Matthew 26:26-30 – Blood of life…

Matthew 26:26-30 – Blood of life…

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for 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 again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” – Matthew 26:26-30ESV

In the United States, it seems like Christians are kind of in love with the idea the United States was a Christian paradise at one time. We were once this place where it was safe and okay to live out our lives in obedience to Christ without criticism from the world around us. But is that really true, or is that a rationale we have to deal with how sidelined Christian values are becoming in our culture?

Certainly Christianity was less controversial in our country at one time. It was expected people were part of a church community as a social norm and subscribed at least publicly to Christian ethics. But does that necessarily translate to it being “easy” to be Christian “back then”? Does that mean the lifestyle of one who follows Christ was ever anything but controversial? I’m not sure it does. Even in 1940s and 1950s America, a man who didn’t curse, didn’t smoke, didn’t “chase skirts”, and maybe even didn’t drink was a shocking anomaly. Go back even farther to the British Empire, and while the gentry and nobility were expected to attend church on Sunday, it wasn’t “fashionable” to be fervently religious.

In fact, a life modeled after Christ is perhaps designed intentionally to be the very opposite of “comfortable” at any time in our world. After all, the one we follow tended to shock people. Even the most religious of the day. Even those who thought they had a finger on what it meant to follow Him: the disciples.

In Matthew 26, we tend to gloss over some of what was really going on in this scene. Jesus establishes the practice of communion, offering a cup of wine as his blood and a loaf of bread as His body. This practice, where we believe, in some way we can’t understand, that Jesus physically comes to us in wine-that-is-also-blood and bread-that-is-also-flesh, is central to our faith. We focus on this as a comfortable, familiar piece of our life in Christ.

Yet this communion was anything but comfortable for the disciples…because Jesus said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood.” 

This single phrase would have been shocking… disturbing… especially from the one they followed as the Son of God. And it’s not because of them merely finding it tasteless to drink blood. It’s because God expressly forbade the drinking of blood in Leviticus 17:14. The very idea of drinking blood was anathema.

And Jesus never explains Himself. Never explains away the controversy to make the disciples more comfortable with it. As far as we can tell, He proceeds with this First Communion. And the disciples go with Him, stepping boldly into the breech without any recorded objections to what He offered them.

That, perhaps, is the unifying truth about Christianity we can point to at every instance in history. Not that it was easier once or less controversial. I don’t know if that’s ever been true. Rather, what we can say with confidence is Jesus has always called us to a life of controversy. To be Christian is to, in some way, defy the rules society tries to bind around us. Christians answering the call of Christ have fought to free slaves in defiance of the entire British government, shared Christ and His forgiveness with Japanese war criminals, sheltered Jews against the Nazis authorities, gave voice to the unborn when the law does not, and a million other acts of defiance for the sake of Christ and His work here.

Yet we don’t pursue controversy for the sake of “making a scene”. Rather… it is a side effect of holding out in our trembling hands the life of Christ we have been given. We bring Life to our world when we serve Christ because we point people to the God who inspires us.

Just as Jesus did. For as Leviticus 17:14 states, “the life of every creature is its blood”, and whose blood is offered in Matthew 26 and in every communion ever since? The blood of Christ, the Son of God.

In offering this controversial cup… Christ offered us His blood. The life of Jesus Messiah, Son of God…Creator.

  1. How is Christianity controversial in our society? Try to avoid politics and stick to what about Christianity itself people disagree with.
  2. What values of Christianity do you agree with, but struggle to openly follow in our culture?
  3. If being Christian is, and always has been, controversial, why is it often portrayed as the “boring, normal path”?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Pick one of the values of Christianity you subscribe to that other people find controversial. In a non-political, non-argumentative way, find one way to live into that value in an open way this week. Then do it!
Matthew 6:5-13 – You can’t prove it

Matthew 6:5-13 – You can’t prove it

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.'”
– Matthew 6:5-13ESV

“You can’t beat me!” my niece proudly proclaimed to her mom, immediately taking off, arms and legs pumping. It was a bold statement, really. Ignoring the fact she was five years old and somewhere around three feet tall, my niece had more than just the limits of her leg length to compete against. Her mother was a former NCAA sprinter. Her high school state 400 meter time would have placed her eighth in the Beijing Olympics, and that wasn’t even the height of her running career. In other words, even twenty years later, my sister-in-law is not slow.

The statement is an example of how the limited experience of children makes them poor evaluators of their own skills. What is more, it had been a long time since she’d seen my husband and I. She’d grown a bit and thought we were “so fast”, so she was showing off for attention. It was cute. It was innocent. It made my husband and I laugh.

