[forthright] The Last Supper Surrounded by Failure

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 18:25:29 -0200
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: FINAL PHASE

The Last Supper Surrounded by Failure
  by J. Randal Matheny, editor
  http://wp.me/p1HIjv-1Rw

Matthew's gospel frames the last Passover with Jesus'
predictions of betrayal (Matthew 26:20-25) and denial
(vv. 31-35). Just as Paul tells of that last Passover
and first Supper to teach how to eat at the Lord's
table, it seems Matthew does the same.

Like Paul's letter, Matthew's narrative warns us
against eating unworthily, by showing us others who
did.

Judas ate with betrayal in his heart. And maybe even a
smile on his face, as he swiped his bread in the dish
when Jesus did.

For all their bravado and declarations of fidelity,
Peter and the other ten broke bread and drank the cup,
with doubts eating away at them.

Even though the meal is beset with restlessness, Jesus
is the calm in the center of the storm.

For those who desire higher salaries and posts, he
offers thanks for God's gifts. "Jesus took bread, and
after giving thanks he broke it [and] gave it to his
disciples" (Matthew 26:26 NET).

In the midst of a sinful crew, he offers forgiveness
of sin, they among the many. "Drink from it, all of
you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant,
that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of
sins" (Matthew 26:27c-28).

For those with a troubled present, the Lord speaks of
a glorious future. "I tell you, from now on I will not
drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I
drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew
26:29).

For the heavy of heart, Jesus sings a hymn of praise
and celebration. "After singing a hymn, they went out
to the Mount of Olives" (Matthew 26:30).

And after prayers, and eating, and singing, he gets up
to go do the will of his Father on the Mount of
Olives, setting yet another example for the
slow-minded.

On every side, men fail. Sleep at the moment of
vigilance. Eyelids heavy from weak flesh when a ready
spirit is demanded. A false greeting. A treacherous
kiss.

And though they can swing a sword — which is but
another failure — they cannot make the tongue confess
their Lord.

But the Lord is steady still. His emotions reel from
the task, but his mind is set on the cross. He puts it
all in his Father's hands, and rises to meet the
betrayers and accusers.

For this has he come. The weakness of his own men is
all the more reason to carry through.

He knows that more will eat unworthily at his table.
But still he presides. Still he offers the full course
of God.

Because he is sure that "the kingdom of God does not
consist of food and drink," nor of ambition and
politics and greed and vice, "but righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

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