Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 2

There is much darkness and gloom brooding over this tiny band. But it will get much darker as Jesus will draw their attention to a betrayer among them. In Luke 22.21-30, Jesus turns his attention to disciples and their future. For one, his future is bleak as he will betray the Son of Man. His name is Judas. Jesus turns His attention to this sad topic.

The Disloyalty of a Disciple

Right on the heels of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus tells his band of followers there is a betrayer among them. There are some who contend that these verses (v.21-22) have been transposed and should come before v.19. Even if that be the case, the truth of Jesus’ words is not affected. There is a betrayer among them, even sitting at the table with them. And it is interesting, that even while Judas is sitting there at the table with Jesus, he is betraying Him. Jesus explains why it must be so in v.22: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined…” The path Jesus has been on (and even at this point is on) has lead Him to this point and will terminate in the cross. This path “has been determined” for Him. By whom, we may ask? The answer is God. Elsewhere is the writing of Luke he talks about how it was according to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” which Jesus went to the cross (Acts 2.23). This plan to save man was formed in the mind from before time began, even in eternity. Then, through His Son, He worked that plan to its conclusion. 

So then Judas’ freewill was violated in that he was “forced,” as it were, to betray Jesus? No. Jesus points to the responsibility of the betrayer in the rest of v.22: “but woe to that man by he is betrayed” (ESV).  Writes Leon Morris, “The fact that God overrules the evil that bad people do as he brings his purposes to pass does not make them any less evil. They remain responsible people.” Hence, Jesus’ words are not meant to be vindictive but words filled with grief and hurt that his betrayer is a friend. It would seem Judas has covered his tracks so well that none of the disciples caught on to what he was doing. The disciples collectively begin to question one another concerning who it was going to be.

The Dispute among the Disciples

It would seem this continued questioning led to an argument among the disciples. Think about it: here are several men who are all pointing the finger of accusation at one another. “Was it you?” “No but I think it was Peter.” I heard that! How dare you accuse me! Besides it was probably James or John.” “Who do you think you are accusing us?” And on it went until there was a full blown argument. At some point, the discussion turned toward greatness: “Why I would never betray Jesus. Think of what a great disciple I am.” “Well, I’m an even greater disciple than you!” “Yeah, well I’m the greatest of all!” Their like children and it makes me wonder if Jesus ever just rolled His eyes before calling a time out (as he does here).

It is interesting that the word used for their dispute literally means “love of strife” (Gk. philoneikia). It carries the idea that the topic of greatness was always a topic ready for dispute and argument among these men. In fact, elsewhere in Scriputre we find record of this very same discussion among these same men (Matt 20.20-24; Mark 9.34; 10.37-41). And this not the first time Luke has recorded a dispute arose over the exact same thing (cf. 9.46). They seem to constantly be seeking the primacy and preeminence. Again, it was a topic they were eager to dispute.

So Jesus remind them about true greatness in the kingdom of God (v.25-27). As if His demonstration of servant leadership earlier in the evening was not enough (see John 13.1ff), He now imparts more teaching on the nature of servant leadership. He draws their attention to the Gentiles and their practice. Those in authority are called “benefactors” or a person who helps people subject to him. In the world, its all about getting credit for what they have done. Indeed, the word Jesus uses (Gk. euergetai) was the name of one of the Ptolomies of Egypt (Ptolomy Euergetes). But in the kingdom of God, its different. “Not so among you.” The first part of the explanation in v.26 sounds similar to Jesus in Luke 9.48 about children. The next part is similar to teaching found elsewhere in the gospels: “the leader [among you become] as one who serves.” The message was unmistakable especially when coupled with the object lesson given before the meal with the feet washing. Jesus, their leader, had become their servant.

And if they missed it there, Jesus reiterates it once more and in specific language (v.27; cf. Matt 20.28)). Naturally, the thinking would be that the one dining at the table was greater than the one serving. And yet Jesus was one who came and served them. Again, the John 13 feet washing has clear ties to this in Luke. In these statements, Jesus effectually puts to rest any dispute they may have had. Also, their love for this dispute ought to be put away. This is not proper kingdom citizen discussion. Greatness in the kingdom is only found in serving.

The Domain of the Apostles

There is some honor, though, which Jesus wishes to impart to His disciples on this occasion. He explains that they have been with Him through his “trials” (or temptations). They had been with Him throughout the many hardships of His ministry here on earth. They had been with Him when rejected in Samaria. They had been there when He was ridiculed by the leaders. They knew He had no place to lay His head. They knew it because they were there. So he “assigns” them “a kingdom.” What’s Jesus saying? His time, His life is drawing near to its end. He is setting His affairs in order. This is the meaning behind the word “assign.” This is langauge used (in those days) for a will. He is assigning his possessions (in this case the kingdom assigned to Him from the Father) to His followers. They will be the ones who carry on His work when He has ascended back to the Father.

