Luke’s account of the Last Supper is interesting for its brevity. In such a brief account, two main themes seem to emerge; in this first part, the main theme is His sacrifice, in the balance of the narrative, it is their trails and roles in the Kingdom.
Luke begins with a brief account of the arrangements for the Passover meal (22:7-13) and then the hour came for them to sit down together. Notice that Luke refers to them as “apostles” for the first time in 22:14 as they sit down at the table; it was only a few verses earlier (22:11) that they were still called “disciples”.
Jesus opens with an interesting personal observation:
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (22:15-16)
He was eager to eat the Passover meal with them one more time, for everything was about to change; there would be no more Passover dinners with Jesus. Some might suggest that this means we will have Passover in the Kingdom, but notice that He didn’t say that here; He said that the symbolic sacrifice of the Passover would be fulfilled.
That is something quite different.
Unlike other accounts of this event, Luke has Jesus taking the cup first and the bread second. Why he did this, I cannot say; I’ve read some scholarly essays on the question over the years, but I haven’t been convinced by any of them. I’ll only say here that I find it curious…
Notice that when Jesus takes the cup and divides it among them and tells them that He will not partake of the “fruit of the vine” again until the Kingdom of God comes. Then of course, He takes the bread and tells them that it represents His body which is to be given for them.
After the meal, He again takes the cup and tells them that it is His blood of the new covenant which is “poured out for you”. In these snippets we have the exact nature of the New Covent, which is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham represented in the Passover sacrifice. To put little differently, in less than 24 hours from this moment, Jesus will perform the sacrifice that the Passover lamb put off and the need for any further sacrifice will be eliminated forever. Jesus’ sacrifice will indeed be the last and final sacrifice under the Old Covenant which will immediately be rendered obsolete by the New.
Amazingly, Jesus kept right on talking…
But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. (22:21-23)
He’s just dropped the biggest theological bombshell of all time on the apostles, something they have never yet come close to comprehending, and then turns their attention to the fact that among their number is the man who will very shortly betray Him into the hands of those who will kill Him. This leaves a question: When the betrayal takes place, will the remaining apostles connect the dots?
Naturally, the guys being the guys, they begin to dispute among themselves who the traitor could possibly be… and which one of them is the greatest as we will see in the next part of Luke’s narrative.