The Lord's Supper (Part One)
Topic: The Lord's Supper Passage: Luke 22:19–20
The church will not continue its deliberate practice of not gathering together indefinitely. By definition, the church is the gathering together of Jesus’ people. The body of Christ is a spiritual family that again and again gathers to worship the Lord, gathers over the preaching and teaching of the word of God, and gathers to welcome new converts through baptism. Jesus only gave two ordinances to the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In referring to the Lord’s Supper, Paul wrote, “when you come together...” (1 Cor. 11:18). This morning’s message will cover Luke 22 and the particular Passover meal that Jesus shared with the Twelve. Next week will follow the theology of the Lord’s Supper throughout church history. Week three will delve into the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
Luke 22 shows us the most crucial meal ever eaten in the history of the world. Starting in Luke 22:7, this is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first day is when the Passover lamb has to be sacrificed. Hundreds of thousands of non-Jerusalem Jews have journeyed to Jerusalem for this week of the Feast. Each Israelite would slaughter his own lamb and bring it back home to feed a gathering of roughly ten people.
Back to Luke 22, we see that Jesus gets very precise about the preparations His disciples were to make (Luke 22:8-12). Jesus has a secret plan, because he knows Judas’ plan to betray Him. Everything happened like clockwork (Luke 22:13). The disciples’ preparation would have included bringing the slaughtered lamb back to the upper room, putting it on a spit to roast, purchasing the unleavened bread and wine for the meal, and then waiting back at the room. In Luke 22:14, Jesus and the other ten show up. This was a critical moment in salvation history, where Jesus will pour out his heart to these disciples, and indeed to all of His disciples. Note that Jesus “earnestly desired” (Luke 22:15-16), not just desired.
Jesus is saying the Passover now looks forward to a day of deliverance in the consummation of the kingdom. What does He mean “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”? Wasn’t it fulfilled in Jesus’ death as the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7)? He must mean something more. All those for whom Christ died must first come to faith in Him, and then finally Christ will come back to celebrate the fulfillment of this Passover at the marriage supper of the lamb. Think about that for a moment. That means, we who believe, as we eat we are keeping an eye to the future meal that He promised (Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26). Why is Jesus eager to eat this last Passover? It is in order to teach the disciples the ultimate meaning of the Passover. In Egypt on the night of the original Passover, Jesus is telling them that that was a picture of Me, the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Matthew and Luke only tell us about one cup of wine, but Luke gives a fuller account as we see in Luke 22:17-20. The traditional Passover meal has four cups of wine. The first cup is in verse 17. In verse 19, Jesus throws a curveball by calling the bread His body. The disciples don’t get it, but they will after the resurrection. The unleavened bread was the bread of affliction, reminding them of their enslavement in Egypt (Deut. 16:2-3). When Jesus says, “This is my body,” holding the bread, He means “the bread represents My body” (1 Cor. 10:16). Jesus is pointing to the unity of believers. So He institutes a reenactment of what He just did in that upper room. This is a memorial meal the church is to recall often, again and again in its gathering.
As the night continues, the disciples go on eating, and we know Jesus did a lot of teaching during this time (see John 13-16). Then eventually, Jesus takes the third cup (Luke 22:20), and calls the cup “the New Covenant in My blood.” By doing this, He is clearly contrasting His atoning, sacrificial death with the Old Covenant sacrificial system (Jer. 31:31-34). With Jesus’ death, the benefits of new life by the Holy Spirit and heart change of the sinner toward God was secured. The problem with the Old Covenant was that God granted His chosen people Israel His promises and His laws externally only, but without having a changed heart. The promise of the New Covenant is the promise of a new heart (see Ezek. 36:26-27, Eph. 2:1-5). Jesus’ disciples, who are in the New Covenant are those who hear the gospel, believe it, confirm their salvation through baptism, and then together with Christ’s community regularly keep their focus on the substitutionary death of Jesus by the memorial of the Lord’s Supper.