The Bread and the Cup (7/17/16)

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Matthew 26:17-30 says, 17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

                18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

                20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

                22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

                23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

                25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

            Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

                26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

                27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

                30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Jesus is being betrayed by someone close to him. Judas was one of his chosen disciples. Judas was one of those who were amazed when Jesus healed people from chronic diseases and freed others from the captivity of demon possession. He was awed when Jesus walked on water. He was shouting “Hosanna” and placing palm branches on the road when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. We know he was a trusted member of the group since he was their treasurer. He blended in because the other disciples didn’t know who Jesus was talking about when Jesus said, “one of you is going to betray me.” Perhaps Judas himself didn’t realize how devastating his actions would be since he responded with, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

We know from reading the rest of the story Jesus did mean him and his betrayal was so great that it ultimately led to Jesus death.

Jesus knew this would happen yet, according to Matthew, Jesus showed him unconditional love by sharing a meal with him. Jesus also offered him bread which would come to symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. Jesus offered him a cup which would soon symbolize a new covenant with God along with the forgiveness of sins.

The emotions of the other disciples are also revealed to us in this passage. Verse 22 tells us they were sad to hear one of them was going to betray Jesus. Sadness wasn’t the only emotion these disciples felt. They were also confused. They too asked, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Perhaps in the back of their minds, confusion was leading to uncertainty. What would the future bring if Jesus was betrayed and his kingdom couldn’t unfold? How would it affect them? Yet in their sadness, confusion and uncertainty, they too shared a meal, the bread and a cup with Jesus.

Although we live in a time and culture vastly different and far removed from the original disciples, we’re no different than they were. We too betray Jesus. We do it when we make excuses for our sin and for the sins of others. Jesus gave his life to redeem us from the punishment we should face for disobeying God. Yet many times we diminish his sacrifice because we either enjoy our sin too much or we don’t want to go through the hard process of being delivered from it.

We also come before Jesus with sadness, confusion and uncertainty. Many families in our congregation are grieving because of the recent death of loved ones. How will their passing affect our future? Many among us are struggling with the pain and uncertainty of medical conditions. Financial difficulties weigh on our minds and cause us to wonder if we’ll have enough money in the future. Family issues grieve our hearts. Terrorism, violence and the greed of our nation threaten the only way of life we know. The future scares us.

Even though the original 12 disciples brought all of their flaws, brokenness and sin with them when they entered Jesus’ presence, Jesus accepted them by inviting them to eat and drink with him.

Even though our sinful pride leads us to betray Jesus on a daily basis, even though we are carrying sadness, confusion and uncertainly within us, Jesus accepts us and welcomes us into his presence. Jesus wants us to feast with him. The Lamb invites us to a banquet in which he is the bread and the cup.

Let us remember this when we take communion.