As discussed before, a kingdom is primarily defined not as territory or land but as a dominion, rule, reign. Hence, Christ’s kingdom would be administered by them. All of them. Not just Peter (tenet of the Catholic Church) but all of them would collectively proclaim and propagate the kingdom of Christ. Because of their work in this regard, they would “eat and drink at my table in the kingdom” and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The former expression I believe captures the fellowship aspect. The latter seems to touch on the follow-ship aspect. First, as citizens of the kingdom and as those who reveal the kingdom in their teaching, the apostles would enjoy fellowship with Christ. Indeed, those who hold to the teachings of the apostles can themselves find fellowship with Christ and God.

Second, we see that for following Christ and even enduring the same trials and temptations as Jesus, they will have unique authority in the kingdom. Some say this judgment the apostles have is done by their teaching. Others say it is like when Ninevah and the queen of Sheba condemned the Jews in times past, so will the apostles in the kingdom dispensation (present time). Still others say the apostles will sit as co-judges with Christ in the judgment. Again, others say the apostles will have special preeminence in the kingdom after the second coming. According to H. Leo Boles, “There may be some truth in all of these positions.” What we know is that the sitting on thrones the apostles will do was yet future when Christ spoke these words. How far into the future is uncertain. But it would be a reality should the apostles remain faithful. In this author’s opinion, this is something that took place in the first century when the apostles proclaimed the kingdom of God and people began to enter into the rule and reign of God. When men and women began to bow the knee to Christ and accepted the rule of God in their lives from the throne of their heart, that is when the apostles began to judge Israel. And by their continued disobedience to the gospel, those Jews who refused entrance into the kingdom were condemned even while they lived.

Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 1

As the days speed by in the life of Jesus, we come ever closer to His final hour. Judas has agreed to betray Him (read here) and clock is ticking. But before He departs from this world, He has some final instruction and institutions He will impart to His disciples. Most Christians are familiar with this passage (Luke 22.7-23) because of the scene in which Jesus introduces and institutes the Lord’s Supper. However, there is a lot of theological significance in back of this meal and roots that stretch into the Old Testament.

The Mission for the Upper Room

We’ve seen how in v.1 the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing nigh. Now the day of Unleavened Bread has arrived. Most scholars agree this was a day when the Jewish purged their houses of all leaven in preparation for the feast which lasted about seven days (cf. 2 Chron 30.22). It was also on this day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrficed and then the meal (supper) was also eaten. It should be noted that there is a distinction between the Passover meal (one night in which the lamb was slaughtered at twilight, see Exodus 12.6) and the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread (which lasted for seven days, see Exodus 12.18). This is an important to make in order to understand the harmony in the Gospel accounts.

Nevertheless, it was on this day (most authorities say Thursday), Jesus sends Peter and John on a mission to “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we might eat it.” Some commentators say Jesus is here eating the meal in anticipation of his death; this will be one final supper with his disciples. Certainly a possiblity. However, as we move deeper into to the chapter, we do see there is new significance attached to the Passover. Indeed, Jesus takes what these Jews had always known and attaches new meaning to these symbols.

The two disciples ask Jesus where they were to prepare the meal to which Jesus in essence replies, “Follow the man with the jar.” This man would lead to the large upper room where they could eat the supper and also Jesus could impart some final instruction and teaching (He is the Teacher, v.11) to the disciples (John 13-16). Peter and John do what Jesus says and find everything just He said they would (v.13) and so prepared the Passover.

The Meal in the Upper Room

At last, the hour comes when it is time for Jesus to recline at the table and eat this meal with His apostles (v.14). Jesus tells them that he has “earnestly desired to eat this Passover” with them before His suffering. It would seem this is Jesus, knowing His time had come (John 13.1), had a great desire to eat this meal with them. This almost seems like an explanation of why they are doing what they are doing. Of course, while this meal looked back to the great deliverance that God brought for Israel when leaving Egypt, this same meal pointed forward to an even greater deliverance, an even greater exodus (see Luke 9.31) which Jesus would lead in bringing many people out of bondage to sin. This was effected by his sacrifice on the cross, that is, His suffering which is merely hourse away. Others have said there are other reason for the Lord’s earnest desire. One is that these were His dear friends which He was about to leave. Another is that He is their divine Master or Teacher who is delivering His “last lecture.” And also, Jesus is the Founder of the greatest religion on this occassion He sought to transform this memorial supper to have Kingdom significance.

