Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Bible Study Ideas and Commentary for Luke 22:7-20
Jesus very carefully prepared His last night with His disciples, giving us a new command, a new covenant, and a new way to remember it all. We call it the Lord's Supper.
“I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Luke 22:15
Getting Started: Things to Think About
We have done quite a few studies about the Last Supper in my years here, making a "unique" introduction/discussion harder. Here are two new ideas for topics you could discuss to set the stage for this week's passage. (One is kind of a stretch.)
Your Most Important Dinner Announcement
Some people choose a dinner to make an important announcement -- like getting engaged, finding a new job, joining the military, etc. I have been to banquets at which major announcements have been made -- like an award's night, a major acquisition, a scholarship recipient, etc. And then, there is of course the wedding reception dinner. By that point, there usually aren't major announcements to be made (and if there are, they don't usually go well), but it's still an important time for toasts and celebration.
Do you remember giving or hearing a really important announcement at a dinner? (Especially a family dinner!) What was the situation? How was it received? What happened after? What made it so memorable?
I think that most of us have (at some point in our life) been a part of something like this. I can vividly remember the last Singing Cadet Banquet I attended (a Texas A&M thing). Thinking about those memories might help us understand a little of what the disciples experienced in the years to come, especially as they gave input to or read the Gospel accounts of what happened at this Last Supper.
The After-Dinner Speech
Jesus actually spoke during supper, but the internet doesn't talk about "during-dinner speeches". So, for the sake of this introduction, I'm going to categorize Jesus' words as an "after-dinner speech". And I'm going to say that Jesus gave the greatest after-dinner speech of all time. Seriously. Think about it. Based on your experiences at banquets and awards nights, answer these two questions: what should be the purpose of an after-dinner speech, and what are some qualities of an effective after-dinner speech?
Don't worry, if you need help, you can just Google "after dinner speech" and you'll be overwhelmed with advice. Just be careful -- I got sucked in. Here are some criteria I saw over and over again:
Start with something memorable
Have a clear point
Know your circumstance
Use an appropriate amount of humor
Don't go too long
What else would you think is important for the after-dinner speech?
Now -- here's why I'm putting this topic before we actually talk about the passage. Just off the top of your head, without reading all the passages in the Gospels about this last supper (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13, and then 14-17), what can you remember about Jesus' "after-dinner speech"? Well, without going into detail for you, it involved
the shocking action of washing the disciples' feet
the giving of a New Commandment
the announcement of a New Covenant
(and more). And here we are, thousands of years later, not just reflecting on that speech, but enacting it regularly in our churches all over the world.
Someone tell me of a greater after-dinner speech than that.
Bonus Idea. If you're ready to get serious and introspective, you could also talk about how COVID has challenged the idea of unity in churches. The Lord's Supper is intended to be a symbol of the unity Jesus desires for us . . .
This Week's Big Idea: The Lord's Supper
There's no question that the major topic/doctrine of the week will be the Lord's Supper and everything that it means. But if we're not careful, we'll spend all of our time discussing the "doctrine of the Lord's Supper" rather than the actual verses in our passage. So -- I'm going to move my "big idea" segment to the very end, let you read and study the passage, and then learn more about the Lord's Supper as you see fit.
But it's always good to make a transition from the introduction into the passage with some sort of overview. There are two extremely memorable statements made in our passage:
"This is My body, which is given for you" and
"This cup is the new covenant in My blood"
Watch these two short videos from The Bible Project which tackle the incredibly important concepts of "Sacrifice" and "Covenant". They will help you understand everything Jesus introduced in His incredible after-dinner speech.
And they have even more on the covenants on their website.
Where We Are in Luke
We covered Matthew's version of this event back in 2017:
As in other situations, I'm going to try not to repeat what I said back then (but the important things are still the important things).
[Friday Addition: I just found and posted our 2018 lesson from 1 Corinthians 11:
You might remember that the crowd that came to Jerusalem came for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In our passage, we also have the terms "Day of Unleavened Bread" and "Passover". Let's get all of that straight.
