Sunday, July 13, 2008

Matthew 26:26-30


26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ``Take, eat; this is My body.'' 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ``Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 ``But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.'' 30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus was celebrating the Passover dinner with His disciples. The first Passover is described in Exodus chapter 12: one lamb was sacrificed for every household and the blood painted onto the lintels and doorposts. This was done in order that the angel of Death would not slay the first-born son of the Jewish households, but only those of Pharoah's people, whom God had warned He would judge. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" the Lord told the children of Israel (Exodus 12:13). They were to eat the lamb, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, in haste prior to their departure from Egypt. The eating of unleavened bread was to continue for seven days, as their sustenance to exit Egypt and escape Pharoah's slavery. God ordained that the children of Israel would commemorate the Passover every year to remember their deliverance, almost 3,450 years ago. It is a reading of the Exodus 12, Psalms 113 and 114.

The Passover was a definite foreshadowing of God's Messiah, Who was still to come. There are several direct references to the Messiah in the celebration. There is an empty chair set for Elijah, if he should show up, presenting the Messiah. At one point in the dinner, the youngest of the family leaves the table and goes to the door to see if Elijah is here. He returns year after year with sadness that Elijah didn't show.

Another interesting reference comes with the "breaking of the bread." The head of the family takes the middle one of the three flat cakes of unleavened Matzah bread; he breaks it and puts one half aside, wrapped in a white linen cloth. The hidden bread is called the 'Afikomen' (meaning dessert or that which comes later). There are three pieces of bread to remember that the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is One who keeps His covenant; He is the One Who delivered the children of Israel from bondage (Exodus 6:2-9). But why is it the middle piece that is broken? This is because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is an indication of the tri-unity of God. Just as Abraham was willing to offer up His "only son" (Genesis 22:2,12), so God the Father willingly offered up His Son, Jesus (John 3:16). Jesus was broken on the cross for our redemption (I Corinthians 11:24) and wrapped in linen for burial (Luke 23:53).

The entire meal is based upon 4 cups of wine-sanctification, deliverance, redemption and praise. It was the cup of redemption (the full payment for our freedom-the Lamb) that Jesus references as Himself. Also, there was a lamb that was killed in the original Passover event and one day God will provide His Lamb for the freedom of the entire world.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of this provision and that it will be a New Covenant (New Testament) with His people that will not be written on stones, but on the hearts of His people. This gives some rich meaning to John's words (John 1:29) when he says, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

The setting of the Lord's Supper at the heart of the Passover meal explains its meaning. Jesus Christ is Himself the Passover lamb, offered up for the redemption and deliverance of His people (I Corinthians 5:7), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The bread and wine speak of His death, and of the new covenant it affirms, reconciling God and man. Jesus says "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24-25), telling His disciples that the Passover is fulfilled in Him. Until He comes again (Luke 22:18; I Corinthians 11:26), we are to remember the significance of what He has done for us.

NOTE one more thing: This is called "communion" within the Christian world and is not a biblical term. Jesus speaks of it as a covenant. And that is the way I see it. It is a covenant between you and Jesus and between you and those with whom you are walking-all in the name of Jesus.

Matthew 26:20-25


20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, ``Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.'' 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ``Surely not I, Lord?'' 23 And He answered, ``He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 ``The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.'' 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, ``Surely it is not I, Rabbi?'' Jesus said to him, ``You have said it yourself.''

NOTE the following observations: FIRST--Judas had to work behind the scenes-in secret-to do his dirty deed. WE ARE AS SICK AS OUR SECRETS!

SECOND--Judas, being the treasurer of the disciples, was very concerned about the physical things over the spiritual-he was not happy with the woman who washed the disciples' feet with an expensive ointment, was focused on the political and external dimensions of the movement around Jesus and was willing to take 30 shekels (pieces of silver) in order to point Jesus out to the soldiers.

THIRD--Jesus confronted him personally, not blasting him, but gently revealing that He really knows what's going on.

This is an interesting and maybe a little encouraging to those who are working with others, attempting to bring them along in Jesus. Jesus chose 12 and lost 1 out of them to the Devil, so don't get discouraged about those who seem to fade away or fallout with things of the Lord. Just keep on keeping on in the name of Jesus.

Matthew 26:14-19


14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, ``What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?'' And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. 

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ``Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?'' 18 And He said, ``Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, `The Teacher says, ``My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.''''' 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

THE BETRAYAL DINNER IS SET. I love the thought-provoking words of Max Lucado in his writings, Shaped By God. He calls this section "Judas, the Man Who Never Knew":

"I've wondered at times what kind of man this Judas was like. What he looked like, how he acted, who his friends were.

