Readings for reflection
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Last Supper… and a new beginning
14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.*15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
17 Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.22 For it has been determined that the Son of Man* must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.”23 The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.
24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
28 “You have stayed with me in my time of trial.29 And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
22:14 Or reclined together.
22:22 “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself.
Each of the Gospels highlights differing features of the Last Supper. Luke underscores a striking table-fellowship dimension, where the table is seen as no less than the fulness of the kingdom as promised by the prophets (for example Isaiah 25:6-9). What started as a Passover meal took on new and deeper significance with reference to Jesus’ coming crucifixion and glorification.
While the Last Supper was a ‘one-off’ event, all that it signified is picked up in the Lord’s Supper gospel traditions (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), especially as a symbol of the new covenant.
Reflect on all the accounts of Jesus dining with a great variety of people in the Gospel of Luke, culminating to this one meal in which Jesus himself is the host.
Consider how we might highlight this ‘table fellowship’ with our Lord Jesus himself as we participate in the Lord’s Supper—at his table that lies at the heart of the kingdom of God.
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles* from Jerusalem.14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him.21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report.23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”27 Then Jesus took them through the writings
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on,29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them.30 As they sat down to eat,* he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them.31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.*”
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.
24:13 Greek 60 stadia [11.1 kilometers].
24:30 Or As they reclined.
24:34 Greek Simon.
Given the special emphasis Luke has highlighted in describing time and again how Jesus encountered people around the meal table, it is not surprising that meals features twice in the concluding chapter. The final appearance to the disciples in Luke’s Gospel involved him eating with them—a piece of broiled fish to demonstrate his very real flesh and blood form. Dining with the risen Lord now includes the proclamation of his resurrection, God’s ongoing presence though the Spirit and promise for Christ to return.
However, especially distinctive in Luke is the story of two followers on the road to Emmaus, joined by Jesus as they walked, but unrecognised at this point. The decisive moment when they discovered the identity of their travelling companion was (of course!), ‘when he was at table with them…’, and more specifically when Jesus ‘took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ (verse 30).
Again, while such events were unique, it can also be said that the invitation to share bread at the Lord’s table, and to dine in his company is ongoing and draws together all those who follow Christ, past, present and future, from every corner of this world. We dine only at Christ’s invitation, regardless of our own accomplishments and entirely through the mercies of God and at his expense (the body and blood broken and given for us).
‘Jesus at the table’ in the gospel narratives becomes to us ‘Jesus at The Table’, with all that it conveys about bridging the ‘here and now’ with confidence and hope in all that is yet to be.
We have a place at the table. We are known by name, and assured that in Christ we have every right to be there. When we join Jesus at the table, we are joined by ‘angels and archangels and all the company of heaven’. We are joined by the tax collectors and sinners (for in our own ways this also truly describes us). We are joined by the woman who wept and anointed the feet of Jesus, and by the extra party guests summoned to the banquet, and Zacchaeus… We are in good company indeed.