tissot-last-supper02Luke 22 Part 2

17. Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;

Here we come upon the next element of the Passover after the lamb, which was the Passover cup. The three essential elements of the Passover are outlined in Exodus 12:8.

8. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Notice that the third element listed here is “bitter herbs,” yet the word “herbs” is in italics. This indicates that this word was not in the original Hebrew, but was supplied by the translators. The fact is that the “bitters” were not herbs, but a cup of bitter drink. This was probably either some kind of vinegar, or else wine steeped with wormwood to make it bitter. That might not sound very appetizing, but remember that this Passover was not meant to be a large meal to sit down to and enjoy eating. The point was not to enjoy some elaborate meal together with family and friends, as is the point with our holiday dinners. You did not expect to get up from the table with your stomach filled with good food. The point was to remember the bitterness and hardship of the slavery the Israelites endured in Egypt, as well as God’s miraculous deliverance of them from that slavery. The various elements were to remind them of the things they suffered there. Therefore, the cup that they drank was a cup of bitters.

In spite of the fact that what was in the cup was a bitter drink, the Lord gives thanks for it. Then, He encourages His disciples to divide it among themselves. They all were to drink of this bitter drink and remember the bitterness of Israel’s slavery in Egypt.

18. “For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Christ again announces to them that this is the last time He will drink of this produce of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. Thus the “sour wine” that Christ drank on the cross (John 19:29) must not have been made from the same fruit of the vine as this cup. Either that, or by saying this He was referring specifically to what was in the Passover cup.

19. And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Christ took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. The reason it was broken is because this was unleavened bread, the very unleavened bread of the Passover. We are used to leavened bread in our societies, which can only be cut or torn, but never broken. Yet bread without leaven cannot be torn, and would crumble if you tried to cut it. It can only be broken.

The fact that the Passover bread was made without leaven had great significance. We can learn what that significance was from Exodus 12:39.

39. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.

The haste with which the children of Israel went out of Egypt meant they had no time to prepare leaven for their bread, so they had to make it without leaven. Thus this unleavened bread pointed out what was perhaps the greatest miracle in the book of Exodus: the speed with which the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt by the LORD. The number of the children of Israel was 600,000 men, and including women and children, the number must have been well over 2 million. They also went out with all their possessions and all their animals. Yet the LORD brought them all out in one night! This is an absolute logistical impossibility, and is one of the greatest miracles the LORD ever performed, though most do not realize it. This unleavened bread included in the Passover was a yearly reminder to them of the greatness of the LORD’s power towards them in bringing them out of Egypt.

Now, however, the Lord Jesus Christ gives a new significance to the unleavened Passover bread. This was not to erase its old significance, for of course it must retain that. Yet now for His disciples this bread will have a new significance. Now when they eat it during the yearly feast it will serve to remind them of the body of their Lord that was broken for them. What blessed new meaning this old ritual would have to these disciples!

To understand something of what the Lord was doing here, we could imagine a United States soldier heading overseas to fight in Iraq or some other place. He is gathered with his family to have Christmas dinner together, knowing that soon he is going to head off overseas. This soldier knows that he is not going to be with his family the next year at Christmas, and in fact for all he knows they might never all be together like this again. Therefore, he speaks up as they begin the meal. He tells them that from now on as they eat the dinner together at Christmas until he is able to rejoin them, that they should remember him and all he was willing to sacrifice to be a soldier. By saying this, he is giving a whole new meaning to their Christmas dinner. He is not removing the old meaning, of course, nor is he adding anything to the meaning of this dinner except for his own family. Yet for them from now on until he is with them again, this dinner will have the new meaning of reminding them of him and his sacrifice.

What that soldier did is similar to what Christ is doing here. Of course, the illustration is not perfect, for Christ was the One Who gave the Passover in the first place, and so was able to add new significance to it as He saw fit. At first, this would only add significance for the disciples, but I believe that when the kingdom comes and the Passover is reinstituted, that it will always bear this meaning as well, and in fact this meaning may well overtake the old one in importance.

So what Christ was doing here was adding new significance to the Passover bread. I can have little sympathy with those who take His words, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” and act like they can do whatever they want in remembrance of Him and it will be obeying this command, as long as it is traditional, done in a church, and done with the proper level of dignity and ceremony. The Lord was not throwing open the door for His disciples or the Christian church to make up any number of bread and cup rituals. He was only adding new significance to the well-defined ritual established by God in the Old Testament to be performed by His people of Israel. The things that people do today and claim to be doing them in obedience to this command usually have nothing to do with the Passover as God established it. As such, they are not obeying the command of Christ here, but are just appealing to the flesh. The flesh always desires a ceremony, but as the Lord tells us in Colossians 2:16-17,

16. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17. which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

We have been set free from shadows to come into the reality of Christ. Even the Israelites were set free from the festivals, Sabbaths, and dietary laws that God had given them under the law in the past! If even they were not to perform such things, what excuse do we have? We never had these things in the first place, and God has sent us only salvation, and not the law. Why then do we make up Passover-like rituals to perform? Let us let go of such empty things created by men to follow the reality of One Who died for us. As Colossians 2:20-23 states,

20. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21. “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22. which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23. These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Many subject themselves to rituals like this bread and wine ceremony in order to appear righteous. Yet the fact is that appearance is all that it is, for the attitudes that are supposed to be engendered by it either already exist in the one who performs the ritual, or else do not exist at all, but this ritual certainly does not generate them. The imposition of a ritual is of no more value than the imposition of ascetic rules. They do not truly aid us in fighting against the flesh, but rather give place to it.

