Matthew 26, pt. 2: The Lord’s Supper & Gethsemane: Jesus Prepares the Disciples & Us

Tonight we will be reading verses 26-46 of Matthew chapter 26. Last week we saw Jesus get anointed for His burial with expensive oil and He also identified Judas as His betrayer. Our passage tonight begins with Jesus establishing the Lord’s Supper. 

In verses 26-30, Jesus takes bread and fruit of the vine (grape juice) and blesses them, then shares them with the disciples. For the bread He says: “Take, eat; this is My body.” For the fruit of the vine He says: “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” This is how the Lord’s Supper is established. 

What is the Lord’s Supper? It is a spiritual exercise that believers engage in every Sunday to remember the sacrifice Christ gave so that we could have forgiveness of our sins. Christ needed to die to appease God’s wrath at mankind’s disobedience. We see the manifestation of God’s grace through the mixture of His wrath and His love for us. 

In other words, our sin greatly displeases God to the point where he is desirous to punish us: not unlike how He punished the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the disobedient people in Noah’s time. However, God’s great love for mankind (we are His creation, His children) compelled Him to send His only Son Jesus to earth to die as a sacrifice for our sins: this is the fundamental truth upon which the totality of our faith rests. And the fact that Jesus is resurrected from the dead on the third day after His death finalizes the act because it is ultimate proof of His divinity. God tried to warn people in the past to resist temptation and to be righteous, but the words of the prophets through whom He spoke were insufficient. Thus did God send Jesus to die for our sins. 

Consider this passage from Hebrews 1:1-3: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

We eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine every Sunday to remember Christ’s sacrifice. Eating symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood remind us that He was once on Earth, breathing the same air, walking under the same sky, experiencing the same temptations as mankind has since the garden of Eden. He was here and He sacrificed His body for us, only to come alive again.

All this serves to make the point that Christ established this activity of taking the Lord’s Supper during the Passover feast with His disciples. Jesus knew His death was coming. Through the establishment of the Lord’s Supper, He was not only preparing the disciples for His death, He was preparing us too.

Verses 31-35 show Peter and all the disciples pledging their faith to Jesus even as He tells them that they will flee when their faith is tested that very night. They will not support Him, but they will flee as scattered sheep when there is a threat present. Peter is particularly vehement that he will never stumble nor deny Him. But Jesus knows better. Peter’s faith and proclamations are admirable, but when he does deny Christ, it is a lesson for each of us to be humble in our faith; that we are not often as strong as we would consider ourselves to be.

Verses 36-46 show us the heartbreaking prayer at Gethsemane. Last week we talked about Jesus’s strength and composure in light of the knowledge of His upcoming death. This night we see Jesus at His lowest. When He and the disciples depart to Gethsemane, Jesus directs most of His disciples to sit in one place, but asks Peter and two others to join and watch with Him in a garden close by. He prays.

In between times of prayer, Jesus is disappointed that the three disciples He brought with Him cannot watch the night for dangers with Him due to their sleepiness. This happens twice before Judas betrays Him to a mob with weapons. 

But the bigger consideration to make here is the content of Jesus’s prayers. He prays earnestly to God for another way. He sees His upcoming death and asks God that this task not be fulfilled by Him unless it is God’s will. He prayed this three times and at the end of the third time, as He is once more chastising the three disciples for not being able to watch with Him, He hears Judas coming. He knows that He is about to be handed over to the authorities. 

Jesus’s example is absolutely ideal for us. Mankind is so very far from perfect, which includes the idea that knowing what the right thing is to do and actually doing it are separate. Jesus knew what He had to do, yet He prayed for a way out in that moment. Does this mean He was weak? Sacreligious? Blasphemous? Not at all. It means He was a human. Christ is divinity, God’s Son in the flesh, and it was His being a man in that moment that made Him pray to God that the task pass from Him. This fact itself allows us to identify with our Savior. 

Jesus was a man, yet more than a man while He was here. Jesus is God, yet less than God while He was here. His perfect submission to God in the midst of His conflicting emotions can supply for us no better example. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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