The term "Passover" (read Exodus 12 to get the original event in your mind) is actually used for multiple things:
the day on which the Passover Lamb is sacrificed
the seven day festival that follows the sacrifice
the ritual meal eaten on the night of the sacrifice
"Unleavened bread" comes from the fact that God commanded the Jews to remove all leaven (yeast) from their homes on the day of the sacrifice (initially to symbolize the hasty departure from Egypt, and later as yeast came to be a symbol of sin). The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a seven-day festival in which only unleavened bread could be eaten. It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals commanded in the Old Testament for which Jews went to Jerusalem to celebrate. The others were the Feast of Weeks (also called Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles.
So, when Jesus talks about "sharing the Passover" with His disciples, He's talking about the ritual meal that takes place on the evening of the ritual Passover sacrifice that kicks off the seven-day Passover festival.
Why do you think Jesus chose Passover to allow Himself to be betrayed, captured and executed? With the benefit of hindsight, we realize that Jesus was the true and perfect Passover Lamb, whose once-for-all sacrifice would atone for the sins of the whole world. And beyond that, the number of people who would have been in and around Jerusalem would have been enormous, meaning that word would have spread very quickly through the population, setting up the most memorable Pentecost in Jewish history.
That's the way-oversimplified setup to this week's incredible passage.
Part 1: Prepared (Luke 22:7-13)
7 Then the Day of Unleavened Bread came when the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him. 10 “Listen,” he said to them, “when you’ve entered the city, a man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters. 11 Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished room upstairs. Make the preparations there.” 13 So they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Just as with the donkey in Bethphage, this exchange does not have to be about some supernatural prescience Jesus had. Jesus simply planned all of this in advance. And that doesn't make it any less miraculous! These preparations had to involve quite a few families, and they took place right under the noses of the very leaders looking to arrest Jesus. We can barely plan surprise birthday parties any more!
[Totally off topic, but isn't it incredibly difficult to keep a secret these days? Here are some of my favorite surprise party fails that made the internet rounds. (1) The family hired the surprisee's workplace to cater the food for the surprise party. (2) Everyone in the small town parked in full view of the house where the surprise party was being held. (3) The family posted the surprise party invitation on Facebook. (4) The surprisee was accidentally included in a group text invitation. Jesus' ability to plan things discretely is amazing.]
Let's put things in perspective. The current borders of the Old City of Jerusalem hold about 37,000 people. That's with all of our modern building techniques. Scholars estimate that some Passovers could have attracted well more than 2 million Jews to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. To say that space was a premium would be a gross understatement.
Back when going to restaurants in a large group was a thing, did you ever try to take a large group to a nice restaurant without a reservation? How did that go? (Out of curiosity, what's your maximum number you're willing to take to a restaurant without a reservation? In my experience, once you get past 6, you're almost guaranteeing yourself a long wait. Or, do you have a go-to restaurant for a large group -- a place you feel good about being able to pull some tables together?) When we first moved here, someone told us never to go out to eat near Augusta during Spring Break. Makes sense.
Well, trying to find a large space for a large group of people to share a Passover meal in Jerusalem would be so, so much harder than anything you can think of. Jesus had this planned well in advance.
Where did they go? No one knows for sure. David mentioned in a recent message that they probably met at the house of Mary the mother of John Mark (where the disciples would later gather when Peter was in prison, Acts 12). That works for me. The "Upper Room" (called a cenacle in Greek) is traditionally located in the south of the Old City, now part of the David's Tomb compound. It was big enough for at least 13 people to share a meal. The Passover meal was very involved. The supplies would have had to have been arranged ahead of time (do you remember the day when getting a turkey the day before Thanksgiving was impossible?; also, the disciples were wanted men). That's a lot of work! And it was a kingly gift for this time of year.
The reference to the man carrying a water jug was the clue. Men typically didn't carry water jugs. This was how the disciples could safely identify this guide. The guide then took them to the upper room, showed them all of the supplies, and let them do their work.
