The Lord's Day Morning
August 14, 2011
“This Do in Remembrance of Me”
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 22. We’ll be looking at verses 14 to 19 today. When we looked at the first part of this chapter last week, we said that it was the last Passover, and it is. Let me remind you of where this is happening. Jesus and His disciples are in an upper room somewhere inside the city walls of Jerusalem, and you understand the theological significance of that. You understand the importance of that in the history of God's purposes of redemption with His people, don't you?
Two thousand years before Jesus stood with His disciples gathering in the upper room and preparing to recline at the table to take the Passover, four thousand years from our time today, God had told Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, and go to the land of Moriah and to a mountain that He would show him and offer his son as a sacrifice. And you remember the poignant passage as the father and the son trudged their way up the slope of Moriah alone with a knife and a fire and wood. And little Isaac looks to his father and says, “Father I see the knife and I see the fire and I see the wood” because he was carrying it, “but where is the sacrifice?” Fathers, what would you say to your son if he had to ask that question to you? But at the top of that mountain as Abraham raised his hand and prepared to take the life of his son, the Lord called out from heaven and told him, “Do not touch the boy.” And a ram caught in the thicket bush was substituted for Isaac and he was spared.
A thousand years later, David had numbered the people of God. He had taken a census. This was explicitly disallowed and it was explicitly sanctioned and prohibited in the law of God because the king was not to trust in the numbers of his fighting men or his chariots or his horses, he was to trust in the Lord his God. And in punishment for David's sin of pride and presumption and distrust in the Lord, a death angel was sent to Israel. Seventy thousand people died in three days. As the death angel approached Jerusalem, the City of David, God called from heaven and said, “Stop.” Thousands of lives were spared, and David determined to set up an altar and offer thanksgiving to God for His sparing the people of Jerusalem for his sin. It just so happened that the land below where the death angel had stopped was owned by a Jebusite, the former occupants of Jerusalem, the City of David. And David went to the man and said, “I want to buy your land from you.” And the man said, “You can have my property, great king.” And you remember David utters the great words, “I will not offer a sacrifice that does not cost me.” And so he, for an exorbitant price, buys the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite and an altar is set up to give thanks for the sparing of God's people for David's sin.
We are told, check me out on this, in 2 Chronicles 3 verse 1, that Solomon, when he built the temple, built the temple on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. But that verse also tells us something else. Do you know where the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite was? It was on Mount Moriah. Jesus is somewhere within yards of the temple. Where, for a thousand years, sacrifices had been offered for the atonement of the people of God's sins. He is within yards of where David set up his altar, within yards of where Abram offered a ram as a substitute instead of Isaac. This is a place chock full of significance where Jesus and His disciples are this night.
Now as we read the passage, I want you to be on the lookout for one thing. When we get to verse 17, you will hear Luke record Jesus’ taking of a cup and distributing it. And then when you get to verse 19, he will speak of taking bread and breaking it and distributing it. And then if we were going to read that far, we're not this morning, but we’ll come back to this, if we were to read that far, when you get to verse 20 he speaks of another cup. Now you’re thinking, “Well, in the Lord's Supper, you have the bread, you have the cup — you don't have two cups. What's going on here?” This is the last cup of Passover in verse 17. Then, the Lord Jesus, beginning in verse 19, does something that had never been done at a Passover in history. He suddenly says, “You see this bread? It is My body given for you.” It’d never been done in a Passover, ever. In fourteen hundred and forty-four years, it had never been done at a Passover. Jesus, beginning in verse 19, is doing something that has never ever been done before. He's instituting the Table of the Lord, the Supper of the Lord, the Lord's Supper, the Communion with the living God through Him by the Gospel. Be on the lookout for that as we read, but let's pray first.
Lord, this is Your Word. We need it, we need it more than we know, and we need the truth of this passage today because this passage gets at the very heart of the meaning and significance of the death of Christ. It gets to the very heart of the Gospel, and we want our eyes and ears and hearts wide open to take in what You have for us. Speak Lord, by Your infallible Word, and grant by Your Spirit that Your servants will listen, in Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
“And when the hour came, He reclined at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This passage emphasizes to us two things about the person and work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ — that He is the Passover Lamb given for the redemption of His people, and He is the substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of them for the forgiveness of their sins. We saw that last week even in the preparatory verses, in verses 1 to 13, leading up to this moment, and of course that's not unique to this passage. You find it all over the New Testament, don't you? You can't get out of John chapter 1 verse 29, can you, before you hear John the Baptist in the wilderness saying as Jesus approaches, “Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.” And of course Paul is even more explicit than that in 1 Corinthians 5:7. He says, “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” That connection's being made by Luke here, but it's not by Luke only, John makes that connection, Paul makes that connection. Luke is emphasizing something that's a very important part of what the New Testament says about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
But then there's this emphasis here too that Jesus is a substitutionary sacrifice, and that's not unique to this passage. You find it elsewhere in the New Testament. When Paul is explaining to the Galatians what Jesus did for them on the cross, you will remember in Galatians 3:13 that he tells us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming the curse for us.” And then he says, “For it is written,” and he quotes from Moses, he quotes from the Torah, he quotes from the Pentateuch, from the first five books, from Deuteronomy specifically. He said, “For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” And so he explains as Christ's work as our curse-bearer, our substitutionary sacrifice to bear the curse that we deserve, and that of course is not the only place where Paul does that. You immediately think of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He's the sin-bearer; He's the curse-bearer; He's the substitute; He's a substitutionary sacrifice and it's very clear that Luke wants to drive those theological points home to us.
