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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Sacrament's Picture
Text:Matthew 26:14-30 (View)
Occasion:Lord's Supper
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Added:2024-06-13
Updated:2024-06-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say 
How Blest Is He Whose Trespass      
Nearer, Still Nearer
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee
“Man of Sorrows,” What a Name         

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“The Sacrament’s Picture”
Matthew 26:14-30 (14-29 if reading from the ESV)
 
In the previous passage (verses 1-13) Matthew described the devotion of Mary as she anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. We saw that the anointing was a reflection of how she poured out her heart to the Lord in loving devotion and gratitude.
 
By contrast, the passage before us reveals the cold, callous heart of Judas Iscariot. For the price of thirty silver coins he was willing to betray the Son of God. Thirty pieces of silver doesn’t amount to much money, today, or back in the first century. It shows how little value Judas placed on the life of Jesus.
 
And yet Judas had been with Jesus for three years. He had witnessed the miracles. He heard the teaching that astonished the people and frustrated the religious leaders. He had the privilege of being closer to Jesus Christ than anyone else outside of the group of twelve disciples. His life is a dramatic reminder that it is possible to be so close to the Lord and yet be lost.
 
One writer notes: “He was an eye-witness of our Lord’s miracles, and a hearer of His sermons. He saw what Abraham and Moses never saw, and heard what David and Isaiah never heard...He was a fellow-laborer with Peter, James and John…But for all this, his heart was never changed.”  (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels; Vol. 1; pg. 351)
 
Another writer asks, “How could Judas have missed learning what was truly valuable and giving up everything for it?” And he observes: “...It is possible to be quite close to Jesus Christ, to sit in a Christian church listening to good sermons, to hear good Bible teaching on radio or TV, to have Christian parents or Christian friends who live consistent and effective Christian lives...and yet fail to love Christ and never reach the point of making a personal commitment to him as one’s Lord and Savior. You can be that close to Christ and yet be lost.” (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, pg. 555)
   
This passage reminds us of the great need for self-examination. We see the necessity of self-examination again when Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. Did you notice in verse 22, how one after another the disciples asked, “Surely not I, Lord?”  Even Judas, in verse 25, asked, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Judas would acknowledge Jesus as a teacher (Rabbi), but not as his Lord.
 
Not only do these verses call us to examine ourselves; they also reveal God’s sovereignty in the death of Jesus. In verses 17 to 19 we read how the disciples asked Jesus where they would eat the Passover meal. After all, Jerusalem was filled with people who had come for the Passover. There were literally millions of people in the congested city. It is not as though there were banquet halls or open rooms beckoning the disciples to rent them for the Feast.
 
Jesus responded to their question in verse 18, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” From the parallel accounts we know that it was Peter and John who were sent to find this man.  And we know from Luke 22:10 and Mark 14:13 that the man was carrying a container of water on his head. He would be easy to spot because carrying water was women’s work. It would have been highly unusual to see a man doing this chore. But Jesus in his omniscience, tells the disciples whom to look for.
 
The significance is that it shows us how Jesus arranged every detail, even to the timing of his crucifixion. He was not caught by surprise by the kiss of betrayal. He was not caught by surprise by the Roman troops; there was no surprise at the judicial trials he faced. Quite the contrary. Jesus worked out the details, ensuring that he had time to observe the Passover before his betrayal by Judas. As Peter declared to the crowd at Pentecost, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23)
 
Why does that matter? It shows the total willingness of Jesus to lay down his life for sinners like you and like me. There was no hesitation. Instead, Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We see that he showed his love for his people by willingly facing death, even planning out the details of his last hours before the crucifixion.
 
When a fireman risks his life to save the lives of those in a burning house it is indeed a heroic act. And if he should lose his life, it is even more of a hero’s funeral. But in the example of a fireman dying to save others there is no pre-mediation. The intent of a fireman is to rescue people and to escape alive. But Jesus knew from all eternity that your salvation and mine would cost him his life in the most humiliating painful and excruciating death imaginable – death on a cross. He knew from eternity that he is “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Yet he willingly planned out every detail. It is yet another reminder of his great love for the ones whom he came to redeem. 
 
