Matthew 26 B

Matthew 26 B: Do This in Remembrance of Me

Today’s lesson begins with the announcement it is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread- the Passover.  One of the most revered feasts in all of Judaism.  The disciples come to Jesus for instructions. Jesus has already made provisions for a room and directs his disciples as to what to do.  As we approach the night of Jesus’ arrest and subsequent trials and crucifixion- we observe something rather unusual occurrences which set the tone for this memorable evening.   We read in the Gospel of John, he washes the feet of the disciples and in doing so gives us another example of service. Then Jesus announces at the dinner- ‘ I tell you one of you will betray me. They ( the disciples) were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other- “ Surely, not I , Lord?”

It troubles me when I read these men who had been with the Lord for over three years feared it could be them. Why does it trouble me?  Because if these men who had been so close to the Lord knew it was possible for them to betray the Lord- I realize it is also true of me. Do we sometimes profess to love the Lord and follow Christ but deny Him with our actions or lack of actions.

No one suspected Judas.  And the way in which the Scriptures read- Judas appears to be the last to ask ‘ is it I,Master( Rabbi)?  It was as if- Judas asked because he realized everyone has asked except him.  Note Judas did not refer to Jesus as Lord as the others had- he referred to him as Rabbi or Master.

Passover was done in remembrance of how God had freed the Israel from bondage in Egypt.  In Exodus, the blood of the Passover Lamb was painted on the door frame causing the plague of the firstborn’s death to pass over their houses.

Jesus here is establishing a new covenant- and a sacrament the New Testament church is to observe until he returns.   This event is recorded in all four gospels plus Paul adds some details and instructions relevant to this sacrament in I Corinthians.

If we look back in John 6, we see a reference to Jesus speaking in terms of his body being bread and his blood being the wine.  Jesus had fed the thousands with the five loaves and two fish.  The next day the crowd was looking for Jesus and found him on the other side of the lake. Jesus , who knew what was in the heart of men, told the crowd – “ I tell you the truth you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of God will give you.”

The crowd wanted to know what they must do to do the works God requires.  In other words, they wanted a list of works that would obtain for them – eternal life.

Jesus answered: “ The work of God is this- to believe in the One He sent.” ( For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is a gift of God not of works.)

Again the crowd asked for a miracle that they might see it and believe.  The way of the world is if I can see it, understand it, comprehend it with my own intelligence- I will then believe it.  The crowd reminds Jesus that Moses performed miracles in the wilderness and fed the people with manna.

Jesus then tells them ‘ it is my Father who gives the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

Then Jesus declared : “ I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  Later in this same chapter in this exchange Jesus makes these statements of fact: “ I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. The bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of this world. I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.: ( john 6)

Now let’s look in the accounts given in the four gospels to hear the words we are so familiar with associated with the Lord’s Supper we observe to this day.

The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of what Jesus did at the Cross in the past. It is also a symbol of our present relationship with Him. But it is also a promise of what he will do in the future.

Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying: “ This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. ( Luke 22) Take and eat this is my body.( Matthew 26)

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup saying: “ This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. ( Luke 22)  Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  ( which is shed for many for the remission of sins.) Matthew 26, NIV and KJV.

Isn’t his blood shed for the world? Yes. John tells us in I John 2- “ He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  Yet Jesus knows there are those who will not receive the remission of their sins for they will not drink of the cup- they will not believe in him.

His blood sealed the new covenant just as the old covenant was sealed by the sprinkling of blood, the new covenant was established by Jesus’ blood.  Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount?  He said he did not come to do away with the Law and the Prophets- but to fulfill them- ever jot and tittle.   In Hebrews 10 we read: “ He sets aside the first to establish the second.”  How did Jesus set aside the first covenant?  He set is aside by fulfilling it- every jot and tittle.  He then offered Himself as the sacrifice, the Lamb of God, offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins.  When Jesus said ‘ it was finished’- he meant everything that needed to be done had been done and the door to heaven was opened wide.

What is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant?  The Old Covenant was in effect from the time of Moses until the time of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  The Jews in the day and time of  Jesus were living under the Old Covenant.  John states in John 1: “ For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus.”

The Old Covenant was about the letter of the law.  The New Covenant was a covenant of the Spirit. The Old  killed- the New gave life. The Old condemned the New provided righteousness. The Old was written in stone- the New on the heart of men. The Old’s glory was fading as it did from Moses’ face- the New is in ever increasing  glory. The Old was veiled, like Moses’ face the New is unveiled.  The Old Testament pointed to the Lamb of God in prophecy and symbol of the Passover Lamb. The New Testament revealed the true Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus established the New Covenant 2000 years ago at Calvary with his death, burial and resurrection. The Bread of Life had come down from heaven. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He kept the letter of the  law and thus became the One and Only Lamb of God whose blood could take away the sin and sins of the world.

So on this fateful night, Jesus said do this in the remembrance of me.  Paul writes in I Corintians 11:26: “ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death  until He comes.” The Lord’s Supper looks back to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Let’s think about his sacrificial death when we observe the Lord’s Supper.  But it is also to be remembered that death did not hold him in the grave. This means death will not hold us in the grave either! We rejoice at the Lord’s Supper because the Lord Jesus conquered death.  The Israelites were freed from the slavery of the Egyptians which held them enslaved just as the fear of death enslaves us. Just as sin enslaves us- and remember the wages of sin is death. Death came into the world as a result of sin.

