The Last Supper

April 14th, 2019

Main idea: Jesus’ substitutionary and sacrificial death is the fulfillment of Passover remembered in The Lord’s Supper until he returns


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The familiar story of the “Last Supper” is set in the context of two Old Testament feasts and festivals: Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Both are loaded with meaning and symbolism related to the Exodus from Egypt.

The “Passover” specifically is in view here, remembering when the Lord instructed the people of Israel to sacrifice a lamb and to spread its blood over the doorposts of their homes so that death would not visit them. The Lord would “pass over” their homes on the basis of the blood of the lamb.

Passover was ultimately a “shadow,” because Jesus has come to fulfill all that was “written” before him. Therefore, it is crucial for us to understand the meaning and the significance behind what God has always been doing in and for his people.

Application: Passover and the events surrounding the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus are a reminder that we can’t save ourselves. Where are being drawn to self-salvation projects?


The betrayal of Judas (and very soon, the abandonment of the other 11 disciples) is heightened by the intimacy of this dinner scene. Judas’ refusal to refer to Jesus as “Lord” ultimately reveals the posture of his heart.

There is a tension here between Judas’ betrayal, the disciples choice to abandon Jesus, and the sovereign, divine plan of God “as it is written.” But there is something in this tension for us to learn.

“It is essential to keep together these two complementary ways of looking at the cross. On the human level, Judas gave him up to the priests, who gave him up to Pilate, who gave him up to the soldiers, who crucified him. But on the divine level, the Father gave him up, and he gave himself up, to die for us. As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both, “I did it, my sins sent him there,” and “He did it, his love took him there… the cross, which is an exposure of human evil, is at the same time a revelation of the divine purpose to overcome the human evil thus exposed. ” ~ John Stott

This should cause us to soberly consider our own participation in the crucifixion of Christ, but also find comfort in the fact that our Savior knows intimately what it’s like to be abandoned and betrayed, and can sympathize with us.

“All the history of the people of God has been moving toward this moment. Every return from exile. Every deliverance from any tyrant. Every substitutionary sacrifice of an animal. Everything. Everything that has ever happened in the whole history of redemption, in the whole history of God’s work with his people, everything is moving toward this. This is the climactic moment in the history of redemption, in the history of the world.” ~ Tim Keller

Jesus is drawing attention to meaning of his death in two ways.

1. His death is substitutionary

He indicates that his body is broken and his blood is poured out “for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This “for” means “in the place of “ or “on behalf of.”

“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.” ~ John Stott

2. His death is sacrificial

There is a huge missing element of the Passover meal Jesus is sharing with his disciples: the main course, the lamb, is missing. Jesus is clearly proclaiming here: “I am the substitute. I take the judgment you deserve. And - I am the sacrifice. I am the lamb who was slain so that you are not.”

III. The Sustaining Meal (26:29)

Jesus’ final words had to be confusing for the disciples. He has just set up his death and its significance and meaning, but now he is talking about drinking with them again in the future.

Jesus is indicating here that his death is not the end of the story but is actually the beginning of something new and greater. Jesus is hinting that his death is actually the beginning of the death of death itself.

Until the day comes when we will see death itself defeated fully and finally, Jesus has given us a sustaining meal to observe regularly until he returns.

“When Jesus first shared the Supper with his disciples, he was giving them something firm to hold on to—like a beam set in concrete. Jesus would soon be betrayed and crucified in their place. He wanted them not only to remember the sacrifice, but also to grasp its significance. Jesus was leaving, and other people, priorities, and persecutions would soon threaten the devotion of their hearts. But the Lord’s Supper was a handle they could grasp through it all. Doubts would come, but they would remember. Dangers would come, but they would remember. Dissenters would abandon them, but they would remember that indelible moment when Jesus broke the bread and served the cup. It was a simple act, a common meal, but it would soon become their sustaining grace.” ~ Daryl Crouch

Communion is a sustaining meal that helps us look in two directions: we look backward to the sacrificial and subtitutionary death of Jesus, while we simultaneously look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19).