We have nothing to do with a remembrance given by Christ to His disciples, every one of which was a descendant of the man Israel and so was authorized to perform the ritual of Passover. We who are not of that line and have no such authorization should not use His words to justify a bread and wine ritual of dubious origin made to satisfy the religious flesh of carnal men.

We can always impose religion upon ourselves to appear righteous. However, this ritual, called by nice, Biblical names by churches today like “the Lord’s supper” or “communion,” in fact bears little resemblance to what the Lord did. How then can anyone claim obedience when they perform it? The only thing obeyed in this case is blind tradition. The ordinance commonly performed is not the Passover, and therefore is not Biblical. Even if it were the Passover, we as Gentile believers have no such ordinance, for we are not the nation of Israel. We have died with Christ from all such things. Let us therefore live to Him, and not to the religion and rituals of unbiblical Christianity.

20. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Now after the supper the Lord again takes up the cup. As before, this was the Passover cup containing the bitter drink. Now Christ takes this cup, which since Israel’s exodus from Egypt had reminded them of the bitterness of their slavery in that foreign land, and He gives it a new significance for His disciples. Now the cup symbolizes the blood of the new covenant that Christ was about to shed on their behalf.

The first reference to the new covenant is in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

31. “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32. not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Notice that in promising this new covenant the LORD references an old covenant. This was the covenant He made with them when He took them out of Egypt. This covenant they broke a mere forty days after making it. Yet now Christ announces through His blood the ratification of a new covenant, the very covenant that Jeremiah spoke about.

A covenant, the Greek word diatheke, was a solemn agreement between two parties. We have made this word to have religious overtones, and yet really it was little different from what we call a contract today. We enter into contractual agreements by signing them, but the covenants of those days were entered into by the shedding of a blood sacrifice. We can see an example of this in the covenant mediated by Moses between God and the people of Israel in Exodus 24:7-8.

7. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8. And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”

In this way, then, the old covenant was ratified by blood. In the same way, the new covenant is also ratified by blood, and Christ announces here that it is His blood that is the blood that will be shed to ratify this covenant. This cup, then, symbolizes the blood that will be shed to bring this new covenant into effect. Christ then becomes the Mediator of the new covenant, as Hebrews 9:15 declares.

15. And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Christ then by this new covenant brings an eternal inheritance to those who are called among His people. This is in accordance with His promise to Israel in Ezekiel 20:37.

37. “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;

In every contract, agreement, or covenant, there must be two parties involved. According to Jeremiah 31:31, the two parties involved in the new covenant are the LORD on the one hand and the house of Israel and house of Judah on the other. The LORD shed His blood by dying on the cross, thus setting up His part of the covenant. Now, all He needs to do is to bring Israel into the bond of the covenant as well. This is like one party preparing a contract for me to sign. I will not be under the bond of the contract until I put my signature upon it. Once I do, however, I am in the bond of that contract. So, Israel must be brought into the bond of the new covenant. They will be, and then the promises of Ezekiel 20:33-38 will be fulfilled to them.

Now Christ’s blood has great significance for us as well, as through it we have forgiveness of sins. However, it does not bring us into the new covenant, for that is only “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:8.) Christ’s blood may have been shed to bring in the new covenant, but we must never forget that Christ accomplished many different things by His one death on the cross. Both we and Israel can benefit from Christ’s blood, although each may benefit in different ways. For example, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6,) and He died for sinners (Romans 5:8.) Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (I Timothy 1:15.) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7.) These things are true of us, though we are not Israelites. We too benefit from Christ’s blood. We do not have to attempt to weasel our way into Israel’s covenant in order to believe we have God’s blessings through Christ’s blood. Though we have nothing to do with the covenant God will make with His people, we can still say that just as surely the same blood that was shed for their covenant was also shed for us.

21. “But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.

Christ switches quickly from these grand future realities to a grim present reality. He here reveals the presence of a traitor among them. We know that this was the man Judas, who was one of the twelve.

22. “And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

This traitor Judas would not bring about His fate, the Lord reveals. What happens to Him is all according to what has been determined by God. As Peter said in Acts 3:18, “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” Christ’s death was all according to the plan laid out by God. Judas may have helped that plan come about, but he did not cause it. Let us never imagine that if Judas had not betrayed Him, the Lord would not have died on the cross!

Yet even though God worked through Judas’ betrayal to bring about His will, this does not mean that serving God’s plan was Judas’ will, for it was not. His desires were selfish, sinful, and ungodly, and he will pay the price for acting on them. The Lord’s statement “woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” foreshadows the sad fate of Judas. But the woe to Judas is not over, for he will someday have to stand before God in judgment.

23. Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.

As we might expect, the disciples were greatly disturbed by the thought that one of them would betray the Lord. Yet Luke does not record any of their argument here, and details none of the conversation concerning this. Nor does he mention the actual exit of Judas. These things are already recorded in other gospels. God apparently saw no need to repeat those things here.

As we might expect, the topic of most concern among the disciples is who it was of them who would do this thing. These men had been living and working in the closest possible fellowship for years now. The thought that one of them could turn traitor after all that must have been most disturbing to them. They must have had a great trust for each other, yet now these words of the Lord’s cause them to view each other with suspicion.

24. Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.

It seems that this revelation about the traitor soon transformed from the disciples rather piteously questioning the Lord as to whether or not each would be the traitor to the disciples using this opportunity to put each other down and vaunt themselves as the greatest! We can well imagine how this came about. No doubt each one started to point to all the great service he had done for the Lord or how much he had given up for the Lord in order to say that of course he could not be the traitor. From this boasting, things could quickly turn into an argument about whose boasting was more valid, and whose service the greatest. How sad that in the face of such meaningful events that Christ was going through, the disciples would allow themselves to degenerate into such self-focused arguing. Yet how often do we act in the same way!

25. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’

The Lord responds to their argument by pointing out to them the behavior of the kings among the nations. They exercise lordship over those under them who are of a lesser position. Those who exercise authority call themselves “benefactors,” for they claim to be doing the things they do for the benefit of those under them. Of course, often this is not truly the case.

26. “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.

The disciples knew that by their relationship with the Lord, they were guaranteed high positions in the government of God to come. The Lord had told them this in places like Matthew 19:28, where He promised them they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Indeed, He will promise them this again in just a few verses. Yet their positions are to be according to Christ’s way of doing government, and not after the way of the governments of this world. In having this argument, they were acting like the godless nations around them, trying to lord it over each other and have the superiority. Yet their Lord reveals that among His followers there is a different way of doing things.

He says that the greatest among them should be as the younger. Importance generally came with age at that time, so the one who was “younger” would be the one in the subservient position. The one who governs should be as the one who serves. In other words, in God’s way of doing things, the one who truly is the most important is not the one who is able to exercise his authority to benefit himself, but rather the one who truly serves others the most.

27. “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.

Of course, the one sitting at the table is greater than the one who serves him, as the Lord points out here. Yet lo and behold, the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest One to ever walk the face of the earth, came here as One Who serves! What greater example could Christ give for the greater serving the lesser than His Own humble service to these men who were His followers?

28. “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.

The Lord acknowledges that these men are those who have been with Him in His trials. Someday He will take to Himself His great power and rule over this world. When He returns to earth, He will come here as its King. Yet these men threw in their lot with Him when He was here the first time, going through the many trials that His service required of Him. The Lord gives them this credit. They were giving themselves credit for many other things, but the Lord points to this as the most important service they have rendered.

It is interesting that the Lord acknowledges the truly meaningful thing they had done at this time. They were not really acting as they should have been at this point, and really were doing more to only add to His trials now. Nevertheless He prefers to give them the credit for their faithful continuance than to condemn them for their selfish attitudes. How loving and gracious our Lord ever is with His children!

29. “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,

Now the Lord declares what He will bestow upon them for this faithful service. They will receive a kingdom. Again we need to remember that the word “kingdom” just means a government. This was the type of government in use when the King James was translated, and thus it has traditionally come down to us as this word. Yet the Greek word in truth merely means “government,” and Christ was here promising a governmental authority to His disciples. To give them a government meant to give them a right to rule. That is what they would receive in reward for continuing with Him in His trials.

30. “That you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Christ expands on what He said to further explain what He meant in the previous verse. They would eat and drink at His table. This indicates several things. First of all, this means quite literally that the Lord would feed them. They will be living at the government’s expense in God’s kingdom. Then, to eat at His table means to enjoy the blessings of His wonderful bounty. Finally, to eat at His table means they will be in close fellowship and communion with Him.

He promises they will also “sit on thrones.” This does not mean that they will have fancy chairs in God’s government. A throne symbolizes an authority or a seat of government. The throne of the United States of America is in Washington, D.C., though we gave up titles like “thrones” when we broke away from the government of Britain. So the disciples will have authorities “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” To “judge” here is to set in order. In other words, they will determine what is right, and then set things right, in God’s government. Their authority will be divided, with each of them ruling over one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Of course, Judas by his betrayal cut himself out of this. Yet Matthias quickly took his place, and so all will be ready and in order when the kingdom comes.

Notice, though, that this is true of Israel, but not the world. Some have the tendency to grant Israel too much in the kingdom. Israel may be a governmental center in the kingdom, yet still Israel does not govern the world during the Kingdom. If there is a center to the Divine government, it is in Heaven, not on earth. If Israel is the center of anything in the kingdom, it will be that they are the religious center of the world. The one and only temple of God will be in Israel in the kingdom, and anyone who wants to worship God at His temple must go and do so there.