Most countries have A NATIONAL MEAL. A celebration that sums up a country’s IDENTITY. Where people celebrate what it MEANS to be part of that particular people.
The Scottish have haggis. Mexicans have the taco. Japan has sushi. England has roast beef and dumplings.
Spain has paella. Greece has moussaka. Korea has kimchi.
Then there are meals that are linked to A NATIONAL HOLIDAY. The food is just part of the experience of the whole DAY. A day for celebrating what it means to be a citizen of that country. To celebrate your identity as a nation. To look back. And to look forward.
Perhaps the closest we’d get to it in Australia would be a BBQ on Australia Day. Plenty of Aussie beef or lamb sizzling on the hot plate. A nice coleslaw and potato salad. Pavlova for sweets. And plenty of VB or Tooheys or X – depending on what state you live in. And celebrating, with a few mates, what it means to live in the Lucky Country. And celebrating what it means to be AUSTRALIAN.
It says that being Australian is about being CASUAL, without any fancy pretence. And it’s about MATES.
But a better example is American THANKSGIVING DAY. A day AND a meal. The fourth Thursday in November.
It’s become a time to celebrate what it means to be American. And, at least traditionally, to give thanks to God. It’s about celebrating religious freedom. Having family as a priority. Living in a rich land of plenty.
And obviously, food is a big part of that. Buckets of it. Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potato, mashed potato, green bean salad. With apple pie or pecan pie for dessert.
It’s a feast where the RELIGIOUS significance is mixed up with the NATIONAL OR POLITICAL significance.
And it was the same with the feast of Passover for Israel/ in Jesus’ time. A mixture of politics and religion. Of nationalistic fervour/ AND religious zeal. A feast that celebrated what it meant to be part of the people of God.
And that’s the feast we’re joining in with at the start of Ch 22.
Historians estimate/ that during Passover/ the population of Jerusalem would swell to anywhere up to half a million. The place was bursting at the seams. And the temple was the place to be, and anyone serious about being a Jew would make the pilgrimage for Passover.
You might remember the Passover feast. It goes right back to when Israel were slaves in Egypt. And God delivered them – brought them out in a miraculous way. And every year they celebrated Passover to remember that event.
But their whole NATIONAL IDENTITY was wrapped up in the Exodus as well. Because before the rescue, they were nothing more than a band of slaves. But afterward, they were Israel. A nation with a purpose and a future. God’s people who had God’s law.
And by the time we get to Jesus, we’ve got the Romans in the picture. And the Jews are, more or less, slaves again. Slaves longing for ANOTHER EXODUS. For God to deliver them AGAIN. So they could be FREE.
And, so, Passover is a time for Israel to celebrate their Jewishness. And the God who rescued them. Remembering the past. But also hoping for THE FUTURE. When their divine king would step into history, and establish his kingdom.
And the Jewish historian Josephus tells us it was a time when revolutionaries would take matters into their own hands. Unrest and rebellion and uprising against the Roman occupation forces.
And so Passover was also an important time for the Romans. All leave was cancelled. Extra troops were brought in. And the leadership, including Pontius Pilate, would relocate from Caesarea, on the coast, to Jerusalem. Just to keep an eye on things.
And it’s with all this in the background/ that we read in today’s passage/ that the time for Passover was approaching.
The Jewish leaders are still out to get Jesus. But they realize he’s got the crowds on his side. So they’re looking for an opening.
And the opening comes along. V3 tells us Satan entered Judas Iscariot, one of the 12. And he went to the priests, and offered to betray Jesus. The coalition of the willing comes together. Satan, Judas and the leaders. And plans are made. And they wait for the right moment. When the crowd isn’t watching.
But Jesus is making his OWN plans. MORE plans. Because it’s Passover time. And things need to be organised. Look there from v7.
He sends Peter and John into the city. They find a man carrying a water jar. They follow him home. Talk to the owner, who shows them an upstairs room, all ready for the Feast.
I think we’re not to see this as Jesus prophesying the future. Just being organised. A pre-arranged secret signal. No point the Priests finding out before the time is right. They’re waiting for the right moment without the crowds. And this Passover meal would be a perfect time. But, for Jesus, this final few hours with his disciples is crucial. He’s got so much to pass on, he can’t risk an interruption.
