Tonight at 6 PM, we’ll be gathering for our Good Friday service at Sojourn Church. We’ll walk through the whole account of Jesus’ road to the cross, beginning with the Upper Room and ending with the tomb. We’ll sing some songs that help us enter into the passion story, we’ll listen to words of Scripture as they recount the passion story, but we’ll also reenact part of the passion story by participating in the Lord’s Supper.
At this particular point in the story, Jesus gathers with his disciples to eat the Passover meal together. Matthew picks up the story after the meal has started:
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 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 from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Mt. 26:26-29)
While these words are some of the most well-known words of that Jesus ever spoke, its important to note the context of his words in order to feel their true power. If you were to look earlier in Matthew 26, you’d find the religious leaders plotting to kill Jesus (1-5), followed a few verses later by Judas Iscariot accepting blood money in order to betray Jesus into their hands (14-16). And immediately following Jesus’ words around the table, we read of Peter’s soon-to-come denial: “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows,
you will deny me three times.” (34)
Why does the context matter? Consider these observations from Christopher J. H. Wright, in his book To The Cross: Proclaiming The Gospel From The
Upper Room To Calvary:
“So these words that Jesus speaks about bread and wine are surrounded on the one side by words of betrayal and on the other side by words of denial. Here we have most beautiful words spoken from the lips of Jesus, words of life-giving self-sacrifice and love, words we have come to repeat so often - and yet they are placed in between words of deceit coming from the mouth of Judas and words of denial and boasting coming from Peter.
That is the dark backdrop, the sin-filled framework, in which we need to see these precious redeeming words of Jesus, because those are still the realities of our world. Those are the kinds of sins that made the death of Jesus necessary. It is because we know the evil of such sins that we know how precious is the event we celebrate whenever we repeat the words of Jesus.” - Christopher J.H. Wright
As we confront this dark backdrop, this sin-filled framework, both in the world around us and in our own hearts, don’t turn away from it too quickly. Instead, look at it deeply - then hear Jesus’ words and remember Jesus’ acts of love and sacrifice. Let the sinfulness around you and within you sober you, then let the preciousness of Jesus’ sacrifice move you to wonder and praise.
And if you’d like to do that with others (which is highly recommended, by the way), then come join us tonight at 6 PM!