YOU NEED TO REMEMBER

 

Week of April 2, 2006

 

Bible Passage:  Luke 22:14-20, 24-27, 31-34.

 

Biblical Truth:  Believers contradict the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper when they argue among themselves or become overconfident about their spiritual maturity.

 

The Supper is More Than a Ritual: 22:14-20.

 

[14] When the hour had come, He reclined at the 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 say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” [17] And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; [18] for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” [19] And when He had taken some bread and 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 in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”   [NASU]

 

THE USUAL PROCEEDINGS AT A PASSOVER MEAL. In general the proceedings in the time of Jesus were as follows. After the household or group of friends who celebrated the feast together were seated around the table on which everything was in readiness for the banquet, and after a blessing had been asked on the feast, the first cup of wine was emptied. After this the father would relate the story of the Passover. Next all would join in singing Psalms 113 and 114; the second cup of wine was emptied; and then the actual Passover meal (with the sacrificed lamb as the main course) was eaten. After the conclusion of the meal the third cup was sent round after thanks had been returned for the Passover meal. After this another cup of wine was emptied and Psalms 115-118 were chanted to conclude the proceedings. During the proceedings unleavened bread and bitter herbs were eaten. 

 

[15] Both of Jesus’ opening statements are strongly worded. I have earnestly desired represents a strong double construction, literally “with desire I have desired”. The second statement begins with an emphatic future negative: I shall never again eat. Together the sentences convey the depth of Jesus’ feelings at this time and the immense significance of what is taking place. This was a moment of significant fellowship, centering on God’s original act of salvation in the Exodus. This meal portrayed the nation’s founding and the “passing over” of Israel’s firstborn, while Jesus prepared to offer himself on behalf of others. The meal depicts a transition from the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry to the start of his salvific work.

 

[16] On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus knows that the whole course of his life of self-sacrifice and humiliation on earth is now drawing to an end. But he also knows that the day will come when he as the Triumphant One will lead his followers to the beautiful heritage of complete redemption and blessedness. This full blessedness which will commence with the end of the age has often been represented by the symbol of the celebration of a Messianic banquet. For this reason the Savior here refers to the celebration of the feast on that coming day when the sovereign dominion of God has come to full revelation and the redemption wrought by the grace of God, as symbolized in the Passover celebrations, has become a blessed and perfect reality.

 

[17] Luke refers to two distinct cups, a detail that is unique to him. To what does this first cup refer? Luke has apparently described both the Passover setting of the supper [7-18] and the institution of the Lord’s Supper [19-20]. The cup of verse 17 may be the first of the traditional four cups taken during the Passover meal. The first cup is a common cup which intensifies the oneness that is central to the meal. Jesus and His disciples are sharing one last moment of celebration, gratitude, and fellowship before His suffering.

 

[18] Jesus gives a second vow of abstinence to explain why this meal, including the sharing of the cup, is so important to him. These vows add solemnity to the occasion and show that things are headed for change.

 

[19] Jesus reinterprets the symbols of the Passover and gives them new meanings. Such meaning resides in the symbols until he returns. In fact, the symbols are a reminder that he is returning. Jesus links the bread to his “offered body.” It represents his death. Jesus speaks specifically of his body offered for you, a remark that could have a sacrificial and substitutionary tone to it. In this context, Jesus’ death is associated with salvation. He gives himself up for them. Here is not only deep theological truth, but great love, which Paul states more explicitly in Romans 5:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 10:16. These Pauline texts picture all believers sharing in one body, which was broken for them. The imagery suggests the most fundamental basis for the unity of believers. Jesus also institutes a practice here. He speaks of do this in remembrance of Me. This is a memorial meal, not a resacrifice. It calls to mind what Jesus did and declares one’s identification with that act. As they break the bread, the disciples are to associate it with Jesus’ broken body. They are to recall what it was Jesus did. Only Luke and Paul’s version of the supper note these words about remembrance [1 Cor. 11:24-25]. That Jesus would speak of a future event in the middle of a meal that looks back to the Exodus is highly suggestive. He compares the salvific eras, one past, the other yet to come. Both involve death, in one a lamb, in the other a Messiah. The Twelve are to recall that it was Messiah, God’s son, who died for them. The idea of recollection has Old Testament roots with the Passover. The meal affirms this relationship, just as the Lord’s Supper in the church is also a reaffirmation of this relationship.

 

[20] Jesus relates this cup to the new covenant which is inaugurated in his blood, that is, by his death. Picturing life, the blood is shed for you. Jesus’ death is an offering that brings a new era and the Spirit of God. The new covenant carried with it assurance of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross and the inner work of the Holy Spirit in motivating us and enabling us to fulfill our covenantal responsibility.

