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).