Well after a week break from the Mission Conference we’re picking up The Scandalous Grace series as David has already told you this evening. Last time we were here together for this meeting Ralph Kelley looked at the meal that Jesus shared with Zacchaeus, who was a short, despised tax-collector, a notorious sinner, and we saw the grace of God in that narrative. Tonight we’re going to look at Matthew chapter 26. It is on the back of your prayer guide. If you have your Bible you could turn there now. Tonight’s passage, it’s a familiar passage. It’s a passage that is in all the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - and particularly in Matthew, Mark, and Luke there’s a lot of overlap with what we’re looking at. It’s the passage where Jesus identifies His betrayer and then institutes the Lord’s Supper. So let’s now go to the Lord in prayer before we read His Word.
Lord our God, we thank You for the opportunity to gather and hear Your Word preached. I ask for help as Your servant tonight and the power of Your Spirit, Lord, to open up Your Word to these Your people that we may marvel at Your grace, that we may revel in the Gospel, that we may come away confident in our Savior. So Lord now let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, our Rock and our Redeemer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Matthew chapter 26 beginning in verse 17:
“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where will you have us prepare 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 at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’’ And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so.’
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.’”
Amen, and that ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth on all our hearts.
The Calm Before the Storm
August 29, it was a Monday morning, 2005. Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of southeast Louisiana. I’m from New Orleans. That storm was one of the deadliest in US history. That storm was the costliest natural disaster to hit our country. Friday, August 26, 2005, a couple days before, we had “Guys Night” and me and a group of friends were hanging out. We went to get burgers at a little dive restaurant called Port of Call at the edge of the French Quarter on Esplanade. We went bowling, we were hanging out, having a good time. We knew that there was a storm in the Gulf someplace. We didn’t know that while we were hanging out, having a good time, that path changed and it was predicted to hit our hometown. I’ll never forget - we were bowling and I get a phone call from a friend saying, “Are you watching the news?” We’re like, “No, we’re bowling,” and all of a sudden we turned around to the café at the bowling alley and the news was on and we saw those fateful arrows that go right up the mouth of the Mississippi. There was the calm before the storm and then the storm hit.
Matthew 26 - that’s kind of like what we’ve got going here for Jesus. This would be the Thursday before Good Friday. It’s almost like the calm before the storm. He’s tried to tell His disciples that, “I’m going to Jerusalem, I’m going to be lifted up, I’m going to die,” and you kind of get the impression that only Jesus really understands the storm that’s coming the next day. So here it is, it’s Thursday before Good Friday, and what does Jesus do? Well He wants to celebrate the Passover with His disciples. He wants to have a meal with His disciples. And this series is about how we learn about God’s grace in the meals that Jesus shares with sinners and this one is a special one.
The Passover Meal
Now food, it’s not just connected to the grace of God, food is, well food is connected to the fall. If we go back to the very beginning, remember that God told Adam and Eve what? “Don’t eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” So food is connected to sin entering the world. Food is part of the fall. And as one author put it, he said it like this. “The problem of sin and judgment must be addressed before we can eat with a holy God.” That’s well said. The problem of sin and judgment must be addressed before we can eat with a holy God. So food is connected to the fall but it’s also connected to grace, and that’s what we’ve been looking at over and over again where Jesus sits down with sinners to eat; it’s connected with grace. And there was one particular meal that displays the grace of God that the Israelites, they celebrated annually, and that was the Passover feast. That was a particularly important meal. For the people of God, it represented God’s salvation, God’s deliverance from Egypt. And in the first couple of verses here that we read in 17 through 19 the word “Passover” keeps coming up over and over again so this is what’s on Jesus’ mind, this is what’s on the disciples’ mind - it’s the Passover. And the gospel writers are very clear. They want us to see Jesus’ death connected to the Passover sacrifice. The gospel writers want us to see Jesus’ death connected to the Passover.
Christ the Passover Lamb
And the big thing in Scripture is that Jesus is the Lamb. Jesus is the Lamb. At the Passover, there was given a lamb and we’ll talk about that a little bit more shortly, but the point of Scripture - every time there’s a lamb that is given for sins, for atonement, the lamb that was sacrificed in the Passover celebration, it was to point God’s people to when He would send the Lamb of God. Jesus is the Lamb. In the beginning of John’s gospel John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” 1 Peter 1:19 tells Christians, “You were ransomed, not with perishable things but with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish or defect.” And throughout the book of Revelation we see the image of a victorious but slaughtered Lamb reigning who has ransomed God’s people. So if our problem is that because of sin and judgment we cannot eat with a holy God, Jesus is the One, He is the Lamb, who bears our sin and judgment so that we can eat with God. He is the One who takes sin and judgment so that sinners could be restored to communion with God. In this passage, the Lord’s Supper is instituted and the Lord’s Supper is celebrating the restoration of communion between sinners and a holy God. It’s a restoration to fellowship with God. It’s an invitation to His table, a place where we don’t belong. So when we take the elements, when we take the bread and the wine, we are celebrating that the purpose of God’s Lamb was accomplished. We are celebrating what was purchased by the Lamb and we are celebrating the promise of the Lamb. And that’s how I want to look at our passage tonight, those things - the purpose of the Lamb, the purchase by the Lamb, and the promise of the Lamb.