And you can see what it MEANS to him there in v14. Have a look at it.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I HAVE EAGERLY DESIRED to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
He’s been hanging out for this final meal. He’s looked forward to it. These are his closest friends. He’s spent the best part of three years, night and day, with these twelve men.
And he knows what’s coming. Suffering and . He’s been talking about that for months. And the hour is nearly here. But he wants this last chance to spend time with them.
Your Kingdom Come
But it’s not just THE COMPANY Jesus looked forward to. It was THE FEAST ITSELF. Because the feast was a pointer to something greater. Something that was just around the corner. The coming of the kingdom of God. (See it there in v16?)
God’s kingdom wouldn’t have been a completely foreign idea at Passover. Because the Jews were longing for God to deliver them again. For a second exodus. And to bring in HIS KINGDOM. One of the great hopes of Israel.
But here, Jesus is saying that it’s very close. And that he won’t eat another Passover until it comes. Which must have been pretty exciting for the disciples!
But there’s more connection between Kingdom and Passover. Because when the kingdom DOES come, it will be the FULFILLMENT of the Passover. The culmination. The Target. The goal. The very thing the Passover was pointing towards, and anticipating, is just around the corner.
More on that soon.
And then V17. He takes a cup of wine. Tells them to divide it among themselves. And then repeats his point. “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine UNTIL THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMES”. No more wine for me until it arrives. That’s how close it is!
The kingdom COMES.
New for a new covenant.
And while they try and get their heads around THAT (v19) he takes bread, gives thanks for it, and breaks it. Then he passes it around. And it’s here that things REALLY start to be different from any other Passover they’ve ever been to. Because he says about the bread
“This bread is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
It’s a meal that supposed to REMEMBER/ GOD SAVING HIS PEOPLE FROM EGYPT. And here Jesus is saying to remember something DIFFFERENT when they eat. To remember Jesus. To remember his body GIVEN FOR them.
It’s the language OF SACRIFICE. An idea that becomes clearer AFTER dinner. Look at v20. Jesus takes the NEXT cup of wine. And says THIS.
This cup is the new covenant in my , which is POURED OUT FOR YOU.
Jesus’ poured out FOR THEIR SAKE. IN THEIR PLACE.
It’s that introduces, and confirms, a NEW ARRANGEMENT. A new agreement. New for a new covenant.
Which means there was an OLD arrangement. ALSO sealed with . And there WAS. Back at the ORIGINAL Exodus. If you’re a quick Bible flipper, jump back to Exodus 24 v8. When the people had made it out of Egypt, all the way through the desert to Mount Sinai, where God was giving them the Ten Commandments.
Which Moses tells all the people in v3. And all the people say they’ll obey everything God’s commanded.
Then Moses offers bulls as burnt offerings to God. Half their gets sprinkled on the altar. And then look at v8.
8 Moses then took the (the rest of it), sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
That’s the agreement. God gives them the law to obey. And the people agree to KEEP it. And the SEALS the deal.
And between THAT passage in Exodus, and TODAY’S passage in Luke, it’s one long, sorry tale about how the people DON’T keep the agreement. It’s a promise they can’t see through.
But NOW Jesus is saying/ the wine is a picture of – HIS – that seals a NEW agreement.
It’s an agreement that will actually WORK. Because the sacrifice that seals it/ is an ACCEPTABLE one. An EFFECTIVE one. One that satisfies God’s wrath. That satisfies our side of the bargain FOR us.
New for a new covenant.
Our Kingdom Identity
It seems all this talk of kingdoms coming gets the disciples excited. And they can’t help jumping ahead. And doing a bit of daydreaming. About where they’ll be when the kingdom comes. Who’s going to get the best spot. The plum job. Who’s the most qualified. Most loved. Most successful. Most important.
We all have a tendency to do it, don’t we. To want to be NOTICED. APPRECIATED. IMPORTANT.
It’s only human re. But Jesus goes on to tell the disciples/ it’s not what our kingdom identity is to be about. What characterises us as the people of God.
That’s the way the kingdom of THIS WORLD behave. But God’s kingdom is to be about something completely different. It’s an UPSIDE-DOWN kingdom. Look at v24.
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Rulers and authorities/ everywhere to be seen around Jerusalem at the moment. Whether it was THE ROMANS. With the governor, Pontius Pilate, here for the festival. Or just the Roman centurions bossing people around.
