistle to the Hebrews makes this even clearer for us. Listen for those words of inheritance, and what Jesus bestows as our inheritance. In chapter 9, it says:
Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come … Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all [so that] by means of [His] death … those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. (Heb 9:11–12, 15–17 NKJV)
And in chapter 10, it continues:
Therefore, when [Christ] came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the [scroll] of the [document] it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’”
… He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” … By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb 10:5–7, 9a, 10).
Did you hear it? “The promise of the eternal inheritance” given in the document of the testament by the will of God, in force by means of the death of Jesus the Testator, the Giver of the Testament, in which He gives us His body and His own blood for the forgiveness of sins. And “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (SC VI 2). What a blessed inheritance our Lord Jesus Christ has left for us! His presence with us in His body and His blood, not simply to adore or keep locked away in a vault or safe deposit box, but to “take, eat” and “take, drink,” and not just once, or once a year as with the Passover, but “keep doing this as often as you drink it.” It was God the Father who was handing over Jesus into the hands of sinful men to suffer death in our stead, and on that same night and day of His being condemned and put to death, Jesus hands over to the Apostles, for His whole Church, this inheritance, the Supper of His body and blood. As is fitting for the unique, only-begotten Son of God, Jesus proves to be unique among all testators. For other testators must die for their last will and testament to go into effect, and they stay dead. Jesus also must die for His last will and testament to go into effect, yet we know that He lives. He did not stay dead. He is the Testator who was dead and is alive, in His death bequeathing us His body and blood, which He ever can give to us as our living, death-conquering God and Savior! Once the LORD God saved us from our enemies, (Pharaoh and) the (other) gods of Egypt, in the death of all the firstborn of the Egyptians and the other plagues. Now in the death of His Firstborn Son, He saves us from our enemy, the god of this world, and from the deadly plague of sin.
Paul here is using terms familiar to him from his days as a student of the rabbis. Receive and deliver, hand on “are technical terms for the handing on of religious instruction.” As a rabbinic commentary, the Mishnah, said, “Moses received the [Torah] from Sinai and committed it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets committed it to the men of the Great Synagogue” (Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 386). The holy Word of God is a most precious treasure, of greater worth than all the gold, silver, and jewels of the earth. Our fathers in the faith, Moses and Joshua and the Prophets, handed on to us the Word they received. What an inheritance we have in God’s Word, from His mouth and His Breath, His Holy Spirit! And in His Incarnation, God the Son is the Word of God made flesh. If He were to speak against or contrary to the Word of God, He would be speaking against Himself, and He would be a liar. He cannot, for “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6:18). Truly He has said, “Take, eat, this is My body; take, drink, this is My blood for the forgiveness of sins.” In full trust and faith by the power of God the Holy Spirit, let us take Him at His Word.
This is the last will and testament of the Son of God. Once the testator has died, his last will and testament cannot be altered. If that holds true for ordinary human wills, then how much more it must hold true for the last will and testament of God the Son! The words of a last will and testament are, indeed must be, taken in their plain meaning, or else there is doubt. If you don’t like the words of a last will and testament, you cannot reinterpret the meanings to suit yourself. You may only have the last will and testament set aside as invalid, and that may be done on one of only two grounds: either the testator gave his last will and testament under duress, that is, he was forced to do it; or he was not in his right mind when he did it. What does that mean? Was Jesus, the Almighty Son of God, forced by anyone into doing this, giving His body and blood into death for our sakes? No, He did so freely and willingly, out of His great love for His Father and for us. And just who is able to force God to do anything against His will? Even as He was arrested, beaten, and crucified, the Lord Jesus was in control of all things. Or was Jesus, the all-knowing God, not in His right mind when He gave His body and His blood? Was He like a crazy man who bequeaths the moon to his relatives, as though he owned it? Of course not! If one were to entertain the notion that Christ Jesus, God the Son, were either not in control or not in His right mind, that person ought instead to look in the mirror and ask, “Am I even a Christian? Do I believe Jesus and His Word, or not?”
As for you: Doubt not Jesus, nor doubt His Word. Be not unbelieving but believing. Take Him at His Word. He says, “This is My body, this is My blood.” As true God, Jesus is present everywhere. By His Word—and He cannot lie—He says, “My body and My blood are here, for you. Take, eat; take, drink, for the forgiveness of all your sins. You cannot go back in time to My cross in order to receive its fruit and the benefits I won for you there. But I can and do come here to you, now, My body in and under this bread and My blood in and under this wine for you. I died to give you this eternal inheritance, and I live evermore to keep giving to you. So keep coming, keep doing this, in remembrance of Me. Never forget how much I love you. That, the altar of My Cross, is how much I love you, and My body and My blood on this altar, is how much I love you. And so you, go and do likewise. In the eating and the drinking you show forth My death. In your walking and living, show forth My love. As you have received My love, so love one another. Give yourselves for one another, in love, in forgiveness, in life and in death, so that all people will know that you are My beloved disciples, that you belong to Me, that you are the members of My body.” Take Him at His Word.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in ✠ Christ Jesus. Amen.