The text for this lesson is Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–23.
- In, with, and under bread and wine, Jesus shares His very body and blood with His followers.
- Law: I betray my Lord when I sin.
- Gospel: Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. With His very body and blood, He grants me forgiveness, life, and salvation.
It’s no accident that Jesus chooses the Passover in Jerusalem as the backdrop to institute the Lord’s Supper. Passover was—and is—the high point of the Jewish year. Jewish people from all over the region traveled for weeks to be present in the holy city to celebrate this event. The Bible records that Gentiles came from far and wide to learn of and experience the Passover: Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, to name a few. Passover commemorates God’s work to deliver the people of Israel from bitter slavery in Egypt. Following multiple plagues and contentious encounters with Pharaoh, God sent His most harrowing curse of all to break the will of the Egyptian king. God would take the life of the firstborn of every household, unless lamb’s blood was found painted on the lintel and doorpost. In such a case, death would “pass over.”
However, not just any lamb would do. Year-old males without defect were required. Such animals had great value, being young, unblemished by exposure to other animals, and without injuries or deformities of any sort. Israel was to offer their best to God. Our Lord didn’t need the animals. Rather, such a sacrifice was to point to the coming sacrifice, Jesus Christ—the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
So, on this night, when Jerusalem was buzzing with celebration over lambs’ blood on doorposts and liberation, Jesus, the lamb without defect, instituted the Lord’s Supper, in which He gives His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and fortification of faith. Like the Passover lamb, soon Jesus’ life will be required. He will surrender to the chief priests and teachers of the law. He will be flogged and nailed to a cross. His precious blood will be spread on wood, but not that of a doorpost; rather, a Roman cross—the instrument of His unjust murder and our redemption.
It’s tempting for us to read of Jesus’ last few hours leading up to His crucifixion and to judge His disciples harshly. We are shocked to read that Peter would deny His Savior three times so quickly after pledging his commitment even to death. We are disappointed in the disciples who ran from Jesus’ side in the Garden of Gethsemane when He needed them most. Perhaps most commonly, we condemn Judas for selling Jesus into death for silver. How could this man sit at table with Jesus and share this meal? Certainly, Judas sinned against Jesus. However, we also betray Jesus every time we sin. We reject the new life He purchased for us on the cross. We fail to embrace His calling in our lives.
Despite our failure, God just keeps on giving. Jesus gave the Lord’s Supper knowing what He was about to do on the cross. He shed His blood on a Roman cross to make full payment for humanity’s debt of sin. God gave the Old Testament Israelites the Passover so they would remember His work on their behalf from generation to generation. God the Son gave the Lord’s Supper so we would not merely remember but would also receive the benefits of His work on the cross two thousand years ago. Christ died and rose again to make peace with God. Blood was shed. Nothing else is needed. Each time we receive Holy Communion, we partake in the true crucified and risen body and blood of the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.
God’s Holy Spirit prompts us to receive this salutary meal, and by it, God will sustain us in faith until He completes the work He began in our Baptism and takes us to our heavenly home.