Every Sunday at communion time we hear the words of institution from Matthew, Mark, Luke or 1 Corinthians but Jesus had much more to say than that. His table talk that Passover evening, according to Luke, included both challenging and puzzling words. Luke 22:19-23 says,
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
These words are puzzling because Judas, who was sitting right there, had already made arrangements to betray Jesus and Jesus knew it. Why didn't Jesus just name him? Instead, he made all of them wonder which one of them could do this. Matthew shows us how personally each of them took this as he says, "And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, 'surely, not I Lord'?"
Jesus knew, of course, how they would respond when the test came. Peter would deny him three times and the others would flee in fear. Jesus knew that it was not Judas only who would leave that covenant meal and go out to abandon the sacred loyalty involved in that meal. They were all capable of fracturing the sacred trust and forsaking the loyalty that they pledged in eating the bread and drinking the cup with Jesus. Jesus knew that they were all capable of this and that is why he did not simply name Judas as the culprit -- it was something all of them faced.
And so do we. We will face many tests when we leave this table and go back to life in the world.
We will be tested on how we handle this world's wealth -- will we serve God or mammon. We will be tested on our relationships. He taught us to love unconditionally -- will we allow hatred, or prejudice, or hurt feelings to crowd out that love? We will be tested on our priorities. He taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God -- will we seek first the fulfillment of our own desires?
Jesus knows the answer about us as well as he knew it about Peter and the others. He knows that we too will fail him. We can join in Paul's confession in Romans 7, "I do what I don't want to do and I don't do what I want to do."
Just as He sought Peter and the others after the resurrection and sat down to eat with them again, so he seeks us. He knows our failures but he still loves us. It is precisely because we fail that we need to meet him here again each Lord's Day and hear him say, "this my body given for you ... my blood shed for the forgiveness of sins." The Lord's Supper is our great ritual of renewal, our act of re-commitment. It is our chance, once again, to express our loyalty and receive his forgiveness and thus experience renewal. Will you express your loyalty to Him now by saying with me our confession of faith?
A communion meditation for Twin Oaks Christian Church, November 4, 2007.