The Centrality of Jesus
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered 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 into the Promised Land and each year they remembered God’s faithfulness during this 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, 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.
Here in Matthew 26, imagine that Jesus is celebrating a Jewish Passover meal with the disciples. It is the third cup of wine that is likely the one referred to in Matthew. It may not be obvious to modern readers, but Jesus departs from the Passover script. Traditionally, for the previous 1000 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 exclusive saving power and instead points it to himself. Jesus is placing himself at the beginning, middle and end of the Biblical narrative and of human history. It is quite an audacious claim of authority He is making here that demands a response. Do I really believe Jesus has this kind of authority in the world and in my life?
The downtown Los Angeles church where I pastored was just two blocks away from Skid Row, where thousands of men, women and children still sleep on the streets. Thankfully many great organizations I worked are still tirelessly ministering to these precious people. One man I met during my work in Skid Row was Anthony. He was one of the thousands who chose to join a discipleship and sobriety program that declares Jesus as king over every aspect of one’s 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 was learning, in the middle of his alcohol addiction, that his true king was Jesus. Every time Anthony took communion, he is reminded that Christ has the power and authority to dethrone all other kings and lords in his life and the thousands of lives still trapped by addictions. If Jesus is truly the center of all reality, then that changes everything, including my daily life.
Taking communion is much more than a religious ritual. When we gather this Sunday, on the church patio and in our homes, let’s not forget that we are proclaiming allegiance to the true King of kings and Lord of lords. He has the authority to place Himself in the middle of all reality and in the center of our lives.
Questions to Consider
Does Anthony’s story remind you of an area that you are struggling to see God’s authority over currently? Do you see people—Christians or non-Christians—who treat Jesus as a supplement to their lives, with the primary function to improve their lives in some way? How are you tempted to disbelieve the truth in your daily routine that Jesus truly is King and Lord, the very center of all things including your 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 and the Supper reminds me of who You are and thus whom I ultimately belong to. You are the true King over all creation and I am your subject purposely sent to declare Your kingship into every sphere of life. I will live today reminded that You are the center of my life and the center of all reality. Amen.