God’s Word for You
Luke 22:15-16 until it is fulfilled
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 20, 2019
15 And he said to them, “I have very much desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
This passage should be taken at its simplest. If we don’t do that, we will end up understanding nothing from it at all. At the risk of being obvious, the text tells us that “he said to them,” and this is what Luke means: Jesus was speaking to his beloved disciples. He said: “I have very much (or “earnestly”) desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” and this is what Luke means. The question about the adverb “earnestly” or “eagerly” comes from the fact that Luke’s Greek text combines a noun with its verb, “with a desire I desired,” which is the Hebrew way of saying “I desired very much.” Having desired this meal, he was going to eat it with them. If Jesus did not eat the meal with them (as some claim), the Gospel writers would have told us so in clear words.
Jesus goes on to say, “For I tell you….” This is a phrase using the particle gar (γὰρ) to show an explanation. He is telling them why he desired to eat this meal with them so much. Why did he desire this so eagerly? Because, he says, “I will not eat it (again) until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” From this we learn the following:
Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples before he introduced the Lord’s Supper. This was what Luther calls the “farewell drink” (Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, LW 37 p. 317), when Jesus consumed the Jewish Passover for the last time. It was not merely the last time Jesus would eat the Passover, but the last time his disciples or anyone in the world would ever eat the true Passover. The next meal that resembled the Passover would be its fulfillment: The Lord’s Supper, the true Passover.
The former Passover had two functions. First, it commemorated the rescue of God’s people from Egypt and their bondage to slavery under the Egyptians. Second, it prefigured the rescue of all mankind from their bondage to sin and slavery under the devil. The slaughter of the Passover lamb merely pointed ahead to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Therefore, when Jesus says, “I will not eat it (the Passover) until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” he is talking about his approaching crucifixion but more especially the end fulfillment when his sacrifice will mean the resurrection of all believers into eternal life. The wine of the Passover will be replaced by a new fruit of the vine: Wine which brings with it the blood of Christ, the gospel in the sacrament. The bread of the Passover will be replaced by a new bread: Bread which brings with it the body of Christ, the gospel in the sacrament. Just as the people consumed the sacrificed lamb, people will now consume the sacrificed Messiah through the miracle of the Sacrament.
Does this mean that Jesus will eat the Lord’s Supper with us in heaven, in the kingdom of God? Professor Hoenecke warns that it is a mistake to say that this passage “could not be speaking of the kingdom of glory” (that is, heaven, Ev. Lutheran Dogmatics, Vol. IV p. 298). Many Christians have qualms about thinking of heaven as a place where we will eat and drink. They have been led to believe that a glorified human body will not need any sustenance. But the Bible frequently mentions eating and drinking in heaven:
“They feast on the abundance of your house, you give them drink from your river of delights” (Psalm 36:8).
“On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).
“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 14:15).
“‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb,’ and he added, ‘These are the true words of God’” (Revelation 19:9).
Can there be those who are uncomfortable with the thought of Jesus Christ eating the Lord’s Supper, since it is his own flesh and blood that are being consumed? The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament which does more than remember Jesus’ sacrifice. It strengthens faith (1 Peter 2:24-25), it offers and gives the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28), neither of which are needed by Jesus. But the Lord’s Supper is also an expression of fellowship and unity: “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). This is something Jesus will display in many ways in eternity, to his glory and to the glory of God the Father. And just as he was baptized to join with us in our baptism (for surely Jesus did not need to wash away his sins), so also he joins with us in the Lord’s Supper, the true Passover, in the life of the world to come.
Pastor Timothy Smith