The Suffering Servant's Supper
January 21, 2024 | Peter Rowan
Passage: Luke 22:1-23
Having just taught his famous Olivet Discourse, our Lord and his disciples celebrate the Passover meal together. While it is the Passover, the great meal that Israel would eat that would celebrate what God had done in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, Jesus works this great salvation meal around himself. In so doing, he gave us the great meal that marks the Christian life, Communion, the Lord's Table, the Eucharist. This meal is the act of Christian faith because in it so much that is in the heart of Christian faith is found.
What marks you as you? What marks you as you?
We could ask this question for groups too? What marks those people as those people?
I watched a Jim Gaffigan bit this week that had me a bit in stitches.
Hiking is huge! It’s huge! There is hiking clothing. There is clothing for walking outside! I thought all clothing was for walking outside. And there are whole parts of the country - the entire Pacific Nothwest - where everyone is dressed like there could be an impromptu hike at a moments notice. “Well, I’m going for a coffee but you never know when a hike might break out, so I will put on some sturdy shoes and a breathable fleece.”
He ends it by saying “That joke was brought to you by Patagonia.”
I found that hilarious in park because I grew up in the great Pacific Northwest and he is spot on. But it’s not just about an impromptu hike. It’s about belonging. It’s about being part of the scene.
It’s like a scenester who is wearing all of the bands tee-shirts and beanies and wristbands and all of it. It’s about belonging. Or the hipster who shops at all the right second hand stores and and does all of the DIY, candles, houseplants, pottery, sourdough and all. It’s about belonging.
We are back in the gospel of Luke and as I mentioned last week we are going to be in Luke until the end of April when we finish it up. The passage last week, known as the Olivet Discourse, was the last really extended teaching of Jesus in Luke and now Luke turns our attention very much towards our Lord’s passion, his death and resurrection. But today we have the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper along with Baptism are the marks of the Christian Faith. The eucharist, the meal of thanksgiving, and baptism are the acts, the liturgical expressions, of being a Christian. If you were to see someone praying 5 times a day prostrated in the direction of Mecca, you know that that person is a Muslim. If you were to see someone be baptized and come and take communion, you would conclude that person is a Christian. All kind of different people gathering together to sing songs (I think one of the most significant secular religious experiences I had was down on the Peer in Seattle watching singing along at an Indigo Girls concert while the sun set over the Olympic mountain across the Puget Sound). All kinds of different people get together to discuss a text that they are all reading, like we do in Bible studies (I used to lead a Bible study in Richmond with a group of Muslin students from Saudi Arabia - you don’t have to be a Christian to be in a Bible Study!) All kinds of different people gather together to hear a lecture that in some ways would be similar to preaching (and many of you know that you have moved and changed by the great teachers and professors you have had over the years. I mean, just two weeks ago I was at a church in Washington and met an artist who told me he was significantly influenced by hearing and meeting Ted and Cathy at a Christians in the Visual Arts conference some 30 years ago!). But the act of taking the bread and wine is the Christian act! You may know that in our tradition, in the tradition of this church, which is a presbyterian church, churches would often only celebrate communion every quarter of the year or monthly and some parts of Scotland (where Presbyterianism hails from during the Protestant Reformation), you may only celebrate in annually. But for most of the church through most of church history, when Christians gathered together on the Lord’s Day for worship that took the bread and they took the wine and they ate and they drank together as they were commanded to do by our Lord. This, this is the Christian act.
The fact is that the Lord’s Supper brings together nearly everything that makes up the heart of the Christian Faith.
You know, when I started studying this passage, one of the things that stood out to me was what isn’t here in this passage. I mean, I sort of wanted to know more about Judas’ story. Why the betrayal other than Satan entered him! When did he meet with the chief priests and officers - I guess presumably while others were getting ready for the big passover meal. I wanted to know about the man carrying the jar of water in verse 10 (in the ancient world, men didn’t carry jars of water and how was he connected with such a large guest room?). Did Jesus set that up in advance? Or, Jesus being God, did he just know that that man was there and would have this room available for such a large party? And what kind of room would be available for that many people at such a short notice? And what about Jesus’ mother? Where is she? We know she is in Jerusalem. She is at the feet of Jesus at his crucifixion. Where wasn’t she present when he celebrated his last meal and instituted for his church this great sacrament? And here is a really big thing: at this dinner, before this taking of the bread and the wine that Jesus does, we know from John that he washed his disciples’ feet, we know that he taught them about the gift of the Holy Spirit, we know of his priestly prayer to his Father about the unity of his followers, but all of that stuff is found in the Gospel of John and it is rather astonishingly absent here in Luke!
But what is here, what is here in the passage says so much not just about this holy meal that we partake of when we gather together but what it means to be a Christian because again, in this single creepy of bread and wine we see the heart of Chistian faith.
Let me highlight for you a few of the details of this passage and how they highlight for us the core of Christian faith. I’ll start with a really small detail and work to the big detail.
“The Guest Room”
Look with me down at verse 10-11
10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.”
