Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, leading them into the Promised Land. Each year they remembered God’s faithfulness during the all-important feast of Passover. This was an actual meal with bread, bitter herbs, and a roasted lamb. Four distinct cups of wine were introduced as the presider explained the meaning of the feast by referencing Exodus 6:6-7. Each cup represented a different aspect of the Exodus story: rescue from Egypt, freedom from slavery, deliverance by God’s power, and a renewed relationship with God.
In all likelihood, it is the third cup of wine to which Jesus referred in Matthew 26:27-28: “Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant.’” It may not be obvious to modern readers, but Jesus departs from the Passover script where, for the previous 1,000 years, the presider would speak of Yahweh’s delivering power. But Jesus, as presider of the feast, instead points to himself saying the cup is “my blood of the covenant.” Jesus reinterprets the most important event in Israel’s history and says, “This is all about me.”
He did the same thing with the bread. Instead of saying the traditional Passover words, “This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the desert,” what does Jesus say in Matthew 26:26? “This is my body.” Jesus takes the Passover meal that traditionally represented Yahweh’s saving power and instead points it to himself. Jesus places himself at the beginning, middle, and end of the Biblical narrative. It is quite an audacious claim of authority, if not divinity, that he is making. It demands a response. Do I really believe Jesus has this kind of authority in the world and in my life?
Fast forward about 2,000 years, to downtown Los Angeles where I serve as a pastor. Just two blocks away is Skid Row. There, thousands of men, women, and children sleep on the street. Thankfully, many great organizations I work with are tirelessly ministering to these precious people. Take Anthony, for example. He had joined a discipleship and sobriety program on Skid Row that declares Jesus as king over every aspect of life. He told me this: “I haven’t had a drink since I started the program. And I feel good about that, because I know it doesn’t have power over me.” Anthony is learning, right in the middle of his alcohol addiction, that his true king is Jesus. Every time Anthony takes communion he is reminded that Christ has the power and authority to dethrone all other kings and lords in his life, not to mention in the lives of thousands of people still trapped by addictions. If Jesus is truly the center of all reality, then that changes everything, including my daily life at work, at home, and among my neighbors.
Participating in Communion can seem like a thing we do on Sunday that has little impact on how we live on Monday and throughout the rest of the week. The truth is, however, that Communion helps us remember the centrality of Jesus. He is Savior and Lord. And this makes all the difference in the world, every single day, in everything we do.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Does Anthony’s story remind you of an area that currently you are struggling to see God’s authority over?
Do you see people, Christians or non-Christians, who treat Jesus merely as a supplement to their lives, where his primary function is to improve their life in some way?
How are you tempted to ignore Jesus as King and Lord in your work? In your relationships? In every part of life?
I worship you, Lord, and seek to trust you today to lead me amidst the other powers that impact my daily life. Though I am tempted to believe other “lords” are more powerful than you—economic forces, political powers, cultural trends, global trends, personal struggles—the Passover meal reminds me of who you are, and thus, to whom I ultimately belong. You are the true King over all creation and I am your subject, purposely sent to declare and demonstrate your kingship over every sphere of life. I will live today reminded that you are the center of my life and the center of all reality. All praise be to you! Amen.