#95. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-20)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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Text

Luke 22:7-20

[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 upper room, 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 of 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.


Exposition

This week we consider a few verses in which are hidden the power of the Gospel. If you were raised in church, you've heard these words hundreds of times. I encourage you, however, to set aside what you "know" and come as a simple disciple, listening afresh to Jesus' words as if for the first time. You're in for a treat!

Chronology of the Lord's Supper

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed." (22:7)

There is some controversy about which day of the week that Passover occurred on. As I explain in my short essay on "The Chronology of Jesus' Crucifixion" (www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/chronology.htm), Luke seems to indicate that Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples on Thursday evening, following a sacrifice of the Passover lambs in the temple on Thursday afternoon.

Peter and John Prepare the Passover (22:8-13)

"Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'
'Where do you want us to prepare for it?' they asked.
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, 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?" He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.'
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover." (22:8-13)

Finding a room in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meal wasn't easy with all the crowds of Pilgrims. Jesus now gives some peculiar instructions. Normally women would be carrying jars (Greek keramion -- "an earthenware vessel, (water) jar"),[1] while men would be carrying leather bottles or skins (Greek askos).[2] Jesus' instruction sounds like some kind of pre-arranged signal, perhaps in order to hold the meal in secret, in a place unknown to his enemies. Edersheim comments, "Evidently, neither the house where the Passover was to be kept, nor its owner, was to be named beforehand within hearing of Judas."[3] There could also be a reference to Jesus' supernatural knowledge, similar, perhaps, to Jesus' instructions for obtaining a donkey for the triumphal entry (19:30-31).

An upper room would be an extra room, built onto the flat roof of a typical Palestinian house. It was probably "furnished" (Greek strunnuo, "to equip something with appropriate furnishings") with carpets and cushions on which guests would recline for their meal.[4] Edersheim speculates that this was probably the house of a follower, perhaps St. Mark's parents' home (cf. Mark 14:51-52; Acts 12:12).[5] He supposes that all that is needed for the meal is already in the upper room -- wine for the four cups, cakes of unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. All Peter and John would need to do would be to sacrifice the Passover lamb at the temple. Either Peter or John would have personally cut the lamb's throat at the appropriate time in the temple service. The lamb would then be roasted on a pomegranate wood spit, and the lamps prepared for the room.[6]

Jesus instructs the disciples to convey this message: "The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" Many hosts in crowded Jerusalem would combine several families of pilgrims for a Passover meal. But Jesus is asking for a private meal with his disciples only.

Jesus' Words about the Passover (22:14-16)

"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.' " (22:14-16)

It was customary to recline at the Passover meal. Guests would lean on their left arm and eat with their right, legs splayed out behind them.

Often I have wondered at Jesus' words to his disciples in this passage. The KJV translates it literally, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." The doubling of the word "desire" reflects the Hebrew infinitive absolute, a grammatical form indicating intensity -- "earnestly desired" (RSV, NASB). Why was Jesus' desire so great? Verse 16 indicates the answer -- that this will be his last meal with them. The Passover meal is special -- special to Jesus -- and he is so grateful to have the Twelve around the table with him for this final occasion.

As host of the meal, Jesus begins to speak the ancient words of the Passover meal, telling of Israel's Exodus from Egypt by God's strong hand. For Jesus, this Passover meal looks forward to its fulfillment in the Great Feast in the Kingdom of God at the End Time (Luke 13:28-29; 14:15; 22:30; Revelation 19:9).

The Cup (22:17-18)

Most Christians are familiar with the Words of Institution given by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, since they are usually the words incorporated into our observance of the Lord's Supper:

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took (Greek lambano, Aorist tense) bread, and when he had given thanks (Greek eucharisteo, Aorist participle), he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper [he took] the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The order in Corinthians (and in Matthew and Mark) is Bread - Cup. But according to the NIV text, Luke's account is Cup - Bread - Cup. Why? Apparently in Luke's record, Jesus takes uses an earlier cup in the meal to emphasize the fact that he will not eat the Passover with them again until the Great Feast in the Kingdom of God. In Matthew and Mark this emphasis comes after his only saying about the cup (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). Here is Luke's telling of the incident:

"After taking (Greek dechomai, Aorist participle) the cup, he gave thanks (Greek eucharisteo, Aorist participle) and said, 'Take (Greek lambano, Aorist imperative) this and divide it (Greek diamerizo, Aorist imperative) among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' " (22:17-18)

The liturgy for the Passover meal consisted of four cups of wine, each with its own blessing and words of explanation. Jesus doubtless utters the ancient words, but at points in the ritual, he distinguishes to the cup and the bread with a new meaning related to his own ministry. Because of the centrality of these passages to our Christian worship, let's examine the verbs in verse 17:

Greek verb dechomai here has the sense "to take something in hand, grasp."[7] It is similar to the usage of the verb lambano in 1 Corinthians 11:23. I don't see much significance in the difference.

