Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "In The Cross Of Christ I Glory"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 26:26a – While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples [including Judas!] (NIV)
I remember years ago watching a parishioner stomp out of every communion service because a participating brother was "not living right". Today, such behaviour may seem over-reactive and judgmental. Still, we surely wonder: How can light fellowship with darkness? How can the godly share communion with the ungodly? Is that not disunity?
Yet, Jesus Himself served the Passover meal to Judas while being fully aware of the defilement in this disciple's heart. At the most sacred meal in the Jewish tradition, we see the Pure One freely serving one so impure. It doesn't seem fitting! Certainly such "reckless" gestures were inappropriate according to Jesus' contemporaries. They were dead serious about purity:
John 18:28b – To avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace [of the Roman Governor, Pilate]; they wanted to eat the Passover. (NIV)
I'm awestruck by these two contrasting references to the Passover. In one, we see scrupulous attempts to preserve purity; in the other, none. What should we make of this?
I think of the Lord's Supper tradition where, perhaps above any other Christian ritual, there's been a desire to preserve purity and sacredness. It's here where the church has attempted to separate pure from impure, qualified from unqualified, saved from unsaved, members from non-members, priest from laity, sacred from common, saint from sinner. And yet, Jesus served Judas!
Even the early Corinthian church separated people at the Lord's Supper: the haves from have-nots. This caused divisiveness. According to Paul, the solution needed was self-reflection:
1 Corinthians 11:28 – A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread or drinks of the cup. (NIV)
Judas, on the contrary, had shown no interest in honest self-reflection. "Surely not I," he had adamantly declared to Jesus at the meal. Judas was blinded by denial. And yet, Jesus served Judas!
Eventually, those two men that I mentioned at the beginning of this devotional were reconciled. They forgave each other. Oh, what joy for all! That was Holy Communion! That was unity! That was the work of the Spirit, not human strategy. Jesus, however, would not see reconciliation with Judas. Jesus simply trusted the Father to fulfill His purposes. Meanwhile, Jesus served Judas.
Isn't that relieving to know? We, too, share the Lord's cup in the presence of impurity, having no power to purify anyone. Furthermore, when we focus on the impurities of others, we fail to see how we are also impure and in need of grace. We must look only to Him who alone is pure. Only in Him, can we gain power and wisdom to appropriately serve the Judases in our lives, no matter where that is. We, like Jesus, can entrust them to our Father, to work all things for His glory.
Prayer: Lord, help us to overcome our bent to gaze too long and too hard at the impurities of others. Help us to see our own brokenness, that we may learn to rest in Your holy, pure grace, as our new wine and living bread. Amen.