Here's an introspective question for us all: The Last Supper took a great deal of preparation. How much do we prepare for the times we take the Lord's Supper?
Aside: Preconceptions of the Last Supper
This is one of my favorite questions, and it's something I have to revisit for myself regularly: what preconceptions do you have of the Last Supper?
Mine are shaped by the art I know on the Last Supper. (There are more paintings than I could count!) Here are some examples:
The oldest ones at the top aren't actually of the Last Supper but rather of early Love Feasts, the ritual Paul talked about in which early churches had a meal together and shared the Lord's Supper. The most famous piece of art is by Da Vinci:
Fancy room. Fancy attire. Fancy dinnerware. Long table with everyone sitting on one side of it. (Smile for the painting!) No -- everything about the event would have been as nondescript as possible (sorry, Holy Grail).
In the Matthew article linked above, I described how Jews in the first century has adopted the Roman practice of eating while reclined around a u-shaped table called a triclinium. Servers served from inside the table rather than over the shoulder. Guests reclined on their left arm and ate with their right hand. (Sounds terrible for the digestion! But some scientists have suggested that stretching your GI tract in that way is actually good for you. Huh.)
The best way I know to establish preconceptions about the Lord's Supper is to look at kids' art about it. Here are four wonderful drawings from kids 8 and 9 years old.
Yes, they got some details wrong (the same preconceptions I had), but don't they make you smile? From what I can tell, these come from a Catholic school in Australia, which adds a denominational bent to the preconceptions -- but that's for another day.
Part 2: Looking Forward (Luke 22:14-18)
14 When the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 Then he said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Here's where things get a little complicated for the Bible reader. John includes a lot more detail of everything Jesus said in this setting, but no one has given us a script. If you've been to any of our Seder meals (which is the name given to the ritual meal eaten the evening the Passover lamb is sacrificed), you know how David believes this evening to have gone. Here is a very, very oversimplified order of a Seder meal:
Blessing and the first cup of wine
Appetizer (vegetable dipped in salt water)
Breaking the middle piece of matzah
Telling the story of the Exodus (and the second cup of wine)
Blessing over the matzah
Eating the meal
Drinking the third cup of wine - the Cup of Blessing
Drinking the fourth cup of wine
[Aside: They were small cups. Get your head out of the gutter.]
Let me put our passage on that Seder timeline:
The cup in verse 17 would have been the "first cup" mentioned in line 1.
[As an aside, the footwashing we read about in John probably corresponded with the washing in line 6, but the Bible doesn't say.]
Looking ahead, verse 19 happened during the breaking of matzah in line 4.
The cup in verse 20 referred to the "third cup" in line 9.
Let's go through the rest of these verses:
Verse 14. "When the hour came" was a poetic way of saying "when it was time for Jesus to institute a new covenant", not a reference to a specific time.
Verse 15. The Passover meal was almost always exclusively shared in families. By eating it with these disciples, Jesus was hammering home the idea that He was creating a new family.
Verse 16. This would be Jesus' final Passover meal (which is partially why it was so important to Him). But He included hope -- the word "again" is added to clarify the Greek phraseology. One day, we will share the Lord's Supper quite literally with Jesus around His table. I think we can consider Jesus' parables of the Great Wedding Feast (like in Matthew 22) also pointing to this wonderful future event.
But what would be "fulfilled"? How would "Passover" be fulfilled (if "it" refers to the Passover meal) if that doesn't refer directly to Jesus' sacrifice? I think this is actually a broader statement of consummation. Jesus pointed this Passover to His newly instituted Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper has both an element of remembering (looking back) and anticipating (looking ahead) (but more on this below). It won't be until Jesus returns that everything promised in the symbolism of the Lord's Supper is ultimately fulfilled.
Verse 17. This would be the first cup of the meal, implying that Jesus said these things during the meal.
Verse 18. Here is another "until", one that might clarify verse 16. As far as we know, Jesus is the first person to say that the kingdom of God would actually come. That's because He's the first person to know that it would happen.
