Today’s Reading: Matthew 27:17-46
The Passover with the Disciples
On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” ’ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 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. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Peter’s Denial Foretold
Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’ (NRSV)
The story that unfolds in these readings is complex, beautiful and tragic. In the same night, at the same meal Jesus identifies his betrayer and institutes the Lord’s Supper. Those words, spoken on this tragic and beautiful night, are at the heart of our relationship with God. “Take, eat; this is my body.” “Drink from [this cup], all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
I recently heard a sermon by Bishop Eugene Sutton. He came out holding a short length of rope in his hands. “Sometimes,” Bishop Sutton said, “all we have is a rope. We hold onto our faith like a rope, hoping that the rope will hold.” He went on to tell the story of a woman who lost an adult child. On hearing the tragic news she secluded herself in her room to pray and to grieve. After some time she emerged, ready to lead her family in the work of grieving and surviving, and as she came out she said, “The rope held.”
Do you ever find yourself wondering how someone can have that kind of faith? The way of Jesus is not easy, but the reward is worth the cost. Jesus offers a quality of life that is full of hope and joy, even in the midst of suffering, grief and loss.
We come together every week to share in the Lord’s Supper because that is the rope that gives us hope. God’s love is the rope that will hold, no matter what happens to the economy or our families or our work or our friendships. Grief, loss, misfortune, financial ruin, foreclosure, divorce, the worst that life can throw at us will not separate us from God’s love. The rope will hold.
Questions: What difference does the Lord’s Supper make in our lives? Does the meal we share on Sunday nourish our lives in the world? If so, how? If not, how might it? When have you last seen someone who needed a tangible expression of God’s love? How can you help that person realize how precious they are to God?
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the gift of your own body and blood. Let that gift strengthen us in the knowledge that you love us more than anything. Amen.