Luke 22:14 – 23
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 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 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.
But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
The dinner was prepared, and Jesus took his place as host of the dinner. Jesus, it seemed, was always the host – the one breaking the bread, offering hospitality to all. At this dinner, however, it seems that only the apostles, the twelve, sat at table with him. They must have been puzzled at his opening – he was eager to share the Passover with them? There had been other Passovers; they had been with Jesus for 3 years, 3 Passovers – why was he eager now? And what does he mean “before I suffer”? And Jesus says he will not share the Passover with them again, until all is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. The Sacrament of Holy Communion represents many things – one of those is that it is a hint, a promise, that we will share with Christ in the Heavenly Banquet when the Kingdom is finally fulfilled, when the Kingdom that is “not yet” comes to completion. He reiterates that idea as he passes the first cup of wine around the table.
And then he takes the bread, gives thanks, and breaks it and gives it to them. Holy Communion also represents thanksgiving. The word “eucharist” means to give thanks. And when he gives them the bread, he says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” When we share the sacrament, we remember what Christ has done for us – Remembrance is another meaning of Holy Communion. The bread represents the body of Christ, given for us on the cross. We do not believe the bread is actually transformed into the body of Christ (a doctrine called “transubstantiation”), but it represents to us the presence of Christ with us in the service. And then he raised the final cup of the meal, saying “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus has just changed the meaning of Passover – to the Jews, Passover was a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt, of God’s mighty acts in bringing about their freedom, and of the covenant made with God in the desert. The final cup of Passover represented the blood of the lamb, sealing the covenant. Now Jesus says the cup he passes is the seal of a new covenant; his own blood would bring the new covenant. We acknowledge our covenant with God, and the gift Christ gave in bringing about the new covenant, when we join in Holy Communion.
And then he looks around the table – after all, the word “communion” relates to “community”. In Holy Communion, we come together as community, as the new Body of Christ, renewed by his blood. But on that night, Jesus looks around the table, and he says that his betrayer is sitting there; his hand is on the table with is. Jesus knew that it would come to this – it was predicted in all the prophets. But he feels for the one who has betrayed him, says “woe” to him! And all the disciples look at one another, and to ask one another who it would be. What about you – and me – would we be at the table? Would we be the betrayer?