Third, these verses fulfill Scripture. Many of you recall how when Israel left Egypt, they were commanded to sacrifice a lamb without blemish or defect. They were told to put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their homes. Then, when the Lord took the lives of the firstborn in all of Egypt, the Israelites who had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their home were passed over for judgment. (Exo. 12:1-30)
 
And in a similar way, when, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, you believe in Jesus with saving faith, you are passed over for judgment. Through saving faith in Christ, you and I have the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our lives. We are passed over for judgment. Christ bore the curse for sin that you and I deserve as he became our substitute on the cross. It was there that he redeemed us by shedding his blood as a propitiation – that is, a covering for our sins which appeases the righteous and proper wrath of our triune God against sin. And by that redeeming sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. In the words of 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”
 
By being our Passover Lamb, Jesus also fulfilled Exodus 24:7-8. In those verses we read of the book of the covenant and the necessity of the shedding of blood. Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
 
When Jesus takes the cup here in Matthew 26:28 he speaks of “the blood of the covenant.” He is referring back to all the Old Testament sacrifices that could not take away sin, and to his atoning blood, which alone can propitiate – appease – the righteous wrath of our triune God against sin. He is pointing to his covenant with us where he becomes our surety. 
 
Both covenants required obedience. The old covenant required perfect obedience, but no person could perfectly obey. Obedience is still required; perfect obedience is required in the New Covenant. And although no mere human being, none of us, can meet the mark of perfection, Jesus has. He is the Mediator of a new Covenant, a covenant of his blood which covers our sin even as his righteousness is credited to the life of everyone who has saving faith in Christ alone.
 
A Sign and a Seal
 
Whenever we take the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that the sacrament is both a sign and a seal as it portrays to us a visible, sensual picture of God’s Covenant of Redemption and Grace.
 
When theologians refer to the Lord’s Supper as a sensual sacrament, they convey that the elements appeal to our senses: We see the bread with our eyes, as well as the cup. We touch the bread. We taste the bread and the cup. In churches where wine is served there is the aroma of the sacrament as well. As such, the Lord’s Supper appeals to our senses. In other words, not only do we hear with our ears the message of salvation, but we experience it with our senses in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. And the message that is presented is the message of God’s Covenant of redeeming grace.
 
A covenant is a binding promise between two parties. In this case, it is a binding agreement between God and sinners like you and me. In a covenant, all the stipulations of the covenant must be met before the covenant is sealed. As an example, in the purchase of a house you have a real estate covenant. That covenant gives the right to use the land and the buildings on it to the person who buys it. But to come to the “closing” where the purchase is finalized, stipulations need to be met. A specific down payment needs to be made; proof of insurance established, an escrow account for payment of taxes and insurance payable through monthly payments has to be made. If someone cannot come up with the requirements that are stipulated, then the real estate covenant cannot be completed.  
         
Because we are sinners from the moment of our conception, we are unable to keep God’s commandments with the perfection he requires. If Adam and Eve perfectly obeyed God, they would have lived in Paradise forever. But when they sinned all humanity fell. Consequently, none of us can “come to the closing.” None of us can attain the requirements of the covenant because we are sinners.
 
But when Jesus says, “This is the blood of the covenant” he is pointing out that the requirements of the new covenant are met, not in you or in me, but in him. And having met the requirement of perfect obedience, he now credits your account and mine with his righteousness.
 
In verse 28 Jesus goes on to teach that his shed blood leads to the forgiveness of sins for many. There cannot be forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22). By shedding his blood Jesus poured out his life into ours. He died so that we might live. When Jesus says that his blood “is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins”, he refers to all sins of all his people – his people being those who by his grace and Spirit’s power have saving faith in Christ alone; they are God’s chosen people; God’s elect. 
 
I have been memorizing Psalm 32 which is a Psalm about our sin and God’s forgiveness. The Psalm begins by focusing on transgression, sin and inequity. Transgression is rebellion against God’s authority. The first human transgression was the transgression of Adam and Eve as they rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. But unfortunately, it was not just Adam and Eve who rebelled against God. Every one of us has, by our very nature, an attitude of rebellion against the Lord. We have all tried to put ourselves in the driver’s seat, to live our life “our way” and not “God’s way.”
 
In Psalm 32 David not only talks about our transgression, our rebellion against God, but also about our sin in its broader sense. He uses a word for sin that means to miss the mark. The Old Testament Hebrew word for sin, and its Greek New Testament counterpart, both mean to miss, or fall short, of a mark. In the ancient world the term was used for archery. When you miss the target, you have missed the mark; you have fallen short.
 
When we sin, we miss the mark. The mark that is specifically missed is obedience to God’s law. No matter how hard we try, we always fall short; we always miss the mark of perfectly obeying the law of God.
 
The third word used to describe our depraved condition is the word “iniquity” which refers to perversion, that is, being corrupt, twisted, and crooked – often without repentance. It is willful transgression that leads to ever greater sin. Unfortunately, we have the capability to take the best gifts of God, whether it is material resources, our dominion over creation, sexuality, or any other gift from God, and pervert that which is good making it corrupt, twisted, and crooked.
 