"Fruit of the vine" figuratively referred to wine, a critical feature of the meal (but more on that below). It also was literally true -- when Jesus was dying, dehydrated on the cross, what did the soldiers give Him to drink? What is that symbolism to you?
Aside: Looking Forward and Looking Back // the Last Supper and the Lord's Supper
Let me explain this here, just to clarify the meaning of the subtitles Lifeway chose for their lesson, which is backwards from how the Lord's Supper is often described. Maybe I'm the only person who was confused by this.
In verses 15-18, from which Lifeway derived "Looking Forward", Jesus is talking specifically about the Passover meal and also generally sharing life with His disciples. There is an element of the Lord's Supper which looks forward; this is not that element.
During the Last Supper described in our passage, Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord's Supper, which was specifically described in verses 19 and 20 as indicated by the phrase "do this in remembrance of Me". The Last Supper was a Passover; the Lord's Supper was instituted during the Passover, but it is not a "Christian Passover" -- it is something completely new. It marks the new covenant with God in Jesus, and we are commanded to observe the Lord's Supper throughout our Christian lives.
The Lord's Supper has a Looking Back and Looking Forward element. Part 3 of this lesson properly captures the "Looking Back" element of the Lord's Supper. But verses 14-18, which Lifeway is calling the "Looking Forward" part of the Lord's Supper actually refer to the Passover. Paul is the one who most clearly explains the Looking Forward part in 1 Cor 11:26:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Lifeway is not wrong in what they said; they just tied it to the wrong verses.
Part 3: Looking Back (Luke 22:19-20)
19 And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
You are probably very familiar with these words. Pastors tend to read this passage or Paul's when introducing the Lord's Supper:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
You have also heard it explained many times. Based on what you remember, how would you explain the Lord's Supper? Try to put together a short "mini-sermon" off the top of your head. I'll put some thoughts below, but I want you to sort through your own thoughts and beliefs first.
To start, what are the different names you have heard for the Lord's Supper?
"Eucharist" comes from the Greek word for giving thanks, and it's the word that Jesus used in verse 19 above.
"Lord's Supper" is the term we most often use because that's what Paul called it in 1 Corinthians 11:20 (though we do not usually connect the Lord's Supper with an actual "supper" like the "Love Feast" Paul described).
"Communion" comes from the Greek word for sharing, which is also found in 1 Corinthians ("16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?")
"Mass" and "Sacrament" and "Divine Service" are all terms that identify the rituals and theologies that have grown up around the Lord's Supper over the years, but that's for another day.
Why bread and wine? There are two reasons. The most important is that bread and wine were central elements to the Passover feast, and Jesus was connecting His new covenant with the old to help His followers see the fulfillment. But there are other elements in the Passover, and Jesus could have chosen any. I think it's because bread and wine are human products. You can't plant a bread tree. Wine doesn't come out of a grape. Bread and wine are made out of the stuff of the earth, but they require a uniquely human touch.
Here's a personal project for you: look up how "bread" and "wine" are referred to in the Old Testament. Bread was the basic Old Testament food. Grains (usually wheat or barley) would be ground and mixed with water and oil, then kneaded and baked. Bread was associated with the provision of God (cf. "manna") and the presence of God ("bread of the presence" in Ex 25 and Lev 24). Jesus specifically told us to associate this bread with His body. That would have made some sense to the disciples, but the "take and eat" idea (which points us to John 6:54) would have been extremely hard to understand, not to mention the action of breaking/tearing that bread (which by doing allows us to participate in the sacrifice in a way) (and the symbolism is that Jesus' sacrifice unites His followers). There was no teaching remotely like this before Jesus.
Wine was a part of a typical Old Testament meal. Canaan's environment was such that vineyards could thrive. It was certainly possible to get drunk on wine, but most people were moderate. There were sources of safe water in Israel, but people got tired of drinking only water, and wine was the most economic alternative. Plus, in the absence of Tylenol, wine could dull the end of a hard day's work (and help with indigestion and sickness and even infection!). Jesus specifically told us to associate this wine with His blood. "Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin" (Lev 17:11; that passage goes on to explain that the blood represents the life of that creature). I've mentioned before that Romans thought that Christians were cannibals because they drank blood and ate bodies; can you imagine how hard this must have been for the disciples to process!