For the nation of Israel who celebrated the Passover, they celebrated an event that was the defining moment the life and history of their nation. It is when the nation of Israel began. They escaped slavery and death through the mighty hand of God. They were freed to worship and serve their God. In the church, the true church of believers- we look back at this event as the defining moment in our history when the church began.

Therefore we look back at the Cross where it all began  and remember. The Lord’s Supper is about the past in this aspect.

However because of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord we share in his life.  His life has been engrafted into our lives. We are united with Him. “ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet, not I but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ( Gal. 2:20) Jesus is giving us physical metaphors to express believing faith when he compares his coming into our lives like bread and wine which we take in and digest and provides nutrition and life for our physical bodies.

What law are we under now ?  The Old Covenant condemned, didn’t it?  “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”(Romans 8:1) Notice we are in Christ Jesus.   How did we get there? We believed in Him. WE were put there by grace through faith.  Just as a man can engraft the life of one tree into another and it will produce the fruit of that which was implanted- so can Almighty God engraft the life of His Son into our lives. Like a skilled surgeon who removes a diseased and dying heart from one and transplants the heart of another who has died to give them life.   Now we are indwelt by the Spirit, under the new covenant, the new law.  “ For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  ( Romans 8:2)  Just as the law of aerodynamics allows me to overcome the law of gravity- which I could not by myself- the law of the Spirit of Life has overcome the Law of Sin and Death.  I was never able to overcome the law of gravity, until I got into an airplane, whose power was greater than the power of gravity. I was never able to overcome the power of gravity until I got in the airplane and rested in its power to overcome.  I could never overcome the power of sin in my flesh, my own power. I was powerless- until a greater power came into my life.

What is necessary for physical life? Food for our physical bodies. Bread is necessary – drink is necessary. Jesus said he was the bread of life- and whoever comes to him will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.   To eat of his flesh and drink of his blood as distasteful as that sounds is Jesus saying symbolically to believe in me is to take me into your life. So that we now share each other’s life.  “ I in them and you in me.”  At the cross- Jesus took care of my old sinful nature- it was crucified with Him.  But also I am told I was not only united with Him in death- I am told I am certainly united with Him in his resurrection. Living He loved me. Dying He saved me.  Buried He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified freely forever- one day he is coming- oh glorious day!!

Now pause for a minute and realize as you take in the miracle of being born again, justified freely forever and think about the fact that Jesus now lives in your life, your heart- by the Holy Spirit. If you have important company coming to stay with you- you would certainly clean up your house to make it look its best. Before Jesus came into our lives- our lives were inhabited by sin.  When Jesus knocked on the door of your heart- and  you let Him in it was a mess.  It was a mess we were unable to do anything about.  And there was no amount of work we could do to make it inhabitable for Him.  In fact, Jesus said let me in and we will clean this up together.  You do what I tell you to do and we will get this cleaned up. But it is a process. It took you a long time to get all that junk in your attic- all that stuff in your closets and in your garage. I know you are embarrassed about what is in there, he says, but I already know what is there.  And I still love you and always will.

So we are to look up in  this present day when we observe the Lord’s supper and we are to look back and also to look inward.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 11: 28: “ A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”  Every time we participate we should be mindful of the meaning involved in this ceremony. Jesus died for our sins. And yet as Christians when we examine ourselves we often find sin. This means we need to confess our sins and repent, turn from them. It is a reminder of how much we need Jesus in our lives. It is to remember whatever we do in our bodies He is exposed to also. Only He can take away our sins.  “ If we say we have no sin- the truth is not in us and we lie. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful  and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.: ( I John 1)

When we look back at the Last Supper we need to remember also what Jesus did that night.  He washed the feet of the disciples. Jesus gave us a picture of life in God’s kingdom. Jesus said your life, like mine, involves serving others.

Jesus said he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He came into the fullness of the kingdom.  This reminds of His promise to return and when He does there will be a great wedding supper of celebration.  In the time Jesus lived- a wedding party would last seven days.  It was a great celebration. Remember Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John was turning the water into wine at the wedding feast where the wine had run out before the end of the celebration. His mother informs him of the situation- ‘they have no wine.’  Obviously she wanted Jesus to do something about it.  She tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. ( Excellent advice, we should remember.)  There were six large water pots for ceremonial cleansing holding twenty to thirty gallons each.  “Fill the jars with water Jesus told the servants. And they filled them to the brim.  Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. “  The master of the banquet tells the bridegroom after he tastes this incredible wine- you have saved the choice wine for last.

This miracles tells us Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. He takes the empty ceremonial things- like these large water jars which were for ceremonial cleansing and fills them with the best wine. How encouraging this miracle is- Jesus can fill our empty lives with an abundant life.  The promises of the enemy are as empty as those water jars were.  The wine the enemy provides sparkles in the cup but stings like the viper- a killer hangover. He is a liar and a deceiver and Jesus said he comes to steal and kill and destroy.

When I was in college- and for some time after that- I was always looking for the next party, the next event that would bring pleasure, excitement and enjoyment.  Here in his first miracle in the Gospel of John- we learn that Jesus is the life of the party. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

When Jesus came the ceremonies had become rituals- done out of habit – lifeless rituals which had lost their meaning. We must be careful that we do not allow the Lord’s Supper which He wanted us to do in remembrance of Him to become a lifeless ritual.

So we remember:

Look back at Calvary.

Look at the present-examine yourself.

Look to the future – He is coming.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14