In Jesus’ Words: The First Lord’s Supper and Forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-30)

As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.”  Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.”  After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives. – Matthew 26:26-30

This is the last Passover Jesus has with his disciples, and through this, he transforms the Passover into the first Lord’s Supper.  He is preparing his disciples for what is to come after his death.  Jesus has finished his ministry – there is no more teaching the crowds and performing miracles, no more discussions with the religious people in the synagogues, and no more parables.  He had recently spoken of the end times and the signs of times to come.  As Jesus nears the end of his life, his words began to take on a more serious tone.

I took a glance back through the book of Matthew and noticed that the first part of the book is almost completely covered in red-letters showing Jesus’ words and sermons, but now as I look ahead to the remaining few chapters in Matthew I noticeably see that Jesus’ words become less.  His remaining spoken words are to his disciples and to God.  This last Passover becomes symbolic, not because of its ending but because of new beginnings.  Jesus turns this last Passover into the first Lord’s Supper, and He shows the disciples how to celebrate a new covenant and the blood that is to be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus reveals his purpose – the forgiveness of sins.

I once heard Bishop T.D. Jakes ask someone, “How valuable is it to you to be forgiven?”

The person replied with tears in his eyes, “It is everything.”

In Jesus’ Words: Free Will and Hope – the Betrayal at Passover (Matthew 26:17-25)

People often ask, “Why does God allow evil?”  It could also be asked another way, “Why does God allow people to do evil when He knows ahead of time what people will choose and the outcome of their choices?”  And if a person says they do not believe God knows everything ahead of time, then they would be saying God is not all-knowing and not in control.  I don’t think any of us want to believe or follow a God who is not in control or who can be caught by surprise.  So then the question becomes “Why does an all-knowing and in-control God still allow us to do evil?

The standard answer is usually “free will”, but I believe it’s more than just that.  Free will by itself does not guarantee anything or carry any hope.  It just means you are free to make your own choices, but not necessarily that anyone cares about your choices.  But the all-knowing, in-control God is also a God of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  God gives everyone a chance – many chances – to do the right thing, to change their hearts, sometimes even to their last dying breath, no matter what they have done in their past.

This is why God allows our actions and choices.  He never gives up hope on any of us that we can change and choose Him.  And that is why in this next story of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, even he was given a chance though Jesus knowingly could have prevented his actions.

~ Matthew 26:17-25  The Betrayal of Jesus at Passover ~

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover so You may eat it?”

“Go into the city to a certain man,” He said, “and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time is near; I am celebrating the Passover at your place with My disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, He was reclining at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me.”

Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He replied, “The one who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl—he will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

“You have said it,” He told him.

Life.

Life.  That is the only word that comes to my mind at this moment.  I reflect back on the last month or so of changes in my life, also leading me to think back on my childhood and everything else in between, and I have come to this one conclusion: Life.

Life is living – the happy, sad and challenging times.  It is not perfect.  Don’t beat yourself up trying to make it perfect, or even fair.  We have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ, and that is all we need to make sense of our sometimes tangled lives.

Life is relationships.  Put down the stuff.  Jesus Christ was all about relationships.  Jesus did not continue to dwell on our past sins and transgressions, but rather what are we going to do right now.  If you want to have an idea of what God is truly like, just look at Jesus’ life and actions.  Love, relationships, restoration, living.  He never sought fame or things.  Jesus knew what was truly important and lasting in this life.  Only the One claiming to be Son of God Himself could have led such a perfect example.

Life is temporal and eternal.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is for a little while.  Life on this earth will end, and probably unexpectedly.  If that is all there was, it would be terribly unfair and cruel.  But the God of life, love and relationships did not create us that way.  We have a choice.  Choose to follow the God of life.  It makes all the difference at a funeral.

My Dad ~ 1930-2017

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– John the Evangelist, 1 John 5:11-13

I know this testimony is true.  I saw it.

My dad laid in the hospital bed of the Intensive Care Unit after having a massive stroke.  IV tubes and oxygen machines were hooked up to him.  He could correctly answer a few questions while laying there, but his mind seemed to be mostly reminiscent of past times in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He was restless and tried to get out of the bed, pulling off his tubes.  My dad never even wanted to be in a wheelchair so I understood.  He was a Navy veteran and strong to the end.  But there was also something else.

I stood beside my Dad’s hospital bed.  He wasn’t able to move his arms very much or focus on people’s faces.  Then suddenly he began reaching his arms up into the air, to the left of where I was standing, and grasping both hands in an open-and-close movement as if he was trying to hold onto something.  He saw something the rest of us did not.  Maybe it was the angels waiting to take him home, or maybe it was Jesus comforting and speaking to him.  It is life’s great mystery that we will not be privileged to know until it is our time.  But I do want to know the God of eternal life and His Son Jesus at that time.

After that, my Dad was more peaceful.  A few days later he spoke his last words, “Goodnight“, and slipped peacefully into the loving arms of Jesus in heaven.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.”  Then the disciples said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”  So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.  I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
– John 11:11-15

In Jesus’ Words: The woman’s story told around the world (Matthew 26:6-13)

 

We worry and we complain.  We get upset when we are inconvenienced.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in it, and before we know it, the moment in time has passed us by.  But one day, if we are so lucky to live long enough, we will probably see things differently.  The petty arguments, the spilled milk, even the bad grade or that terrible boss, no longer seem to matter.  They are long gone.  It is in the laughter, the beauty, the living in the present, where we begin to cherish what life is really about.  This next story about Jesus is just that.  It is one of the few stories that is mentioned in all four gospels of the Bible, except for the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection.  One reason for the significance of this story is told in Jesus’ own words: “I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

I believe what captures the essence of this story is the pure joy of the moment, epitomizing the true meaning of life, the ultimate show of repentance, and resting in the peaceful presence and forgiveness of Jesus.  Jesus came to restore humanity and to be a light and a path out of the darkness of this world.  This woman knew that.

~ Matthew 26:6-13  Anointing at Bethany ~

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease, a woman approached Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive fragrant oil. She poured it on His head as He was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a noble thing for Me. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me. By pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she has prepared Me for burial. I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

In Jesus’ Words: Heaven and Good Deeds (final part of Olivet Discourse on End Times)-Matthew 25

I read a statistic recently that said about 75% of Americans think “being good” will get them to heaven. That must include a lot of church-going people in that statistic! In response, my analytical mind always wants to ask, “How good do you have to be?”  Is one really good heroic deed enough?  Or does the good have to outnumber the bad – and if so, what is considered bad, because that is equally important to the equation. And do little white lies count as bad?  You get the idea.

Ironically, the statistics on charitable giving and doing is far less than the 75% who think being good will get them to heaven.  Do most people generally think they are a good person, and that in itself will be enough?  If people truly believed good deeds are the way to heaven, then there would be a lot more of it in the world.  I think most people intrinsically know there is something more than just that.

In Jesus’ message below, we should definitely take to heart what He says about caring for the hungry and the sick, but it is to be done as an outcome of our belief and love in Jesus Christ – the One who saves us and genuinely cares for all – and not as a means get to heaven.

Every word and statement in the Bible has meaning, and not a single world is carelessly placed. Right before Jesus’ tells his example about caring for the less-fortunate, He makes this statement in Matthew 25:34: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The kingdom of heaven is a gift from the beginning (salvation), and not based on anything we do ourselves.

~ Matthew 25:31-46  Final part of Olivet Discourse (End Times) preached by Jesus ~

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

*If you are interested in knowing more about who Jesus really is, or how you can have Jesus as a personal friend and Savior for your life, check out the Jesus Booklet series from Godlife.com.