I guess I've stereotyped him. I've always pictured him as a wiry, beady-eyed, sly, wormy fellow, pointed beard and all. I've pictured him as estranged from the other apostles. Friendless. Distant. Undoubtedly he was a traitor and a quisling. Probably the result of a broken home. A juvenile delinquent in his youth.

Yet I wonder if that is so true. We have no evidence (save Judas' silence) that would suggest that he was isolated. At the Last Supper, when Jesus said that his betrayer sat at the table, we don't find the apostles immediately turning to Judas as the logical traitor.

No, I think we've got Judas pegged wrong. Perhaps he was just the opposite. Instead of sly and wiry, maybe he was robust and jovial. Rather than quiet and introverted. He could have been outgoing and well meaning. I don't know.

But for all things we don't know about Judas, there is one thing we know for sure: He had no relationship with the Master. He had seen Jesus, but he did not know him. He had heard Jesus, but he did not understand him. He had a religion, but no relationship.

As Satan worked his way around the table in the upper room, he needed a special kind of man to betray our Lord. He needed a man who had seen Jesus but did not know him. He needed a man who knew the actions of Jesus but had missed out on the mission of Jesus. Judas was this man. He knew the empire but had never known the Man.

We learn this timeless lesson from the betrayer. Satan's best tools of destruction are not from outside the church; they are within the church. A church will never die from the immorality in Hollywood or the corruption in Washington. But it will die from corrosion within-from those who bear the name of Jesus but have never met him and from those who have religion but no relationship.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ. Let's make it our goal to know. JESUS.

Matthew 26:6-13


6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. 8 But the disciples were indignant when they saw this and said, ``Why this waste? 9 ``For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.'' 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ``Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11 ``For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12 ``For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13 ``Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.''

John's Gospel shares this same story and identifies this woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

NOTE some things that this story teaches. FIRST--It shows us the extravagance of love. The woman took the most precious thing she had and poured it out on Jesus. Jewish women were very fond of perfume; and often they carried a little alabaster vial of it round their necks. This was very valuable perfume! Both Mark and John make the disciples say that this perfume could have been sold for three hundred denarii (Mk 14:5; Jn 12:5); which means that this vial of perfume represented nearly a whole year's wages for a working man.

SECOND--Mary gave this to Jesus, because it was the most precious (valuable) thing she had. Love never thinks how little it can give; love's one desire is to give to the uttermost limits.

THIRD--It shows us that there are times when the commonsense view of things fails. Common sense obeys the dictates of prudence; but love obeys the dictates of the heart. A gift is never really a gift when we can easily afford it; a gift truly becomes a gift only when there is sacrifice behind it, and when we give far more than we can afford.

FOUR--It shows us that certain things must be done when the opportunity arises or they can never be done at all. There are some things which we can do at any time; there are some things which can be done only once; and to miss the opportunity to do them then may be to miss the opportunity for ever.

It tells us that the fragrance of a sacrificial deed lasts for ever. I'm reminded of the saying I first heard as a child. Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last. What you do for Jesus lasts forever!

Matthew 26:1-5


1 When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2 ``You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.'' 

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4 and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5 But they were saying, ``Not during the festival, otherwise, a riot might occur among the people.''

Once again, Jesus reveals His upcoming death to His disciples. It seems they didn't really get the full impact of what He was telling them, because they still had in their minds a hope of Messianic victory over the Roman occupation.

This is an interesting snapshot of how a negative response is usually painted by the leadership. It's always the leadership that paves the way-either negatively or positively. Jesus was loved by the masses. It was the leadership that was threatened by His teachings and His presence. It was the leadership that rejected the Messiahship of Jesus. This is why Jesus was very hard on the religious leaders of His day.

FIRST--He called them snakes.

SECOND--He called them white-washed tombs, pretty on the outside, but totally dead inside.

THIRD--He warned them that if they were to lead any "little ones" astray, there would be the harshest judgment from God upon them.

Two things come to mind here: 1. Be careful of the leadership you follow-listen to, hang out with, those who influence you the most. Even the news media becomes a major influence on spiritual things and world-wide perspective.

2. Your relationship with Jesus doesn't have to depend upon the leaders in your life. Note that Jesus spent most of His time hanging out with the non-leadership kind of people, the little people, the laity. It was easier for them to relate to this most attractive one. They had nothing positionally to lose!

The special thing about following Jesus is that he trumps everything else-all leaders and organizations. So, be careful to draw close to Jesus today. Thank Him for walking with you throughout your day, for caring what happens to you and your family today! Do the toughest thing you can do-do your best to walk with Him. See what He does and listen to what He says, then DO IT!