Verses 17 through 25, in there we see the purpose of the Lamb was to die, and in the death of the Lamb we see the cost of God’s grace to us. They’re celebrating the Passover. Now let me remind you what the Passover was. God’s people were in slavery in bondage in Egypt for over 400 years and when God was going to deliver them He sent a series of plagues. He had Moses to be their leader, to be their mediator, to be the one who would go and confront Pharaoh. And there were ten plagues. The last plague, God said, “I’m going to kill all the firstborn sons.” Now there’s a lot going on there, but remember that when Moses was born, Pharaoh put out a warrant to kill all the firstborn baby boys, and so now in the tenth plague, the Lord said, “I’m going to send My angel and I’m going to kill the firstborn sons.” This will get Pharaoh’s attention; nothing has worked to this point. And God instructed His people. He said, “Take a lamb. Kill it, slaughter it, and you are to take its blood and smear it on your doorposts and when the angel comes, if there’s blood on the doorpost, he’s going to pass over. He’s going to skip that house.” And that’s why it’s called Passover. There was more instructions along with that. They weren’t just to kill the lamb and slaughter the lamb; they were to eat the lamb, they were to consume the lamb, they were to have a meal.
And then also they were to cook bread but it was to be unleavened bread because God’s deliverance was coming fast and they’ve been 400 years in slavery and overnight He was going to lead them out. And so He says, “You don’t even have time for the bread to rise.” And so that’s why at the beginning of our passage it says that they were looking for a place to celebrate the Passover and the Unleavened Bread. And so for the nation of Israel annually, every year, they took a week and they had a Passover meal and then they spent a week in the festival of the Unleavened Bread. And Jesus saying, “I am the Lamb, I am the One that will die in the place in order that God’s people will be passed over.”
Jesus: A Man Ready to Die and to be Betrayed
And in our passage tonight we see that Jesus is a man ready to die; He’s ready to take up the charge and the call to be the Lamb of God. Look at verse 18 with me. And verse 18 says, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand.’” My time is at hand - that’s a marker in the gospels referring to the cross that was going to be the next day. Jesus is saying, “Go, prepare the Passover, because tomorrow is the day.” Look at verse 19. In verse 19 it says, “He directed them to prepare the Passover.” He has in mind, “I am the Lamb.” Verse 21, “And as they were eating he said, ‘Truly I say to you, one of you will betray me.’” Isn’t that amazing? He’s sitting down with the Twelve and He says, “My time is at hand. I’m the true Passover Lamb.” He says, “One of you are going to betray Me.” If we were to read the verses prior to verse 17 Matthew lets us know that Judas has already had this conversation with the priests and he’s already agreed to the cost of thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus. But it’s not a surprise to Jesus; He’s not caught off guard later that evening when Judas comes with the Roman soldiers. He’s not caught off guard. He knows He’s to be betrayed; He’s a man ready to die. Verse 24, “The Son of Man goes as it is written, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.” Jesus is identifying Himself as the Son of Man who’s identified with the suffering servant of Isaiah who would be the One to give His life. He’s a man ready to die and in that death we see that it comes at great personal cost.
There’s so many things we could talk about what’s going to happen for Jesus the next day, but in our passage tonight there is an emphasis on He is betrayed by one of His disciples; He is betrayed by a friend. So there was physical suffering, there was bearing the wrath of God, but then there’s also this personal, relational dynamic as He’s hanging on the cross knowing that it was a man who had walked with Him for thirty years who turned Him over. He’s a man ready to die and it’s not an easy death; it’s a painful death in so many ways. And I also want to point out to you in this verses 17 through 25 where Jesus tells His disciples, He says, “One of you are going to betray Me” - what happens? Everyone in the room says, “Is it I, Lord?” They all start looking around. They start thinking to themselves, “Is it me? Am I the one to betray Him?” And then Jesus’ response is, “The one who dips his hand in the bowl with Me, that’s the one who’s going to betray Me.” Well the bowl that they’re dipping in, it was a communal bowl; it was a bowl that everyone, everyone would have dipped in that night. We see in the passage that Judas does ask Jesus and he says, “Is it I, Lord?” but he doesn’t say “Lord” he says, “Is it I, Rabbi?” And Jesus tells him, “It is as you say.” It comes at great personal cost. Can you feel the tension in the room? Jesus has embraced what is going to happen the next day and the circumstances leading up to it are terrible.
