The Lord’s Supper

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

As in previous articles, an imaginary narrator will tell the events of Jesus’ last day with his disciples.

The narrator begins: The tension that we all felt was evident all the way back from Bethany to the Mount of Olives. I heard a considerable amount of tossing and turning throughout the night, as people struggled with a sense of impending doom.

The next morning the disciples seemed determined to carry on with the customary Passover meal. They said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples'” (Matthew 26.17-18).

As the disciples headed toward Jerusalem, those of us who heard the conversation became deeply concerned about Jesus’ words, “My time is near.” It really seemed that all of Jesus’ predictions about his death were about to take place. However, none of us were ready. It seemed totally inconceivable that someone so wise and loving and kind would be destroyed by evil men.

The Dinner in Jerusalem

Later in the day, the same crowd that went to Bethany began the walk to Jerusalem. Even though I wasn’t part of the close followers of Jesus, no one told me that I couldn’t go.

It was evening when the disciples reclined with Jesus for a meal among his closest friends and followers. I wasn’t one of those who helped serve Jesus and the others, and I was somewhat separate from the main group. However, I was still able to hear their conversation.

For the last couple of days, Jesus had upset everyone. He enraged the religious leaders at the Temple with what he said and did. Then, he kept talking about being arrested and even executed. After one unsettling event after another, I still was not ready for how Jesus began the meal.

He had a more pained expression on his face than I had ever seen when he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me” (Matthew 26.21).

I wasn’t surprised when all of the disciples begin to say, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26.22). They were really upset and quite outspoken in claiming their innocence. From the very beginning these men had walked with Jesus. They had been his constant companion, friend and student. I agreed with them. Surely, none of them would turn Jesus over to the authorities.

However, Jesus insisted and said, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born” (Matthew 26.23-24).

To say that I was taken aback by Jesus’ words is an understatement. When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, I believed that he was equating himself with the Messiah who would come to establish God’s kingdom. I wasn’t aware of any passages in our Scriptures where the Messiah was betrayed by one of his followers to be executed.

Judas was the last to speak and seemed a little agitated when he said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

I really didn’t know how to take what Jesus said to him. He said, “You have said so” (Matthew 26.25).

The Lord’s Supper

After the shock of hearing about betrayal, things seemed to settle down a little in the room. When Jesus took some bread, I was expecting him to give the traditional blessing, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the world, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Instead, as Jesus was breaking the unleavened bread, he said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26.26).

If there was any doubt that he was intending to die soon, it vanished the moment he ripped that flat piece of bread in two.

I didn’t know if Jesus would give the traditional blessing over the cup, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the world, who created the fruit of the vine.” After what he had done with the bread I wasn’t too surprised by his next words.

He prayed a prayer that moved me to tears, held up the cup and said, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26.27-29).

Between tearing the bread in two and what Jesus said about the cup, I was convinced that his death was imminent. What I didn’t understand then, I learned later on. Jesus was the Messiah. He came to rule, but his rule was not like the earthly kingdoms that I knew so well. Rather, his rule was to begin in the hearts of people.

I realized in this supper the truth of his words, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.28).

I later realized that this was God’s way of establishing a new covenant with people. Our hearts would be transformed and we would then live like Jesus taught us to live.

When the meal was finished, we sang one of the Psalms together and walked back to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26.30).

Concluding Thoughts

Jesus began his ministry with these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4.17). Throughout out our study of Matthew, we have used Dallas Willard’s definition of the kingdom of God as “the effective reach of God’s power.”

In our world the effective reach of a kingdom’s power is measured by strength their army or their economy.

The effective reach of God’s power was and is measured by self-giving love. Jesus is the most profound example of the fact that self-giving love is both practical and powerful.

Every time the church observes what is called the Lord’s Supper or Communion, we remember how God determines to rule his universe. He does so through his Son’s broken body and shed blood. The effective reach of his power touches our hearts through the sacrifice of his Son. Enemies are conquered by making us his friends.

In 1970 I met a man whose life was changed by the self-giving love of God. He was a small time criminal who was married to a night club singer in Chicago. When his marriage and life spiraled down, his wife began riding a bus on Sundays to church. Their two disabled children pleaded with him to join them in church.

He finally relented and attended a Sunday morning service to pacify his kids. After their Sunday meal, he announced to the family, “We’re going back to church tonight.” That night, he met Jesus as his personal Savior and friend.

When I met this couple, they had left Chicago, the night clubs, and a life of crime. They were active in a church in Southern Illinois and were joyfully married and vibrant Christians. This is a picture of the power of Jesus’ self-giving love in action.

Today’s’ Prayer

Dear Jesus, we praise you for your self-giving love. We honor you that you decide to extend your power and rule your universe by changing hearts and making us your friends. We glorify you today and thank you for the great God you are.

1 Comment

  1. As I’ve read the narrator’s account, I’ve gotten lost this morning in memories leading up to February 10 of this year when my husband died. In the days before, when his entire medical team was telling me he would survive this latest setback like he had countless others in 12 years, he was telling me he wouldn’t. He was telling me he wasn’t coming home. He asked to see you, Brother Bob. To talk about final days. To confirm his peace. He asked to see his oldest son. On his last day, he asked to see grandchildren. All the while, he was telling me this time was different but I couldn’t see it. Didn’t want to believe it.

    Now, I don’t equate my husband’s life with that of our Messiah – but as I read yesterday’s article and today’s, I can put myself in the thoughts of His followers as Jesus talked about His impending death and resurrection. How He had them plan the dinner, how He broke the bread, blessed the cup – talked of HIs body and His blood. In those moments, they didn’t really see what was going to happen. They couldn’t understand it. Couldn’t imagine it. Didn’t want to. His message was of love, His teaching so powerful – He had healed so many and had changed lives. Surely there was more to do! Who would want to kill Him? The followers of Christ were still looking for a different kind of kingdom. They were anxious for status and to be rid of oppression – they were enamored by the love of Christ and couldn’t fathom the violence that was to come.

    Only from the perspective of hindsight, can we see clearly. Just as looking back at the events in my life before February, I can see how difficult those months truly were. How the signs of Mike’s deterioration were there all along. In that time, it didn’t seem so bad, but now I can see his struggles. How events were building. How we were being prepared.

    And for modern us, looking back at Jesus’s final days, we see His struggles that to those in the moments with Him, seemed unreal and unimaginable. Some may have been piecing together the prophecy they’d known their whole lives, matching it to His teachings and events unfolding – but mostly, they weren’t sure of what was coming.

    My thoughts today have taken me to a personal, modern day experience to attempt to understand what the followers of Jesus were seeing and living. My thoughts may or may not be theologically sound. They may tie this together or they may not. But, we do well to place ourselves in that day and time. To better understand Jesus’s words and actions. To see more clearly the sacrifice He made for us. To understand the pain – emotional and physical He endured knowing He was leaving soon. To really know the self-giving love that He displayed in His life…and in His death and resurrection. To humble ourselves as He did. To deeply desire to follow Him. To honor Him. To be His friends.

    I’ve said before how thankful I am to have history of over 2000 years to base my faith on – when they had to try to understand Jesus’s words without knowing the end of the story. Walking with Him would have been an honor – but the question remains, which side of the courtroom would we have been on in that day? I do know where I am now. Praise Jesus for that! And now to live it….

    Like

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