Summary: Communion is more of an Easter moment than we realize. This time of year we can hear the last supper story fresh and realize its significance.
Communion is more of an Easter moment than we usually stop to realize.
In Matthew 26, Matthew brings Jesus into the last portion of his life before the cross. He shows us how Jesus was clearly preparing his disciples for his death and, as well, his resurrection. Jesus has spoken about his death throughout his life, but it is in the last supper with them that Jesus makes a way for them to remember the significance of both his life and his death through everyday things – the cup and the bread.
First, let’s understand the tension that is in this story.
There is a wonderful braided thread of theology that is woven through this telling of Jesus’ last meal with his twelve disciples. That thread brings together two opposing feelings about Jesus – love and hate.
• Go back to the beginning of this chapter and you’ll hear the whispered plots of the chief priests and elders to kill Jesus and be done with him once and for all, something Jesus had just warned his disciples about. (Read verses 3-5) It was an act of hate, born out of anger and jealousy and ignorance.
If we look at the story that precedes the Last Supper, we’ll see the anointing of Jesus by a woman while he was resting in the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. Listen to the narrative – (Read verses 6-13).
• A woman (John says it’s Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha) comes in, uninvited, breaks a flask of expensive perfume (worth a year’s wages – today about $10,000) and pours it over Jesus’ head and feet. It is an act of love for who he is, what he has done, and because she believed his time on earth was drawing to a close.
• The disciples are outraged at the extravagant “waste” of perfume that could have been sold to supply plenty for the poor (John says it was Judas who naturally raised this objection). This act was the final straw for Judas who immediately sold Jesus out to the Pharisees for thirty pieces of silver. (Speculation – was this added to what he’d been stealing from the disciples’ treasury to buy that piece of land where he hung himself ?). Could there be a more deplorable act of hate, spawned by Judas’ disgust that Jesus was refusing to be the vengeful Messiah Judas the Zealot wanted him to be AND his own greed.
Then we come to the scene of the Last Supper, carefully arranged by Jesus so that he could have one last teaching moment with these men he loved so much, upon whose shoulders he would place the burden of ministry. We see how Jesus loved these men and it was in the name of that love he wanted to prepare them for what was about to transpire – betrayal, capture, and crucifixion. And it was in love that Jesus set before them a living memorial that would remain with them after he was gone – “This is my body...This is my blood...”
At that moment, as he took the loaf of bread and broke it then took the cup of wine and blessed it, Jesus completed the braiding of those two strands together – love and hate were irreversibly twisted together, and tied with the divine knot of Jesus’ sacrifice (body broken...blood poured out) and promise (with you in my Father’s kingdom).
To love Jesus is to hate the sin in oneself.
To hate Jesus it to love the sin in oneself.
To love Jesus is to hate the world.
To hate Jesus is to love the world.
It leaves us with an undeniable option doesn’t it?
And that is what Jesus has given to us.
The disciples had lived closely with Jesus for three years, learning from him; relearning about God; looking deep inside themselves and finding out more than they cared to know.
This was a scary moment for those twelve men.
Jesus was changing them forever and they weren’t sure how to handle it.
He was changing them as surely as he was changing that loaf of bread into the bread of life and that cup of wine into the cup of redemption.
They would not forget what they had heard and seen that night, and that is exactly what Jesus wanted.
“Whenever you do this, do it in remembrance of me.”
Those men watched as Jesus created a memorial – not of stone or of wood, but of bread and wine; not a building, a shrine or a sanctuary but a memorial that can be smelled, tasted, felt, swallowed and made to be part of oneself.
Later, they would see Jesus broken and bloody, hanging on a cross, dying a death he did not deserve and they would return to Jesus breaking that loaf of bread, the staff of life, and hear him say, “This is my body.”