Holy Week Blog: Thursday
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 fulfillment 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. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. Luke 22:14-23
Jesus spends his final night before his crucifixion with his disciples celebrating Passover. He eats a meal with his closest friends, knowing that in a few hours he will be deserted, betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, and killed. We can hear the intensity in Jesus’ words when he says “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” He knows the depth of what is about to happen and what this meal signifies: redemption!
The story is wrought with redemption. The Last Supper was a Passover meal. The Jews celebrated Passover as the Festival of Liberation. It commemorated the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It was a time of remembering that God delivered Israel. That God saved them from bondage and brought them into the Promised Land. It is no accident that the Last Supper took place during the Passover Festival. Jesus is not only commemorating what God did for Israel thousands of years ago, but what God through Jesus will do for the entire world in a matter of hours: liberate us from the slavery of sin.
The Passover Feast is yet another Old Testament type and shadow of Jesus. He is the better Passover Feast. He is the better liberation from slavery. And he is the better Promised Land.
During the Last Supper, Jesus uses bread to symbolize his body, which will be broken and ultimately given up on our behalf. He also uses a cup of wine to symbolize his blood, which will be poured out. This might sound strange at first, but we know from studying Leviticus that blood and sacrifice are huge when God talks about sin and atonement. In Leviticus we come to understand that in order for the sins of Israel to be atoned for and for the nation to be made holy, something has to bear the penalty of sin; death. From Leviticus up until now, an animal was used to atone for the sins of Israel.
This yearly ritual of offering animal sacrifices is now going to be fulfilled ultimately in Jesus. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” No longer will we have to come to God with sacrifices to make us holy. Jesus’ sacrifice atones for our sins once and for all. He is the perfect sacrifice. The better sacrifice.
Sometimes I’m quick to skim over this section of Passion Week to get to when Jesus is arrested and Peter cuts off a guy’s ear (yeah action!). But the Last Supper gives us another beautiful picture of the gospel. That God would ultimately reconcile, redeem, and restore the world through a new and better covenant made possible by his Son. That by eating the bread and drinking the cup those that believe in the atoning work of Jesus’ blood proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes again.