2010 Luke’s Gospel
The New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood
Key Verse: 22:20 "In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
In today’s passage, we are going to study the Last Supper. This supper is well-known to us because it was Jesus' last meal with his disciples before he was betrayed. Before the moments of his death Jesus was not overcome by emotions. Instead Jesus taught the meaning of his upcoming suffering and death. Jesus established a new covenant in his blood with his disciples, and all who would believe in him. This covenant is for us. As we study today’s passage, let us pray that we may accept Jesus’ covenant deep within our hearts.
I. The tragedy of Judas Iscariot (1-6)
Verse 1 begins, "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching...." The Passover was the most important date on the Jewish calendar. It was an annual commemoration of God's deliverance of their nation from bondage in Egypt, similar to the Fourth of July we celebrate every year for the independence of the United States. The Israelites had served as slaves for 430 long years (Ex 12:40, 41). Their lives were miserable. They had to work hard day and night and were beaten at random, with no remedy, no health care, and no vacation. They were even forced to drown their newborn sons in the Nile River; if they did not, they would be killed. Still, they were helpless. All they could do was groan and cry out. But God heard their cry and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God raised Moses as their deliverer and worked mighty acts of judgment against the Egyptians. Known as the Ten Plagues, these acts were a meting out of God's justice. By God's almighty power, the Israelites were delivered from bondage. Upon the basis of this mercy, God wanted the Israelites to form a holy nation and to serve him as a kingdom of priests. God commanded them to commemorate the Passover so they would remember his grace. They observed the Passover faithfully. By Jesus' time, they had been doing so for some 1,400 years.
As the Passover approached, the chief priests and teachers of the law should have been busy preparing. However, it had already become a mere formality to them. Instead of preparing for the Passover, they filled their hearts with hatred toward Jesus, and their one concern was how to get rid of him. This was not the first time they tried to get rid of Jesus. They tried many times in many ways but they failed every time. When they were supposed to be busy and mindful to care and shepherd the people of Israel, they used all their strength and effort on hating Jesus, and plotting to kill him.
While the religious leaders were desperate, yet helpless, they became more evil beyond imagination. Luke says in verse 3, "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve." In a moment, Judas became as evil as Satan. Suddenly, he was capable of wickedness which he had never intended. He went to the Jewish leaders and plotted with them how he might betray Jesus. They gladly agreed to give Judas money in exchange for information that would lead to Jesus' secret arrest. The real question is how Judas could become the prey of Satan. The gospels expose his love of money. John calls him a "thief" for coveting money from the offering. Judas' love of money was exposed when he criticized a woman's heartfelt sacrifice for Jesus (Jn 12:6). Though Jesus rebuked him indirectly, he did not repent. He did not honor Jesus' words. Judas did not commit to Jesus. This made him vulnerable to Satan. After betraying Jesus, Judas hanged himself and went to eternal condemnation (Mt 26:24; 27:5).
Here we Christians must take warning. It is possible to be around Jesus and his ministry for an extended period of time and still fall into Satan's trap. It is possible to have special privileges from Jesus--such as being one of the Twelve, or the treasurer--and still fall into Satan's trap. We must not be complacent in regard to this dangerous enemy. We must pray every day, "Lead us not into temptation" (Lk 11:4b), and we must stand firm in our faith in Christ (1 Pet 5:9). Then God will give us victory (1 Pe 5:10).
This failure and destruction happens when we put something else in the place of Jesus. In other words, it happens when we love something more than Jesus. When we prioritize study, involvement in a relationship, money or success, it is a matter of time until we become a slave to Satan. So we must watch out. Let us hold on to Jesus for there is nothing better than Him. Amen.
II. Jesus turns the Passover into the Lord's Supper (7-23)
Verse 7 says, "Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed." At the heart of the Passover celebration was the sacrifice of a lamb. The Israelites in Moses’ time were spared because they put the blood of the lamb on their doorframes. It was God's mercy. God wanted the Israelites to remember this event. So he commanded them to sacrifice lambs in Jerusalem annually. Thousands of lambs were sacrificed, one for each family, every year, like turkeys at Thanksgiving. Peter and John prepared the Passover Lamb this time. It was not a burdensome ritual, but a special privilege.
When we see Jesus at the Last Supper, he is remarkably in control of himself and of the situation around him. There is no hint of stress. Rather Jesus became the source of grace under pressure and peace in the midst of a storm. It was because Jesus knew that God was in control of all things: Israel's history, his own life, and the lives of all who were around him. Jesus worked with Peter and John to keep the meeting place secret. Jesus would not allow Satan to hinder his teaching at this time. The spiritual lessons Jesus was about to impart were vital. Let's remember: God is in control, no matter how chaotic things seem. When we trust and obey Jesus we can be useful to God, like Peter and John were.
The hour came to eat the Passover meal, and everything was ready. Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. Then Jesus shared his final teachings with them. Look at verse 15. "And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.'" Here Jesus reveals his heart. He knows that suffering will come soon. Yet his heart is set on his disciples and he treasures time with them. Jesus loved his disciples dearly. He wanted to spend his final hours on earth with them. And this time was not the time to waste. Jesus taught a most important lesson to them.
