Preached by Jason Abbott
Since Jesus, in Luke chapter 9, set his face towards Jerusalem and the cross, it’s been about a year’s time. But, today friends, we find Jesus less than 24 hours from his crucifixion. This passage records the events of Thursday evening for us—the Passover supper Jesus shared with his disciples. The action in Luke’s narrative begins to accelerate at this point but not against Jesus’ will. He’s the one in control. He’s in charge here. And in the midst of all that seems like tragedy and chaos to us, this is what Luke wants us to see—our steady and sovereign Sacrifice.
Let’s read today’s text together, then we’ll pray.
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 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.”
20 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. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
We’re going to ask three questions in order to open up these verses for us. (1st) Why would Jesus eagerly desire to eat this Passover meal with the disciples? His longing should stick out as strange to us. (2nd) Who’s this Passover supper for? Jesus refashions it here; we need to identify how. And, (3rd) how is Jesus in control of these seemingly tragic and chaotic coming events? I’ve said that he’s sovereign, so we’ll want to recognize how he’s sovereign. Let’s jump in.
1. Why would Jesus eagerly look forward to this meal (v. 15)?
Jesus isn’t talking about any Passover meal. Jesus is talking about this one—his last one with his disciples. Jesus knows exactly what’s ahead. Jesus knows he’s on death row, so to speak. Why would he eagerly look forward to this meal?
I’ve often wondered about death-row inmates picking and eating a last meal. Can you imagine? It would be such a contradiction. Thinking about whatever food you love the very most; getting to pick exactly the combination of foods you want; but, remembering always that that feast foreshadows your impending execution. What a paradox! The pleasure and the pain mingled together!
I read an article about this strange and uniquely American penal tradition. And, what I found interesting is that the vast majority of those death-row inmates who chose a meal never ate that meal. They didn’t want it in the end.
Carroll Pickett was the Texas State death-row chaplain from 1982 to 1995. Here’s what he recalled about those final meals. He explained:
I was there for 95 who ate their last meal…. A lot of them would decline. They would just say… “I’m getting nervous, I’m getting scared”. Very few—I’d say less than 10%—ate all that we brought to them.
In stark contrast to this, Jesus says I eagerly desire to celebrate this last meal with you. Why? Why would he say this? Why would he feel this way?
Folks, Jesus said it because his death wasn’t simply a death like other deaths. Jesus said it because this supper wasn’t a Passover meal like other Passover meals. He said this because his death would be the defining death and this Passover meal would be the defining Passover meal. You see, his death brings hope and meaning to us all. It is infinitely powerful. His is the death that breaks the power of death. And, this Passover meal—that we’re looking at—is the meal by which he outlines for his disciples this glorious truth. He shows and tells them his death’s purpose!
For Jesus’ disciples, that Passover meal pointed forward to his crucifixion and helped them to grasp its meaning—helped them to grasp the gospel of God. And, for each of us today, the Lord’s table points backwards to Christ’s crucifixion and helps us to grasp its good news meaning. Our Lord is eager to share that meal with us because it communicates his love for us—his sacrifice for us.
I wonder if you believe that God is eager to share his love—share himself—with you. I wonder if you think of the Lord as a God who relishes communicating and connecting with his creatures—with you! He does you know. Just think:
He’s created a world brimming with his majesty, a world that sings of him. As poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes—“The world is charged with the grandeur of God. / It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed.” God wants us to hear this song and awaken to him and awaken to his love. He’s communicating to us in and through his creation.
He’s spoken a more specific word about himself—the 66 books of Scripture. Your Bible is God-breathed. It’s the Lord calling out in detail about you and to you and for you. Scripture is God inviting us to know him personally—even intimately. The Bible is God sharing himself with us and speaking to us.
He encourages you to run to him in prayer and promises that he’ll hear you when you do. As John tells us, “…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). I delight when my kids honestly seek my ear. Even more so, God delights when you do.
Here’s a big one. The Lord communicates to us and shares himself with us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God counsels and convicts and gifts us by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus Christ to us and enables us to defeat sin and embrace holiness. This is the Lord stamping his family resemblance upon us—sharing his divine glory with us. This is the most intimate communication.