 

SUMMARY. The account of Jesus’ last meal is loaded with significance. This is the last time that Jesus will be with his disciples in his earthly life. As he gathers with them, they recall in the Passover the last great salvific event, the Exodus. They are gathered to look back, but Jesus looks forward to his approaching suffering and a new sacrifice that opens a new era. Jesus is like the lamb of the Exodus meal. But death is not the end. Jesus knows that the kingdom will be consummated and that he will sit at the table with his disciples again. Such a meal, however, will not be his again until the kingdom is consummated. In the meantime, those who gather are to remember this meal and what the end of Jesus’ life means. A variety of truths are portrayed. Oneness is expressed in the sharing of the cup. A new age of salvation will be found in the new, united community that is being formed on the basis of Jesus’ approaching death. Jesus speaks of his body being broken for the disciples and of his blood being shed for them, the blood of the new covenant. The covenantal reference makes it clear that a new era is in view, an era that Jesus brings. We have here a clear note that God’s plan has reached a new phase. At the center is a death and an inauguration of benefits. The mediating source is Jesus, who gives his body and blood so that those who ally themselves to him may receive salvation’s benefits. He is sacrificially offered for them, and thus a fresh covenant comes. The apostles here take bread and wine to picture this; the church declares it at the Lord’s Table. As they take the meal, they are to look backward and forward. There is, in fact, a greater meal yet to come.

 

Greatness Comes Through Serving: 22:24-27.

 

[24] And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. [25] And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ [26] But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. [27] For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”  [NASU]

[24] The dispute about greatness may well center around who will have what role in the kingdom that Jesus brings, since the topic of rule comes up again in Luke 22:29-30. The topic of greatness was one that plagued the disciples and that Jesus addressed on numerous occasions. Jesus brings it up at his last meeting with them to stress the folly of such concern and the importance of unity in the face of his absence.

[25] Jesus responds to this concern about self-importance by discussing leadership and service. He sets up a contrast but does not answer the disciples’ question because he wishes to change the way they think about rule and importance.

[26] Jesus now states the contrast: the apostles are not to lead as the world does, through the exercise of power. Equality in Christ influences one’s style of leadership. It is important to note that Jesus does not say there are to be no leaders; rather, he says that leaders are to serve. This provides a clear contrast to the description of the world’s exercise of power in the previous verse. Luke then restates the same idea in different terms: the one who rules (the leader) is to act as the one who serves (the servant). Greatness is defined as service, not authority. It is not found in the power to take or exercise control, but in the ability to give and share.

[27] Jesus probes the contrast with a further question: from the world’s perspective, who is greater, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves the table? Of course, the one receiving the meal is generally regarded as superior to the one who serves it. But then Jesus notes his own example of service. When one recalls the footwashing incident of John 13 in the background, then the remark has already been illustrated. This remark is designed to confront the disciples with a contrast and a choice. If Jesus is great and he does not live like the world, how should his followers live? The call is clear: lead by serving.

 

Satan Wants You to Fail: 22:31-34.

 

[31] “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; [32] but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” [33] But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” [34] And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”   [NASU]

[31] In Luke, Jesus’ warning to Peter comes immediately after Jesus’ commendation for the disciples’ faithfulness and his promise concerning the kingdom. This makes a strong contrast. The repetition of Simon’s name adds weight to the warning. The first occurrence of you in verse 31 is in the plural. This refers to all the disciples in contrast to Peter, who is addressed [32] by the singular you. Using an agricultural figure, Jesus says that Satan has asked to sift Peter like wheat. The picture is of grain in a sieve, where the head of grain is taken apart. Our English idiom of “picking someone to pieces” or “taking someone apart” has similar force. Satan would like to bring Peter to ruin and leave him in pieces, exposing his lack of faithfulness. This leader of the Twelve is a prime target, and Jesus knows it. The warning should make Peter alert.

[32] Jesus promises to come to Peter’s defense in the time of testing. Jesus has interceded for him, that Peter’s faith may not fail. This does not mean that Peter will never fail, but that whatever failure he has will be temporary. It is clear that failure here means ultimate, total failure, that is, a total renunciation of Jesus. Peter will not fall away completely, since Jesus goes on to note that, when Peter turns back from his failure, he is to strengthen the brothers. This turning refers to coming back to faith since Peter will deny Jesus, only to regret his action afterward. Peter’s failure will be a failure of nerve, not a heart denial of Jesus. The remark is a note of reconciliation before the fact and pictures how God offers total forgiveness. He knows our failure and still extends his hand graciously to the believer who trusts him.

[33] Peter confidently declares his absolute and unshakable commitment to Jesus. Events will show this overconfidence to be an underestimation of how pressure can sift a person’s alliance to Jesus. The reality of Jesus’ suffering has finally registered. Peter senses that Jesus is headed to jail and death.

[34] Three elements stand out. First, Jesus is aware of the events around him. He knows where things are headed. Second, Peter had worked with Jesus, yet will deny even knowing him. This shows the depths to which events take him. Peter is too nonchalant about the chance that he could deny Jesus. Third, the denial comes soon.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.     Meditate on the significance for you of the shared bread and cup. Why does Jesus instruct His disciples to do this in remembrance of Me? Why are we to remember? What are we to look forward to?

 

2.     What does the disciples’ dispute about greatness show concerning their understanding of the events that are about to happen? Jesus uses their argument to teach an important truth about greatness. What is his main point? How can we apply His teaching in the church today? What does your church look for in its leaders?

 

3.     What can we learn from Peter’s overconfidence in himself concerning our own trials and temptations?

 

References:

Luke, Darrell L. Bock, Baker.

Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, Eerdmans.

Gospel According to Luke, William Hendriksen, Baker.

Luke, Walter L. Liefeld, EPC, Zondervan.