Luke 22: 14-23
And so, when the time came, he sat down [to celebrate the Passover] together with his disciples. And he said to them,
“I have so wanted to share this Passover with you before my own suffering. For I tell you I will no longer be able to dine in it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
And taking the cup and having given thanks he said, “Take this [and the meal that goes with it] and share it among yourselves; for this is what I say to you: I shall not drink of what is produced of the vine until the coming of the Kingdom of God.”
And then he took the bread and having [already] given thanks, he broke it, and he gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this [act of liturgical celebration] as a memorial of me!”
And then, after the supper [the banquet celebration], he similarly took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for many.
“However, take careful and fearful note, that the hand of the person who is handing me over is [also] with me on the table. And truly [it is truly none other than] the Son of Man who now goes down the path that has been decreed for him. Nevertheless, woe indeed, to that man by whom he has been betrayed.”
And so they began a conversation among themselves as to whom it might be who was about to do this.
By reading this, as Luke’s account which he devised for Theophilus, we are confronted by his careful collation woven into an ongoing narrative reporting on what he ad discovered from his “field-work” interviews and collecting of first-hand accounts of Jesus’ ministry from those who were there, part of the action. These are the collected reminiscences of what they recalled of their experiences with the earthly ministry of the person they now claimed to the Lord, sitting at the right hand of power on high.
The Passover meal was a celebration Jesus had long wished to share with his disciples and he told them so. he had been telling them of his anticipated sufferings for some time although we receive from the Gospel writers the refrain that the disciples did not really catch on to what he was telling them about his sufferings until after the resurrection, and even after his ascension.
This then, he said, was his final celebration of Passover before it would be fulfilled in its fullest meaning from his own suffering and thereby inaugurate a new celebration, a new memorial looking forward to the fulfilment of all things in God’s Kingdom. To use the imagery of John the Baptist – which we note is not used by Luke in his Gospel despite his obvious and repeated effort to link John’s call for a baptism of repentance to Jesus’ work and ministry – this is the final Passover before the Lamb of God is to be slain, before the sins of the world are thereby to be taken away!
It seems that Jesus is saying something like:
This then is the Passover to end all Passover celebrations that I have laid out before you. This meal is to be shared among you, just as you are to share [in the fruits of] my suffering and what my suffering brings about in your lives is also to be shared, just like you are sharing together with me and yourselves in this supper.
Luke tells us that Jesus took the cup twice – the first time was as the cup of blessing to inaugurate the meal. Likewise the Passover and what it brought mind called forth what the disciples were then experiencing and what they were about to experience in the Passover’s fulfilment.
Jesus announces that his celebration of the Passover, and what it has long prefigured is about to be fulfilled in his suffering. This concluding celebration now anticipates the coming to an end of an era of anticipation – and now, just as it is coming to a fulfilment and reaching its end, the meal becomes the prefiguring , the anticipation of something new: this new, forward-looking memorial is now a meal in which the loaf, representing his body broken for them, is to be shared by them. They are to do this together when they gather together as the new memorial.
The sobering imagery of “my body broken for you”, “ here take eat this is my body”, anticipates that Jesus’ disciples may also have to take the loaf of this memorial and share their own broken lives, broken as they unreservedly follow the One who lays down his life for them. This is something new and yet it maintains ongoing trust that God indeed keeps his promises.
This shared meal, prepared under Jesus’ request, proceeded as the broken loaf became its main course, its staple.
The sharing of the meal done, Jesus is described as having taken the cup again, and now it is the cup that concludes the banquet, by which a blessing is conferred by looking forward. It is now the cup of the inauguration of the new covenant. It is no longer the old covenant, recalling the shedding of the blood of the lamb as in the Old Covenant, the sacrificial lamb of Passover.
This now is the blood of the new covenant which is to be poured out for you.
Jesus announces this remarkable teaching to his disciples. It is a teaching that has ever since been repeated, over and over again; as believers have shared in his cup, they have shared their communion with him. This remarkable report in Luke’s Gospel reminds us of what Christian congregations the world over remember in their liturgy, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Here, behold is the life giving blood of the Lamb who was slain but who was raised again to glory. Here is the liturgy confirming God’s mercy, His patience and his love “until he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”
But just as remarkable is what comes immediately after this historical indicator of the inauguration of what we know as “holy communion”, the Lord’s supper. We hear how Jesus set up a memorial for his disciples, a simple, profound ceremony, a sharing of a simple meal, by which their joining together as one body in the life that he gives to them (and us) is richly symbolised.
Would any disciple present be prone a state of mind in which the simple ceremony to carried him or her off into the realms of ecstatic bliss? We recall, don’t we, Peter’s comments on the mount when Jesus met Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-36)? But what Luke says next would bring such a person to their senses. He had been teaching his disciples that he was on the path of suffering, headed to a trial, facing intense and unremitting opposition. He had told them on various occasions he was headed for an unjust execution. And such a murder does not happen without plots, scheming and betrayal.
However, take careful and fearful note, that on the table with mine is the hand of the person who is handing me over. And truly the Son of Man goes down the path decreed for him. But woe indeed, to that man by whom he has been betrayed.
This provoked deep anxiety among the disciples. And Luke has told us that Luke knew exactly what he was doing. He had “upped the price” of his betrayal with those seeking to be rid of Jesus. But how would Theophilus read this? Was this not also Jesus’ appeal to his betrayer?