One of the most popular game shows of all time was "Let's Make A Deal" with Monty Hall. If you came of age in the sixties, then you surely remember the premise. Monty Hall would call contestants at random from the audience and ask them to trade whatever item they happened to have on them, such as their shoes or their coat or even their purse, for what was behind door number one, door number two, or door number three. Sometimes, the prizes behind a door were fabulous: a trip, a fur coat, electronics, furniture, an appliance, or even a new car. Other times, contestants would just assume leave their "prize" of a matchbox car, a wheelbarrow, or a t-shirt on the stage and simply walk away.
Even decades after "Let's Make A Deal" has faded from the primetime airwaves, the allure of what's behind door number one, door number two, or door number three has remained seared in the public consciousness. Jimmy Buffett even sang a song about these famous doors: "My whole world lies waiting behind door number three. And I don't want what Jay's got on his table, or the box Carol Merrill points to on the floor. No, I'll hold out just as long as I am able, or until I can unlock that lucky door."
In our reading for today from Matthew 26, we find Jesus in the throws of his final hours. And for his closing act, he decides to celebrate with his disciples a most sacred meal: the Passover. A traditional Jewish celebration of the Passover would involve eating matza, or unleavened bread, parsley, lamb, and sharing four cups of wine, a highly significant event, echoing God's words in Exodus 6:6-7: "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians." Each of the four cups of the Passover corresponded to each of the four divine statements in this passage: "I will bring... I will free... I will redeem... I will take." The third cup, the cup of redemption, was especially poignant because it spoke to the exact moment that God bought the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and instead made them his servants. And God accomplishes this redemption, the author of Exodus says, with an outstretched arm.
Jesus could have chosen any cup he wanted. But on this Passover night, when he institutes a new meal - his meal - Jesus chooses cup number three: the cup of redemption. "Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to his disciples, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (verses 27-28). Jesus uses the cup shared immediately after the Passover meal - the third cup - to share his blood with his disciples.
Jesus could have chosen any cup he wanted. But on this Passover night, when he institutes a new meal - his meal - Jesus chooses cup number three: the cup of redemption. For God, through Christ, is once again redeeming his people. Not from slavery in Egypt, but from slavery to sin so that he can make them servants of himself. And God, once again, is doing it with an outstretched arm, or, should I say, with outstretched arms. For the two arms of Jesus, outstretched on a cross, won for us redemption from sin, death, and the devil.
Jesus could have chosen any cup he wanted. But on this Passover night, when he institutes a new meal - his meal - Jesus chooses cup number three: the cup of redemption. Jesus "makes a deal," as it were, for our souls. Not with a pair of shoes, a coat, or even a purse, but with his very blood, shed on a cross and shared in a supper. And now Jesus invites us to partake with him in what's in cup number three. For in cup number three is the very taste of forgiveness. In cup number three is the very taste of our salvation. In cup number three is the very taste of our redemption. And so this Sunday, I can't wait to not only see, but drink of, what's in cup number three. I hope you'll join me.