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.

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: Tale of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)

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Which one of these is right?  A person who is disagreeable and untrustworthy but eventually does the right thing, or someone who is polite and respectable but does not do what they say?

This is the question Jesus presented to the religious Pharisees in his parable of the two sons.  But once again the religious leaders were unable to trick Jesus or fully answer his questions, and it infuriated them.

~ Matthew 21:28-32  Parable of Two Sons ~

“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’

 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went.  Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.

“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.

 “Which of the two did his father’s will?”

“The first,” they said.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.”

In this story, both sons had the same father (God).  The first son represented the despised sinners of the day – prostitutes, adulterers and thieves.  Many of these people were attracted to Jesus.  He offered them hope and redemption, and they repented.  The second son represented the religious leaders of the day.  They loved their world and power more than their faith or finding the truth.  They spoke well, but did not back up their words with actions.

This is a recurring theme with Jesus, where he says sinners will enter the kingdom of heaven before the religious hypocrites.  Imagine… a heaven full of repentful sinners.  And for all those Pharisees and others who worked so hard for their status, where did it get them in the end?

The prophet Haggai also spoke of a similar situation to the Jewish people in 520 BC.

The Lord of Hosts says, “Consider your ways!”
You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”
– from the book of Haggai, chapter 1

How often do we find ourselves in this situation today?  We are keeping up appearances and working hard, but it is toward the wrong things and it gets us nowhere.  Jesus is urging us instead to do God’s will, which is simply seeking the heart of God and His truth.  It’s as simple as that.  It is not being showy or working extra hard.  It is putting others first over our own selfish motives.  It is desiring the truth and being sincere in our heart.  These are things each of us can do every day, and in the end, we will be better off for it.

In Jesus’ Words: Anger (Matthew 21:12-13)

jesus_and_moneychangers~ Matthew 21:12-13  Cleansing the Temple ~

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!”

Until now in the gospel of Matthew, the disciple and author Matthew has shown us Jesus’ magnificent compassion for the people, his miracles and healing, and has given us his great Sermon on the Mount.  But now we come to a more serious Jesus.  He is angry at what is taking place in God’s temple.  The gospel of John also records another similar event in which Jesus “makes a whip out of cords” and uses it to drive out the money changers.  Can you imagine Jesus quietly but deliberately putting together a whip?  This passage brings up many things to think about – the reverence of God’s temple (church), the authority that Jesus showed in carrying out these things, and the thought of God being angry, as demonstrated through His Son Jesus.  I have chosen to discuss the latter one – God’s anger and what does it mean.

Though this was a small demonstration with Jesus, the idea of God’s anger or wrath is perplexing to many, and sometimes uncomfortable.  But if you read the accounts of evil that took place in the Old Testament, you may ask why God has not done more. The enemies of God during that time were so evil that we can barely imagine it today. They cut off their captives hands and feet, gouged their eyes, filleted them and skinned them alive, sacrificed their own children to the gods, and even cut off the heads of children and made their parents wear their children’s heads on a rope around their necks. Unbelievable evil. The prophet Habakuk gives us a glimpse of this in his prayer in Habakuk chapter 1.

Why do You force me to look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Oppression and violence are right in front of me.
Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil,
and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

The prophet Nahum also sums it up nicely: “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power.” (Nahum 1:3)

First, we must recognize there is a higher power that created us and we are not of our own to do just anything we please in this world.  Ironically, as much as we might like to think we have control of our own destiny, there is so much more out of our control in this world – sickness, death, injustice.

Secondly, God hates evil and the effect it has had on his beloved creation. Evil (or sin) cannot dwell with God.  It is not who He is.  Otherwise God would be less holy and less trustworthy.

Third, God’s Old Testament wrath or anger is meant as a warning to keep us from falling into a deceitful trap which God knows is not the best for us.

Finally, through these warnings, God is drawing us to Jesus so that we may recognize our need for repentance and a Savior, and not have to experience God’s future judgment on sin and evil. This is why the birth of Jesus was such a celebrated celestial event! God’s promise to the world had finally come. Jesus changed the world. We no longer live in Old Testament times. God’s wrath and anger on evil was directed to the cross, where Jesus took our punishment. God wants to redeem us, to forgive us, and to bring us close to Him. But we cannot do that on our own. It is not a system of tallying up our rights and wrongs, or making sure we never make a mistake. That really would be a terrifying and unfair way to live. But instead God has given us a Savior who can fight the evil for us and fight our battles. With Jesus by our side, we never have to be afraid of anything in this world or the next. We are sealed with God forever. We are forgiven no matter what – past, present and future.

While it may seem scary or uncomfortable to think about hell and therefore how we can avoid it, it is much scarier to not think about it at all and leave our lives up to chance.

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