Look at verse 16. "For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." With these words, Jesus pronounced a transition in God's history. Until then, the Passover was a historical memorial of the Exodus. But its ultimate fulfillment was much greater. It was in the kingdom of God, that is, the restoration of God's reign in men's hearts and in the world. This would happen through Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. As God broke Pharaoh's power through the Passover, God broke Satan's power through Jesus' death on the cross. God set captives free from Satan's grip and restored his rightful reign in our lives. Ultimately, the Passover looks forward to the great celebration in heaven, called the wedding supper of the Lamb. John envisioned this future event in Revelation 19:6-7. He said that a great number of redeemed people from all nations will shout: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come...."
At the hour of his death, Jesus was full of hope in the kingdom of God. Jesus was thankful (17). Jesus anticipated God's great victory. From Jesus we learn to fix our eyes on the kingdom of God. Then we can have hope and victory and be thankful, even in adversity.
We find the key point of Jesus' teaching in verses 19-20. Through the Passover, Jesus explains the meaning of his death on the cross.
First, "This is my body given for you" (19). Look at verse 19. "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you'" (19). Jesus used the bread to symbolize his body. Very soon Jesus would be arrested, condemned and crucified. This was done at the hands of evil men. Nevertheless, it was precisely God's will, and Jesus' willing offering (Ac 2:23; Jn 10:18). Jesus gave his body for us. We can accept his body by accepting the bread he offers with faith. John's gospel helps us understand this more fully. In John 6:51 Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John emphasizes the importance of accepting Jesus' words. Jesus said in John 6:63b, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." Peter accepted these words and received eternal life from Jesus. Judas did not accept these words and Jesus called him "a devil" (Jn 6:68-71). Jesus' words are our spiritual nutrients; they help us grow in God's image. Jesus' words inspire us with the wisdom of God; they lead us in the way of salvation. Jesus' words are the source of power which enable us to live holy lives. This is why gathering daily bread everyday, studying the Bible, and writing sincere testimony are important for us. Let us take and eat Jesus’ body that is the words of Jesus so that we can grow in his image day by day.
Second, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (20). Next, Jesus took the cup. Let's read verse 20. "In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'" Jesus declared that the time of the old covenant was over and the time of a new covenant had come. This is extremely important. God gave them the Ten Commandments through Moses, promising that if they obeyed him fully he would treasure them and raise them as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Since then, the Israelites have been living under the law.
However, Jesus came to make a new covenant. This covenant emphasizes not the law, but the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and a transformation of the inner person. It implies the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to change our desires and nature to make us obedient to God. St. Paul describes this covenant through the metaphor of marriage. Living under the law is like being married to a legalistic person, Mr. Law. Mr. Law never encourages, but harshly points out weaknesses and faults until his partner is crushed. Living under the new covenant is like being married to a loving, gracious and compassionate person--Mr. Grace. Mr. Grace always supports, builds up, and empowers, until his partner becomes beautiful in character, bears good fruit, and wins the final victory.
To make this new covenant possible, Jesus had to shed his blood on the cross as the Lamb of God. The historical image of the blood of a lamb has true significance in explaining Jesus' blood. But Jesus' blood is far greater in value and power than the blood of animals. First of all, Jesus was a man. A man's blood has greater value than that of an animal, for man is made in the image of God (Gen 9:6). Jesus was not just an ordinary man, Jesus was a perfect man. Jesus kept the whole law from the beginning of his life to the end. Uniquely among all people, Jesus deserved to live under the terms of the Old Covenant. But Jesus was more than a perfect man; Jesus was the God-man. Jesus is in very nature God. So his blood has value beyond our understanding. Jesus' blood has tremendous power, beyond any power known to men; it is infinite.
As we all experienced, the power of sin is too strong for us. The temptation that the devil plants in our hearts is impossible to resist. It damages our souls so deeply that no human effort can uproot it. We only become more guilty and condemned to death. However there is good news; the blood of Jesus is more powerful than the power of sin. Therefore we need the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:14 says, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" The blood of Christ has the power to cleanse sin from our consciences. Jesus' blood cleanses us so completely that we can stand in the presence of God. We can serve the living God. We can have an intimate love relationship with God. Jesus' blood can change people of every kind even the dirtiest sinners into holy children of God. When we receive Jesus' words with faith, we can experience the power of his blood. Jesus' blood brings us into a new covenant with the living God.
Jesus told his disciples, "Do this in remembrance of me." Jesus wanted them to remember his grace by celebrating the Lord's Supper together. This is where Holy Communion or Eucharist originated. Communion is a means of grace by which we can receive Jesus and find the cleansing and restoration that we need to maintain our love relationship with God and with one another. Celebrating the Lord's Supper is not a matter of ritual, but a matter of faith. So let us pray to remember and remind of the beautiful love and grace of our Lord Jesus daily, and be cleansed deep within.
Today we have the opportunity to receive Jesus' body and blood to cleanse our sins and bring us into a covenant of life with God. We can accept this covenant by taking communion. Jesus said, “This is body given for you, and this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Let's accept the new covenant in Jesus' blood; this will change our lives. Let us pray.
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