Or perhaps the JEWS. The Jewish puppet ruler, Herod, greasing the palms of whoever he needed to stay in power. Playing dictator. Or else the high priests. Prancing around making a show of everything they do.
And we all do it on a smaller scale to some extent, don’t we? Wanting to be noticed. Wanting to win that argument. Be shown to be right. To throw our weight around. To be respected.
But our kingdom identity is not to be like that. It’s to follow the example of our servant king. And to SERVE. To lay down our life for the sake of OTHERS.
It’s what our kingdom meal POINTS TO. Jesus’ body broken for our sake. His poured out on our behalf. And as we EAT, we acknowledge that we bear that identity TOO. Washed clean because of the one acceptable sacrifice. A kingdom of SERVANTS, pouring out our lives for others.
A foretaste of a greater feast
And while Pilate and Herod and the High Priests are throwing their weight around Jerusalem, the apostles have got a much greater banquet to enjoy. A much greater kingdom to rule. With a much greater responsibility. V28
28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
At the Passover, Jews looked forward to God’s new EARTHLY kingdom. And in the same way, with this NEW Passover meal, God’s NEW people are to look forward to a HEAVENLY kingdom with a HEAVENLY banquet. It’s a foretaste – an entrée – of a much greater feast.
The ultimate reward. The ultimate party. Of which THIS meal is only a shadow. A crumb of dry SAO. Compared to the ultimate extravagant feast.
And so, as we celebrate this new Passover meal. As we remember Christ’s body and poured out on our behalf, we ALSO look forward. Just like the Jews did in Jesus’ time.
But rather than hoping for deliverance. For God’s kingdom to begin. We can celebrate the deliverance Jesus has ALREADY won for us. The kingdom that’s ALREADY begun. And, one day, will be FULLY SEEN. When Jesus returns. And eternity BEGINS.
The pain before the gain
But before that. There are still hurdles to cross. For US. AND for the disciples. Pain before the gain.
Perhaps Jesus sees the smile on Simon Peter’s face as he hears about the twelve thrones. But Jesus warns him that there are tough times ahead. Testing. The temptation to drop Jesus. To disown him.
Simon can’t imagine it would ever happen.
But Jesus has prayed for him. That he’ll stand firm. And even when he stumbles, that he’ll get back up. And strengthen his brothers.
Leaders in God’s church aren’t perfect. We stumble too. But what a great encouragement it is to realise/ that when we DO mess up/ Jesus doesn’t want us staying collapsed in a heap, licking our wounds, feeling sorry for ourself.
But to turn back in repentance. To trust that the forgiveness has come. To get up, and hop back into it. Serving and building up God’s people. Having learnt lessons that HELP us do that. Perhaps learnt some humility, or some empathy, or some compassion.
And then Jesus turns to the REST of the disciples with a warning for THEM too. V35. Just in case they thought it was only Simon who had trials ahead.
He reminds them that things USED to be easier. But not any more. It USED to be that Jesus was so popular, they didn’t even need to carry a COAT. There was always someone there to look after them.
But no longer. From now on, following Jesus would be HARD WORK. A SLOG. It’s going to take planning, and commitment, and dedication. V36.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
Jesus’ lot is going to be around SINNERS. The rubbish. The rejects. The disgraced. And those who follow him/ will walk the same path.
And the events of the next 24 hours would show just how true those words were.
But, just as Jesus came through the valley of his suffering and . So the Apostles ALSO came through their dark days. And went on to establish a new nation of God’s people that has stretched down through the ages, and across the world. A giant family tree of which we’re at the end. The last leaves at the end of one of the little branches.
And we’ll keep the nation growing. As we SERVE each other. Build each other up. Remembering the sacrifice of Jesus that saves us. Celebrating OUR meal. The meal that defines us. That celebrates our identity.
An identity wrapped up in our king who initiated it. Our Shepherd who lay down his life for his sheep. And who calls us to REFLECT our identity by laying down OUR lives/ in the service of others.
And, as we eat, not just to look BACKWARD, but to LOOK FORWARD. Forward to that great feast that this one points to. That great wedding banquet – that national meal – that stretches into eternity.
Let’s make sure we’re all there to enjoy it.