Greek eucharisteo, "to express appreciation for benefits or blessings, give thanks, express thanks, render/return thanks."[8] A prayer of thanksgiving was uttered whenever Jews partook of food, and there was an established prayer to be used on this special occasion, probably, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the world, who has created the fruit of the vine!" (See my article, "Don't Ask the Blessing, Offer One" www.joyfulheart.com/holiday/offer-blessing.htm) Notice that Jesus echoes the words "fruit of the vine" in verse 18 as he proclaims that he will not drink of it again until the Kingdom comes.

Greek lambano, is used in its most common definition, "to get hold of something by laying hands on or grasping something directly or indirectly, take, take hold of, grasp, take in hand."[9] The disciples are told to grasp the cup.

Greek diamerizo means "to distribute objects to a series of persons, distribute, share with someone."[10] It sounds like they were to take the cup, each taking a sip, then passing it on to the next person around the table.

The Bread that Is His Body (22:19a)

"And he took (Greek lambano) bread, gave thanks (Greek eucharisteo) and broke (Greek klao) it, and gave (Greek didomi) it to them, saying, 'This is my body given (Greek didomi, present passive participle) for (Greek huper) you; do this in remembrance of me.' " (22:19)

Part of the Passover meal used unleavened bread. The host would hold the thin loaf of bread and break it, retaining some of it for later in the ritual meal. On this occasion Jesus forever changes the meaning of the bread. Before this, unleavened bread reminded the Jews that there hadn't been enough time for the bread to rise, so sudden was their Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:19; 39). Now and forever after it signifies the broken body of our Lord.

Jesus' thanksgiving on this occasion is doubtless the ancient Jewish blessing over the bread: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the world, who has caused bread to come forth out of the earth."

Jesus' breaking of the bread (Greek klao) was normal enough as their host, but it was in this act that Jesus was recognized after his resurrection in the town of Emmaus (24:30-31). He also broke (Greek kataklao) a boy's five loaves and fed 5,000 and later 4,000 (9:16; Mark 8:19-20). The disciples' practice of the Lord's Supper came to be called "the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42, 46; cf. 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16).[11]

In Luke, Jesus describes the bread as "given for you," literally "being given" (present passive participle) on your behalf." The Greek preposition here is huper, which is "a marker indicating that an activity or event is in some entity's interest, 'for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone/something.' "[12] Though it isn't developed further in this context, the idea is one of a ransom, where one life is given in exchange for another. Jesus spells this out in Mark's Gospel: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; cf. 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:15).

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Lord's Supper (22:19a)

One question that has divided theologians for centuries is the meaning of the simple verb in: "This is my body." The Greek verb is the present active tense of eimi, the verb "to be," and describes a close connection with, "frequently in statements of identity or equation." Here it is used in an explanation "to show how something is to be understood, 'is a representation of, is the equivalent of.' The verb serves as a copula. It is usually translated "mean" in the formula "this or that means, that is to say."[13]

Roman Catholic scholars, from the time the doctrine of transubstantiation was declared a dogma in 1215 AD, insist that Jesus means that the bread is in very fact and true reality his body. In other words, they take the verb "to be" extremely literally. They contend that though the consecrated bread looks like bread in its "accidents," the bread or "host" is in true reality or "substance" the very body of Jesus Christ. That is why they take such care not to drop or spill the elements in the mass and why the devout genuflect before the presence of the consecrated host in a Catholic sanctuary.[14]

Protestant scholars take the verb "to be" figuratively, so that Jesus is saying "This signifies or means my body." However, Martin Luther taught "sacramental union" (sometimes termed "consubstantiation"), that the actual body and blood of Christ exists "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine, transformed by the Word of God (The prefix "con-" means "with."). A few Protestants do protest too much and repeatedly declare the elements of the Lord's Supper to be "mere symbols." Why? Those aren't Jesus' words. In such a callous declaration, these Protestants may be expressing a thoroughly "reformed" doctrine, but not the words of Scripture.

There IS a real presence of Jesus with his people as we partake of the elements. Partaking of the elements constitutes a spiritual feeding on Christ himself. Jesus surely intended, in its fuller understanding, his discourse on the Living Bread (John 6:25-59) to amplify his disciples' understanding of the Lord's Supper.[15] And in this teaching Jesus is graphic to the extreme:

"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever" (John 6:53-58).

This teaching was so literal and so strong that John records, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66). My dear friend, when you next partake of the Lord's Supper, remember to feed on Jesus in this act of Communion.

Paul, too, indicates that partaking of the bread and the cup are a participation (Greek koinonia, "sharing") in the body and blood of Christ, in the same way that a Jewish priest who ate a portion of the sacrifice participated in the sacrifice itself (1 Corinthians 10:14-18). There is more here than "mere symbols."

A Textual Variant (22:19b-20)

Nearly all the ancient manuscripts, as well as most of the ancient versions and Fathers contain the "longer" reading of this passage. But the Western Text (D) and a few Italian manuscripts omit the following words: " '... 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.' " Were they in the original text as Luke wrote it? Quite probably. Though omitted in the RSV, the longer text is restored in the NRSV, and is shown in the KJV and most other modern translations (NIV, NASB, TEV, JB, etc.).[16]

Do This in My Memory (22:19b)

Some of the Words of Institution are in the form of a command: "Do (Greek poieo, present imperative) this in remembrance (Greek anamnesis) of me.' " (22:19b) What does Jesus mean by this?

The Greek verb poieo, "do, make," is sometimes used of repeating rites (see the Greek Septuagint of Exodus 29:35; Numbers 15:11-13; Deuteronomy 25:9). In 22:19b it is used in the present tense, indicating continuing action (whereas the Aorist imperative would indicate to do a single action, as in 22:17), and could be translated, "Continue to do this in my memory."

The Greek noun anamnesis means "reminder, remembrance of something,"[17] and is also used in the Words of Institution in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. Marshall says "the whole phrase is usually understood to mean, 'Do this so that you will remember me.' "[18] Jesus intends for us disciples to partake of the Lord's Supper again and again to remind us of him and the significance of his death. Christianity is not just love and good works in Jesus' name, but also remembering again and again Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. Christians from earliest days have included the Lord's Supper centrally in their worship.

Blood Poured Out (22:20)

"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.' " (22:20)

Now Luke introduces a second cup "after the supper." Look at Jesus' words about the cup once again -- they are so personal and compelling. Jesus is addressing his words personally to his beloved but sinful disciples.

They didn't have a "white wine" -- all their wine was dark red, so it isn't surprising that wine is often used in the Bible as a symbol of blood. The Bible refers to wine as "the blood of grapes" (Genesis 49:11; Deuteronomy 32:14; cf. Isaiah 63:6; Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:19-20). When Jesus poured red wine into a cup at the Last Supper, he thought of pouring out blood into the cup -- a striking, searing image. The very next day his own blood would be poured out.

The verb translated "poured out" (NIV) or "shed" (KJV) is Greek ekcheo, "cause to be emitted in quantity, 'pour out'." Blood can be poured out or shed. A bowl can be poured out, bowels can gush out.[19] Liquid gushing out in quantity -- that's the image captured by this word.

The object of this outpouring of blood is his disciples, using the Greek preposition huper, "on behalf of, for the benefit of" (see verse 19a above). And the object is very personal -- "you." In Matthew and Mark the phrase is somewhat impersonal -- "poured out for (peri) many for (eis) the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28) -- but here it is expressed personally -- "on your behalf ... for your forgiveness ... for your sins."

The New Covenant (22:20)

Finally, we examine the phrase "the new covenant." A covenant was a solemn agreement between two parties, often between a lord (suzerain) and his vassals, which might be considered an agreement, alliance, league, or treaty. A covenant was considered to be in force so long as each party kept the terms of the covenant. Ancient Near Eastern covenants were usually established with a solemn ceremony -- often including the shedding of blood and sometimes a sacred meal. The Hebrew term for making a covenant is literally "cut a covenant," referring to the practice of slaying and cutting up sacrificial animals at the making of the covenant, as between the Lord and Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21).

Since Jesus is referring to a "new covenant," let us consider the "old covenant" which it is replacing, instituted between God and the people of Israel with "the blood of the covenant."

"They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, 'We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.' Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.' " (Exodus 24:5-8)

But Israel broke that covenant. They did not obey. They did not follow God faithfully. There was the need for a "new covenant," prophesied by Jeremiah:

"The time is coming," declares the Lord,
"when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the Lord.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The New Covenant has as its purpose the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation between God and man. But it is costly. It is a covenant that God makes by pouring out the blood of his own Son. And it is ratified by faith in the Son -- your faith and mine. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

For us, the Lord's Supper is both simple and profound. At one level it is symbol. Then a simple act of remembrance. But it is also a spiritual feeding on Jesus. It is, in a sense, the confirming and renewing of the covenant made for us in the blood of Jesus. It is a spiritual sharing in the sacrifice made for us. It is an act of our personal faith in him.

But for Him, it is a promise still extended to us:

"This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me... This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

The past is forgiven, the future is yours -- a new promise for you, a new covenant. Hallelujah!


Prayer

Father, thank you for your intense and enduring love which underlies the Bread and the Cup. Thank you for your steadfast purpose to rescue us. Thank you for the extent to which you went to erase our sins and bring us into a new covenant. Thank you for your willingness to endure the pain that we might be free. Thank you. In Jesus' name, we offer thanks. Amen.


Key Verse

"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.' " (Luke 22:19-20)


Questions

JesusWalk: Discipleship Training in Luke's Gospel, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
All 120 lessons now compiled as a 808-page e-book and paperback. Get your copy for easy reference

We probably have some disagreements about the Lord's Supper. Let's seek to learn together from Jesus' words, rather than fight about doctrines developed many centuries after Christ. Let's be gentle with one another where we disagree.

  1. Why was Jesus so secretive about the location of his Passover meal with his disciples? (22:7-13)
  2. Why do you think Jesus desired with such great intensity to eat this Passover meal with his disciples? (22:15) What did Jesus hope to find in this sacred meal for himself? What did he hope to impart?
  3. Luke has a different pattern than we're used to: cup - bread - cup. What message does Jesus convey to his disciples with the first cup mentioned in 22:17? What is the message that comes with the second cup mentioned in 22:20?
  4. It's easy to see how wine conveys the idea of blood. But in what way does bread convey to us the idea of Jesus' body? Don't think of a risen loaf of yeast bread. Think of a flat loaf of unleavened bread, kind of like Jewish Matzos.
  5. What does it mean when Jesus' says "This is my body given for you"? Given how? Given why? Given for what purpose?
  6. What does it mean "Do this in remembrance of me"? What are we to do?
  7. Extra Credit: What are the elements of the New Covenant compared to elements of the Old Covenant?
  8. What does it mean "my blood, which is poured out for you"? Why was it poured out? Why "for you"? Why was the shedding of blood necessary at all?


References

Common Abbreviations www.jesuswalk.com/faq/abbreviations.htm

  1. BDAG 540.
  2. Marshall, p. 791
  3. Edersheim, Life and Times, 2:482.
  4. BDAG 949.
  5. Edersheim, 2:485.
  6. Ibid.
  7. BDAG 221.
  8. BDAG 415-416.
  9. BDAG 583-585.
  10. BDAG 233-234.
  11. Jesus' Words of Institution in the KJV read, "This is my body, which is broken for you" (1 Corinthians 11:24), though the word "broken" is probably a textual variant that is missing from the earliest manuscripts. That is p46, aleph*, A, B, C*, etc. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 562. It is omitted from more recent translations such as the NIV, RSV, and NASB.
  12. BDAG 1030-1031.
  13. BDAG 282-286, especially definition 2. c. alpha.
  14. Transubstantiation is thoroughly discussed in "The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist," Catholic Encyclopedia (1917 edition). www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm
  15. No wonder John doesn't include the Words of Institution as do the Synoptic Gospels. Instead he shares the meaning of the Last Supper by relating Jesus' teach on the Bread of Life. When John wrote this late in his life, the words "flesh" and "blood" could not be understood by the early church in any other way as referring to the Eucharist. If John had meant them to understand it another way, he could have added further explanation. However, a number of scholars skate along the edge, concluding that Jesus' teaching in John don't require a reference to the Lord's Supper. See I. Howard Marshall, Last Supper and Lord's Supper (Eerdmans, 1980), pp. 133-139; and George R. Beasley-Murray, Word Bible Commentary: John (Word Books, 1987), pp. 91-96. He concludes, "It is not necessary to interpret the statement exclusively in terms of the body and blood of the Lord's Supper," but acknowledges, "Neither the Evangelist nor the Christian readers could have written or read the saying without conscious reference to the Eucharist" (p. 95).
  16. The United Bible Society Editorial Committee (Third Edition) gives it a confidence level of {C}, "considerable degree of doubt." The majority of the committee explained the shorter reading by supposing that "the Bezan editor, puzzled by the sequence of cup-bread-cup, eliminated the second mention of the cup." They noted the overwhelming external evidence and the fact that the words are omitted on only part of the Western type of text, and are retained in others of that type. Metzger, pp. 173-177.
  17. BDAG 68.
  18. Marshall, p. 805.
  19. BDAG 312.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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