Judas has already agreed to facilitate the arrest of Jesus. By the end of today, Jesus will be in custody, remaining there until his death. But Jesus had one more thing to share with his disciples—a meal.
On that evening, according to Jewish custom, Jesus ate the Passover Meal with his disciples, transforming it into what we now call the sacrament of Lord’s Supper.1 The Lord’s Supper is far too multi-faceted for me to summarize in a short post. But I do want to draw your attention to four important themes that show up during Jesus’s last meal with his disciples before his death.
- Freedom for Slaves - We should start with the explicit context of the Passover, a feast commemorating God’s rescue of his people from Egyptian domination. Jesus is now showing that context to be an object lesson of what he would soon do, release his people from the bondage of sin.2 In the same way that those first Passover celebrants ate on the evening before God’s great victory, so the disciples ate this meal on the night before Jesus’s great victory over sin.
- The New Covenant - Covenant is God’s word for describing his relationship with his people. The Old Covenant describes God's relationship with his people before the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was within that covenant that God’s people repeatedly failed and apostatized leading both Jeremiah3 and Ezekiel4 to prophesy that one day there would be a New Covenant that would usher in a new and closer relationship between God and his people. During the Passover meal, Jesus explicitly said that he would be the one to inaugurate this New Covenant.
- Atonement - Jesus also said that the New Covenant would be “in his blood,” even as he held up the third cup of wine in the Passover liturgy. Jesus was speaking of the atonement he would provide on the cross to atone for his people’s sin, stepping in as the Passover lamb himself.5
- A Meal - Don’t miss this. In that meal and every subsequent time that the sacrament is observed we see what God wants for his relationship with his sons and daughters—table fellowship. God has made a way through the sacrifice of Jesus for the far-off to become family, for sinners to become God’s dinner guests, for enemies to become sons and daughters around their heavenly Father’s table.
These are all dense, hope producing truths. They speak well beyond the immediate context of that meal into the enjoyment the church of Jesus has enjoyed in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But all four of these themes would still be questions and curiosities in the minds of the disciples.
After all, within a few hours of this meal, Jesus would be betrayed and arrested.
- The Lord’s Supper is a loaded and hopeful sacrament. Out of the four themes above which is easiest for you to believe? Which is hardest for you to believe?
- What does it mean to you when someone invites you to share a meal with them? Do you think of God wanting that kind of closeness with you? Why or why not?
- Who will you invite to attend our Easter Service with you this Sunday?