March 14 – Luke 22:14-23
We’ll start this journey to Easter in Luke 22:14-23, the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Here in Luke 22 we find Jesus celebrating Passover with his disciples. In our discussion we’ll turn briefly to Exodus 12 to remind us of some of the details, but Passover was the biggest festival in the Jewish year (it still is, actually). Passover memorialized and celebrated God’s liberation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and it did so primarily with a meal. The first Passover utilized the blood of the Passover lamb as a means of deliverance; the blood was painted over the door of a household to protect those within from the final Plague of the Firstborn. But this lamb was also roasted and eaten, along with other foods that added symbolism to the meal: bitter herbs, representing the bitterness of slavery; wine, to celebrate the coming joy of freedom; and unleavened bread (Matzo), because the Israelites would be leaving so quickly they wouldn’t even have time for their bread to rise. After this first great Passover, the meal was celebrated yearly with retellings of the Exodus story, so that Israel would forever remember how God delivered them from bondage.
All of this symbolism adds to the richness of Jesus’ Last Supper. The next day Jesus would be hung on a cross, his blood spilled as the final act of deliverance from sin and death. He would become the perfect Passover Lamb whose death would lead to perfect deliverance from the bondage of sin. All these parallels and more would be drawn between Passover and Jesus’ death, such that looking back over the pages of scripture we can see that the Passover was pointing ahead to its perfect fulfillment in the death of Jesus. This, or at least the groundwork of this idea, is what Jesus was laying with his disciples when he instituted a new memorial meal: the Lord’s Supper.
Note how Jesus took elements from the Passover meal, bread and wine, and made the Lord’s Supper. The connection is quite literal. Thus in some respect when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we celebrate the New Passover, in which God has passed over our sins because of the death of Jesus and has liberated us from our bondage to sin. Jesus emphasizes the weight of what he would accomplish on the cross by connecting this to Jeremiah’s prophecy of a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31) here in verse 20. Covenants were common in the Ancient Near East; we won’t go into detail here, except to say that they were incredibly serious ceremonial promises, almost always made with the blood of an animal sacrifice (see Genesis 15 for an example). Jesus himself would supply the blood to seal the bond, and the result would be the promise of redemption from sin.
But don’t forget the context of the Last Supper: Jesus ate this with the disciples whom he longed to be with (22:15). Certainly this carried all of the symbolic weight I’ve described above. But also, on some level, Jesus was eating one last meal with his friends, while providing them with a means of understanding the grief and trauma that would come in the next 24 hours. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper now, we celebrate Jesus’ death as the perfect Passover Lamb, who takes away our sins. But we also celebrate the death of God-become-man, who came to be with us, to eat and drink with us, to mourn our sorrow and experience our suffering with us. The Lord’s Supper is a meal we eat because of Jesus and with Jesus.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Luke 22:14-23 for us?
• What stood out to you in this passage?
• Would someone read Exodus 12:1-13. How does the Passover help us understand Jesus’ Last Supper?
• Turn back to Luke 22. How does this passage help us understand the significance of communion?
• What about this passage is beautiful to you?
• This was the night before Jesus’ death. How was he offering his disciples hope here?
• How does this passage add to our celebration of Easter this year?