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(Luke 22.14-23) The Last Supper

(Luke 22.14-23) The Last Supper

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Luke
Ref: Luke 22:14–23

How do you remember Jesus? There are lots of ways we remember meaningful and important figures in our lives and in history. Maybe we keep their photograph on our shelf or in a locket we wear as a necklace. Maybe our society names a school or road after a person, build a statue of them, or even a monument—like the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument. But how do you remember Jesus? He told His disciples—and us—exactly how He wanted to be remembered: through communion. Stephen Davey explains the significance of communion in this lesson.

Sermon Summary

In our journey through the scriptures today, we delve into the profound significance of the Lord's Supper, a divinely ordained memorial that Jesus instituted for His followers. This sacred ordinance, often referred to as Communion or the Eucharist, is a simple yet powerful act of remembrance. Unlike grand monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, which stand as towering testaments to historical figures, Jesus chose humble elements—a piece of bread and the juice from a crushed grape—to serve as the enduring symbols of His sacrifice.

The Lord's Supper is a call to remember Jesus, to recover from our spiritual amnesia, and to reflect on the immense cost of our freedom. The bread symbolizes His body given for us, and the juice represents His blood shed to establish a new covenant. This act of remembrance is not just a ritual; it is a profound spiritual exercise that reconnects us with the core of our faith. Every time we partake in this ordinance, we are reminded of the One who gave everything for our redemption.

Memorials have always played a significant role in human history, serving as reminders of important events and individuals. Memorial Day, for instance, was established to honor soldiers who died in the American Civil War and later expanded to include all military personnel who have served the country. Similarly, ancient cultures, like the Vikings, had their own memorial ceremonies to honor fallen warriors. These acts of remembrance are deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness.

The Lincoln Memorial, with its 29-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of his Gettysburg Address and inaugural addresses, serves as a powerful reminder of his legacy. The Washington Monument, with its 897 steps and various memorial stones, including one inscribed with "Laus Deo" (Praise be to God), stands as a testament to the nation's first president. These monuments are designed to be permanent, etched in stone, so that future generations can remember the sacrifices and contributions of these great leaders.

However, the most enduring memorial of all is the one instituted by Jesus during the Last Supper. As we read in Luke 22:14-23, Jesus gathered His disciples for a final meal before His crucifixion. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." He then took a cup of wine and said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." These simple elements—bread and wine—carry profound spiritual significance.

Jesus' choice of these elements is deeply symbolic. The bread, representing His body, signifies the affliction and suffering He endured for our sake. The wine, symbolizing His blood, points to the new covenant that offers eternal atonement for sin. This new covenant, unlike the old one established through the blood of sacrificial animals, is based entirely on Jesus' sacrifice. It is a covenant of grace, dependent solely on Christ's finished work on the cross.

The Lord's Supper is not a re-sacrificing of Jesus, as some traditions might suggest. It is an ordinance of remembrance, a way for believers to continually recall the sacrifice that secured their redemption. By partaking in this meal, we are reminded of our union with Christ and our communion with one another. It is a time to give thanks, to reflect on the cost of our freedom, and to renew our commitment to follow Jesus.

The Lord's Supper is a divinely ordained memorial that transcends time and space. It is a simple yet profound act that calls us to remember Jesus, to reflect on His sacrifice, and to give thanks for the redemption He secured for us. As we partake in this sacred ordinance, let us do so with hearts full of gratitude, minds focused on His sacrifice, and spirits renewed in our commitment to follow Him.

Key Takeaways:

The Simplicity of Remembrance: Jesus chose simple elements—bread and wine—to serve as the enduring symbols of His sacrifice. This simplicity underscores the profound spiritual significance of the Lord's Supper, reminding us that true remembrance does not require grand monuments but a sincere heart.

Recovering from Spiritual Amnesia: The act of partaking in the Lord's Supper helps us recover from our tendency to forget the One who gave everything for our freedom. It is a spiritual exercise that reconnects us with the core of our faith and the immense cost of our redemption.