Jesus further explains that He will not eat this meal again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (v.16). This same idea seems to be restated in v.18: “I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Jesus has been preaching the kingdom since the beginning of His ministry (see Matthew 4.17; Luke 4.43). As discussed before, the kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God. Elsewhere in Scripture, you will find that the kingdom of God has always existed and always will exist  and is over everything (Psa 22.28; 145.13; et al.). What does Jesus mean, then, when He speaks of the kingdom’s coming being yet future? This has to do with the entrance of men and women into that everlasting kingdom when they humbly bow the knee to the King of Kings and become citizens of the kingdom. While every man, woman, and child lives under the cosmic sovereign rule of God, not all are citizens of kingdom with the King ruling from the throne of their hearts. Those people who submit their will to the will of God and obey the decrees of the King simultaneously become part of the body of Christ, the church. Hence, the church is composed of kingdom subjects or citizens. One cannot properly speak of being a citizen of the kingdom, a subject to the King, and not be a member of Christ’s church. It is in the church, among His subjects, that Christ dines with His subjects in communion, the Lord’s Supper.

At this point, Jesus takes a cup and tells His disciples, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.” Scholars call this “the cup of blessing” which was to be drank after the Passover lamb had been eaten. H. Leo Boles in his commentary on Luke writes, “A cup was passed at different intervals; they would eat for a while, then pass the large cup or vessel that contained the wine, and each one would fill his cup, and as they drank, different scriptures would be recited.” By His actions and words, it would seem Jesus is writing the final chapter of the Passover as the Jews knew. There is yet a Passover lamb, indeed, the spotless Lamb of God who was to be sacrificed for the remission of sins (Matt 26.28): Jesus the Christ.

Then Jesus, in the midst of the Passover meal, takes these symbols and attaches new meaning to them. First, he takes the bread and gives thanks for it. The bread Jesus calls His body. It should be noted that there is a textual issue in v.19b-20. You will note that some Bibles have a footnote which reads something like, “Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verse 19b-20”; so reads the ESV. While this is true, only one of the earliest Greek manuscripts omits it and Justin Martyr (early church apologist) accepted these words are part of Luke’s account (c.150 AD). Other later manuscripts may have omitted them because of the issue with Jesus taking the cup first, then the bread. Nevertheless, Jesus txplains His body is given for “you.” Contextually, Jesus is speaking to His twelve apostles. This is the same language used in v.20 when Jesus is speaking of the cup and the fruit of the vine: it is poured out for “you.” Again, contextually, this is spoken for His apostles. However, in Matthew’s account Jesus speaks of the blood being poured for “many” (Matt 26.28). Which is it? Yes. Both. Christ came to be the Savior of the world (John 4.42; 1 John 4.14),, which includes His apostles and everyone else who might coem to Him by faith.

There has been much discussion around the statements of Jesus “This is my body” and “This is my blood” (Matt 26.28). Is this to be taken literal? Usually, those who interpret this passage as literal will run to John 6.55 which says “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” However, that is dishonest to the Synoptic Gospel accounts of the Lord’s Supper and rips John 6.55 from its context where Jesus is speaking about fellowship with Him (and ultimately with God); merely read the next verse (John 6.56, “…abides in me…” is fellowship language). So, are these statements literal? Or are they to be understood as figurative? That is, the bread Jesus takes and breaks signifies His body and the fruit of the vine in the cup signifies the blood of Christ. Jesus is not advocating cannibalism. In fact, in early church history, the church was accused of cannibalism and they argued against that erroneous rumor. There are similar statements found in Scripture: “The seven good are seven years” (Gen 41.26); “the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom” (Matt 13.38); “Hagar is mout Sinai” (Gal 4.25). All of these former things signify the latter. Jesus employs the same metaphorical language when instituting the Lord’s Supper. This point is driven home further in Luke’s account where Jesus says, “This cup…is the new covenant in my blood.” So is the cup literally the new covenant, some kind of holy grail? Nay, verily. But what’s in the cup bears significance touching the new covenant. No, these statements of Jesus should not be understood as literal.

One final note: “Do this in remembrance of me.” I believe it is significant that Jesus does not say “in remembrance of my death.” Jesus says “in remembrance of me.” Certainly His death is of vital importance to the Christian and His death is a part of His life. But it would seem that Jesus wants us to remember His entire life. Don’t misunderstand; the death of Christ on the cross is of vital importance to every Christian. But just as important, and to a degree more important, is the resurrection, the miracles, the virgin birth, the sinless life, and everything else contained in the gospel accounts.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

When I read this section of Luke (22.1-6), I think of the song “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” because that really is what Judas is doing. Actually, I suppoose we could call them “devilish deeds” based on what Luke says in v.3 (“Satan entered Judas”) and, relatively speaking, he did these deeds “dirt cheap.” At the same time, we now descend into the darkness, the darkest part of the life of Christ. Events will put certain things in motion which will lead to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus in under 24 hours. The first of these events is Judas’ betrayal.

