Summary: There is rich symbolism, and deep meaning, in the elements of the Communion Table. When Jesus offered the cup to His disciples He was offering them so much more than a refreshing drink. He was inviting them into the richest of all relationships.
Will You Drink From His Cup? - Matthew 26:26-29 - May 29, 2011
Turn with me, in your Bibles please, to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 26 and we’ll begin reading in verse 26. The verses we’re about to read take place at the tail end of the last Passover that Jesus and His disciples shared together before He was betrayed and crucified.
From our own Passover celebration last year many of you will remember bits and pieces of what would have taken place there that night. You’ll remember the part the matzah – the unleavened bread – and the cups of drink - played during the course of that meal. Those are the images that ought to be in your mind as we read these verses. So let’s begin … Matthew 26, beginning in verse 26 …
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
It’s about 15 years ago now since I sat in the front room of Heather’s parent’s place and had a heart to heart talk with her dad. I remember it very clearly because it wasn’t an easy conversation to have. You see, I was there to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and, while my heart was beating a mile a minute, I didn’t appreciate going into that conversation, just how difficult it would be for her father as well. Here was this young man, whom, in reality, he hardly knew at all, asking for his permission to marry his daughter. As I thought about it later I think he was even more nervous than I was when he realized where the conversation was heading. And now, with two daughters of my own, I can understand in a whole new way, what he must have been going through that day!
At the time, though, I couldn’t appreciate what he must have been contemplating as the conversation developed, so I just dove right in and told him how I felt about Heather, how I wanted the two of us to build a future together. I told him how much I loved her and of how we were good for each other and how I would do my best by her. Eventually I finished saying my bit and I waited, somewhat apprehensively, for his response. A lot was riding on what he would say next.
To my great joy, and immense relief, he gave a tentative ‘yes.’ I say, “tentative,” because then we got into the really difficult part of the conversation as we began the hard work of negotiating the bridal price. I knew that if we couldn’t come to some sort of agreement on what I would be able to pay for his daughter, all of my heart felt words would have been for nothing. So we held nothing back - money, assets, manual labour – anything and everything was on the table until we had arrived at a price we both agreed upon. Then, and only when we had agreed upon a price, would Heather and I be able to become engaged and begin to plan for a wedding. ….
Now judging by the looks on some of your faces, I take it that’s not quite how it worked out in your marriages? And ladies, before you start throwing things at me let me confess that that’s not quite how it worked out in mine either! Everything I shared with you was - true right up to the point where Heather’s dad and I began to work out the bridal price. I shared that little scenario with you though because that is something like what would have taken place in Jesus’ day, and if we want to get the full impact of our Scripture passages this morning, we need to understand a little bit about Jewish wedding customs of that time.
And that’s often how it is. The Word of God, while timeless, does not stand outside of time. It is written to real people, in a language they understood, taking into account all of their customs as a people. So, because our culture is far different than theirs was, we tend to miss some of the subtle nuances that the people of Jesus’ day would have picked up on right away, and which add to our understanding of God’s Word. That’s why I appreciate so much the DVD lessons that Ray Vanderlaan has put together and which we’re using in both the Sunday School class and the Bible Study that I lead. Mr. Vanderlaan opens up the Scriptures in light of the customs of the day in which they were written and much of what I’m about to share with you, comes from that, and was new to me when we first saw it in our class a couple of months ago as well. So I’m going to give you a little background this morning just before we go deeper into the Scriptures so that we can better understand the enormity of what is taking place here.