Matthew 26:26-29 Our First Communion
We are enjoying the last Passover celebration with Jesus and His disciples. At this point Judas has left the group to betray Jesus to the religious leaders. It is just Jesus and His most devoted followers now.
During one of Jesus’ previous teachings He told the crowd that unless they eat of His flesh and drink of His blood they would have no part in Him. This was a very hard message to hear for everyone listening that day. Today that message will be acted out for His disciples. I think this symbolism will come as a great relief for His followers. Jesus didn’t mean for them to literally eat Him.
Jesus paused in the middle of the meal and got everyone’s attention. This was probably an easy task as these men hung on every word their Lord said. He waited until the room was quiet and all eyes were on Him. Then He picked up a piece of matzo bread and held it in His hands. Jesus then prayed a blessing over this bread. We are not told what He said but I’m betting it was more than “Bless this food to our bodies.” It may have been one of the traditional prayers/blessings that were offered throughout the Passover meal, but I would not be surprised to learn that He prayed a special pointed prayer instead. A prayer that identified each of His disciples and their struggles. A prayer for blessings of strength for His devout followers during the next few days. A request for wisdom and understanding of the significance of what He was about to do. A blessing of the beginnings for their spiritual awakening to all that was about to transpire.
After Jesus finished His prayer He tore/broke the bread into pieces, handing each of His disciples a piece. As He was passing out the pieces He told them of the bread’s significance. “Take this and eat it. It represents my body, which will very soon be broken for your sake.”
Did the disciples’ memories flash back to the lesson we mentioned earlier? Did they hesitate before eating the bread to think about what He was asking them to do? Did they wait until all had received from Him before eating their own piece? Did any of them desire more “of Him?”
Jesus next picked up the cup. There are four cups of wine served with the Passover feast. Each one has a specific meaning. I looked them up on Google, of course, and Chabad.org had an explanation for me. Not being Jewish I also looked up the prayers that went with each cup. Check it out if you too are interested. Looking at the meanings for each cup, if Jesus used one of these cups for His new observance, I would expect it to be the one for redemption (the third cup). Whichever cup Jesus used, He made it special to us when He made it the symbol of a new covenant with Him. Jesus pronounced another blessing of thanks over this cup. He again probably created His own personal prayer of blessing, apart from the traditional prayers offered during Passover. He wanted this blessing to stand in His disciples’ hearts forever.
After He blessed the cup He passed it to each of those present. As He passed it to His disciples He said, “Drink of this cup, all of you. This cup is a representation of my blood which is about to be poured out for your sake. Through my blood will flow forgiveness of sins.” As the cup is passing around the table Jesus makes one more statement. Jesus says that He will not drink again of this wine until He does so with all the disciples while in His Father’s Kingdom.
Two days prior Jesus had told His disciples that in two days He would be killed. Now He is saying He will not drink wine again until He does so in Heaven. Did the disciples understand the significance of what these statements meant? Did they understand that He was just a few short hours away from the death He was alluding to, or did they gloss over it and hope His statements were figurative instead?
Did Jesus eat the bread and drink from the cup Himself? Did He receive it first? Did He wait until all had been served before taking some for Himself? As it was His body and blood, He didn’t need to take in any to be part of it, but did He imbibe anyway?
Lord Jesus, I cannot begin to understand the complex emotions running through You during this meal. On the one hand, You were celebrating a day with Your disciples that represented everything You had come to accomplish; the redemption of man. On the other hand, You were sharing a meal with the very man who would lead Your murderers right to You. You were also leaving Your disciples with one of the most precious and meaningful memories You could give them. They didn’t understand it, but that didn’t keep You from delivering it to them. You cared for them more than they ever could imagine.
I would love to sit with You and talk about that last meal when we finally meet face to face. What were Your disciples thinking as You kept talking about Your death. Did they figuratively plug their ears, as I sometimes do when You say things to me I don’t want to hear? Did they “ponder them in their heart”, like Mary did? Were the women who traveled with You present at this supper? Did they partake in this special commemoration? Lord, never let me take for granted the meaning behind communion. You gave EVERYTHING for my sake. Thank You for Your amazing love and thank You for this commemorative ceremony. Let me never get so wrapped up in the ceremonial trappings that I forget the underlying reason behind it.