What Are You Looking For?
How am i supposed to feel? When I was a child I used to sit in the pew as other people came up for communion. And as they went up there I wondered what it was like to receive the Lord’s Supper? And so I would study their faces. As I looked at most of their faces as they were coming back to their seats I concluded that the Lord’s Supper was a very serious event. And most likely, it was a very sad event too. But then one day, the organist walked down the aisle with this bright, blazing, smiling face. And that threw off all my data-collecting. So which is it? Should I be sad or joyful? Is the Lord’s Supper a funeral or a festival? That is the question to ponder as we begin these words in Mark 14. We read: “17 When evening came, he arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the Twelve—the one who is dipping bread in the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”” (Mark 14:17–21 CSB17)
Jesus and his disciples sit down to celebrate the Passover together. This was one of the three high festivals of the Jewish church year. It was one of the most cherished times of the year. And in the middle of that night Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” When Jesus speaks those words, he forever changes the context of what happens on this Thursday night. That Thursday night will always be a night of betrayal. And as a result, the Lord’s Supper will always have an element of sadness because if we ask the question, “what was Judas looking for”, the answer is: a Savior to betray. And how this happens is so sad to think of. They are all there eating and feasting. And Jesus destroys the joy by saying one of you will betray me. Then each of them, one after another, says, “not me.” And Judas is there. He too says, “not me.” And Jesus makes the secret hypocrisy in his heart public. He dips his hand in the bowl along with Judas. And he ends this part of God’s word with the word, “woe.” It’s a word of immense sadness. It’s a word that makes us stop and ponder how horrible it is to betray the sinless Son of God. It’s the sort of word that if you were reading these words at home, instead of reading on, you’d stop here and ponder the fact of how horrible it is to betray the sinless Son of God all day long.
What are you looking for in Jesus? Judas was looking for a Savior to betray. But what was Jesus looking for? We read: “22 As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:22–26 CSB17)
Judas was looking for a Savior to betray. What was Jesus looking for? He was looking for forgiveness that he could bring. What is it that you receive in the Lord’s Supper? Jesus says, “this is my body.” Jesus says, “this is my blood.” Now, notice, in these words we do not find a context in which we can conclude that when Jesus is saying “this is”, what he really means is “this is a picture of.” And we definitely don’t find any indication that what he means is that Jesus is giving them his body and blood so that they then can in turn re-sacrifice them to take away the sins of the living and the dead. This is the night on which our Savior was betrayed. It is a night of sincere sadness. It is the night in which he gives to us his very own real and true body and blood along with bread and wine.
But what does that bring to us? What Jesus’ body and blood bring to us is forgiveness. The first and most important gift that Jesus gives to us in this sacrament is forgiveness. For the body that was crushed to pay for our sins on Good Friday is given to us here in the Lord’s Supper. The blood of the sinless lamb of God that could pay for sin is given to us. And so, the first and most important gift that is given in the Lord’s Supper is forgiveness.
So Judas looks for a Savior to betray. Jesus looks for forgiveness that he can bring. What do Jesus’ disciples look for? “26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will fall away, because it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 Peter told him, “Even if everyone falls away, I will not.” 30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to him, “today, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he kept insisting, “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” And they all said the same thing.” (Mark 14:26–31 CSB17)
Right before Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, he lets them know that one of them would betray him. Now he lets them know that all of them would betray him. Now, to be clear, the word that Jesus uses here is not the same word as before. There would be one of them who would “hand Jesus over.”1 But all would be shocked and ashamed of Jesus and then abandon him.2 All will betray him. Jesus says these words to his disciples in the upper room. And this evening he says these words to us tonight. We, like Judas, might not have plotted, planned and then progressed through a way to murder Jesus. But we have betrayed him. Every time you sing “holy, holy, holy” here in these halls and then go home and curse, you betray Jesus. Every time you say, “Your will be done” here, and then go home and in your heart say, “my way or the highway,” you betray Jesus. Every time you are emboldened to speak and sing about your Savior here and then go out there in the world and are embarrassed of him, you betray him. And if you ever wondered why Jesus would start out before the Lord’s Supper by saying, “woe to the person who betrays the Son of man,” and then after the Lord’s Supper tell them all that they would betray him, now you know. It’s easy to look at the Lord’s Supper as if it’s some sort of magical meal that simply and only strengthens our faith if you never see and find any betrayal in your heart. But if, like Peter and the rest, you find a sinful heart inside yourself that has cursed instead of praised, been stubborn instead of yielding, been embarrassed instead of emboldened, then the forgiveness that Jesus brings to you makes sense and gives you joy and hope.
So, my dear friends in Christ, how are you supposed to feel? When you come up here and receive the Lord’s Supper, how should you feel? There in the upper room was the place that Jesus spoke about betrayal. How could the Lord’s supper not be an occasion for sadness. But it’s also an occasion for joy. For the forgiveness that Jesus wins with his broken body and dripping blood on Good Friday, Jesus brings to you in the Lord’s Supper.
What are you looking for in Jesus? Judas looked for a Savior to betray. Jesus looked forgivness that he would bring. We look for forgiveness for our betrayals. And in Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine we find it. Amen.
1 “ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲇⲱⲥⲉⲓⲙⲉ” (Mark 14:18 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲥⲕⲁⲛⲇⲁⲗⲓⲥⲑⲏⲥⲉⲥⲑⲁⲓ” (Mark 14:27 GNT-ALEX)