I have earnestly desired to eat this meal with you
This is a rich passage and we're on holy ground when we read it and hear it, and I want to direct your attention to a few things, not only what Jesus says, and He says, “This is My body which is given for you,” but even the things that lead up to it. And I want to, just for a few moments, direct your attention especially to verse 15. And I want you to see several things that we learn from Jesus’ words there. Jesus has just finished preparing the disciples by washing their feet and as they engage in this Passover meal, He says to them, “Brethren, I want you to know that I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” And I want you to let that resonant in your souls for just a moment because what Jesus is emphasizing is His earnest desire for this event. And I want you to take in what that means for Jesus. The disciples, you understand, are still clueless. They don't know and they do not fully understand or comprehend what is going to happen tomorrow, even though Jesus has been trying to prepare them for months and months and months. John himself tells us that every time Jesus tried to explain His death, His suffering, they didn't know what He was talking about. For some of them it's going to take three days, for some of them it's going to take seven days, for some of them it's going to take longer before they understand this, but Jesus understood that full well and He’d always understood it. He was born to die and so He knew that when He was sitting down to the Passover meal, it meant that within hours He was going to be suffering and in excruciating pain as He was beaten and scourged and He was going to end up in shame and humiliation and absolute pain on the cross of Christ in a matter of hours. The next day He would be there. And yet He looks at His disciples and He says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this meal.”
You know there are things that happen to us in life that completely blindside us. They hit us out of the blue and they’re so painful we just want to die. We didn't see them coming. And sometimes we think, “Lord, if we had just known about it ahead of time so that we could have prepared for it, it would have been better.” But I want you to think about that from another direction. Can you imagine what it would have been like for the Lord Jesus to live in conscious awareness that this moment was coming? His disciples couldn't even understand it when He tried to explain it to them, but He understood it fully. He knew it was coming. And He bore that for you and for me in awful isolation throughout His ministry knowing that it was coming and yet He can still look at His disciples and He said, “I have eagerly, earnestly desired to sit down and have this meal with you.” You have no idea how much Jesus loves you. You really have no idea. Can you imagine? Just take the worst thing that's ever happened to you — can you imagine living in dread knowing the day and the hour that it was coming? Bearing that – that it was coming and there was nothing you could do about? Jesus, Jesus bore that for you, and He still said, “I really want to sit down and have this meal. I've longed to sit down and have this meal.” Do you realize what those words, what that desire cost Jesus? You have no idea how much He loves you. You really don't.
I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you
But it doesn't stop there. He doesn't just say, “I've earnestly desired to eat this meal.” Listen to what He says. “I have earnestly desired to eat this meal, this Passover, with you.” Now that is stunning. Jesus has already announced that one of His disciples will betray Him, He knows who that disciple is, He's already washed his feet! He has washed the feet of a man who's going to betray Him! He knows who he is and He still says, “I've earnestly desired to eat this meal with you.” He knows that Peter, despite his protestation, is going to deny Him three times that night. Peter says, “Look, the rest of them may abandon You, Lord, but I’ll never abandon You!” And He said, “Well, in fact Peter, you’re going to deny Me, you’re doing to abandon Me not once, not twice, but three times before the sun is fully up.” And yet Jesus wants to eat this meal with Peter, and it's not just Peter is it? Matthew tells us that all of the disciples abandon Him that night, every last one of them. In His hour of need, He was absolutely alone. And He says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you”?
Jesus knows your heart. He knows that sin about which you would bear the most shame and humiliation possible were it ever known and which you have worked so hard so that no one else will know. He knows that sin. He knows corners of your heart that you don't know. And yet He says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this meal with you.” You have no idea how much Jesus loves you; you really don't.
I have earnestly desired to eat this meal with you before I suffer
He's not done yet. Still verse 15 — “I have earnestly desired to eat this meal with you before I suffer.” How kind is Jesus? He's once again, for how many times has He done this, but once again right here in the upper room He's indicating, “I know what's about to happen to Me. What is about to happen to Me is not an accident. I'm not about to be a victim. I'm not about to be under the control of the chief priests and the scribes. I'm not about to be under the control of Pilate and the Roman government. They’re not in control; I know what's coming. No man takes My live from Me. I lay it down. I know I'm about to suffer. I want to eat this meal with you before I suffer.” Now again, the disciples don't understand that tonight and some of them don't understand it for three days and some of them don't understand it for seven days, but eventually you understand, they’re standing around in this upper room again a week later and they start thinking, “Wait a second. He said that He was going to suffer. He knew this was coming. He tried to tell us. We didn't see it coming. He knew this was going to happen.” In His kindness, Jesus is preparing their hearts. He wants them to know that God is on the throne, that God will use the stratagems of Satan, the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, the abandonment of the apostles, the brutality of the Romans, He’ll use it all for His glory because Jesus was born to die. He came to suffer. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't something God overlooked. It was the plan of the loving Father because the loving Father said, “The only way they can be forgiven is if someone bears their sins.” And Jesus says, “Father, I want to bear their sins.”