That little word “guest room” is To Katalouma. It’s the same word that we find in the beginning of Luke chapter 2. There was no room for them in the Inn. Here we have, well, here we have a miracle of sorts. A large room at the great feast of Israel, the Passover itself, a room large enough for Jesus and his disciples to gather together and eat. And that room that is large and big enough for his disciples is connected to the idea that he came into the world where there was’t room for him! Right here, in this little detail we have this idea that God is over it all, that he knows the details of our plight and goes to the place where he is not welcome that we would be welcomed. But in this little detail also, which we celebrate in the Lord’s Table is the incarnation of Jesus. This Table declares that God came for us!
The Guest Room - the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of his incarnation.
"The Bread and the Wine"
Jesus takes the cup in verse 17 and give thank and gives is to his disciples. Then in verse 19 he takes the bread and gives thanks and gives it to his disciples. (BTW, the word “give thank” that is mentioned in both of these acts is the word “eucharistesas”, from which we call this the meal the “Eucharist”). Jesus takes bread and wine. Now that is a small detail and it is obvious to us, but it is unbelievably profound. God feeds us with creation. That is small, but it is huge. At the heart of Christian faith is the affirmation of this world and God’s work in and through it! You cannot be a Christian, you cannot be a faithful Christian, and downplay the glory of creation. And beyond this this little detail says that God works through people! Bread and wine don’t just appear. It takes famers and bakers and tending vines and cutting off the fermentation so the wine doesn’t just turn to vinegar. God affirms his creation in Christianity and he world through his creation in salvation.
"Anticipation of his coming"
Verse 19 tells us to “do this in remembrance of me” and verse 17 tells us that he will not eat of it “until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”.
In this meal there is an anticipation of his coming again. There is a rememberance of his first coming and a looking forward to his coming again. This meal is an advent meal. In this act, we confess what we confess in the creed, that Christ came and that he will come again!
One of the tricky things about reading your Bible is that most of the “you’s” are not singular, but plural. All of them are here. It would be helpful if the Bible translators were southern:
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with y’alll before I suffer. 16 For I tell y’all I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”“This is my body, which is given for y’all. Y’alll do this in remembrance of me.” “This cup that is poured out for y’all is the new covenant in my blood.
I know there are many different practices that different churches do for communion, but part of why we do a common loaf of bread and offer a common cup and have you come forward is because this is a communal meal! 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
The Table reminds us of our fellowship with God and our fellowship in his body, the Church. This is not a private meal. This was given to the disciples and Apostles and is to be administered by the pastors of the church just like the meals of the OT were to be administered by the Priests.
This may seem rather obvious here, but Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me”. You may know this, but the theology of what is happening in the Lord’s Supper has been one of the most contentious points of debate throughout church history. In fact, the divide between the Lutheran church and the rest of the Reformed churches during the Reformation was almost entirely because of a disagreement on what Jesus meant by “This is my body”. Hoc est corpus meum! And while I think we should be very eager to think deeply on these mysteries, our Lord did not say “Think of this in remembrance of me!” “Ponder this in remembrance of me!” So many churches practice communion in such a way that you are privately taking the elements and spending most of the time in contemplation as if Jesus said “Contemplate in remembrance of me!” But Jesus said “Do this!” Communion is again a great reminder that while the Christian faith is a faith of the heart and the mind it is also an active faith, an incarnate faith, a faith that invites participation in the things of God.
Ok, let me just give you one more detail.
This is the big one. If Luke doesn’t say all of things that we want him to say and what he does say is so important for us to get even in the details, well, the BIG detail here is the connection between his Supper and Passover.
Right at the beginning. “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover.” Now those aren’t exactly the same thing (the feast of unleavened bread was a week-long and the passover was a meal), but they are so tied together that they can kind of be called the same.
Then the next little section in this begins:
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
and that section ends:
13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Then the next section starts:
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
I mean, if Luke wants to shout something, he’s shouting it!
And this is what he is saying: This is the New Passover meal! This is now the meal of your salvation!
If there was one redemption story that defined Israel in the OT it was the story of their being brought out from slavery in Egypt miraculously by God. And they were brought on the night when a spotless lamb was to be slaughtered and the blood was to be put on the door of their houses and their lives would be spared! And so from that first day of their salvation from Slavery on every year they were to remember that death of the perfect spotless lamb in their place and their redemption from Slavery!
Jesus is saying, there is now a new meal because there is now even a greater salvation! I am the one who is broken. It is my blood that is shed. And because I am the perfect sinless spotless lamb of God, you are free!
You see here we celebrate this truth at the heart of Christianity that while your sins are great God’s grace in the death of Christ covers over you and God’s judgement passes over you! Here we celebrate that our salvation is all of God’s doing, that we are entirely dependent on him! He we celebrate that because Jesus was the suffering servant we are now children of God!
You see, brothers and sisters, here, in this act that we do every week, in this remembrance of Christs broken body and shed blood, is the heart of all of our faith!
What did I say was the point of the Patagonia fleece and sturdy shoes and all of the rest? Belonging! In doing this in remembrance of Christ, in coming to this Table, we are belonging to Christ. We are confessing that we are his not because of anything we have done but only because of the cross!