Matthew

Matthew 26 Part 1: The Lord’s Supper

For the text of this chapter, click here.

This is a rather longish chapter that has so much going on in it. It begins the Easter story, which is the most familiar parts of the whole Bible, even for people who aren’t Christian. Okay, maybe the second most familiar. Christmas is a pretty big deal for even nonbelievers and who doesn’t love a little Nativity set? It does drive me a little crazy, but let’s not get distracted.

The very first thing to happen in the chapter is the plot to kill Jesus. They’d gone from just trying to stump him to a murder plot. I’m sure there was a whole lot of shady things happening in the background that isn’t really a part of this story that makes it a little less sudden, but here we are. Jesus is teaching at the very end of chapter 25 and then suddenly, there’s a plot to kill Him. The strangest thing about all this is that Jesus is the first one to bring it up. He finishes teaching and then looks at his disciples and tells them that it’s going to happen soon and right after Passover. For a quick review of the significance of Passover, click here.

The next paragraph is that background scene where the decision is made “in the palace of the high priest”. That just hits me in a Illuminati-putting-a-hit-out-on-someone kind of way. The only bit of reason they seem to see is to decide against doing it during the feast for Passover to avoid a riot. I’m not sure here if the riot is the likely result of trying to arrest someone in the middle of Passover or specifically trying to arrest Jesus just then. I can only imagine that if it were about Jesus, the meal itself would have been the least of their concerns, but also they wanted to do it in stealth which is harder to do on a holiday when He’d be eating with a bunch of people.

After they’ve hatched the plot, the text comes back to what Jesus was doing at that time. He was with Simon the leper, who it doesn’t say here that He healed but seems like a decent assumption based on the other healings. A woman comes and anoints Him with some very expensive ointment.  I get both the beautiful gesture and the way that the disciples reacted. Jesus is trying to take a little on His last day and thanks her and admonishes the disciples for being upset about it. He’s already told them that He was going to be crucified soon and they were still not in the proper mindset about what was going to happen. This woman on the other hand, recognized that there was a limited time to do things for Jesus, even not knowing how limited the time was. I find it interesting the way that the disciples, like so many people do, keep getting caught up in this or that piece of the teaching and miss the intent. I feel like we all still do that quite a bit and it makes it hard to anticipate whether we’re ever doing the right thing. But it also goes back to the saying about someone’s heart being in the right place and all the times God has looked more at the heart than the action. Their hearts were in the right place too, they just weren’t getting the difference.

From there the chapter continues to where Judas agrees to do the deed and the money is paid before getting to the meal. The meal again, is one of those areas that we see over and over again, reading it every year in church and always featured in movies about Jesus. He tells them that someone will betray Him and everyone asks if it will be them, even Judas who just agreed to do it and He hints at it to everyone besides Judas, who He just admits that He knows to. It’s interesting that He just agrees to Judas that He knows and that Judas even bothers to ask. Also, was no one else listening when Judas asked? If not, what was the point? He already knew he was going to do it. He’d been paid even, which makes more sense out of that piece of the Last Supper mural because I had always thought that came after. I would understand asking if everyone was doing it and he didn’t want to be suspicious, but Jesus agreed that it would be him and none of the other disciples noticed?

Jesus performs the ritual that would come to be known as Lord’s Supper for the first time, mentioning the body and the “blood of the covenant”. Looking back on the original covenant with Abraham, there was always some blood involved. Originally it had been the blood that would come with circumcision, making it a distinctly male thing too. The women came along with it but had no sign. Then there were renewals of the covenant, sometimes just ritually, sometimes with sacrifices. I found the way that the making of a new covenant along with the big sacrifice and the big forgiveness particularly interesting after having read through all those renewals before. I’ve heard people talk before about the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament and it just convinces me that He knew that sacrifice wasn’t getting the job done any more and something new had to happen. One big sacrifice to fulfill that requirement that He had set so long ago, and then a new covenant sealed with blood that can be more readily returned to. The world was also coming to a place where not everyone had access to the things they needed to fulfill the sacrifices the way they had in the time it originated.

Not too long ago, I read and enjoyed A Short History of Myth which mentioned something interesting about the Lord’s Supper. It mentioned that myths and the rituals that spring from them are a part of our everyday lives and that this is why some religious rituals are forgotten and some are remembered for centuries. I don’t generally appreciate the way people lump religion and mythology together sometimes because it does feel disrespectful of those faiths that are still practicing to group them in with those that are no longer believed at all. I do appreciate the way Karen Armstrong described myths and rituals and why they do or don’t work with even the religions we still practice. The Lord’s Supper gave people a myth and a ritual that stayed close to them. If we practice the Lord’s Supper at every meal, breaking the bread and drinking the wine, then Jesus and God are an ever-present part of our lives in a way that is simply not practiced anymore. But it does recall all those things from social studies classes about Christians of many eras and the enthusiasm with which they practiced their religion and believed, though unfortunately also persecuted others.

The point is just that when we bring in these kinds of rituals, we allow the story to be a part of us now and not just something that happened then. We are every day a part of the body of Christ rather than just on Sundays or just the first Sunday or just every Easter. It makes me wonder about the way that changes our perspectives on what we do and how we see things as God’s problem to fix or something God wants me to fix. I do feel sometimes like we don’t take actions because God let’s this happen and therefore He either wants it to happen or can’t stop it rather than that God put me in front of it to deal with it and be a part of His body that fixes the world that people kind of broke way back in Eden. Yes, it’s a thought that I can turn around and around on and never really feel like I’ve come to a good answer. That’s part of the beauty and the frustration with the Bible I think, it’s a part of what makes it eternal while somehow never actually having the specific answer I’m looking for today. 

And now that I’m only half way through this chapter but still have so much to say, I’m going to call this part 1 and see you next week!


For downloadable study guides, click here.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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