Peace be with you!
The Festival of Unleavened Bread is under way in the Jewish community. Jewish families are making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The temple is starting to get busy with preparations for the annual sacrifice ceremonies.
Even Jesus has the Passover meal with his disciples in an upstairs room of a Jerusalem home. Jesus pauses to spend one last night with his disciples before the events of the passion unravel. During the meal, Jesus says,
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:15-20 NRSV).
These words are so familiar to us that it is easy for us to gloss over them since we hear them every time we take communion. We forget this is not just another meal; Jesus was looking forward to this Passover meal for a while. He must have run through the speech he would deliver to the disciples a million times.
Can you imagine being the disciples hearing these words for the first time? “This is my body … This is my blood poured out for you … This is the new covenant. Do this in remembrance of me.” These words have power and glory in them. Not only that, but Jesus commissioned his disciples to share this experience and these words with the world. It was not a one-time event; it is an ongoing event to remember Jesus came down into the world to rescue us from Satan and his temptations.
However, with any large gathering, there always seems to be a black sheep in the room. Knowing what will transpire in the next few hours, Jesus predicts his betrayal (see Luke 22:21-22), yet he acknowledges it must happen in order to fulfill the scriptures (see Luke 22:37). The disciples are appalled that one of them could do such a thing. Who could be bold to do such a thing?
Then the disciples begin to argue as to which one of them is the greatest (see Luke 22:24). Jesus stops the argument and says, “No one is greater. The leader must be like the one who serves. Who is greater: the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? Yet I am among you as the one who serves” (see Luke 22:25-27). These words are powerful: no one is greater. Each of us must be like the One who serves. We should follow Jesus’s example and respect and help each other.
Jesus goes on to say, “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30 NRSV). Jesus treats his disciples as God the Father has treated him. He is honored that his disciples had stood by him through all of his trials.
Jesus turns to Peter and says, “You will deny me before the crow sounds three times” (see Luke 22:32, 34). Peter says, “I would never deny you. I would follow you to prison and death if I had to” (see Luke 22:33). Jesus understands that everyone will fall away, but he says that when Peter turns back he will strengthen his brothers (see Luke 22:32). Peter will not stay lost for very long, and when he finds his way back, he will be stronger. Jesus reminds his disciples that when he sent them out with nothing, they never lacked a thing (see Luke 22:35). Even when they fall away, Jesus will find and take care of them.
As if to set things in motion by giving Judas permission to go to the Sanhedrin, Jesus says, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled” (Luke 22:36-37 NRSV emphasis mine).
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for letting us continue to share the Last Supper with Jesus. Help us to understand the wisdom Jesus shared with his disciple. Remind us no one is greater than the one who is a servant. Guide us to help, serve, and respect one another. And when we fall away, come and find us in the darkness. Thank you for fulfilling the scriptures. Amen.