The Last Supper by Fritz von Uhde (1886)
During his Last Supper with the disciples, on the night before he died on the cross, Jesus passed around some bread and wine, told the disciples it was his body and blood, and said it was given for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:26-28).
Just before that (verse 21), Jesus had said to the group, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me,” and they were shocked. Judas had told no one of the betrayal he planned and all were confused by what Jesus said. But Jesus knew what was in the heart of Judas. At the same meal, Peter had boldly and courageously proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus, saying he would even die for him. But Jesus saw also into his heart, and knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Jesus said to him, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Jesus knew exactly what was in the hearts and minds of all the disciples, predicting that they would all run away that night and abandon him (verse 31). Everyone acted in just the way that Jesus said they would. He knew what was in their hearts.
That is a frightening thought. It is frightening because Jesus knows us in the same way, he knows everything that is in our hearts and minds. John 2:25 says of Jesus, “He did not need anyone to tell him anything, for he himself knew what was in man.”
Think about that the next time you receive Holy Communion. Jesus not only sees everything you do, he also sees into your heart. He knows your prejudices and hatreds; he knows who you are jealous of and what you are bitter about; and he sees your selfish spirit. Jesus knows when you are unforgiving. He knows your most secret and hidden sins. He knows all about you are most ashamed of. He knows you better than you know yourself. Even when you are able to pull the wool over your own eyes with the excuses you tell yourself, Jesus knows better.
I am amazed when I see on the news how much of our lives is now being filmed. I think of that when I see those film clips of criminals the police are trying to find. The cameras are all over. If you go into the bank, you are being filmed. If you go into a shopping center, your entrance is recorded, and, you have already been filmed out in the parking lot. When you fill up with gas, the sign says you are on camera, and when you go into the convenience store, your every move is being filmed. This is a little unnerving when you think about it. But of course, unless you are trying to rob the place, who cares if someone you don’t even know is watching you pick your nose or sees do some scratching you wouldn’t otherwise be doing on camera?
Still, I prefer my privacy and don’t much care for someone watching my every move. But what about someone knowing our every thought; and that someone being not just some stranger, but Jesus? The disciples had been with Jesus for three years, and they had seen him see into the thoughts of others. It must have been very uncomfortable for them to know Jesus was also seeing into their hearts and minds, as he was at that last supper.
In the same way, Jesus knows all about you, all the time. Don’t you sometimes, or even oftentimes, want to just be alone with your thoughts? But you are never alone with your thoughts, and we all have much in our thoughts and in our memories and in our hearts to be ashamed of. As one writer put it, “We all have thoughts that would shame hell.”
Yet, as unpleasant as this is, it is that very thing that makes Holy Communion all the more wonderful. Because it was at that same meal, after Jesus saw into everyone’s hearts and saw all the same dirt there that he had been seeing for the past three years with them; and then predicted their denial, betrayal, and desertion that very night; after all that, Jesus still offered them the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins, saying “This is my body and my blood, given for you.” By that time the very next night, his actual physical body would be broken and bloodied and dead in the tomb, sacrificed for the forgiveness of all those sins and all of ours.
Whenever you receive Communion, remember two things. First, remember how well Jesus knows you and how he sees everything, even into the depths of your heart. Then remember that even though he knows you as he does, Jesus has still invited you to come and receive His forgiveness.
John 2:25 — There was no need for anyone to tell Jesus about them, because he knew what was in their hearts.
Matthew 26:31a — Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me…”
Matthew 26:26-28 — While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Lord, I am indeed unworthy that you should come under my roof, but I need and long for your help and grace so that I may walk in the right path. Therefore, I come to you, trusting only in the comforting words which I have heard, in which you invite me to your table and say to me, who is so unworthy, that I will receive forgiveness of my sins through your body and blood, if I eat and drink of this sacrament. Relying on this promise, I eat and drink with you. Let it be to me according to your will and Word. Amen.
–Martin Luther (1483-1546)