A Death for Sinners yielding a Place at the Table
And when we see this we are reminded that we do not deserve that God would provide a Lamb for us. We deserve to die for our sins. We deserve to bear the judgment for our sins. But we see that Jesus is a willing sacrifice who dies in the place of His people, who dies for sinners. He dies for sinners. So in the purpose of the Lamb to die for sinners, we see the cost of the grace of God. God didn’t send just anyone to be the Lamb, He sent His Son. He didn’t just send a prophet, He sent the Prophet. He didn’t just send a king, He sent the King. He didn’t just send a priest, He sent the Priest. We see the cost of the grace of God. It was His very own Son. And because He died in our place we have a place at the table. We have a place at the table.
A Glorious Exchange
The next thing is that we see that His death purchased something. In the purchase of the Lamb we see the certainty of the grace of God. What did the death of the Lamb purchase? Well it purchased a covenant. Look at verses 26 through 28 with me. Verses 26 through 28 says, “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.’” Focusing back on verses 26 through 28 he says, “Take my body; eat it. Drink this cup. It’s my blood. It’s the blood of the covenant.” The covenant, simply in its barest form, is a promise and a pack, an agreement between two parties. It has legal aspects; it also has relational aspects. It’s not merely legal; it’s not only relational, it’s both. It’s an agreement between two parties. And He said, “This is what My blood is purchasing for you.” This is what the Lamb, the exchange - He gives His life and we get a covenant relationship with God.
Covenant Grace and Covenant Faithfulness
And what does that teach us about the grace of God? Well it teaches that if you’re trusting in the Lamb then the grace of God to you is a certain thing because it’s come to you by way of covenant. It’s come to you by a covenant paid for with the blood of the Son. Throughout the Bible, covenants are ratified through the shedding of blood and here God makes a covenant with sinners by shedding the Son’s blood. One author explains the situation like this. “In the new covenant, Jesus represents both God and humanity. He is God’s Son and the faithful representative of God’s people.” Now listen to the conclusion. “Therefore this covenant is eternal and secure because it rests on Christ’s perfect faithfulness.” The grace of God to you and me is secure because it’s not based on our merits. It’s not based on what we have done. Your relationship to God is a covenant relationship that has been bought for you by the blood of the Lamb.
It may be in here tonight you still have the nagging question, “Have I done enough?” Maybe that’s the reason why you came to prayer meeting. You thought, “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting - that’s got to be worth something!” And the truth is, that for a sinner to be in a relationship with God it must be through the blood of the Son and if it’s through the blood of the Son then that means it’s a covenant relationship. It’s secure; it is unchanging. Now this covenant is referring back to what the prophets promised, particularly in Jeremiah 31. And let me read it to you. Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The covenant lets us know that the grace of God is secure but that covenant that we enter into, it’s not just objective and outside of us but it impacts us. It’s not just external, but the covenant that Jesus purchased from us is internal. It says that He will put His laws within them. He gives us a new heart. The Lamb has purchased you - the new birth, a new heart. He says that they all shall know me. The Lamb has purchased you personal knowledge of the living God. And of course He says that He will remember their sins no more. The Lamb has purchased for you complete pardon and we are accepted as righteousness. So in the covenant we have a certainty of our relationship to our God and also we have a now reality of communion and fellowship with that God, a now reality that what was separating us, what kept us from His table has now been removed. We’ve been forgiven of our sins; it’s been purchased by us. So when we come to the Lord’s Table, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we’re there by rite because the Lamb has purchased a covenant for us. But when we enter the Table, the beauty of it is that the guest of honor is God Himself. The beauty of coming to the Lord’s Table is that the guest of honor is the Holy One. And now as we celebrate it as a church, God is present by His Holy Spirit.
A Greater Feast Yet to Come
But did you notice in our passage there’s a great feast to come? And so our last thing tonight - in the promise of the Lamb we see the culmination of the grace of God. Our last verse in verse 29 Jesus says, “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.” He says, “Come, consume the grace of God to me,” but He says there’s more to come. There’s a culmination of the grace of God; there’s a promise given by the Lamb. In the Scriptures it talks about a feast to come, a Messianic, future banquet and celebration. Isaiah 25:6-8, let me read it for us:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.”
There is a coming grace of God and right now it’s like we get the appetizer. It’s a glorious appetizer. Recently I had a meal and for my appetizer I had fried barbeque oysters. I mean what can be better than combining fried seafood and barbeque? And it was fantastic! And you just think, “What could be better? Bring me another order! Bring me another order!” But it was only the appetizer. It was only the appetizer. We have a taste of God’s grace, but dear Christian, this is only a taste. There is a day where we’ll see Him face to face. D.A. Carson says it like this. “The first Passover looked forward to the deliverance and the settlement of the land, the Promised Land. The Lord’s Supper looks forward to the deliverance and life in the consummated kingdom of God.” And let me close with encouraging you, recipients of God’s grace, with an encouragement to persevere in that grace knowing that it’s only the appetizer. There is more to come. We’ve only had the first taste and the Lamb promises a feast for eternity.
Let us pray.
Lord, we thank You for the invitation to come, to come and dine. You are our Bread of Life. We thank You for the cup that reminds us of the precious blood that was shed for us. We thank You, Lord, that our place before You is certain. Lord, we long for the day to see You face to face at Your Table, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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