We laugh, but aren’t we still like that, even as adults? We may not come right out with such a bold “look at me” statement, particularly one so easy to disproved. But how often do we do things or buy things or say things because we want other people to think well of us? Because we want to look good? Because we want some sort of “return on investment” for our efforts? Ultimately, how often are we trying to prove something to everybody watching? Even to God?

In this passage, Jesus condemns public prayer or praying “on and on”. Yet are public prayers or long prayers the real issue He’s highlighting? I don’t think so. He’s trying to highlight a deeper heart issue. What He’s getting at is the Pharisees prayed in public to get the praises of people, to prove they were righteous enough. The “pagans” “babbled on and on” in their prayers to prove they were devoted enough for their gods to grant them their desires. Their prayers were not about being a relationship with God…they were about proving their worthiness.

Prayer isn’t about proving anything to God. God is already our Father; He says so multiple times in this passage. We don’t need to prove our devotion to Him; He already knows us fully (1 Corinthians 13:12). That leaves us free to be totally honest with Him. To hold nothing back as we speak to Him about our lives, our days, our desires, our joys, our fears, our failures…as we bare a soul already known well by our good Father. We are free to be in a relationship grounded in complete trust, knowing nothing inside us repels the God who saved us with eyes wide open.

He’s not going anywhere.

  1. Why do we often view relationships as a means to an end, rather than the end in themselves?
  2. We have a society focused on “earning what you get”. What’s the danger when we apply that concept to our relationship with God?
  3. How does trying to “prove something” to God actually impair your ability to be close to Him?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Each day, setup a chair across from your favorite spot to sit in your house. Imagine Jesus grabbing a seat in that empty chair and dare to tell Him at least one “ugly truth” out loud, without editing to make it sound better. Then rest in the knowledge He heard it and you are still loved.
Matthew 16:13-18 – He cares what you think

Matthew 16:13-18 – He cares what you think

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'”
– Matthew 16:13-18ESV

Here in Colorado, we’re pretty proud of our sports nation. Each season brings fans rolling out their color-combos depending on which major sports team is currently duking it out in the stadiums. Did you know we have a national AND major league lacross team? Yep! The Mammoth and the Outlaws! We can even get pretty passionate about our minor-league sports.

But there’s another competition that is sacred to many Coloradans: the Rocky Mountain Showdown. This is the rival game between the two major state schools in Colorado: the Colorado State University Rams and the University of Colorado Buffalo. Hailing from different championships, they meet for one rabid game a year, often at Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos.

At once such showdown, I attended with a large group of friends. As we were passing through the gates, each one of us had shoved into our hands some sort of paper advertising. I didn’t want it, but there was not a chance of beating my way back upstream to hand the paper back. So, at the next trashcan I saw, I quickly shoved it in (comeon, they didn’t have paper recycling at the stadium at the time). Almost immediately, I heard someone shout from behind, “Hey you! In the cowboy hat! Al Gore hates you!” Considering I was currently wearing the aforementioned hat, it was clear where the words were directed. For those wondering, this was shortly after Al Gore had released his controversial film An Inconvenient Truth on global warming.

I was devastated.

In this case, by devastated I mean laughing out loud. I can’t imagine caring less about what a complete stranger, wholly unconnected with me or my life, thinks of me. I still tell that story with laughter today.

And that’s just the thing. What a total stranger thinks of me meant nothing. But if someone I love were to hate me…well that would be something else. That would be something devastating…life defining…impossible to get over. To look a dear friend, loved family member in the eye…and to be told they hate me… That is no laughing matter.

So when Matthew records in chapter 16, verses 12-18 that Jesus is interested in what the disciples think of Him, we should sit up and pay attention. Remember, this is the same Jesus who, “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:2-5ESV). All creation was made through Jesus. His words spiraled out the galaxies, ignited stars, covered the earth with land and water, sprouted flowers, spawned the creatures of the deep and the birds of the air, and scattered life across the earth. And in His arms was gathered the frame of man, into which He breathed His own life. The same life He would sacrifice on the cross, stained with our sin.

You see, this Creator God also calls us “child” throughout the Bible. This Creator God names us inheritors of all He has made. This Creator God granted us His authority to work on earth in His name.

And this God cares what we think of Him..the beings He wove from dirt.

In fact… letting us know Him for Who He really is…that’s everything to Him. To that end He has dedicated His every act in our world, from the very beginning.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1NIV

  1. Think of the people you love the most. What would it be like to discover they actually hated you?
  2. How does it impact your perspective to think about this all-powerful Jesus caring what you think of Him?
  3. Knowing how much Jesus cares about what we think about Him, how do you think it impacts Him to see people lose faith in Him or not believe in Him?
  4. Challenge for the Week: We have a lot of ideas about who Jesus is, and not all of them are actually based in the Bible! Commit to reading through the entire book of John over the month of February and March. Make note of all the things you can know about Jesus from this Gospel account.