We see two key moments in the story of the gospel in both Mark 14 and Matthew 26. These two moments portray the betrayal of Jesus and the institution of communion at the last supper. The apostle Paul chose to emphasize both of these two moments as we observe the teaching on communion. Normally, we view the last supper and the betrayal of Jesus as two separate occasions. While they definitely occurred at two different times, the apostle Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians that these two moments were connected.
In order to fully grasp both of these events, we have to start with the story of Judas.
As believers, we paint a picture of Judas where he has always been a bad guy, out to get Jesus. It doesn’t help that in movies, shows, and books he is depicted as an evil figure right from the beginning. However, it’s important to note that this is not the case; he wasn’t as our culture has depicted him to be. He was one of the twelve disciples who followed Jesus and he was on fire for the Lord.
Every one of the disciples healed the sick, cast out demons, preached the gospel, baptized people, and walked with Jesus for years. Judas operated in this same anointing and was extremely involved in every facet of ministry. He was chosen to be one of the twelve disciples Judas was completely trusted and was put over the ministries’ finances. In order to hold this sort of role and position, the person chosen had to have a strong sense of keenness about them and more importantly, the highest of integrity. Simply put, Judas was a man of God but he was also the disciple who would ultimately betray Jesus, handing him over to be arrested.
Knowing all of this leads us to asking a painful question: after following and doing ministry with Jesus for years, how could this happen?
The Slow Drift
Judas Iscariot had a strong start just like the rest of the men following Jesus, but he failed to finish. Something happened between the time he chose to follow Jesus and the moment he sold Him out. He was a man of God who, unfortunately, began to let compromise into his heart. We see in the scriptures three different areas where Judas began to compromise and tolerate sin: greed, offense, and unbelief.
Greed: While people can show greed for many different things like drunkenness, selfish ambition or lust, Judas had an unrestrained desire for money. It caused him to steal from the ministry over time and paved the way for him to sell Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver. Greed is simply unrestrained desire.
Offense: All of the Jewish men at the time had an idea of what the coming Messiah should look like. Judas was offended because he imagined a powerful military leader as the Messiah. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and then demonstrated this claim with signs and miracles. Judas stumbled over the fact that the Messiah, this great leader, would be persecuted and killed. Judas didn’t leave his life behind to be crucified with Christ. It simply wasn’t what he signed up for and Judas’ refusal to part with his own expectations resulted in him being offended.
Unbelief: After Judas betrayed Jesus, there was a moment where Judas ran back into the temple and threw the money back at the men who paid him to have Jesus arrested. Judas was so close to finding his way back but in Matthew 27:3-4, we are shown an entirely different picture. Judas only believed that he was betraying an innocent man. He didn’t believe he had betrayed the Messiah. In this moment, that unbelief that had already rooted in his heart became evident.
“When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” (Matthew 27:3-4)
Although it was Judas who betrayed Jesus, we need to know that it could have been any one of the disciples. Given the right set of circumstances and the wrong decisions, anything is possible. When we turn away from God, it happens in a slow drift just as it happened with Judas. Small compromises and little allowances for sin in our lives are how someone ends up rejecting Jesus.
The Lord’s Table
We can see that at the last supper where Jesus instituted communion. Paul retells the story to us in 1 Corinthians 11:
“On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it into pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people, an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
We must be reminded that when Jesus established the table of grace, He established it on the night that He was betrayed. This is the same night that He knew he would have a dagger thrust into his back by one of his closest friends. Why is this the day he chose to establish communion?
Jesus wanted to show his followers that when we come to the Lord’s table, we are able to find three things: justice, forgiveness, and healing. Whatever challenges we face or the frustrations of life we endure, we can be reminded that at the Lord’s table we find all that we need and much more.
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