In the gospel of Matthew the story of the Last Supper is sandwiched by two narratives of betrayal. The text that precedes the Last Supper is the story of Judas selling out Jesus (Matt 26:14-25). The text that follows portrays the certainty that all the disciples will fall away and betray Jesus (Matt 26:30-35). It is striking that Jesus knows exactly what is coming and still, he invites his disciples to the table. This is a powerful and intentional demonstration of grace. Jesus is showing us exactly who he wants at his table: broken and needy people.
The only way for the disciples to sit at table with God is through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus—there is no other way. At this meal, we see the heart of God. We behold his embrace of rebels and sinners. In Christ, he has provided all that is necessary to dine with him! The Last Supper for Jesus leads the way to the sinner’s first supper with God. Gilbert Ostdiek is intrigued by this idea as he reads the Last Supper narrative. He states this:
“Why would the early communities for which the gospels were written have chosen to include this less than flattering portrait of the first disciples in their accounts of the supper? Exegetes commonly hold that the four gospels were written not simply as transcriptions of historical events, but as faith accounts told in such a way as to help the different communities reflect on the meaning of these events for their lives. Francis Moloney has argued that admission of broken and weak disciples to the table of the Lord is a thread that runs through each of the biblical accounts of the last supper, though altered to fit the circumstances of each community. These memories are enshrined precisely because the later disciples experienced themselves as did the first, prone to fail and in need of the strength and forgiveness this holy meal provides. From his study of New Testament materials Moloney concludes: ‘the Eucharist celebrates and proclaims the presence of Jesus to the broken.’”
John Calvin makes a similar point when he states, “let us remember that this sacred banquet is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, alms to the poor.” A broken body for a broken people—this is how God makes us whole.