Matthew 26:17-30; The Lord’s Supper

Jesus gathered with the Twelve in a home in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Even the preparation for the meal was introduced with a reminder that Jesus’ time was at hand, and that mood will pervade the meal.

The thirteen mean reclined for the meal in the Greek fashion. There is no mention of a table in the Greek, nor is there any indication that all thirteen men reclined on one side of a table.

One must presume that the meal progressed as a normal Passover seder, although we must humbly say that we don’t know what all the customs were at the time Jesus and his disciples shared this meal.

An unusual item of business was introduced when Jesus announced that one of the Twelve would betray him. This announcement caused great consternation and self-examination. Perhaps eleven of the disciples were concerned that they might give Jesus away inadvertently. But one knew it was him. Jesus associated the dipping of bitter herbs in sauce with this betrayal.

When Jesus broke the bread, the disciples would have expected a reminder of how the children of Israel had to leave Egypt in a hurry and only had time to make flat bread. Instead, Jesus tells them they are eating of his body. This should not be taken literally, since Jesus was sitting with them, very much alive at the time. But in time, the church would understand this better. I imagine the disciples were confused.

When it was time for wine, the disciples would have expected to drink from their own cups, accompanied by another remembrance of the Exodus. Instead, Jesus tells them they are drinking his blood. He mentions the covenant. And he mentions forgiveness of sins.

The children of Israel had never really lived up to their requirement to keep the covenant. Eventually it led t the Exile. In a very tangible way, the Exile was still in place at the time these men were sharing the Passover meal. Jesus is instituting a new covent. One might call it the kingdom of God.

Jesus shed his blood—which is a euphemism for dying; there is nothing magical about the substance itself—for the forgiveness of sins. I have no idea how that transaction works, but I’m thankful for it.

I’ve heard preachers like the death of Jesus to the Temple sacrifices for sin. I get that, but the Passover lambs were not sacrificed for sins. They were sacrificed so their blood could be painted on the doorways and so they could be eaten before an arduous journey. Let’s not twist the Bible to say things it doesn’t say just because it makes a good story.

Jesus died for our sins. Forgiveness of sins is also the beginning of an arduous journey. Matthew makes no bones about it. To walk with Jesus is hard. It is an uphill climb and it is dangerous. If we soft sell that, we are not being true to the gospel.

One sidetone: those of us who are teetotalers will need to put aside our scruples when Jesus passes the cup around when he comes in glory.

The first Passover looked forward to God’s redemption of his people. Subsequent Passover celebrations remembered what God did.

The first Lord’s Supper looked forward to the death of Jesus at the hands of the Romans. He was establishing the kingdom. He was enabling the forgiveness of sins. Subsequent Lord’s Suppers look back at what God did in Jesus. Our hearts are filled with thanksgiving. Until he comes.

Matthew 26:1-16; The Plot to Kill Jesus

No more teaching from Jesus. From here on in it is action. Jesus is the obedient son of God as he prepares to go to his death. For us.

The chief priests, consisting of the high priest Caiaphas and other leaders among the priests, decide they need to get rid of Jesus. They know this could prove to be unpopular, so they see the necessity of doing so by treachery. Tensions are high at Passover due to a popular belief that the messiah will manifest himself during the festival. The Romans have extra soldiers at hand and the priests are watchful.

These are supposed to be the leaders of God’s people. Yet they are misleading. This still happens today. People who are supposed to be leading God’s people sometimes have their own agendas. Keep an eye out for that.

That evening, which is probably Wednesday evening by our calendar, Jesus is at the home of a Simon the leper. While he is there, a woman comes in and anoints him with a costly oil. This is upsetting to the disciples because the poor are a special project at Passover, and they see that this oil could have gone a long way to hep the poor.

But burial of the dead is a great “good work” than even almsgiving, and Jesus knows—even if the woman does not—that she is anointing him for burial. This is the only burial preparation he will get.

The people expect the messiah (the anointed) to be anointed as king. This messiah is anointed for death instead. For us.

At this point, Judas decides to collude with the chief priests and offers his services. They are happy to have his help so they will be able to grab Jesus when he is with his disciples and not among the people. They pay him a nice sum, but not a fortune, for his troubles. Some resources say that the price is about that one would expect to pay for a run of the mill slave.

Matthew doesn’t talk about Judas’ motivation. There are many theories, but they remain unproven. I guess we can say for sure that Judas wasn’t happy with how Jesus’ kingdom was progressing. Maybe he was following Jesus for what he thought would be his own benefit.

People still do that today, don’t they? They follow Jesus only for the benefit they see themselves receiving. Maybe it’s the promise of eternal life. But they aren’t committed to following their Lord even unto death. That’s what you call bad soil.

I am not the judge, but if I were guessing I’d say I know several people whose political point of view has become an idol. In fact, I know for sure I’ve been there in the past.