The New Covenant of Grace: Unlike the old covenant, which depended on human effort, the new covenant established by Jesus' blood is based entirely on His finished work on the cross. This covenant offers eternal atonement for sin and is a testament to God's grace and mercy.

Union with Christ and Communion with One Another: The Lord's Supper is a time to reflect on our union with Christ and our communion with fellow believers. It is a reminder that we are part of a larger body, united by our faith in Jesus and our shared commitment to follow Him.

A Call to Gratitude and Commitment: As we partake in the Lord's Supper, we are called to give thanks for the redemption secured by Jesus' sacrifice. It is also a time to renew our commitment to follow Him, to live in a way that honors His sacrifice, and to continually remember the cost of our freedom.

Bible Study Discussion Guide

Bible Reading

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV) "And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, 'I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.' 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 will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' 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.' And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'"

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV) "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Observation Questions

  1. What elements did Jesus use during the Last Supper to symbolize His body and blood?
  2. According to Luke 22:19-20, what did Jesus instruct His disciples to do in remembrance of Him?
  3. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, what does Paul say is proclaimed every time the bread and cup are taken?

Interpretation Questions

  1. Why do you think Jesus chose simple elements like bread and wine to represent His body and blood?
  2. What is the significance of Jesus referring to the cup as the "new covenant in my blood"?
  3. How does the act of partaking in the Lord's Supper help believers "recover from spiritual amnesia"?

Application Questions

  1. Reflect on the last time you participated in the Lord's Supper. How did it impact your understanding of Jesus' sacrifice?
  2. What are some practical ways you can prepare your heart and mind before partaking in Communion to ensure it is a meaningful experience?
  3. How can you incorporate the practice of remembrance into your daily life to stay connected with the core of your faith?
  4. Think of a specific moment this week when you can express gratitude for the redemption Jesus secured for you. How will you do it?
  5. Identify one area in your life where you need to renew your commitment to follow Jesus. What steps will you take to make this renewal evident?

Transcript

Memorial Day was originally established on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the soldiers who died in the American Civil War. Later, it was broadened to honor United States military personnel who died during other wars. We’ve broadened it even further in our tradition to honor both those who’ve died and those living who’ve served or are serving our country.

Creating some kind of ceremony for the sake of memory is not unique. In fact, not too long ago, excavations in England discovered documents outlining ancient memorial ceremonies for Viking warriors who died in battle.

One of the most famous memorials in our country is the Lincoln Memorial – dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. It was designed as a Greek temple, with 36 columns representing the 36 states at the time of Lincoln’s death. The memorial was constructed with materials from these states to signify the unity that Lincoln gave his life to preserve. Inside the Memorial is a 29-foot-tall statue and pedestal of Lincoln, who is seated, as if to signify his work was accomplished. The interior ceiling features a massive mural depicting an angel of truth freeing a slave. On one wall, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is inscribed. On another wall, his inaugural addresses are etched in stone, along with scripture verses he recited.

I’m glad it’s all etched in stone so that nobody could sue the government to have it erased.

A mile away – across the reflecting pool on the National Mall – sits the towering obelisk, the Washington Monument, remembering our first president. If you were to walk up all 897 steps to the top, there are 50 landings where you can take a break. At those landings are memorial stones inscribed with different messages about different events, donated by different people:

One memorial stone is a prayer offered by the political leaders of Baltimore; further up is a memorial stone presented by Chinese Christians; another landing features a memorial stone presented by Sunday School children from New York, and Proverbs 10:7 is carved into the stone: "The memory of the righteous is blessed." The last half of the verse wasn’t inscribed, which reads, "but the name of the wicked will pass away." How’s that for a reminder?

Then there’s that small aluminum capstone on the very top of the monument that no one can even see. The architect wanted every sunrise to reflect first off that capstone and the words that were inscribed on it: "Laus Deo" – Latin for “Praise be to God.” [SOURCE: Adapted from David Jeremiah, What in the World is Going On? (Thomas Nelson, 2008), p. 119]

I’m glad it’s too high up for a protester to scale a ladder and take it down.

