Summary: In preparation for the Cross, Jesus’ institution of the new memorial consisted of three primary elements: 1) The Directive (vv. 26a, 27), 2) The Doctrine (vv. 26b, 28), and 3) The Duration (v 29).
While we were meeting Sunday, two bombings occurred during Palm Sunday services in Coptic churches in Egypt. The blasts killed 47 and injured about 100 others. As the The New York Times notes, “the attacks constituted one of the deadliest days of violence against Christians in Egypt in decades.” This is the reality of our meeting this morning. Not that I am expecting any particular attack, but the reality of death, is all about the remembrance of Good Friday, and our communion celebration in particular. Matthew 26 itself is devoted to preparing for the cross. Before chapter 26, has been the preparation that God had made, the preparation of the religious leaders, the preparation of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who anointed Jesus with costly perfume, and the preparation of Judas. And now, beginning in verse 17, we come to the preparation of the Lord Himself as He begins to prepare for His own death. It involves the last Passover, the establishment of His table. It involves a time of exhorting the feeble disciples. It involves a time of intercessory prayer before the Father in the garden of Gethsemane. All of these elements Matthew gives us as parts of the preparation for the death of Jesus Christ, which, of course, is a climax of His life and ministry.
But in Matthew 26 the Passover Jesus was now concluding with the disciples was the last divinely sanctioned Passover ever to be observed. No Passover celebrated after that has been authorized or recognized by God. Significant as it was under the Old Covenant, it became a remnant of a bygone economy, an extinct dispensation, an expired covenant. Its observance since that time has been no more than a religious relic that serves no divinely acknowledged purpose and has no divinely blessed significance. To celebrate the Passover is to celebrate the shadow, after the reality has already come. Celebrating deliverance from Egypt is a weak substitute for celebrating deliverance from sin. In fact, Christ ended the Passover and instituted a new memorial to Himself. It would not look back to a lamb in Egypt as the symbol of God’s redeeming love and power, but to the very Lamb of God, who, by the sacrificial shedding of His own blood, took away the sins of peoples around the world that would believe in Him. In that one meal Jesus both terminated the old and inaugurated the new. By historically linking Passover and Lord’s Supper so closely together Jesus also made clear that what was essential in the first was not lost in the second. Both point to him, the only and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of his people. Passover pointed forward to this; the Lord’s Supper points back to it.( Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, p. 908). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)
To properly partake of communion, the Lord’s Supper, we partake in His death. It is our sin that sent Him to the cross and each time we participate in communion we properly remember His death.
In preparation for the Cross, Jesus’ institution of the new memorial consisted of three primary elements: 1) The Directive (vv. 26a, 27), 2) The Doctrine (vv. 26b, 28), and 3) The Duration (v 29).
1) The Directive (Matthew 26:26a, 27),
Matthew 26:26a-27 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; (this is my body.”) 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, (ESV)
It is not certain as to what part of the meal they were eating at this time, but the supper was still in progress, and our Lord instituted the new memorial in the midst of the old. At some point in the meal, Judas leaves and the other disciples receive the blessing of a new covenant meal, in which the Passover is transformed into the Lord’s Supper. There were traditionally four cups drunk at the Passover feast, each cup relating to one of the four promises in Exodus 6:6–7. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper between the third and fourth cups.(Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 96). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
Showing this forth, first, we see that Jesus took some bread and offered a blessing of thanks to His heavenly Father, as He always did before eating (see, e.g., Matt. 14:19; 15:36). The unleavened bread was baked in large, flat, crisp loaves, which Jesus broke into pieces before He gave it to the disciples with the instruction, “Take, eat.” The fact that He broke the bread does not symbolize a broken body, because John makes clear that, in fulfillment of prophecy, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken” (John 19:36; cf Ps. 34:20), just as no bones of the original Passover lambs in Egypt were broken (Ex. 12:46). (Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 659). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)