Have Your Political Views Become An Idol? | The Exchange

Are your political views and convictions growing in intensity? Are you finding yourself feeling angrier than you used to be about a variety of political issues? Are people in your extended family, community, or church becoming angrier?

In addition to being in the midst of a global pandemic, widespread demonstrations about racial injustices, and an election year, we live in a media saturated environment where hate and division trigger wider viewership, larger ratings, and significantly higher advertising revenue.

In such an environment, how can we as individual Christians, or as pastors or ministry leaders tasked with leading others, know when we are getting sidetracked, especially when “believing you’re right and that others are wrong” triggers intense and addictive feelings?

Media outlets on both the left and right are using language and tactics to inflame anger, alienate, and disparage whomever ‘the other’ might be and, as a result, there are growing levels of disrespect and hatred towards people who hold different political views.

As followers of Christ who are engaging in this process, are we starting to cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed? And, if we are, how can we know when this is happening, and what are the costs?
— Read on

Matthew 25:31-46; Judgment of the Nations

Jesus comes to the climax of his teaching about the coming of the Son of Man with this account of the final judgment of the nations. This is not really a parable, but it certainly does employ some metaphors and similes.

The Son of Man will return, accompanied by angels, and will sit on his throne on earth. The nations will be gathered before him. Like a shepherd separating sheep from goats, he will separate the righteous (v. 37) from the unrighteous.

There are several things we can learn from this account.

  • Jesus is the judge on the day of judgment. In the Old Testament this role is filled by God himself. In the New Covenant, Jesus does this work and it really is about him
  • The kingdom has been prepared for the righteous from the very beginning. The whole story of God in the two testaments is about how we spoiled it, but God continued to work to see it through. We must persevere.
  • The nations will be judged based on how they responded to the messengers of the gospel. When we see “the least of these”, we can’t help but remember “the little ones” earlier in Matthew. There is more involved here than simply meeting the needs of the poor. Jesus’ brothers and sisters are those who represent him in the world.
  • The result is eternal. Eternal punishment or eternal life. Although the fire was prepared (not from the foundations of the earth, but because it was needed) for Satan and his rebellious angels, the Son of Man will not hesitated to use it for the recalcitrant nations.

To read this as a general judgment based on works is not particularly Christian. One must look at the overall message of Matthew and discern that a relationship with Jesus is involved in eternal life.

As we leave the teaching of Jesus here, we enter the part of Matthew’s Gospel I have been dreading from the beginning of this study.

Matthew 24:45-25:30; Ready for the Master’s Return

Jesus offers three parables to illustrate his statement in 24:44: Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:44, ESV)

The Faithful and Wise Servant

This one seems to be directed at church leaders. As the return of Jesus is delayed, they must stay on course. They have been entrusted with the church. They have to feed the people and care for them.

If they are not faithful and wise, they begin to be more interested in their own well-being. They feed themselves and not the people. This can easily happen because of the delay. “Surely the master won’t return today”, they say. Big surprise in store.

The leader who gets the job done has a reward in store. The leader who gets diverted has a punishment in store.

The Ten Maidens

This one is directed to every church member. We also must remain ready.

These bridesmaids had a job to do. When the groom shows up, they are to escort him to the bride. They must have their lights burning, or the procession will not be very impressive.

It makes me think of meeting Jesus in the air when he comes. Our job will be to escort him to earth and enjoy the reestablishment of his rule. We will welcome the coming king. The bridegroom of the church.

The groom is delayed (sound familiar?) and they sleep. Nothing wrong with falling asleep. We are all human. But even asleep we must be ready. Half were and half weren’t

We don’t know when Jesus will return. We must be ready and not grow slack in our following.

The Investments

This parable is directed to those who have special abilities. With great power come great responsibility. The master goes away and leaves large sums of money in the hands of three servants. Two do a good job, but the other fails.

The question for me to ask myself is, How am I using the abilities God gave me? Am I using my stuff for the kingdom or for myself? Am I enriching the kingdom or myself? What will Jesus think about it when he comes?

Jesus is returning. The long delay can lull us into complacency. We dare not lose focus. We have a job to do. We have resources invested in us. We may have people to lead.

I’m hoping to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Why Anti-racism is so Popular | George Yancey

So all you have to do now is find an antiracist trainer and bring them in for your organization.

I totally understand this sentiment. It is hard to be criticized when you are following the same path so many other individuals and organizations are taking. Doing what others do provides you with some defenses against the criticism that you are doing nothing about racism. But there is a problem with that path. Research has shown that this is not a path to racial unity or even to dealing with prejudice and racism.
— Read on

So, How Do We Detect Grandstanding? | Jesus Creed | A Blog by Scot McKnight

Here’s a little game you can play on Facebook and Twitter. It might help you.

Grandstanders try to get others to think of them as morally respectable. Sometimes they want to be thought of as one of the gang. Other times, they want to be thought of as morally exceptional. Either way, they usually want to be seen as morally better than others.
— Read on