William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Last Meal Together (Luke 22:7-23)

22:7-23 There came the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover had to be sacrificed. Jesus despatched Peter and John. "Go," he said, "and make ready the Passover for us that we may eat it." They said to him, "Where do you want us to make it ready?" "Look you," he said to them, "when you have gone into the city, a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him to the house into which he enters; and you will say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room that I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' And he will show you a big upper room, ready furnished. There, get things ready." So they went away and found everything just as he had told them; and they made ready the Passover.

When the hour came he took his place at table, and so did his disciples. "I have desired with all my heart," he said to them, "to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you that I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." He received the cup, and gave thinks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God has come." And he took the bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is being given for you. Do this so that you will remember me." In the same way, after the meal, he took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood, which is shed for you. But--look you--the hand of him who betrays me is on the table with me, for the Son of Man goes as it has been determined. But woe to that man by whom he has been betrayed"; and they began to question one another which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Once again Jesus did not leave things until the last moment; his plans were already made. The better class houses had two rooms. The one room was on the top of the other; and the house looked exactly like a small box placed on top of a large one. The upper room was reached by an outside stair. During the Passover time all lodging in Jerusalem was free. The only pay a host might receive for letting lodgings to the pilgrims was the skin of the lamb which was eaten at the feast. A very usual use of an upper room was that it was the place where a Rabbi met with his favourite disciples to talk things over with them and to open his heart to them. Jesus had taken steps to procure such a room. He sent Peter and John into the city to look for a man bearing a jar of water. To carry water was a woman's task. A man carrying a jar of water would be as easy to pick out as, say, a man using a lady's umbrella on a wet day. This was a prearranged signal between Jesus and a friend.

So the feast went on; and Jesus used the ancient symbols and gave them a new meaning.

(i) He said of the bread, "This is my body." Herein is exactly what we mean by a sacrament. A sacrament is something, usually a very ordinary thing, which has acquired a meaning far beyond itself for him who has eyes to see and a heart to understand. There is nothing specially theological or mysterious about this.

In the house of everyone of us there is a drawer full of things which can only be called junk, and yet we will not throw them out, because when we touch and handle and look at them, they bring back this or that person, or this or that occasion. They are common things but they have a meaning far beyond themselves. That is a sacrament.

When Sir James Barries mother died and they were clearing up her belongings, they found that she had kept all the envelopes in which her famous son had posted her the cheques he so faithfully and lovingly sent. They were only old envelopes but they meant much to her. That is a sacrament.

When Nelson was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral a party of his sailors bore his coffin to the tomb. One who saw the scene writes, "With reverence and with efficiency they lowered the body of the world's greatest admiral into its tomb. Then, as though answering to a sharp order from the quarter deck, they all seized the Union Jack with which the coffin had been covered and tore it to fragments, and each took his souvenir of the illustrious dead." All their lives that little bit of coloured cloth would speak to them of the admiral they had loved. That is a sacrament.

The bread which we eat at the sacrament is common bread, but, for him who has a heart to feel and understand, it is the very body of Christ.

(ii) He said of the cup, "This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood." In the biblical sense, a covenant is a relationship between man and God. God graciously approached man; and man promised to obey and to keep his law. The whole matter is set out in Exodus 24:1-8 . The continuance of that covenant depends on man's keeping his pledge and obeying this law; Man could not and cannot do that; man's sin interrupts the relationship between man and God. All the Jewish sacrificial system was designed to restore that relationship by the offering of sacrifice to God to atone for sin. What Jesus said was this--"By my life and by my death I have made possible a new relationship between you and God. You are sinners. That is true. But because I died for you, God is no longer your enemy but your friend." It cost the life of Christ to restore the lost relationship of friendship between God and man.

(iii) Jesus said, "Do this and it will make you remember me." Jesus knew how easily the human mind forgets. The Greeks had an adjective which they used to describe time--"time," they said, "which wipes all things out," as if the mind of man were a slate and time a sponge which wiped it clean. Jesus was saying, "In the rush and press of things you will forget me. Man forgets because he must, and not because he will. Come in sometimes to the peace and stillness of my house and do this again with my people--and you will remember."

It made the tragedy all the more tragic that at that very table there was one who was a traitor. Jesus Christ has at every communion table those who betray him, for if in his house we pledge ourselves to him and then by our lives go out to deny him, we too are traitors to him.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible