12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) The Passover was the sacrament God ordained to commemorate the great salvation event of the Old Testament, when God delivered Israel out of Egypt. God called Israel to sacrifice a lamb, and sprinkle it’s blood on the door posts of their house. As the destroying angel came to Egypt to kill the firstborn in judgment, God passed over the houses of Israel marked with the blood of the lamb. The lamb perished in place of the first-born. And this event led directly to Israel leaving Egypt through the Red Sea. The Passover meal became a regular reenactment of that great event to remind Israel how God saved them from Egypt when they were powerless to save themselves, and kept the promises he made hundreds of years before to Abraham. It was a powerful way to remind them of their identity as God’s redeemed people, and kept that salvation event perpetually in mind. And Jesus used this occasion to institute a new sacrament for the new covenant, the Lord’s Supper, to regularly reenact a greater salvation event, his death on the Cross for our sins. Through the death of Christ, the judgment of God passed over us, and we are spared and delivered from sin and death and the fate of this fallen world, to live with God in the new creation. Every time we partake of the Supper, we remember that defining salvation event, and our own identity as God’s redeemed people, and the wonderful communion and hope we have with God now through the work of his Son. The Cross of Christ is the defining salvation event for us, and is the foundation of every spiritual privilege, blessing, and hope we enjoy. That is why Jesus called us to remember him through this sacrament often.
2) In the sacrament, Jesus used common bread and wine to depict both his sacrifice and the benefits we obtain by it. Through the act of breaking bread and pouring out the wine and then passing them to his disciples, Jesus explained how his body was broken and his blood was poured out in sacrifice for them. And yet these symbols of a life broken in our place, provide nourishment to our bodies, just as Christ provides spiritual nourishment to our souls. Through union with him, His death brought us life, His judgment brought us justification, and His suffering brought us glory. But this sacrament also calls us to pursue the same kind of life that Jesus himself lived, taking on the path of self-denial and cross-bearing as we follow him. It is in that kind of faith, where the secret power of Christ works in us and empowers us to live like he did. Note the end of the Supper too. Jesus ended with a promise of hope. “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” One day, Jesus shall return, and he will physically eat and drink with us. Every time we partake of this sacrament, we not only look back to the Cross, and our current communion with him, but looking forward to his return, when we will no longer need bread and wine to remind us of his body, but will see his nail scarred hands in person forever.
3) Finally, Jesus included a sober warning even at this first institution. At the table, there was a traitor, Judas. And that reality continues today. Some at the table are not true believers in Christ. Some are hypocrites, some are deceptive traitors, and some sadly deceive themselves. But the Lord oversees his table, and will not allow such people to continue that course without consequence. Judas met a tragic end for his betrayal. Some of the Corinthians later (1 Cor 11:29-32) suffered sickness and death for partaking of the Supper while refusing to repent. That is why we are called to examine ourselves when we come. It should be a joyful and reassuring time to partake of the Supper. Christ is there, offering more of himself to us, and strengthening the faith of his people. But for those who come with no true desire to know and follow Christ, the consequences could be severe unless they repent.