As such, Psalm 32 paints a graphic picture of our sin: Our sin is described as rebellion against God, which is our transgression. Sin is a failure to meet the mark – the standard – of God’s law. And sin includes our iniquity, a perversion of the good things God has given us.
 
And you might wonder, “Why would you want to memorize a Psalm about three aspects of sin?  How depressing!” But one of the reasons I love that Psalm so much is that in verse 5 David writes, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’”
 
And that is exactly what Jesus is speaking about as he institutes the Lord’s Supper. He declares, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (28). Who are the many?  The many are all those who confess their sin, their transgressions, and their iniquity to the Lord, trusting by God’s grace through saving faith that he will cover them with his precious blood.  
 
It doesn’t matter what the sin is. It doesn’t matter how rebellious the transgression has been. It doesn’t matter how perverse the iniquity. When you confess it to the Lord, with a sincere heart, with what Scripture calls “Godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10), he promises to forgive.  He promises his blood is sufficient. He promises that he has taken the judgment for the sin upon himself.
 
But if you have never placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation, then your sin rests upon you, not on Christ. Luther described that scenario clearly when he wrote: “Either sin is lying on your soldiers, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. And if it is resting on Christ, you are free (forgiven).”
 
The Certainty of Eternal Life
 
In the sacrament we see that the body of Jesus was pierced and crucified for us, that his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. And because of that, we see thirdly, the certainty of eternal life in heaven for those of us who have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus emphasizes that in verse 29: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
 
The Lord’s Supper that we take this morning is a truly wonderful sacrament. The Heidelberg Catechism points that out in its answer to question 66, “What are sacraments?”
 
Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see.
They were instituted by God so that
  by our use of them
he might make us understand more clearly
 the promise of the gospel,
and might put his seal on that promise.
 
And this is God's gospel promise:
 to forgive our sins and give us eternal life
   by grace alone
   because of Christ's one sacrifice
   finished on the cross.
 
The catechism is teaching us that the sacrament is a holy sign that paints a picture of our redemption. It is telling us that not only does God paint a picture for us in the sacrament of his redeeming love, but he also seals that truth to our hearts as we partake of the sacrament with saving faith. It is a wonderful truth. But wonderful as it is, it is still a picture even though it is sealed.
 
What Jesus is saying in verse 29 is that the picture will become a reality in the life to come. We will feast with Christ at the Great Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The realization of the forgiveness of our sins will be realized completely in the life yet to be revealed.
 
The sacrament portrays and seals to us the wonderful truth that our sins are forgiven as they are covered by the precious blood of Christ. As we taste the bread and drink of the cup with true saving faith, the sacrament assures us that Christ is in us and, by his grace, we are in him.
 
I read about a soldier who got married back toward the start of World War 2. He got married even though he knew he would be going overseas in two weeks. But he and his wife loved each other, they tied the knot, and then he was off to serve in the second World War. He had a picture of his wife. He carried it with him and he looked at that picture so often! What love he had for his wife! How wonderful it would be when the war was over and he would return home! 
 
That day finally came. The war ended. The soldier returned home. Who did he hug? The picture that had brought him so much joy and comfort and anticipation? Or did he hug his wife, who was now before him, who he saw face to face, eye to eye?
 
The same is true with this sacrament. It is a wonderful picture. It points us to Jesus, the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace. It appeals to our senses of taste, sight, touch, smell. God is so gracious to give us the sacrament as a picture of his redeeming love and to seal it with the Holy Spirit’s presence.
 
But the day will come when instead of the sacrament, we will see the One who is portrayed in the sacrament. We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with true saving faith can echo the words Job spoke so long ago: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”  (Job 19:25-27).
 
Now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face. (1 Cor. 13:12)
 
My friends, may each one of you be ready for that great and glorious day when we drink the fruit of the vine anew with Jesus in our Father’s eternal kingdom! May each one of us then know the reality that the sacrament portrays and seals – the complete forgiveness of all our sins – as we behold Jesus and see him face to face! Amen.
 
 
 
bulletin outline:
 
“This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for
the forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:28
 
                              “The Sacrament’s Picture”
                                       Matthew 26:14-30
 
I.  These verses:
    1) Call us to examine ourselves (14-16; 20-25)
 
 
 
 
    2) Reveal God’s sovereignty in the death of Jesus (17-19; Acts 2:23)
 
 
 
 
    3) Fulfill Scripture (Exodus 12:21-28; 24:7-8; Jeremiah 31:31-34;
         Zechariah 11:13)
 
 
 
 
II. The sacrament (26-28) is a picture, appealing to our senses, of:
     1) God’s Covenant of Redemption and Grace (28a)
 
 
 
 
     2) The forgiveness of sins for many (28b)
 
 
 
 
     3) The certainty of eternal life in heaven for believers (29)
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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