The Lords Supper is one of the two main ordinances of the church (along with baptism). Every Sunday, millions of worshippers celebrate communion, but for many it has become a ritual without meaning. Jesus himself instituted the celebration of The Lords Supper, and I want to look at the background of the Last Supper and then see how celebrating communion can be applied to our own life.
And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him.
The Last Supper was a celebration of the Passover meal. When God delivered the nation of Israel out of Egypt, he had them sacrifice a lamb and mark their doorposts with the blood of the slain lamb for deliverance from Gods wrath against Egypt. In Exodus 12 is given the instructions for this festival. It was celebrated every year after that as a remembrance of Gods mercy and his delivering hand. It was the most important festival in the Hebrew calendar.
When the Passover was celebrated, it had to be done in groups of at least ten. It was usually done among family members. So right from the beginning of the institution of communion we see that it was designed for the church family. When believers gather together to honor Christ, we remember Jesus and what he has done for us through the celebration of communion. We are the family of God invited to participate in this event by Jesus sacrifice for us.
DeWette comments, "According to the view of the Synoptists (rather, of all the Evangelists), the Passover and the passion of Christ were inseparably connected."
The Passover was a meal. It contained many elements including the Passover lamb, the broth, as well as bread and wine. But Jesus only used the elements of the bread and the wine as a memorial. We will examine why Jesus chose these items and the significance of each one.
And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer"
Why did Jesus choose the Passover meal as his last supper? It was because Jesus was to be the true Passover sacrifice. There were a number of requirements for the Passover lamb given in the Old Testament. It had to be unblemished, it had to be in the prime of life, and it could not have any broken bones. The lamb had to be sacrificed for the sins of the family, and its blood had to be sprinkled on the doorposts of the house as a sign of Gods mercy. Jesus life was without sin, he died in the prime of life, and the soldiers did not break his legs on the cross as they did the two thieves since Jesus had already given up his spirit. He was sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world, and his blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Halley commented on the Passover account given in Exodus 12, "The lamb, Blood on the doorpost, Death of the First-Born, Deliverance out of a Hostile Country, and the continuance of this Feast throughout Israels history, all seem to have been intended of God to be a grand Historical Picture of Christ the Passover Lamb, and our Deliverance out of a Hostile World by His Blood."
The symbolism of the Passover could not be missed by the disciples. Jesus was the Passover lamb come to take away the sins of mankind.
John the Baptist declared it in John 1:29, "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! "
The apostle John understood it when he wrote in Revelation 5:12, "Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! " And again in Revelation 13:8, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
Peter saw the connection when he wrote in 1 Peter 1:18-19, "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."
And Isaiah saw through the eyes of prophecy when he wrote in Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
God chose the Passover season as the time for Christ to be offered as the true Passover lamb. The imagery could not have been lost on the Jews of that day.
As Fausset explains, "The passover was a kind of sacrament, uniting the nation to God on the ground of Gods grace to them. The slain lamb typified the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The unleavened loaves called bread of affliction, as reminding them of past affliction, symbolised the new life cleansed from the leaven of the old Egyptian-like nature.... The sacrifice came first; then, on the ground of that, the seven days feast of unleavened bread to show they walked in the strength of the pure bread of a new life, in fellowship with Jehovah."
It was with this background in view that Jesus instituted The Lords Supper.
"For I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
Jesus is here expressing the immediacy of his coming death. After the Passover meal, there followed seven days of eating unleavened bread which was part of the festival and concluded the Passover celebration. To not continue the seven days of unleavened bread would be unthinkable. The fact that Jesus mentions this now is to show the disciples the importance of this last meal. Although they may not comprehend its meaning now, after the resurrection they would understand and realize the importance of The Lords Supper.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
Notice that Jesus tells the disciples to divide this cup among themselves. Jesus treated all the disciples equally. They were all to take the same portion from the cup. Even though Peter would be the great preacher, and Matthew would write the Gospel, and to John would be revealed the Apocalypse, all the disciples were to share the cup equally. They were all his disciples, and they would all share in his blessings. God does not have favorites. Although he will use different people for different tasks, he loves you as much as he loves any of his other followers.
