Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of 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 not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Here ends our text.
If there was one thing in this world that you could not live without, what would it be? Would it be something material, say your cell phone or your car? Would it be your family, say a spouse or a child? Would it be something more physical, say a limb of your body?
Throughout this Lenten season, our focus has been on the hands of the Savior. We have seen hands that invite, hands that heal, hands that provide, hands that pray, hands that resurrect, and hands that protect. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ used His hands all throughout His ministry, to teach, to restore, and to heal. This evening, we see that the hands of the Savior are hands that consecrate.
The dictionary has several definitions of the word consecrate. One is to make or declare sacred; to set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity. Another definition is to change bread and wine into the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. That is precisely what our Lord does this night, on the night He was betrayed. In just a short amount of time, Judas Iscariot will betray Jesus. He has already met with the chief priests, he has already received the thirty pieces of silver. All he needed now was the opportunity.
Knowing that He was going to be betrayed from one of His disciples, from one who was a part of the inner circle, Jesus does something that we wouldn’t expect. Instead of turning tail and running away, instead of removing Judas Iscariot from the disciples, Jesus continues with business as usual. It was the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread and it was time to celebrate the Passover.
It’s just another evening, Jesus at table with His disciples, but yet tonight is different. Tonight is the Passover, a meal to remember what happened to their ancestors when God spared them from death. The Twelve are around the table, eating and drinking like always. They were finishing their meal and Jesus took bread. I’m sure the disciples were curious as to what He was doing. The meal was over, it was time to relax and talk amongst themselves. But Jesus had a different agenda. Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
What just happened here? What did the disciples just see and hear? “Is Jesus leaving us? Did we do something wrong? Is Jesus going to die?” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Is Jesus leaving the disciples? Yes. Did they do something wrong? Yes. Is Jesus going to die? Yes.
Imagine how the attitude of the disciples changed after Jesus passed the bread around the table. Conversation stopped, the disciples hanging on every word that Jesus is about to speak. And when He passed the cup around, imagine how their hearts broke. They had been with Him for three years, watching Him, worshipping with Him, being taught by Him, teaching others about Him; and now He was leaving them.
With His hands, our Lord consecrates and sets apart for sacred service Himself. Christ was both victim and priest. He was the sacrifice and the sacrificer. He gave to His disciples the greatest gift that He could give: Himself. Jesus gave His disciples bread and wine to eat and to drink. As He gave them the bread, He didn’t have to say to them, “Here is some bread for you to eat.” They knew what was placed before them. What they did not know and could not know that together with that bread they were receiving the true body of Christ, the same body born of the Virgin Mary, the same body that would be put to death on Calvary the next day.
Then He took the cup and passed it around to the disciples. He did not have to tell them, “Here is some wine for you to drink.” They knew that very well. But they did not know and could not know that He was also giving them His true blood to drink, the very blood which would be shed the next day. So Jesus told them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
But what good does it do to eat and drink Christ’s body and blood? Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” When we hear these words, a number of related passages are all brought into focus here. Before Jesus was born, the angel told Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” But the angel did not specify how Jesus would do that. Now Jesus finally explains that His blood will be poured to atone for sin. That was certainly the point of the Passover lamb and all of the other bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament. And now, on this night, Jesus becomes the Passover Lamb who gives Himself to you, for He has come to save you from your sins.
Here, in this Sacrament, Jesus gives you to eat and drink His true body and blood, the very purchase price of your redemption. He says to you individually and personally, “Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take and drink, this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, amen.