Summary: Year C. Third Sunday in Lent March 18, 2001 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
Year C. Third Sunday in Lent March 18, 2001
1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
Heavenly Father empower us to learn from the mistakes of others, as well as our own. Amen. 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
Title: “Learning from the mistakes of others, as well as from our own”
Paul warns the Corinthians against over-confidence by drawing a parallel between what the Israelites experienced in the desert and their own contemporary experience. He treats the passage through the Red Sea as if it were a virtual anticipated. Baptism and the manna and water from the rock as though they were virtually the Eucharist anticipated. Their experience provides a model, paradigm, type, pattern, analogy for the present. What happened to them can happen to the Corinthians if they presume that the effect of the sacraments is automatic, allowing them to sin and yet remain saved. For Paul faith is a perpetually renewed decision. The sacraments are vehicles to express that faith, not guarantees or substitutes of faith.
In verse one, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” For Paul the Gentile Christians were so completely integrated into the people of God that they now shared a common ancestry with the Jews.
In verse two, “and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Here Paul is using Christian Baptism as the analogue. He would say Christians are baptized into Christ. By analogy he is saying the Jews were related to Moses in an analogous way. Clearly, they were not “baptized.” They went through the Red Sea “dry-shod,” never touching the water and the cloud was above them. They did not enter into it. Nonetheless, the analogy is valid. Under Moses’ leadership they were destined, by God’s desire and protection, for the Promised Land, just as Christ leads those related to him, baptized into him, into heaven. While all Israelites underwent “baptism,” only two, Caleb and Joshua, of the original wilderness generation lived long enough to enter the Promised Land.
In verse three, “and all ate the same spiritual food.” “Spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” were Christian terms, well known, to refer to the Eucharist. Paul applies those terms to Old Testament realities that he sees as functioning for the Israelites in ways similar to the way Christian sacraments function for Christians. Like the material bread and wine of the Eucharist, the material elements-manna and water from the rock- signified “spiritual,” in the sense of more than material, realities.
In verse four, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” Because Moses fetches water from the rock of Meribah at both the beginning Exodus 17: 1-7 and toward the end Numbers 20: 2-13 of the wilderness wanderings, a Jewish legend grew up that the rock traveled with them and supplied them with water. Paul does not endorse this extra-scriptural fancy, but he does say that Christ, in some anticipated fashion that he does not elaborate on, accompanied God’s people as a spiritual source of nourishment throughout the desert. Many think that the statement “the rock was the Christ” is a later gloss, an insert by someone copying the letter. While this would make the interpretation easier, there is no clear evidence that it was not placed there by Paul. It was a basic Christian teaching that Christ, but not Jesus, was always present in the world from Creation. See John 1: 1-18.