Some memorials are nearly impossible to remove – and that’s a good thing.

There is one memorial that is absolutely impossible to remove. And that’s because it’s a divinely ordained memorial – in fact, Jesus said that it would continue being observed in the coming Kingdom of God.

We call it the Lord’s Supper because of the meal – the supper – when the Lord instituted this ordinance for His followers. It’s referred to as the Communion Table because the body of Christ finds here at this table our communion with each other and our Savior. It’s also referred to as the Eucharist – which is Latin for “the giving of thanks” – because not only did the Lord give thanks, but believers cannot participate in this ordinance without profound thanksgiving for our redemption. This table is the emancipation proclamation for those whom the Lord has liberated from the kingdom of darkness.

This communion table is the capstone of our faith, which leads us to say, “Praise be to God.”

Now let’s go to that signature event where this ordinance was first established.

We’re in Luke’s gospel at chapter 22. Now as you’re turning there, let me tell you ahead of time that Luke isn’t as interested in the order of events as he is in the significance of the elements. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to parallel what Luke writes here with the traditional seder meal – the Passover meal. For instance, the traditional seder meal has four cups of wine; Luke only mentions two cups, and the other gospel writers mention only one cup. Years later, the apostle Paul describes what happened in the upper room – in 1 Corinthians 11 – and he refers only to one cup as well.

Some of what Jesus does here in the upper room will be unique to this event – an attempt to tie everything in the upper room to a traditional seder meal is not Luke’s objective.

Now don’t misunderstand; I believe Jesus is eating the Passover meal with His disciples – we saw earlier in verse 8 that Jesus clearly tells Peter and John to prepare the Passover lamb so that – verse 11 – He might eat the Passover with His disciples. But it’s as if Luke doesn’t want us to focus on certain traditions – he wants us to focus on certain truths – and especially – how Jesus is about to use this meal to create a lasting memorial for His followers to remember the gospel.

Now with that, Luke writes here in verse 14:

"And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, 'I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.'” Luke 22:14-15

Jesus is indicating that this is His last meal – at least it is, before His crucifixion. Which is why we refer to this event as the Last Supper. Now, unfortunately, thanks to Leonardo da Vinci, we have this image of the Last Supper where Jesus and His 12 disciples are facing the camera. They’re sitting in chairs, all in a row, at a table like the ones you might have in your dining room. But in these days, they didn’t sit on chairs, but on the floor – often on small rugs – and they didn’t use spoons and forks – they ate with their hands. [SOURCE: Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Christ’s Agony and Ecstasy (Insight for Living, 1982), p. 5] This is your child’s dream meal – a lot of it ends up on the floor anyway – why not just start down there?

I’ve been to several countries that even in modern times don’t use forks and spoons and knives; in one country I visited, the plate was a large green leaf. We scooped up the food with our fingers, or we used bread like a little shovel – this would have been how the disciples ate in the first century.

Now Luke tells us here that in the upper room was a table – a low table – because the men are reclined around it, either sitting or propping themselves up on one elbow.

Now that they’re seated, Jesus delivers two prophecies to them, which evidently went right over their heads – verse 15 again:

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (This is the first prophecy of His death.) For I tell you I will not eat it [again] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (This is the second prophecy of His future reign.)” Luke 22:15-16

Now skip down to verse 18 where Jesus repeats this second prophecy:

“For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Luke 22:18

Now with that, Jesus delivers brand new meaning to this unleavened bread and diluted wine – we know from historical records – go back up to verse 17:

"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, 'Take this, and divide it among yourselves.'” Luke 22:17

Now this would be surprising to the disciples. It would have been highly unusual for the host to pass around a common cup – everyone had their own cup to drink from.

By the way, at this point, with this cup, the Lord is not instituting what we would call the communion cup. In fact, Judas is still in the room, and he won’t leave until the meal is nearly over. We know that because during dinner Jesus will hand him what John’s gospel calls “the sop” – that’s a piece of bread dipped in special relish or sauce during the meal. It will be after Judas leaves the room that Jesus will move to another cup of wine – which Luke will mention a few verses later – we’ll get there in a moment.

