Gospel of Matthew Reflections – Part 2 Holy Week

6. The Lord’s Last Supper meal with his disciples

Scripture: Matthew 26:26-30

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Matthew ties the last supper meal with Jesus’ death and the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus transforms the passover of the old covenant into the meal of the “new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to their Creator. Melchizedek’s offering of bread and wine, who was both priest and king (Genesis 14:18), prefigured the offering made by Jesus, our high priest and king. The unleavened bread at Passover and the miraculous manna in the desert are the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing” at the end of the Jewish passover meal points to the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Jesus gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup when he instituted the “Lord’s Supper” or “Eucharist”. He speaks of the presence of his body and blood in this new meal. When at the Last Supper Jesus described his blood “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), he was explaining his coming crucifixion as a sacrifice for sins. His death on the cross fulfilled the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. That is why John the Baptist called him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus made himself an offering and sacrifice, a gift that was truly pleasing to the Father. He “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14) and “gave himself as a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). This meal was a memorial of his death and resurrection.

Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum –  giving his disciples his body and his blood (John 6:51-58). Jesus’ passing over to his Father by his death and resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Last Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom. This is the most significant meal of Jesus and the most important occasion of his breaking of bread. In this meal Jesus identifies the bread as his body and the cup as his blood. When the Lord Jesus commands his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites us to take his life into the very center of our being (John 6:53). That life which he offers is the very life of God himself.

Jesus’ death on the cross, his gift of his body and blood in the Supper, and his promise to dine again with his disciples when the kingdom of God comes in all its fulness are inseparably linked. Jesus instructed his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”. These words establish every Lord’s Supper or Eucharist as a “remembrance” of Jesus’ atoning death, his resurrection, and his promise to return again. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with his disciples in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb and his Bride. Do you know the joy of the drinking Christ’s cup and tasting the bread of his Table in sincerity?

“Lord Jesus, you are the ‘Bread of Life’ and the ‘Cup of Salvation’. May I always follow in the ‘narrow’ way of the cross toward the heavenly banquet where you will seat all the elect at the table of your kingdom.”

7. Jesus predicts Peter’s denial

Scripture: Matthew 26:31-35

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.


Are you prepared for trial and testing? Jesus was put to the test at the beginning of his public ministry when Satan offered him power, position, and all the kingdoms under his dominion (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus had to wrestle with temptation and now he warns Peter that he, too, will have to struggle for his very life and soul. 

Peter was a courageous man. He gave up his business and everything he had to follow Jesus. Now he promises Jesus that he will go with him through any trouble, be it imprisonment or violent death.  Satan knows both our weakness and our strength. And he often tests us in our strength to make us fall.  Why is that the case?  Where we are strongest we are often over-confident and unprepared with our guard down.  

Peter was passionately loyal to his Master, but he was unprepared for the test that was to come.  Jesus not only warns Peter, but prays for him, and then calls him in turn to be a source of help and strength to his brothers when they face temptation.  We often cannot help someone in their weakness and failure until we have suffered similar trial and shame. Because Jesus “himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

“Lord Jesus, your word is life and joy for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it.”

8. Jesus’ agony in the garden

Scripture: Scripture: Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”


Jesus did his best to prepare his disciples for what was to come – his betrayal, rejection by his own people, and violent death on the cross. This was to fulfill what the scriptures and the prophets had foretold, that is was necessary for the Messiah to suffer before he entered into his glory.  Jesus was tempted like us in everything but sin. Now he undergoes the worst temptation yet to face him, to accept or to reject the agony of death on a cross. Jesus had the power and the means to escape defeat and death at the hands of his enemies. But he chose the way of the cross for our sake and for our salvation.  

How do you face opposition, failure, trial, and rejection? Do you look to God for strength to overcome adversity with faith, trial with hope, and rejection with love? Jesus went to his favorite place of prayer, the Garden of Gethsemane, to face such trial and testing. In prayer to his Father in heaven he found the strength he needed, both to embrace the Father’s will and to accept the suffering that must come his way in order to carry out that will. What is the cross that you and I must face each and every day? When my will “crosses” with God’s will, then his will must be done. Are you ready to take up your cross to follow the Lord Jesus?

In the Lord’s prayer Jesus instructs his disciples to pray that we might not be “led into temptation.”  Sin results from our consenting to temptation. God wants to set us free from evil. We are engaged in a struggle between “flesh and spirit”, and so we must ask God for the Spirit of discernment and strength that might not take the way that leads to sin. The Holy Spirit helps us to discern between trials that are necessary and good for our spiritual growth (Romans 5:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:12), and temptation which leads to sin and spiritual death (James 1:14-15).  Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation which makes sin look good and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.  That is why Satan is called the “father of lies.”  We must resist his lies and cling to the truth so that we may choose what is good rather than evil. If we decide in our heart that we want to choose what is good and to obey God, then God will surely give us the strength and help we need to overcome sin. Paul the Apostle tells us: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We will only see victory in our struggle against temptation to sin if we take it to the Lord in prayer. It was by prayer that Jesus overcame his tempter in the struggle of his agony. We, too, must be vigilant in prayer and ask God for the strength and perseverance to be faithful to him to the end.

Satan will try his best to induce us to choose our will over God’s will. If he cannot induce us to apostasize or to sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us away from what God wants for us. Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame not by his own human strength but by the grace and strength which his Father gave to him.  He had to renounce his will for the will of his Father. He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to be our strength and guide and our consoler in temptation and testing. God the Father is ready to give us all that we need to live in his way of love and righteousness.  Do you rely on the Lord for your strength and help?

“Lord Jesus, your word is life and joy for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it.”

9. Jesus arrested

Scripture: Matthew 26:47-56

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Hail, Master!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.


Do you know the pain of rejection? The greatest pain and injury comes not from our enemies but from those closest to us.  Psalm 55 foretells the suffering of rejection which God’s anointed King and Messiah would endure for our sake:  

“It is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship.” – Psalm 55:12-14 

In the ancient world a kiss was a sign of intimate friendship and trust. Judas’ betrayal with a kiss shows the hypocrisy of his love and trust. This is literally a “kiss of death” not only because it leads to Jesus’ death but is also a sign of the death of one who lost all hope and abandoned God. In betraying Jesus Judas rejected the one and only hope for freedom from sin and condemnation and the hope of reconciliation and restoration to friendship with God.  Jesus met rejection not with bitterness or resentment, but with love and pity. God will never stop loving us no matter how far we stray from him or abandon hope.  When you encounter injury and rejection from others, how do you respond?  With merciful love and a forgiving heart or with bitterness and revenge?

Jesus met his betrayal and arrest with serenity and with confident trust in his Father. He knew that this was Satan’s hour of darkness but God’s light and truth would prevail in the end. How did the other apostles meet this trial?  They were unprepared even though Jesus has warned them about his betrayal. And they had forgotten God for the moment. Their will was to resist force with force rather than peaceably submit to God’s will. Jesus never failed to show mercy and compassion even to his enemies. Luke tells us that Jesus “touched” the severed ear and healed the high priest’s slave who had been struck by one of Jesus’ own disciples (Luke 22:51). When adversity strikes how do you respond? With fear and panic or with confident hope and trust in God?

“Lord Jesus, only you can save us from the blindness of sin and despair. May your light dispel the darkness of our lives and give us hope and joy. Fill our hearts with mercy and compassion that we may bring hope to those who have no hope and show them the light of Christ.”

Top image of Jesus’ last supper meal, watercolor illustration by James Tissot, image in the public domain. See The Life of Christ Illustrated by James Tissot: An Artist with a Burning Compulsion to Paint the Narrative Story of the Bible.

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