Grapes have been cultivated throughout human history. When they bear fruit, the cluster of grapes is a thing of beauty. But it is the end of a long history. The vine had to first be planted, which takes several years to grow before it can bear fruit. Then the gardener needs to know how to prune and tend the vine. If it grows wildly, there will be little fruit. If it is pruned too severely, there will be no fruit. But with skill and good weather a crop of ripe clusters is ready in the late summer. This involves time and skill
Jesus’ sacrifice was also long in the development. God began the work as far back as Eden, when he gave the first word of the Gospel that was to come. Then as he called Abraham and made him a nation, and as they were finally planted in the Promised land – there the vine grew, and God pruned the nation with discipline and blessed it with his grace. When Jesus arrived he came as the fulfillment of God’s plan for his people – he is in this way like a cluster of grapes – Long in planning, careful in execution, with constant care.
The life of Christ is a living demonstration of the Fruit of the Spirit that is described in the New Testament. In this way his life was as beautiful as a grape cluster is to our eyes.
Once the clusters grow, they are cut off, cluster by cluster. These clusters are then crushed. In the ancient times they were placed in vats, sometimes carved out of stone, and people crushed them with their feet. The juice then flowed from the vat and was collected. Grapes are not grown to be admired, but to be crushed.
Jesus lived for about 30 years in the background, working as a carpenter. All this time he was prayerfully reading himself for the ministry he was to have – the very same ministry that was written in the book.
Then for three years the fruit of his life was evident in Galilee and Judea. People saw his grace, they saw his majesty, they marveled at his wisdom and they found power in his touch.
Then, on one day, which we call Good Friday, he was cut off. He was cut off from his people. He was gathered in and he was crushed. Just as the people used their own feet to crush grapes, Jesus was crushed by the fists, the whips, the nails and the spear of political and religious power.
Why was this? Was it a tragic mistake? No this too was the plan of God, known from ancient times. The Prophet Isaiah said, (Is 53:4-6)
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus did not live to be admired, he lived to be crushed. Not for his sins – he had none. But he was crushed for our sins; he was pierced for our iniquities. He carried our infirmities and our sorrows; he bore the punishment that brought us peace.
We come to the Cup of the Lord’s Supper to remember the beauty that was crushed, so that we could have life.