Remembering Christ by pressing forward, marching on
Matthew 26: 17-30 – The Last Supper
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
“When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Editor’s note: This is part four of a Journey to the Cross devotion from April 5 on Palm Sunday through April 12 on Easter. It includes a scripture reading from the gospels as we walk with Jesus. Please join me each morning when a new devotion is posted.
Journey to the Cross – No. 4 – April 8, 2020
Exodus 12 explains the first Passover. It’s a night of terrible death and fear. It’s a night of liberation and salvation for God’s chosen people.
It concludes with a stern warning that this day is never to be forgotten.
It’s a day of remembrance as a festival to the Lord. Generations shall observe this day as a perpetual ordinance.
That’s what Jesus is celebrating with the disciples the day prior to his crucifixion. We’re to remember the Christian Passover – Christ’s death and resurrection – through the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.
As a child, I served as an altar boy in the Catholic Church. The attention to detail in the service of communion was rigid and reverent.
We dressed in robes and were responsible for placing the wine (no grape juice) in small glass carafes with removeable stoppers.
The communion wafers were enclosed in the tabernacle in the back of the altar, only to be handled by the priests. Each time we walked past, we bowed or genuflected while making the sign of the cross.
Each time during mass when the priest broke the body and lifted the cup, altar boys rang bells to signify the consecration of the bread and wine taking place.
In the early years of the church, it also alerted the monks in the fields that when they heard the bells they would pause and pray.
When congregants came forward, we would place a round gold plate underneath the hands of the priest and the person receiving communion to catch the wafer in case it was dropped by mistake.
In five years as an altar boy, it happened once. The three of us – the priest, the person receiving it and I were shocked – and the priest picked it off the plate and then administered the wafer to the person.
If you were assigned a Sunday, you may have to serve as altar boy for several masses in a row. At our church, there were four masses on Sundays beginning at 7 a.m.
But it was very somber learning experience growing up. Communion meant more to me then rather than years later as Catholic congregant when it often developed into a rote memory exercise rather than a moment of true significance.
It wasn’t until after I attended the Walk to Emmaus spiritual experience – where you partake in communion each day – that the fire in my heart for this sacrament was re-lit. The week after, my heart was pondering … what do you mean we can’t have communion every day?!
We can learn from what takes place in Passover and the Last Supper. It marks a beginning and being ready to move and learn. The Passover marks the start of a new year for Hebrews while also marking the beginning of a new life free from bondage.
In like manner, the Lord's Supper, is the beginning of new life in Christ as the old life of sin was forgiven and blotted out with His sacrifice.
And, for the Israelites to be delivered, they must be travelers ready to move. Everything, they do is characteristic of being ready to leave.
For their food, they are to select a lamb or goat and to roast it over an open fire, where no utensils or boiling water is needed.
They are to eat unleavened bread, because there’s not time for it to rise, and their spices are bitter herbs pulled from the ground.
Their loins are to be girded, that is, their long robes are to be gathered up about their hips and tied there with a belt, so they can walk freely.
Their feet are to be shod for walking, and they are to have their hiking staffs in hand, ready for departure. They are to be prepared for a journey.
We must be prepared for a journey in Christ.
As Christians – maybe now more than ever with a coronavirus crisis that has upended church life – we must be ready to be on the move. The Christian life is never static.
There’s no acceptance of the status quo, the same-old, same-old.
If you are not moving closer to God … you are moving further away.
In seeing social media posts from many, it appears people are taking advantage of this time for renewed bible reading and studying.
Will these quarantined days prompt people who may never pick up the Bible to open it up and seek Him?
We need to be pressing forward toward God's goal for us.
Do you have a plan for your spiritual life in the coming year? What goals do you have set for yourself? What hurdles do you want to conquer?
What do you mean you don’t have any goals for your spiritual life?
We take long hours to plan our next family vacation.
And, some of you may be doing that now because you know you will be a stir-crazy sitting in the same place for such a long period.
Where should you go? Where do you stay? How do you get there? What do you bring? What do you want to see? Where do you eat?
But we don’t spend same attention to detail on our spiritual journeys?
God never lets us remain just as we are. He wants us to know more about His words revealed – enlarging our knowledge of the Lord as we put it into practice.
God sees His beloved people as agents in the world who desperately need to share His forgiveness and new life with others.
Moses and Aaron were given instructions on how to observe the Passover.
If we have any hope of moving forward in our spiritual journeys, we must prepare and practice for any hope of reaching our destination.
The wine (grape juice) during communion signifies Christ’s blood.
What does the blood of Jesus Christ mean in your life? Blood in our human bodies determines whether we live or die. Blood is also the deciding factor with Jewish people on their door posts. If there’s no blood found on the doorposts, death is the consequence.
Our life depends not on the giving our blood, but on the shedding of blood. For the Passover, it was the blood of a lamb or goat. For Christians, it is the blood of Jesus that saves us. Like the Israelites prepared to depart Egypt – God "passed over" and delivers us as Christians.
He's done so in the cross and resurrection of his Son. Through Jesus Christ, you and I have been delivered from our slavery to sin and death.
And we, like that first people of God, are on the journey to a promised land – not a land flowing of milk and honey but the Kingdom of God. Christ is the food for our souls.
What are you feeding on?
In the 1960s at Yellowstone National Park, tourists could drive up to a bear, roll down a window and feed hamburgers to the hungry animal.
The bears would gladly take the burgers out of the hands of tourists. Their feeding habits began changing and endangered visitors because the bears became more aggressive.
The National Park Service removed the bears and took them to higher ground where God had already provided them a natural diet of berries.
However, they had changed their feeding patterns, many of them refused to eat berries. Many of them died. This story is a picture of the lives of many believers in Christ.
Sadly, many of us have been delivered out of bondage to sin, but we have not been brought into the promised land of victory.
God told the Israelites to eat the roasted lamb they had sacrificed. The Passover lamb is a picture of the death of Christ.
Feeding on the lamb is how we grow in Christ once we’ve been saved.
Are you spending time alone with Christ in the word of God? Are you allowing the junk food of this world's values to destroy your spiritual appetite for Him?
The unleavened Passover bread and wine is a meal of readiness. We need to live a life daily of preparation and holy expectation. We can’t be left unaware but always moving forward.
Jesus interprets his death and announces one will betray Him. In the next few verses in Matthew 26: 31-35, Jesus predicts Peter will deny Him and that the disciples will desert Him.
Remember Him through the sacrament He gave us. Don’t take it lightly.
I’ve seen churches put bread and grape juice in the corner with instructions to go help yourself. I’ve come across people that purposely miss services where Holy Communion is offered because it’s a bother and makes it difficult for a quick exit, so why show up at all?
I pray this virus changes the way many perceive communion. The last time we had communion at church it was with cups and wafers in a package. We’re not sure the next time we’ll partake in communion or even when we’ll be worshipping in the sanctuary again.
Because of health concerns, it’s unlikely we’ll have communion with intinction – dipping the bread into the cup – for a long time to come.
But the next time communion is offered, come in reverence and remembrance of the mighty acts of Jesus, who was sacrificed on the cross and rose again for your sins so we can be with Him in paradise. May it always be the nourishment for your souls.
Brad Zimanek is the Associate Pastor at Mulder Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. He worked in sports journalism for 32 years prior to answering the call to full-time ministry.