Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Weds in Pent 25, 13 Nov, 2013

Sermon for Weds in Pent 25, 13 Nov, 2013

Matthew 26:20-35

Heavenly Host, 2013

Note: this is perhaps the most theologically dense sermon I’ve ever put together on the Lord’s Supper.  I was remarking to one of the saints here last week that I continue to learn things.  I learned this week about the four cups in the Passover meal and perhaps even more meaning to Jesus blessing the third cup but abstaining from the fourth.  And I learned about the Hallel psalms.  When I read the last lines in the study, a shiver went up my back to think this is what they were singing on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  As usual, the audio of the sermon can be heard by clicking the triangle in the embedded player below. 

Jews celebrate Passover annually and Christians celebrate Holy Communion, or if we pay attention to the Greek verbs here Hoc esteucharisto,“to give thanks” the Eucharist, on the Lord’s Day.  And that may be the distinction in a comparative religion class but there’s something far more profound going happening here at the disciples’ last Passover with Jesus.

We are very certain that this was a Passover meal, a Seder, from a number of clues in the account given not just by Matthew but by Mark and Luke as well.  It was evening.  The Passover does not begin until sundown.  But there are others, dipping bread into the sauce dish fits the Passover, especially if it was the sauce of bitter herbs and vinegar or salt water.  How ironic that the one who dips into the dish of bitterness is causing such great pain and suffering.  It should be lost on no one that all the disciples think themselves capable of betraying the Lord.  “Surely you don’t mean me, do you Lord?”  The question expects a negative answer, but they all know what lurks down below their façades of piety.  Judas is not alone.  Peter is angry that the Lord keeps talking about His coming death.  Thomas maybe understands a third of what’s going on if John’s account tells us anything.  Judas has conspired against the Lord to betray him at a moment out of sight of the crowds but they all think it’s possible the betrayer could be them.  If it were us gathered around that table that night, we would be no different.  And woe to him who betrays the Lord.  It would have been better for Judas to not have ever been born than betray Jesus, commit suicide, and die without faith.  And yet it is necessary to God’s plan.

It is true that it is necessary for the Son of Man to be betrayed; it is part of God’s plan and yet Judas still bears his own guilt for his treason.  By the will of God, His redemption plan is brought to fulfillment.  By the evil heart of a man is another betrayed to injustice for a profit.  While Judas is part of the plan, he is still to blame.  Even in the aftermath, Judas was overcome by guilt and despair.  If only Judas had not doubted that Jesus had died for his sins too.  Poor Judas.  He’s the only one who calls Jesus, “Rabbi” in Matthew’s Gospel, never does he call Jesus, “Lord.”  Jesus’ lament is an echo of Ps. 41:9, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”  But remember, Judas is not alone.  They have all dipped their bread.  And Judas’ shamelessness is the first of the lines bracketing the Lord’s words of institution , the end bracket is the boast of the one who would deny Jesus three times before morning.  If we were there, it would be no different.  Because that’s who are invited to the Lord’s table, those who see themselves as men and women no different from the disciples except perhaps who know the rest of the story and trust that the one who speaks these words, “given and shed for you” still invites and still freely offers His fellowship and forgiveness.

Our Lord took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it.  He gives thanks for the cup, eucharisto, to teach us how we should celebrate this Sacrament and to show that He knows what darkness awaits Him in the garden and He goes to it willingly for us.  We should note that as familiar with the Passover ritual all them had been, no one had ever taken the bread and said, “this is my body”.  Only with the hindsight of the resurrection did they begin to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:31).  The bread broken has sacrificial overtones that we should not overlook.  “Is” means, “is.”  It is His body.  How?  By His Word.  By the same word that called all things into being and that called us to new life, the bread is His body.  To say any more is to speculate.  To say any less is to deny.  “Take and eat; this is my body.  Take and drink; this is my blood, given and shed for you.”

