Are there areas of your life where you are in slavery, or lacking in hope? In today’s passage we see that Jesus promises freedom for captives and the promise of a new world.
‘Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed […] When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”’ (Luke 22:7, 14-20)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a seven-day event that the Jewish people celebrated every year, and it began with the Passover (Lev 23:5-6). This was a time to reflect on one of the greatest stories in Israel’s history: God leading them out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-51). God instructed the people to kill a perfect lamb, and smear the blood on the doorposts of their houses. Then when God came to judge Egypt, He would see the blood and pass over the house. The people were saved because of the blood of the Passover Lamb.
Jesus and his Disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover, as they would have done each year, only this year it took on a deeper significance. As they ate, they would typically reflect on God’s mercy in leading their forefathers out of Egypt, and long for Him to do the same for them in their day.
As they began the meal, Jesus declared that he had eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with the disciples before he suffered (v15). Knowing, as he did, that his suffering and death were only a few hours away, his eagerness to share his final meal with his friends demonstrates both how much he cared for them, and how significant the symbolism of the Passover was. Jesus knew that in the events that were about to unfold, he was to play the part of the Passover Lamb, sacrificed so that others could be saved by his blood.
‘This is my body,’ said Jesus, ‘given for you’ (v19). It is hard to imagine what must have been going through the minds of the disciples at this point, but the word translated ‘given’ was the same word Luke used in 2:24 to speak of a sacrifice being offered. Whether the disciples realised it at the time or not, Jesus was saying that he was offering himself as a sacrifice to deliver people from their sins (cf. Gal 1:4). And if they didn’t perceive that, his next phrase ‘this is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (v20) was unmistakably reminiscent of Moses’ action in Exodus 24:8, ‘Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”’
This was a dinner tinged with mixed emotions: on the one hand the agony, fear and sadness of knowing that immense suffering and death was imminent, on the other the hope of sins forgiven and freedom for many. And in the midst of it, Jesus looks forward to the day when he will eat and drink in the New Creation (v16, 18). When God puts the world to rights, ridding it of all sickness, suffering and death, there will be an incredible celebration, like an extravagant wedding feast (Rev 19:6-9), with the best of meats and the finest of wines (Isaiah 25:6-8), and Jesus, the Passover Lamb who was slain, will receive glory and honour forever more (Rev 5:12-13; 22:3-5). The Last Supper, sitting between the Passover and the Wedding Feast is one of three meals to change the world; and the Lord invites us to eat and drink, proclaiming his death until he comes again to make all things new (1 Cor 11:23-26).
Questions for Reflection
- What does it mean for you that Jesus is the Passover Lamb? How does his sacrifice set you free?
- How does the knowledge that you will feast with God in the New Creation excite and encourage you?
Why not use the following to help you to pray today:
Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the Passover Lamb. I recognise my brokenness, and I thank you that you allowed your body to be broken and your blood to be shed so that I could be set free and made whole. I look forward to the day when I will eat and drink with you in the New Creation. Fill me with your Spirit and give me boldness to proclaim your death and resurrection today. Amen
If you find yourself with some extra time today, why not listen to one of the following talks:
- Kingdom Come: Communion by Andy Tilsley,
- Jesus Sets Me Free by David Stroud
- Getting Out by Timothy Keller
If you’re meeting as a Life Group or Mid Size Group this week, why not consider sharing communion together, reflecting on the death of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of New Creation.
Image: Passover by Ohad Ben-Yoseph, used under CC