I want you to think about that for a minute. You just think for a moment about the things that you most want no one to know about you, the shame, the disgrace, the sin, the humiliation that you most want no one to know. Christian, your Savior said to the Father, “I want to bear that sin for her. I want to bear that sin for him.” He wanted to bear that sin. He chose to bear that for you. Nobody made Him bear that for you. He wanted to do that for you, but it says “He who knew no sin became sin. He drew that in to Himself as close as He could draw it to Himself. He said, “I’ll bear that sin. I want to.” And He tells His disciples ahead of time because when they come to their senses and when the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, He wants them to say, “I remember He told us this ahead of time! He told us that this was exactly what was going to happen, that this is exactly what He was going to do, and this is exactly what it means.”
This is My body given for you
And that's what we understand when we get to verse 19 because Jesus in verse 19 stands up and does something that no Jewish father had ever done at a Passover meal, not for fourteen hundred and forty-four years. He takes a loaf of bread, He breaks it, He distributes it, and He says words that have never been uttered at a Passover meal before. “This is My body given for you. Take, eat, do this in remembrance of Me.” What's He doing? Did Jesus mean the disciples to think that His body had magically gotten into the bread or that the bread was magically somehow His body? No, He's standing there! He's standing there saying, “This is My body.” What would they have thought? They would have immediately thought of the Passover. The lamb's taste was still in their mouth and what does the father say at the Passover meal when they take the unleavened bread? The father says what? He says, “This is the bread of the affliction of my people in the wilderness.” Now everybody who had ever taken the Passover meal since the first Passover knew that the bread that was being distributed at that Passover was not the bread of the affliction of the people as they were in the desert but it represented that, it symbolized that, it recalled that, it pointed to that. It was designed to call us our remembrance of the way God provided for His children in the wilderness. And so immediately they go, “Oh, He's saying that this bread represents something. What does it represent?” Listen to what He says, “This is My body which is given for you.”
Now two things come to mind immediately. First, what are the constituent parts of a sacrifice of atonement in the temple? You read about them in Hebrews 10 this morning. The body of an animal sacrificed and the blood. The body and the blood are the two parts of a covenant sacrifice in the temple of atonement. The body is slaughtered, is lain on the altar, and the blood is sprinkled on the altar and on the people. And when Jesus says, “This is My body,” He's saying, “I am a sacrifice for sin. My death tomorrow is going to be a sacrifice for sin.” And He's saying more than that. He's saying, “I'm the one real sacrifice that all the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to. I'm it!” Notice He doesn't say, “This is the body, this is a body — this is My body. I am the sacrifice that you've been waiting on.”
And the other thing that pops into our minds is something that Isaiah had said over six hundred years before this happened. You remember? Turn with me to Isaiah 53 and look at verse 4. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore — This is My body given for you — Our sorrows He carried — This is My body given for you.” Verse 5 — “He was pierced for our transgressions — This is My body given for you — He was crushed for our iniquities — This is My body given for you — The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him — This is My body given for you — By His scourging we are healed — This is My body given for you — All of us like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him — This is My body given for you.” “I am the substitute! I am the sacrifice! Tomorrow when you see Me hanging from a cross, the very symbol of Roman dominion and oppression, I will not be the victim of Roman occupation; I will be the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. I will be the substitute for your sins. I will bear your sins. That's what I'm doing tomorrow.”
You know what that is? It's the Gospel! Those words, that meal, it's the Gospel in visible display. “Me for you; My body for you; My life for yours; My death for you. I’ll bear your iniquity; you’ll receive My Father's blessings on Me and I want to do it for you. And I know exactly what you’re like.” You really don't have any idea how much Jesus loves you; you really don't.
Lord, our souls need this truth, so by Your Spirit, work the Word deep into our hearts and souls, in Jesus' name, amen.
Now would you take your hymnals out and turn with me to number 422. We’re only going to sing the first three stanzas but we're going to be singing a poetic recounting of the very passage we've just read, so may the Lord bless it to your own souls as we do so – 422.
Before we receive the Lord's benediction, let me just remind our congregation, including our new members, we have a congregational meeting immediately after the service is over. Our visitors, our guests, are welcome to make your way out during the final response of the choir and then the officer election managers will come in and begin distributing ballots. Let me apologize to our visitors and guests, we're normally more friendly than this. One we get these elections done we’ll go back to greeting you after the service and spending time welcoming you into our midst.
Receive God's blessing. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Christ. Amen. Please be seated.