The Avidity to Kill Jesus

In verses 1-2 we see the great desire of Jesus opponents to kill Jesus. Luke puts his historical touch on this by noting that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing near. This puts this in an historical context, in real space-time. Indeed, Jesus was a real man who really died in human history. He was not a myth nor a legend. Luke further note this is called the Passover also. Intended for Greeks who perhaps were unfamiliar with all the Jewish customs, Luke adds this note. Strictly speaking, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were distinct from each other, nevertheless they were regarded as one celebration. We note the Passover, the commemoration of what God did for Israel in bringing them out Egypt (Exodus 12) when he slew the firstborn child of all in Egypt but passed over the people of Israel who had the blood on the doorpost. Indeed, Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5.7) and those covered in the blood are passed over, free from the full wrath of God.

It was at this time, roughly corresponding to March in our calendar year, that the chief priest and scirbes were seeking and desiring to put Jesus to death, whether by legal or quasi-legal procedures. As the narrative unfolds, we will see they pursue the latter. While the Pharisees and Sadducees were some of Jesus stiffest opposition, it is the chief priests who hold the political power to actually pursue execution of Jesus. Hence, they, with the scribes, take the lead. But there was one hiccup in the road: the people. These powerful men were truly powerless because of the people. What could they do?

The Agreement to Kill Jesus

Enter Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve who followed Jesus. He was the son of Simon of Iscariot (see John 6.71; 13.26). The term Iscariot is often used to distinguish between this Judas and another Judas in the company of apostles (see Luke 6.16; John 14.22) and points to his hometown of Keriot in southern Judah. An interesting note is that Judas was the only apostle who was not from Galilee. By some accounts, Judas was an important disciple: he had control over the money and seemed to be near Jesus at the last supper since Jesus was able to give him the morsel (John 13.26). It is this man who betrays the Lord. The enormity of the betrayal is seen in the language of Luke when saying he was “one of the twelve.”

Judas comes to the enemies of Jesus and discusses with them what is to be done and how Judas might betray Jesus to them. Luke only tells us that there were “officers” present. These were the commanders of the temple guard, no doubt acting as body guards for these high priestly men. Imagine their joy (v.5) when we finally reach an agreement. How exactly it went down and what exactly the discussion consisted of is not known. But there was some talk, some negotiation about price and deliverance of Jesus to them. But finally an agreement is reached and Judas casts his lot in with these men and their wicked work. And now all they have to do is wait. Wait for the right moment when Jesus is alone, by Himself, away from the people.

I know what your asking yourself.  Its the same I rack my brain over. Why? Why did he do it? Again, by accounts he was a disciple of position and promise, good with money, perhaps a leader. The ideas abound. Some say Judas was disappointed with what Jesus was doing. After all it was Judas who raised his voice over the anointing of Jesus (John 12.4). Disappointment that the grand vision of the kingdom perhaps drove him to it. Of course, if we stay in that account in John 12, we see Judas was a thief. Maybe he was just a bad guy who was tired of the lack of cash flow coming in. Still others try to paint a different light on Judas and say he was merely trying to get to exert His power and hasten the coming of the kingdom. Maybe if he pressed Him, Jesus would finally start acting like the Messiah the Jews had hoped for. Still others have suggested that perhaps Judas, for whatever reason, began to doubt that Jesus was truly the Messiah. Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a false Messiah and the true Messiah was yet to come. Still others say Judas was tired of Jesus indifference to the law and His association with “sinners” and His violation of the Sabbath. There are even those who say Judas was the hero of this whole ordeal and merely doing what Jesus had talked him into. Again, I say, speculation abounds.

What’s the reality? The reality is Scripture is relatively silent on the exact motive of why Judas did it. Luke says Satan entered him. The prince of the powers of darkness was able to sway Judas to his camp and use him to “guide” (Acts 1.16) these enemies of Jesus to Him. The Pulpit Commentary says, “For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery.” Perhaps the greater question is did Jesus know? Jesus was the one who look into the hearts of men. Did He know that Judas was or would be a thief, take a bribe, turn out to be a betrayer? Did He know and still call Judas to “follow me”? Set before Judas (and indeed us) are the paths of life and death, sin and fellowship with the Creator. And he chose the wrong path. It is vivid and terrible example of the fundamental choice men and women have before them.