And, as if all that wasn’t enough, our God is pleased to communicate with us through membership in his family—the Church. He uses relationships in the body of Christ to reveal his ways and purposes to us. Friends, don’t take your fellowship in a local church for granted. If you found a beating heart hidden away in a house, you’d find it startling, disturbing, and strange. We should have the same reaction when we find a Christian trying to live in unity with God apart from his fellowship, apart from his body. To live as a believer in isolation is to cutoff one of the ways God is pleased to share himself with you and to speak into your life.
So, you see, Jesus eagerly longed to eat that Passover meal with his disciples because, through it, he would share more of his mission, more of the plans of God, more of himself with them. And, he wants to do the same with us. Remember that when you come to Christ’s table at the end of this service.
What about our second question?
2. Who is this Passover supper for (vv. 19-20)?
Well, Jesus makes it pretty clear as he’s infusing new and ultimate meaning into this ancient, traditional meal. Look again at what he says.
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” (vv. 19-20).
Who’s it for? His body broken for…? His blood poured out for…? It’s you. It’s me. It’s all those who would trust that Jesus is the ultimate, saving sacrifice from God—“the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The only one who can take away your sins.
This is the realization I had to come to when I finally entered into salvation, that I could not take away my own sins. I had to trust Jesus to do that for me.
In the early part of the 20th century, an English newspaper sent out a request to a number of rather well-known authors asking them to respond to the question—“What’s wrong with the world?” Likely, the shortest answer it received back was from Christian author G. K. Chesterton. He responded succinctly: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G. K. Chesterton.” So true!
I wonder if you see yourself as the right place to start when assigning blame in this fallen world. It is the right place for the Christian to begin. Jesus is telling us that it’s our sins he must die for. And he has! He loves you enough to die for you. That’s what we remember when we come to the table. That’s what we remember when we celebrate the Lord’s supper. It should humble us and exalt us.
Before we move on to our last question, I want to highlight something here. Two weeks ago, I pointed out how Jesus is consistently claiming and doing things which only God can claim and do. And, there’s another big-one in this text.
The Passover celebration was one of the biggest festivals, if not the biggest, in Israel. And, at the point Jesus and his disciples are eating it here in this passage, it had been celebrated for over a millennium—celebrating Yahweh’s saving rescue of his people from slavery in Egypt, celebrating how he’d brought their oppressors to their knees.
And, the Lord had given the Israelites, through Moses, specific commands about how they must celebrate that festival. (You can read his detailed instructions in Exodus 12.) God’s commands outline not only how they should do the Passover but, also, why they’re to do it—as a “memorial day” to recall in future generations how God passed over those who were marked by the blood of the sacrificial lamb while pouring out his judgment on those who were not.
Over a thousand years and very exact commands from God for his people—yet, nevertheless, Jesus says: All that…it’s about me; it’s pointing to my mission. Here’s what it really means. Friends, Jesus does what only God has the authority to do! He presumes to define history and the laws of God. A claim to divinity!
Well, now let’s ask our last question.
3. How is Jesus in control (vv. 21-23)?
How can a man who’s about to be betrayed be in control? How can a man who’s less than 24 hours away from a death-sentence be in control of the situation? How can a sacrifice be sovereign?
We get a hint at the end of our text when Jesus says:
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 (vv. 21-23).
The disciples are not in control. They haven’t got a clue who the betrayer is. Sometimes we imagine that Judas was an obvious choice. But, they weren’t like—Yeah, it’s probably Judas. They are not sovereign here.
And, though Judas is the betrayer, he isn’t in control either. He’s found out. Jesus knows it’s him. And, if that’s not enough to prove that Judas isn’t sovereign then just think back to last week’s sermon. Who holds sway over him at this point? Luke tells us that Satan does (22:3). Judas isn’t sovereign either.
But, Jesus affirms the outcome here. Doesn’t he? “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed” (v. 22). In short, Jesus is saying, I’ll surely go to the cross because that’s what’s been decreed—determined, pronounced, commanded, ruled, or decided. But, by whom? Who decided? That’s the question.
your imaginations for a moment. Let them wander back to the advent of creation,
the dawn of time. Imagine the perfect unity and fellowship of Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. Think about their perfect counsel. They, in total knowledge, plan
creation—knowing well that Adam and Eve would rebel and sin against them;
knowing well that the second member of the Trinity (the everlasting Son of God)
would have to become man, live a perfect human life, be betrayed and be
tortured and be crucified to atone for our sin and rebellion; knowing full and
well the costs of creating and loving us; knowing all this, nevertheless, our
three-in-one Lord decreed that it should be. (Jesus, the Son, has always been in complete control.)