Remember, this is a Passover meal.  Whatever this new meal is, Jesus links it to the redemption history of God.  “As the bread has just been broken, so will Jesus’ body be broken; and just as the people of Israel associated their deliverance from Egypt with eating the paschal meal prescribed as a divine ordinance, so also Messiah’s people are to associate Jesus’ redemptive death with eating this bread by Jesus’ authority.” [1]

Jesus gave the cup too.  Thus the practice of withholding the cup from the people in the medieval church was an error and an abuse without precedent in Scripture.  “This is My blood of the covenant.”  Blood and covenant are found together in only two places in the OT.  Exodus 24:8.  “And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”  And Zechariah 9:11, “As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”  This means that Jesus understands that the violent death He is about to suffer is the ratification of God’s new covenant with His people sealed in His blood.  The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross is the event through which the Messiah saves His people from their sins and is the covenant creating action that bestows blessing and protection on the people by God’s own hand.  Jewish sources from this era, [The Mishnah (Pesaḥ. 10:6)] used Exodus 24:8 to interpret the Passover wine as a metaphor for blood that seals a covenant between God and his people.[2]  They had expected a new covenant with God.  It had been prophesied by Zechariah and before him, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant.

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:31-34)

One can come to no other honest conclusion except that Jesus understands the covenant He is introducing is the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and the perfected fulfillment of the Sinai covenant of which it was but a forerunner.  Jesus’ sacrifice is thus foretold not only in the prophetic Word but in the very redemption history of Israel.  The exodus from Egypt becomes a precursor of a new and greater deliverance; and as the people of God in the OT prospectively celebrated in the first Passover their escape from Egypt, anticipating their arrival in the Promised Land, so the people of God here prospectively celebrate their deliverance from sin and bondage, anticipating the coming kingdom of the Lord.[3]

Remember, this is a Passover meal.  So “just as the first Passover looks forward not only to deliverance but to settlement in the land, so also the Lord’s Supper looks forward to deliverance and life in the consummated kingdom. The disciples will keep this celebration until Jesus comes (cf. 1 Co 11:26); but Jesus will not participate in it with them until the consummation, when he will sit down with them at the messianic banquet (Isa 25:6; 1 En. 72:14; see comments at 8:11; cf. Lk 22:29–30) in his Father’s kingdom, which is equally Jesus’ kingdom (cf. Lk 22:16, 18, 29–30; see comments at 16:28; 25:31, 34). This point is greatly strengthened if we assume that Jesus speaks after drinking the fourth cup (see comments at v. 17).[4]

The four cups were meant to correspond to the fourfold promise of Exodus 6:6–7.

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and [1.] I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and [2.] I will deliver you from slavery to them, and [3.] I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 [4.] I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

If each of the four cups of the Passover meal correspond to the four promises, “the third cup, the “cup of blessing” used by Jesus in the words of institution, is thus associated with redemption (Ex 6:6); but the fourth cup corresponds to the promise “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God” (Ex 6:7; cf. Daube, New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 330–31; Lane, Mark, 508–9). Thus Jesus is simultaneously pledging that he will drink the “bitter cup” immediately ahead of him and vowing not to drink the cup of consummation, the cup that promises the divine presence, until the kingdom in all its fullness has been ushered in. Then he will drink the cup with his people. This is a veiled farewell and implies a sustained absence. The Lord’s Supper, therefore, points both to the past and to the future, both to Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary and to the messianic banquet.[5]

The hymn sung after the Passover was the last part of the Hallel, Psalms 114-118, the last verses of which are these:

22   The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

23   This is the Lord’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

24   This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25   Save us, we pray, O Lord!

O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26   Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

27   The Lord is God,

and he has made his light to shine upon us.

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,

up to the horns of the altar!

28   You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

you are my God; I will extol you.

29   Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever! [6]

In this way, “Christ takes Passover apart and fulfills it and recreates in its place a new and greater Passover, His Supper.  He continues to give His body and His blood for us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins whenever we come to His Table.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for His righteousness![7]

“Lord, Jesus Christ, You have prepared This feast for our salvation.” Amen. (LSB 622:1)


[1] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 601.

[2] Ibid, 602–603.

[3] Ibid, 603.

[4] Ibid, 604.

[5] Ibid, 604.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 118:1–29.

[7] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 1641–1642.

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