Whole Life Whole Bible Day 35
Matthew 26:26-29 (NASB)
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
34: Powerful in deed
Sometimes, words alone didn’t work, and the prophets themselves became living embodiments of God’s message. Jeremiah, for instance, walked around Jerusalem with a wooden yoke on his neck (Jeremiah 27:2), calling on the people to submit to God. Jesus stands in this tradition of faithful prophets who not only spoke God’s word but also performed symbol-laden actions in order to make a point.
Thus it is that Jesus’ act of gathering twelve disciples can be seen as a symbol of gathering the twelve tribes of Israel to be a renewed people of God. Thus it is that his eating and drinking with society’s outcasts effectively redraws the boundaries of holiness and redefines who is acceptable to dine in God’s kingdom.
Many of Jesus’ significant symbolic acts are clustered in the final week of his ministry. According to Matthew 21, he enters Jerusalem in deliberate fulfillment of a messianic prophecy (Zechariah 9:9–10). The hopes of the prophets (and of the people on the Jerusalem streets, singing Psalm 118:25–26) were that God would one day establish a son of David on the throne in Jerusalem and restore the fortunes of the people. That day is now dawning — except that Jesus chooses to ride on a beast of burden rather than a war-horse. What follows is Jesus’ action in the temple, the place to which God’s ‘messenger of the covenant’ would come (Malachi 3:1–5). Whether this dramatic incident should be understood as a cleansing of the temple from its abuses, to restore it as a place of prayer for Jew and non-Jew alike, or whether it should be seen as symbolic of God’s forthcoming judgment on the temple, Jesus’ action issues a challenge to the religious authorities, which sets in motion the controversies of the final week leading to his arrest and trial.
Then, stepping aside with his disciples — as he breaks bread and pours wine — he reshapes the Passover meal around his own forthcoming death, which will bring about a new release from bondage. More than this, the new covenant between God and his people includes the forward-looking promise of eating and drinking again in the future kingdom. But it is Jesus’ death that makes possible the future feast for which we hope.
Jesus’ actions challenge us to reflect on the true meaning of his kingship: power and glory, yes, but in humility and obedience. And he encourages us, as he encouraged the disciples, to model our lives after the pattern of his death, that we might love him and serve each other.
For further reflection and action
What practical steps can we take to invite outcasts into the community of the church? Think about those times when you have been grateful for someone else’s hospitality, and consider who you might show hospitality to, even by an act as simple as inviting someone for a meal.
Read John 13:1–17 and reflect on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet as another symbolic action. What, according to John’s account, does the act symbolise and what is its significance for followers of Christ?
We are not Jesus or Jeremiah, of course, but in what ways might we be personal embodiments of God’s message to people today?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.