Now this unusual act where Jesus has them all drinking from His cup is an invitation to partner with Him – to be in close communion with Him.

Years ago when I played team sports – primarily soccer – you may have done the same – you can remember as I do that we didn’t have bottled water back then. We had one water jug – and you’d just pass it down the bench, from one sweaty player to the next. You never thought a thing about it – although you didn’t want to be the last guy on the bench.

If you drank out of somebody’s water bottle today, they’d probably sue you.

In his exegetical commentary, David Garland writes that having the disciples drink from His cup would have made a profound impression on the disciples. [Giving His cup to them] would have been understood as an invitation to enter into His life and share His destiny, no matter what it might be. [SOURCE: Adapted from David E. Garland, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke (Zondervan, 2011), p. 854]

Even more profound is the implication Jesus is making – taken from Jewish culture. In early Jewish tradition, when a young man wanted to propose marriage, he would formalize it by offering her his cup of wine. He was effectively saying, “I am offering you my life – my destiny – no matter what it might be.” The girl had the option to refuse the cup or to take it and drink from it, signaling that she was accepting his marriage proposal. You can see how this Passover meal is taking a unique turn as Jesus symbolically imitates a proposal – He’s offering Himself to them – and us – the bride of Christ. When you partake of the communion cup, you are effectively saying that you have accepted the marriage proposal of Jesus – you are willing to share in His destiny, His life – whatever it might be.

Now at some point, we know from other gospel accounts that the meal is finishing up – Judas has left the room – Jesus now shifts into instituting this lasting memorial. He’s going to reach over and take a flat piece of leftover unleavened bread – verse 19 says:

"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.'” Luke 22:19

Jesus takes this bread and does something He’s never done before – you didn’t do this when eating the traditional Passover meal – Jesus stops and bows his head and gives thanks for this bread. [SOURCE: Adapted from Swindoll, p. 5]

To the Jewish people, this bread represented affliction – their years of suffering in Egypt.

The disciples were no doubt familiar with the words of the Passover liturgy from Deuteronomy 16:3, which said, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate when they came from the land of Egypt.” [SOURCE: Dale Ralph Davis, Luke: The Year of the Lord’s Favor (Christian Focus, 2021), p. 164]

But Jesus gives this bread new meaning. He relates it to the affliction He will suffer on the cross. [SOURCE: Kent Hughes, Luke: Volume Two (Crossway Books, 1998), p. 317]

Jesus now says that His body will take on that symbol of affliction – of suffering – for the sake of our redemption. This bread now represents His body suffering on the cross.

Jesus often used literal terms to describe figurative truths. Jesus called Himself “the door; the light; everlasting water; the vine; and the bread of life.” [SOURCE: Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale House, 1997), p. 496]

And yes, We are grafted into the vine; we walk through a door, we drink water; we turn on a light, and we eat bread. However: Jesus isn’t a liquid; He isn’t made of wood with hinges and a doorknob; He isn’t a vine planted in the soil; and He isn’t a lightbulb we turn on; and He isn’t bread to be eaten. These are metaphors that reveal different aspects of our relationship with Christ.

When we follow Him, we walk through a door, leaving the old world behind; when we walk with Him, we no longer walk in darkness – the light’s turned on; we’re no longer thirsty and hungry for the things of this world – we’ve been satisfied with the Bread of life, the Lord Himself. Now, Jesus uses the present tense here in verse 19 to continue doing this in remembrance of Him. Eating this bread is a way to continually remember that He alone satisfies our souls.

