“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “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.” (Luke 22:14-16)
On the eve of the Passover, Jesus sat around a table with his disciples for the meal. It was the day the lamb was to be sacrificed and eaten in remembrance of God’s deliverance from slavery and death (Mark 14:12). Any Jew of good standing would have grown accustomed to this, and yet this occasion was different. Jesus, holding the bread, instituted a new commemorative act in fulfillment of what the Passover long anticipated. It would now be his body and his blood they were to feast on, and through which they would find freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. Jesus, in vivid detail, displayed the measure of love and service he would render. Amidst would-be betrayers and deserters (Matt. 26:21, 31), Jesus rehearsed what was about to take place. He would die in their place and would “pour out his blood for the forgiveness of sins” (v. 28) as the paschal lamb—the lovely for the unlovable.
His instructions were to “take, eat; this is my body” (v. 26) and “drink, this is my blood” (v. 28). Using the same images of the Passover, Jesus illustrated that his followers are not mere spectators in the drama unfolding but participants in it (1 Cor. 10:16). As theologian John Stott explains, “Just as it was not enough for the bread to be broken and the wine to be poured out, but they had to eat and drink, so it was not enough for him to die, but they had to appropriate the benefits of his death personally. The eating and drinking were, and still are, a vivid acted parable of receiving Christ as our crucified Savior and of feeding on him in our hearts by faith.” Now every time they took this supper it was in the sober remembrance of the immense sacrificial grace that they were receiving by faith and the imminent return of the Lamb who would then sit at the table with them as their victorious King (Luke 22: 19; Matt. 26:29).
Upon exiting the meal with a hymn (v. 30), they headed to a familiar place on the Mount of Olives at Gethsemane. Here Jesus would feel the pressing agony of what he would soon bear (Luke 22:44). Here he would plead to the Father “let this cup pass if it be possible ” (v. 39). He would drink the full cup of God’s wrath so his disciples could drink deeply of his grace (Ps. 75:8). Despite the presence of Peter, James, and John “who could not watch with him one hour” (v. 40), he would walk this path alone to the hour at hand (v. 46).
As the cross looms, we must view it not through the eyes of spectators but as participants. We too must personally receive and appropriate this grace in our lives. As the church we too are joining in “a participation in the body and blood of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). We must ask ourselves, what are we truly drawing life from? Is it his grace and purpose that pulsates through our hearts and lives by faith? For this food alone gives life, thwarts the power of sin, conquers the grave, and secures our place at the table with the King.