Hymn “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”
Scripture Reading Luke 22:7-13
Meditation 1 – The Preparation
Following the Lord’s instruction Peter and John went to Jerusalem, found the man identified by Jesus, and determined that the room was prepared as Jesus had directed.
If the view formerly expressed is correct, that the owner of the house had provided all that was needed for the Supper, Peter and John would find there the Wine for the four Cups, the cakes of unleavened Bread, and probably also ‘the bitter herbs.’ Edersheim, Life and Times
The wine was a typical red wine from the surrounding country, diluted with water. Unleavened bread or matzo cakes were required for the meal and reminded the guests of the need for haste when their ancestors were delivered from Egypt. The bitter herbs were those commonly found in Egypt prior to the first Passover – lettuce, endive, wild celery, perhaps also parsley (or coriander) and horseradish. A bowl containing salt water or vinegar was provided in which the herbs were dipped before eating. The bitter taste signified the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, the salt water a reminder of the tears the Hebrew children shed while in captivity. A low rectangular table was present in the room with couches or pillows arranged around it on three sides and on which the guests would recline.
About 1:30 in the afternoon Peter and John walked the road up Temple Mount with a crowd of others on their way to kill the Passover Lamb probably selected and purchased by Judas the day before. Before the incense was burned for the Evening Sacrifice, a priest caught the blood from the dying lamb in a golden bowl and it was then sprinkled on the base of the Altar. Levites chanted the Hallel (Psalm 113-118) and the worshipers responded, repeating at the appropiate time:
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Psa. 118:25-26
reminding Peter and John of the shouts of the crowd the previous Sunday as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem.
The lamb was cleaned, the parts to be burned on the Altar removed; then Peter and John took the lamb back to their host’s home where it was roasted on a pomegranate spit. Now they had but to wait for Jesus and the rest of the Twelve to arrive.
Scripture Reading Luke 22:14-18
Meditation 2 – The Setting
Preparations were complete, not just for the meal but for the primary work which Christ came to do. This Passover meal was the last event before Jesus began the final stage of his journey to the cross. Jesus’ fervent desire to celebrate Passover with his disciples indicates the great significance he placed not only on this meal but all that it represented and anticipated.
Jesus Himself was the true Passover Lamb, the one who would deliver his people from bondage to sin. The meal also looked forward to that heavenly banquet described in Revelation 19:9as the “marriage supper of the Lamb”, celebrated when the church, the Bride of Christ, is presented to him in all her completeness and glory.
When the meal was prepared, the family was placed round the table, the paterfamilias taking a place of honor, probably, somewhat raised above the rest. When the party was arranged, the first cup of wine was filled, and a blessing was asked by the head of the family on the feast, as well as a special one, on the cup. The bitter herbs were then placed on the table, and a portion of them eaten, either with or without the sauce. The unleavened bread was handed round next, and afterward, the lamb was placed on the table, in front of the head of the family. Smith’s Bible Dictionary
After blessing and passing the first of four cups of wine around Jesus got up from the table to wash his hands (or so his disciples would have thought), part of the Passover ritual. Instead, he took the basin of water and a towel, then proceeded to wash his disciples’ feet, by his actions rebuking them for their argument over who would be greatest in the kingdom.
Resuming his place at the table, Jesus gave thanks and passed the second cup of wine. He next took a piece of the unleavened bread, some herbs, dipped them in the sauce and gave them to Judas signifying who it was who would betray him. Jesus set aside a portion of the unleavened bread for the Aphikomen (Afikomen), the after-meal or dessert, and continued serving the meal. Perhaps Jesus explained for his disciples the significance of each part of the ritual as they ate the herbs, unleavened bread and lamb, completing the main part of the meal.
Scripture Reading Luke 22:19
Meditation 3 – The Institution: Given for You
At this point of the meal Jesus took the portion of unleavened bread set aside for dessert and broke it. As it was being passed around the table Jesus spoke uncustomary words of explanation, assigning to it a new significance. A new era of redemptive history was about to begin – the last Passover Lamb had been sacrificed. From this time forward there would be no need for a sacrificial animal to point toward the real sacrifice. The need for a memorial meal continued, looking back to what was accomplished at Calvary and forward to that which will culminate at the heavenly banquet.
Jesus took the bread and asked his Father’s blessing, not only on it as what it was – bread to nourish his disciples’ bodies – but also what it represented – his body given over to his Father’s wrath poured out on their sin. His life given on behalf of theirs, for the sake of their eternal life. The symbolism extends beyond that of a piece of unleavened bread representing the body of Christ: it was given in the context of a meal. Just as bread nourishes our bodies, so the Bread of Life nourishes our souls; partaking of the element of bread in faith believing shows our identification with Christ and our brothers, our commitment to following our Lord in obedience.
Hymn“Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread”
Blessing and distribution of the bread
Scripture Reading Luke 22:20
Meditation 4 – In Remembrance
Next, Jesus took the third cup of wine and in the same way invested it with a new significance previously unknown to his followers. Just as the Passover meal reminded God’s people of the Old Covenant he had instituted with them, so the meal of bread and wine observed around the Lord’s Table would commemorate the establishment of a New Covenant.
This was the new covenant of which the prophet Jeremiah spoke, one which would surpass the old covenant because it is established by the oath of God, founded on better promises, and ratified by the blood of Christ. The High Priest of this New Covenant offered the best sacrifice of all, himself, voluntarily giving his life for the sake of his people.
According to the words of institution given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Jesus told his followers to “Do this in remembrance – worship, trust, obedience – of [Him].” Paul follows that injunction with an explanation of what it means to “do this in remembrance”, far more than simply recalling an event and a promise to mind.
1. obedience – as often as you do this – Jesus told his disciples, “Do this”. For us to gather around his Table is to obey his command. Showing our union with Christ by our fellowship with brothers and sisters in partaking of bread and wine is to obey the request Jesus made of his Father:
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:23
2. worship – proclaiming the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection (the core of the Gospel message) is an essential part of worship. Declaring the works of God, praising him for what he has done, demonstrating belief in the truth of God’s word and the historicity of redemptive acts is an act of worship as we observe the ordinance of Communion.
3. trust – until he comes. By continuing to observe this nearly 2000 years after Jesus instituted the New Covenant demonstrates our trust and confidence in his promise to return. It declares to all who see that we truly believe our Savior has risen, has ascended to the throne of glory, and that someday “where [he is], we will be also.”
Just as to “forget the Lord their God” means to turn from God and “serve[d] the Baals and the Asheroth” (Judg. 3:7), so to remember him means to turn to him in love, worship and obedience. Since forgetting God puts one in danger of serious consequences (1 Sam. 12:9), doing as he ordained in remembrance of him positions us to receive the blessings he has in store for us. Christ is truly present at his Table; he invites all who are his to come and fellowship with him, receive nourishment for their souls, and strengthen their faith.
Hymn “Nothing But the Blood”
Blessing and distribution of the cup
Scripture Reading Luke 22:39-46
Hymn “’Tis Midnight – and on Olive’s Brow”