This cup mentioned here in verse 17 is the first cup that Jesus presents to the disciples. Notice it is different from the one in verse 20 which is "the cup after supper." In the Passover meal there were actually four cups of wine drunk. Each one had different meanings. The first cup was the Announcement of the Feast. This is the cup Jesus is telling the disciples to pass among themselves. This was the opening of the Passover meal.
The second cup was the Cup of Praise. After the participants took part of this cup, they sang two hymns of praise Psalm 113 and Psalm 114. The third cup, which is the one Jesus mentions in verse 20, is the Cup of Thanksgiving. It is at this point that the participants in the feast are to thank God for his deliverance, his protection, and his mercy toward them. How appropriate that Jesus would use this third cup to represent the New Covenant. The fourth and final cup was another Cup of Praise. At this point the participants sang the hymns of praise Psalm 115 to Psalm 118.
This is why Matthew 26:30 tells us after the fourth cup, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Part of the hymn which they sang was Psalm 118:21-29
In these 8 verses were two prophecies which were fulfilled in Christ verses 22-23 the stone which the builders rejected is actually quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:42, and verse 26 was fulfilled on Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem recorded in Mark 11:9. Of course the whole Psalm can be applied to Christ. How appropriate that this was one of the Psalms that the Rabbis had chosen centuries before to be sung at the Passover meal.
And he took bread, and when he had 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."
This was the unleavened bread. There could be no leaven, or yeast, anywhere in the house during these seven days of unleavened bread. It was so important that the head of the house would personally inspect every corner and crevice of the house to insure its purity. Leaven in scripture always indicates the things of the world.
Jesus tells us the unleavened bread represented his body. It was unmixed with the things of this world. Although he was a man, he was without sin. But notice that Jesus offers his body. He breaks the bread and then says, "This is my body which is given for you." Why did Jesus have to give his body?
In this verse Jesus is clearly looking ahead to the sacrifice he is about to make. Seven hundred fifty years before Christ, Isaiah also looked ahead to the meaning of this sacrifice when he wrote in Isaiah 53:4-5, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Jesus took the bread and broke it. He knew that his body would be broken for us as Isaiah had prophesied. And next, Jesus handed the bread out to everyone at the table even Judas who was about to betray him. Jesus offers himself to all who will accept him as their Savior. After this Last Supper both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus. Peter repented and was saved, but Judas turned away and was lost. Jesus is offering salvation to all who will receive it. Will you come to him and be saved? Or will you turn away and be lost?
And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."
Luke identifies this cup as the "cup after supper." This indicates it was the third cup of the Passover the Cup of Thanksgiving. It was at this time that the participants were to thank God for his deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. They were to remember the blood on the doorposts which caused God to keep them from death, and how the Lords mercy was great to them.
As we partake of the cup of communion, we need to also be thankful because we have been delivered from the bondage of sin, and Christs blood has caused God to keep us from death, and the Lords mercy is great toward us.
After the Passover meal, the participants would sing Psalm 115 to 118. Here is part of what they sang at the end of every Passover meal.
Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD!
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
This was the attitude of those at the Passover meal toward Gods steadfast love, and it should be our attitude every time we participate in The Lords Supper.
Notice in verse 20 that Jesus says this cup is poured out for you. Jesus shed his blood for you and me. He paid the price for our sins so that we could live with him for eternity. This is why he calls it the new covenant. His sacrifice was a new covenant. The old covenant was the law. In order to be saved, we would have to live a perfect life. But even in the old covenant of the law was the provision of the lamb sacrifice because God knew they could not obey him in their own strength. So for us also he provided a way for our redemption, even though we dont deserve it, and we are totally unworthy. He sent the perfect Passover lamb sacrifice to end the old covenant of keeping the law by good works, and instituted the new covenant of mercy and grace.
We are no longer bound by all the legal requirements of the Old Testament. Instead, we have the Spirit of Christ living inside of us to help us along the way. We may fail from time to time, but Christs sacrifice for us is sufficient for all our sins, all our failures, all our shortcomings.
As we participate in The Lords Supper, we are commemorating Gods mercy toward us. As we take the bread, we remember Christs body which he freely gave for us. He took upon himself our sins. As we take the wine, we remember Christs shed blood which cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We do this with a thankful and grateful heart that God so loved us that he gave us his only son to be our Passover lamb sacrifice.
This study of Luke 22:14-20 © 1997 by David Humpal. All rights