With the eleven disciples and Jesus enjoying the Passover Feast, Shulchan Orech, it would be expected, as part of the traditional ‘Seder’, bread would be broken. A half-matzah, flatbread, “hidden” earlier and set aside for the “dessert” is taken out and eaten. It symbolizes the Paschal lamb eaten by the Jewish ancestors at the first Passover. Subsequently, ‘grace after meals’ is said, a cup of wine is drunk and blessings are said. The whole evening draws towards a conclusion with the singing of Psalms 113 – 118.
Matthew in these few paragraphs is opening our eyes to a new sacrament instituted by Jesus changing the focus of the celebration. In a short time, the longstanding image of a sacrificed lamb will have run its course and left obsolete as Jesus, the Lamb of God, will shed His blood once and for all, ‘taking away the sin of the world’. The Passover for centuries had pointed towards Jesus as the solitary all-sufficient sacrifice for sin, while this new sacrament, we now know as ‘The Lord’s Supper’, will point back to a hill called ‘Golgotha’ just outside Jerusalem where the master became our propitiation in the presence of God.
During the Seder, a flatbread, previously hidden from view, now comes front and centre speaking to us of the journey of the master. His revealing awaited and anticipated for so long by so many and now he stands before them for all to see, his ‘time had come’. Jesus is saying, you were facing eternal death but I am giving my body and spilling my blood as a sacrifice in your place. Jesus became as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian believers: ‘our Passover (Paschal) lamb’, who ‘has been sacrificed’.(1 Cor 5:7) Eating the bread and drinking the wine now reminds us of Jesus’ complete and finished sacrifice for all our sin.
The Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church puts it like this: “Whereas otherwise you should have suffered eternal death, I gave my body in death on the tree of the cross and shed my blood for you, and nourish and refresh your hungry and thirsty souls with my crucified body and shed blood to everlasting life, as certainly as the bread is broken before your eyes and this cup is given to you, and you eat and drink with your mouth, do it in remembrance of Me.”
It was our Lord’s utmost longing that we, His Church, should vividly recollect his sacrifice and intensely love him. His desire is that we should recall his surrender and grip him by faith and live in continual joyful anticipation of his glorious return. Matthew tells us they sang a hymn and departed for the Mount of Olives where Jesus will share intimate moments with God the Father before experiencing the treachery of a one-time friend. The ‘hymn’ is likely to be one if not all of the Psalms which were part of the Seder and it seems rather poignant yet encouraging that Jesus may well have these words in his heart as he stepped out into the night.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!…. 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord: the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes….. 14 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. – From Psalm 118
In closing the Seder the guests would usually say “Leshanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem! But Jesus is clear, the next time will be ‘in my Fathers Kingdom’. The Lord’s supper does not only point back to the cross, it also points forward to the glorious reunion and perpetual celebrations awaiting His rescued and redeemed people.
At some point today take some time out to pause, remember Jesus sacrifice and his future coming through the act of ‘communion’ or ‘Lords Supper’ as instituted by Jesus. It is better if this can be celebrated together with another person. If you live alone maybe you could connect with someone through zoom etc. But nevertheless, ensure you take a few moments to remember. Here is a prayer from a website called ‘Crosswalk’.
As I take the bread representing Your life that was broken for me, I remember and celebrate Your faithfulness to me and to all who will receive You. I can’t begin to fathom the agonizing suffering of Your crucifixion. Yet You took that pain for me. You died for me! Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for Your extravagant love and unmerited favour. Thank You that Your death gave me life—abundant life now, and eternal life forever. As You instructed Your disciples, I, too, receive this bread in remembrance of You.
And in the same way, as I take this cup representing Your blood poured out from a splintered cross, I realize that You were the supreme sacrifice for all my sin: past, present, and future. Because of Your blood shed for me, and Your body broken for me, I can be free from the power and penalty of sin. Thank You for Your victory over death. You took the death that I deserved. You took my punishment. Your pain was indeed my gain. And today I remember and celebrate the precious gift of life You gave me through the blood that You spilled.
But while my relationship is secure with you, I know sin can break our fellowship at times. I’m still human, and I often forget who I am and Whose I am. You want to convict and correct me, not shame me. You love me like a perfect parent. You’ll never disown me or leave me. You love me no matter what. But sin hurts both my heart and Yours. So, before I take communion today, I’m asking You to truly search my heart and reveal hidden things for which to ask Your forgiveness.
Each time I take communion, Lord, I want to recommit my life, my heart, my thoughts, my everything to You. Fill me today with Your powerful Spirit. As I leave this place, help me to hold this fresh remembrance and the story that never grows old close to my heart. Help me to share its message faithfully as You give opportunity.
In Your Precious name,
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series