Jesus had set his face on Jerusalem to fulfill his destiny.  Jesus had a message for all Judaism and the stage for that message had been set to occur during the celebration of the Passover.  Jesus arrived in Jerusalem as king, prophet, and priest.  The reaction to Jesus was immediate and intense.  People were turning in faith to Jesus and his message of hope.  But the religious leaders saw Jesus and said, “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation” (John 11:47b-48).

          We read about the passionate reaction of the religious leaders in today’s New Testament passage from the Gospel of Luke.  There we read, “The chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people” (Luke 22:1b-2).  Jesus had ignited the passions of the people and the passions of the Pharisees, just not in the same sense and direction.  The Pharisees wanted Jesus gone for a while, but they could not seem to find a way to do it.  Something needed to change for them to have the right opportunity to take charge and control.

          Just when it seemed the obstacles to seizing Jesus had become insurmountable, Satan entered the scene.  Luke wrote, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (Luke 22:3-6).  An insider, a confidant of Jesus, had walked into the camp of the Pharisees offering information and insight into the time, day, and place that Jesus’ arrest could happen without the people knowing.

          Luke’s words remind us that Satan is present in the world. Satan’s approach is simple.  He does not so much lead people to be evil and do bad things as much as he reminds people and encourages people to remain in the world and follow the ways of the world.  We need to remember Jesus’ first sermon of nine words, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.”  Jesus came to call people to repent, that is turn from the ways of the world, and follow God.  Satan only needs to convince people to stay in the world to accomplish his goals.

          Luke’s words relative to Judas makes clear that Satan convinced Judas to stay in the world and let the world determine his values and destiny. Worldliness has nothing to do with genuine living.  Judas filled his lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.  Why did Judas allow himself to be dragged back into the world?  Was Judas convinced that a handful of coins would make a difference in his life?  Or was Judas convinced that he could create a crisis and cause Jesus to act as king of force leading the people who loved Jesus to battle for the control of Jerusalem? We are not told why Judas betrayed Jesus and once again embraced the world.  We want to know but God keeps that reason to himself.  Why?  Because the reason for Judas’ betrayal did not make a difference to the outcome.  Isn’t that always true?  If someone betrays you, does it really change how much that betrayal hurts if you knew their motivations? Does knowing the reason for the betrayal change the outcome?  The important thing here was that Judas took his eyes off Jesus and allowed Satan and the ways of the world back into his life.  If Satan opposed Jesus in that manner, Satan would have no problem opposing the church, often most effectively from within the church itself.  If Satan opposed Jesus and the Church in that manner, Satan would have no problem creating trouble within your own family. That is the way of Satan.

          While Judas’ betrayal was unknown to the other apostles, Jesus was aware.  Early in the Gospel of John we read Jesus said, ““Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (John 6:64).  Knowing there were only hours remaining before these battles would begin, Jesus wanted time with his disciples.  Luke tells us Jesus sent for Peter and John and said, “’Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’  ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.  10 He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.’  13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.  14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’ (Luke 22:8b-15).

          Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem and in Jerusalem, Jesus would suffer. The coming suffering of Jesus was, therefore, not unexpected.  Jesus suffering was part of the plan.  Long before Jesus arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “31The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things’ (Mark 8:31-33).  In this exchange, we see that Jesus understood that Satan was working on Peter, trying to get Peter to follow the ways of the world by denying God’s plan. Satan’s tactics are not complex, and his objective is always the same; get people to remain in the world and avoid God’s plan.

          God’s plan was for Jesus to come to Jerusalem, to proclaim the message of hope, to heal those who were sick, and to suffer for the sins of others.  But before the suffering, Jesus desired to share a special meal with his disciples, and he asked Peter and John to make the preparations for the meal.  The meal was the Passover meal that the Jews celebrated, and continue to celebrate to this day, recognizing the release of the Jews from bondage in Egypt.  The Passover meal involved the slaughter of a lamb and the meat roasted and eaten at a meal that evening.  At this feast, the Jews looked forward to a future deliverance by the Messiah.  A symbol of that expectation was to set aside a cup of wine for the Messiah should he come that very evening.

          “14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he [Jesus] said to them [the disciples], ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’ (Luke 22:14).  “19 And he [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).  Jesus used bread as a symbol for his body given over for sacrifice much as had been done for the lamb.  Jesus words changed the Passover meal from a repetitious traditional celebration to a new celebration of life given by Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus’ words of invitation to eat the bread echo words Jesus had spoken much earlier in his ministry.  Jesus had said, “35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry… 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day…48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:35, 38, 39-40, 48-51).

          When Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this [eat this] in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), Jesus was inviting his disciples into an intimate relationship with him and into the fullness of life.  Jesus was also building up his disciples for the suffering he and they would experience in the days ahead.  To build them up, Jesus gave his disciples a moment to remember, a moment of great symbolism, to draw strength from and remember that though the disciples may not be able to see Jesus, he was nevertheless still within each of them.

          Moments to remember are important to us.  Those who are married, wear a ring as a symbol of their marriage.  When a married person looks at their ring, they are reminded of a shared life.  The ring is a physical, tangible thing that reminds us of unseen, but the real things embodied by words such as love, commitment, and devotion.  We use the shape of a heart in ways to express love for country, a person, or a pet.  That heart shape reminds us and announces to other people that we have a deep affection for something or someone.  There are symbols all around us to remind us.  At this meal, Jesus desired to share with his disciples a symbol of life.  Jesus took ordinary bread, blessed it before God, broke it into pieces for each disciple, and invited them to eat it. This whole scene was a powerful reminder of a share life given to the disciples by Jesus.  A life that was to be built upon the love of God and the love for one another.  The disciples needed this reminder to help them get through the suffer that lay ahead.

          We are no different than the disciples.  We, too, need to know that Jesus is present in our suffering.  Taking the bread of the Lord’s Table, in whatever form it is offered, reminds us that though we cannot see Jesus, he is nevertheless with us. Eating the bread with others reminds us that we are equal in the sight of God, we are equally frail, and we need one another.

          Having transformed the bread from the Passover meal as a symbol of Jesus body, Luke wrote, “20 In the same way, after the supper he [Jesus] took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20). Some scholars speculate the cup Jesus took here was the one set aside for the Messiah.  Jesus was again making use of a symbol, a symbol that the Messiah, God’s anointed messenger, had come with a new covenant.  God had promised a new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah. 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

          God’s desire was to forgive the sins of his people and God did that through Jesus.  The Apostle Matthew in his account of the Last Supper recorded the scene this way, “27 Then he [Jesus] took a cup, and after giving thanks he [Jesus] gave it to them [the disciples], saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28). 

          Jesus blessed the cup Jesus and given to the disciples was a symbol for them and for us that God has placed his seal, his authority, on the promise of forgiveness.  God is for us.   The Apostle Paul put it this way, “31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).  The cup offered by Jesus is a symbol that God is for us.

          Jesus desired to have this meal with his disciples because this meal symbolized God’s desire to call his people to his side and let them know that no matter what was occurring in their lives, God was for them. We can come now and share in God’s desire and be reminded of Jesus in us and God for us as we take the bread and drink the cup.  Join me now in the Lord’s Supper, a meal of remembrance and life.  Amen and Amen.