The Gospel of Luke:a commentary & meditation

"I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer"

Scripture: Luke 22:14-23

14 And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this.

Meditation: Why did Jesus "earnestly desire to eat this passover meal" with his disciples? Luke mentions that "the passover lamb has to be sacrificed" on this feast (Luke 22:7). This would be Jesus' last meal with his chosen twelve. It was not coincidental that he would suffer and die on a cross at passover time. Luke points to Jesus' death as the sacrificial passover lamb who fulfills and makes obsolete the sacrifices of the old testament.  This meal is both a celebration of the passover according to the old covenant and the institution of a new covenant to be commemorated by a new meal. Jesus institutes this "new covenant" in the form of a last will and testament. Jacob and Moses, just before their deaths, blessed their heirs with their last will and testament (Genesis 49; Deuteronomy 33).  Jesus' passover is similar as he blesses his chosen twelve who would become the leaders of the new Israel.  Jesus' institution fulfills the old testament promises of a "new covenant" and "new exodus" which would bring about true freedom from slavery to sin, as well as the promise of blessing.

Luke ties the last supper meal with Jesus' death and the coming of God's kingdom.  Jesus transforms the passover of the old covenant into the meal of the "new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20). In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to their Creator. Melchizedek’s offering of bread and wine, who was both priest and king (Genesis 14:18), prefigured the offering made by Jesus, our high priest and king. The unleavened bread at Passover and the miraculous manna in the desert are the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises.  The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish passover meal points to the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Jesus gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup when he instituted the "Lord's Supper" or "Eucharist".  He speaks of the presence of his body and blood in this new meal. When at the Last Supper Jesus described his blood “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), he was explaining his coming crucifixion as a sacrifice for sins. His death on the cross fulfilled the sacrifice of the paschal lamb.  That is why John the Baptist called him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus  made himself an offering and sacrifice, a gift that was truly pleasing to the Father. He “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14) and “gave himself as a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).  This meal was a memorial of his death and resurrection.

Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum– giving his disciples his body and his blood (John 6:51-58).  Jesus’ passing over to his Father by his death and resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Last Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom. This is the most significant meal of Jesus and the most important occasion of his breaking of bread.  In this meal Jesus identifies the bread as his body and the cup as his blood. When the Lord Jesus commands his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites us to take his life into the very center of our being (John 6:53). That life which he offers is the very life of God himself.  Jesus' death on the cross, his gift of his body and blood in the Supper, and his promise to dine again with his disciples when the kingdom of God comes in all its fulness are inseparably linked. Jesus instructed his disciples to "do this in remembrance of me". These words establish every Lord's Supper or Eucharist as a "remembrance" of Jesus' atoning death, his resurrection, and his promise to return again.  "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). Our celebration of the Lord's Supper anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with his disciples in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb and his Bride.  Doy you know the joy of the drinking Christ's cup and tasting the bread of his Table in sincerity?

"Lord Jesus, you are the "Bread of Life" and the "Cup of Salvation".  May I always follow in the narrow way of the cross toward the heavenly banquet where you will seat all the elect at the table of your kingdom."

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 (c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager