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Summary: Understanding The Lord’s Supper in its Passover Context

The Last Supper

A sermon on Luke 22:14-20

Today is Palm Sunday. We are in Holy Week. And this morning I would like to do things a little different and look a passage in Luke’s Gospel that describes one of the events of Holy Week, the Last Supper. [1] It is found in the 22nd chapter of the Gospel of Luke. If you have your Bibles with you, why don’t you take them out and turn to Luke chapter 22. We’ll be looking at verses fourteen through twenty.

This morning’s text

As we jump in to the middle of chapter 22, while Judas conspires with the Pharisees to betray the Lord, Jesus sends two of the disciples to prepare a Passover meal. The table is prepared and we read, ‘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 of 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.”’ Luke 22:14-20, NIV

The Lord’s Supper

This passage in Luke’s Gospel is one of the most beautiful accounts of the Last Supper found in the Bible. Sometimes we forget that the Lord’s Supper is a continuation of the Old Testament celebration of Passover.

The Passover Memorial

Passover was a memorial built around a meal that a family shared with their guests. [2] It is kind of like our Thanksgiving. The Passover meal served as a memorial to help Israelites remember, and teach their children, that the Lord delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Passover was a meal that a family shared. But it was a highly symbolic and ritualized meal. A Passover meal contains six proscribed elements: roast lamb, unleavened bread, an herb, a vegetable, a fruit salad, and an egg. And each element of the meal symbolized either some aspect of Israel’s slavery in Egypt or the Lord’s deliverance from that slavery:

o The roasted lamb symbolized the lamb that was sacrificed and who’s blood was smeared on the Israelite’s door posts to turn away the angel of death

o The unleavened bread symbolized the swiftness of Israel’s departure. They left in such a hurry there was no time to let bread rise.

o A vegetable, typically celery, is dipped in salt water to symbolize the tears of slavery

o A bitter herb like horseradish symbolizes the bitterness of slavery

o A fruit-nut paste symbolizes the mortar the Israelite slaves used to make bricks

And along with this, during the meal the people drink four cups of wine that symbolizes the four promises the Lord made to Israel back in Exodus. [3]

o ‘I will bring you out of slavery’

o ‘I will free you’

o ‘I will redeem you’

o ‘And I will take you as my people’

Everything in the meal is highly symbolic and points to what the Lord did for them.

The Lord’s Supper is reinterprets Passover elements

Now what makes the Lord’s Supper different then a Passover Meal is that at the Last Supper Jesus took some of the elements at the table and interpreted them around Him self. The Lord’s Supper is something of a reinterpretation of the Passover Meal. Christ interpreted His death to the Disciples in a Passover context.

The symbolism behind the breaking of the unleavened bread

Luke tells us, ‘And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you.”’ Jesus took the unleavened bread, held it up, and said, ‘This is my body given for you.’ That is this bread represents my body [4] which is being given so you can enter into this New Covenant. Christ was the sacrificial lamb so to speak. [5]

Christ gave His life for us

Christ broke the bread. And the breaking of the bread symbolized Jesus was laying down His life for His people. Like when a soldier in battle sacrifices himself in that battle for the Band of Brothers standing around him, and his family back home. Christ was giving His life for us. In Christ’s day they say a million pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. People opened their homes to the pilgrims. They camped in tents outside the city. A hundred thousand lambs were slaughtered and roasted. And the air would have been filled with the smell of burning flesh. And that served as a reminder. Back in the Exodus each family sacrificed a lamb. The blood from the lamb was smeared on their lintels and doorposts by the faithful and that turned away the angel of death from the door of that family. Christ gave His life. He was like the Passover lamb in that His is the blood that turns away the angel of death from our family. His blood is our covering. The angel of death comes and he must pass by. As Paul reminds us, [6] “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?" [7]

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