The culmination of all of this is Jesus establishing a new covenant. This points back to the critical promise in Jeremiah 31:
31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.
Critically, Jesus establishes and keeps this covenant on our behalf. The Lord's Supper symbolizes that covenant -- the declaration that Jesus has made salvation possible through His sacrifice. We don't have to do anything to maintain the covenant; we simply have to ask Jesus to include us in it -- by His merit and grace alone.
Make sure that everyone understands what the Lord's Supper means.
Closing Thoughts: What Is the Lord's Supper?
Let's start with this helpful summary from the Baptist Faith and Message, “The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.” It is one of two "ordinances" in the Bible (the other being baptism) -- a ritual act that Jesus ordered us to continue to do. We take the Lord's Supper (and we get baptized on the profession of our faith) because Jesus told us to.
We often think of the ordinances as a "visible sermon" or a symbolic gospel presentation. Whereas baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord’s Supper symbolizes His death and second coming. The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-4). In the Lord’s Supper, the cup represents the blood of Jesus that was poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins. The bread represents His body that was given for us. In taking it, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns.
The primary passages we use to understand the Lord's Supper are Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Because Jesus instituted it in conjunction with the Jewish Passover, we know that the Passover meaning and symbolism is important, but Jesus did not intend the Lord’s Supper to be a "Christian Passover Feast".
Importantly, the Lord's Supper is not a religious ritual. In overreaction against the excesses in other denominations, Baptists have tended to turn the Lord's Supper into an empty ritual -- something we tack on to the end of a service according to a schedule put in a constitution. Some Baptists have gone so far to say that absolutely nothing spiritual happens in the Lord's Supper. What a shame! Jesus did not command empty rituals. Jesus intended it to be a special opportunity for believers to reflect on our relationship with Him, on our identity as disciples, and subsequently our church family. The Lord's Supper is an important, ongoing element of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Though important, the Lord's Supper is not a sacrament (in the sense of an action that produces grace). It does not provide special grace to an individual. Paul writes that grace through faith is a gift of God that is not achieved by any kind of work (Ephesians 2:8-10). We do not celebrate the Lord’s Supper to have our sins forgiven or for assurance of salvation. The Bible clearly says we cannot be justified by any act, but by faith alone (Galatians 3:11). Instead, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper out of obedience to His institution and in response to His act of love for us.
When Jesus says "This is My body" and "This is My blood" He was using a metaphor, not speaking literally. The bread and wine are symbols of Jesus' body and blood.
When Paul says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (1 Cor 10:21)," and also "So, then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor 11:27)," he is saying that only Christians who are in right relationship with Jesus should share in the Lord's Supper. That is why at FBC we suggest that only baptized believers should join us when we take the Lord's Supper (and that only after examining themselves). It's not a question of exclusivity -- it's out of concern for the people around us. Paul takes the Lord's Supper very seriously, and he encourages us to do the same.
There are no clear "rules" for the Lord's Supper outside of the example Jesus gave us during the Last Supper. Jesus doesn't tell us how often to share it. Because Passover came once a year, some early Christians only shared the Lord's Supper once a year (usually on Easter). Other Christians shared it every time they gathered (as seems to be the case in Corinth).
Arguments about the how and when can get out of control in a hurry. I studied early English Baptists in school, and in one of their arguments it was said that because only men were a part of the Last Supper that only men should take the Lord's Supper. A counter-observation was made that the Last Supper happened during Passover, in an upper room, by people reclining around a low dinner table. Jesus intended the Lord's Supper to be a symbol of the unity of the church; arguments about details like that clearly moved us away from the intent.
In my Matthew article linked above, I include some graphical comparisons on the different denominational approaches to the meaning and purpose of the Lord's Supper, but more on that another day. Don't lose the forest for the trees in this passage!