The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, it’s an ordinance of remembrance. [SOURCE: J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke (Evangelical Press, orig. 1879; reprint, 1975), p. 342]

The mass of the Roman Catholic Church would teach that communion is a miraculous re-sacrificing of Jesus – even though Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus was sacrificed once, for all time (Hebrews 7:27). The organized church in the early centuries before the Reformation strayed from the simplicity of the gospel and developed traditions and ceremonies and liturgies that eventually obscured the gospel of faith in Christ alone. The mass today is a re-sacrificing of Jesus. I call it “job security” for the priests because it requires the hand of a priest to turn these elements into the body and blood of Jesus. You’re gonna need a priest to receive Jesus. Let me tell you, you don’t need a priest to receive Jesus.

This ordinance is not for Jesus to be re-sacrificed. This ordinance is for Jesus to be remembered.

Now Luke records, here in verse 20:

"And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!' And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” Luke 22:20-23

We can interpret Luke’s comment here that Jesus is emphasizing how hypocritical His betrayer was to have shared at this meal – to have his hand at this table. According to the other gospel accounts, Judas is gone, but he had played out his deception so well that he had fooled everyone but Jesus.

Now Jesus says here that this cup represents the new covenant in His blood. Jesus is not suggesting we drink His blood. This again is literal language for figurative truth. The Lord is reminding the disciples of Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant, which will forever atone for sin (Jeremiah 31).

Let’s go back for a moment to the institution of the Old Covenant when the Ten Commandments were delivered by Moses. It was literally a blood-saturated event. Moses offered sacrifices and took half of the blood from the sacrificial animals and, Exodus 24 tells us, sprinkled it on the altar; then Moses took the other half of all that blood and sprinkled it on the Old Testament scroll that had been read, and then on the people as well. The altar, the scroll, and the people dripped with blood. It was not a pretty sight except in its symbolism – they were under a fountain of blood, so to speak. [SOURCE: Hughes, p. 318]

One author writes that the Old Covenant was launched on an ocean of blood to emphasize the seriousness of sin and that sin demanded death. The weakness of this Old Covenant was that it depended on mankind keeping the law, which they couldn’t do for even one day. But the glory of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is that it is dependent on Christ alone. He does it all! Our salvation rests on the ocean of His divine blood. [SOURCE: Ibid, p. 318]

And that’s what the Lord is communicating here in the upper room – this is the critical phrase of our assurance, here in verse 20 – Jesus says:

“This cup that is poured out for you” Luke 22:20.

That can be translated “on your behalf . . . this cup is poured out for your benefit” – “in your place.” [SOURCE: Davis, p. 169]

Poured out is a passive verb – connecting it to Old Testament sacrifices. To pour out the blood of a person was the language used for murdering someone – and the plot to murder Jesus is well underway. [SOURCE: Garland, p. 856]

So Jesus is saying here that He is our substitute – He has taken our place – He will be murdered, but He is, in reality, a willing sacrifice.

After this statement, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11 that Jesus repeated the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

This is a memorial – do this – remember Me: visit here often – spend time here – contemplate the meaning – remember its costliness – recall with thanksgiving your freedom – and of course, remember the Lord.

Sort of like visiting the Lincoln Memorial – you’re not just going there to read the Gettysburg Address that’s carved into the wall. You’re not just there to read his inaugural address. You’re not even there just to remember the Emancipation Proclamation he signed. You are there to remember him.

I find it fascinating that Jesus never commanded that the church build a monument for Him – something majestic to remember Him by; there’s no Washington Monument stretching hundreds of feet into the air. There’s no 29-foot-tall statue of Him seated under a beautiful mural with the words of His Sermon on the Mount carved into a granite wall around Him.

This is it – this is all – a piece of bread and the juice from a crushed grape. That’s it. Bread to remember His body given for us; Juice from a crushed grape to remind us that His blood flowed freely to establish this new covenant.

Jesus effectively says, “This is all you need – partake of this, in remembrance of Me.”

The word remembrance comes from the Greek word anamnesis. That gives us our word amnesia. But the Greek word has that little alpha prefix – which means no: so, to remember means, “no amnesia.” Every time you partake of the Lord’s Supper – the communion table – every time you eat and drink these simple elements, you recover from chronic spiritual amnesia. We tend to forget the One who gave everything for our freedom.

So we come back to this memorial today . . . we remember Him today.

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