It must have been sobering for those two disciples, Peter & John, when Jesus sent them off to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus could have just given an address for the house but instead he tells them they would meet a man and should follow where he would go – and it happened that way, just as he said. And more, that there they should ask for the little guest room but instead the owner would show them something much better than that: a large upper room, private, beautiful, furnished and ready – and it happened that way, just as he said. They were left to follow Jesus’ word, to look for what he foretold. And everything was just as Jesus said so that his disciples could make ready to share fellowship with their Lord. And tonight it is no different. Tonight again we find everything is just as Jesus said so that we can make ready to commune with him too.
So listen to what Jesus says to his disciples first – to help us understand how we get to eat with him in the first place. He says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Why this one? He’d celebrated many Passovers surely, so it probably wasn’t just that Jewish longing for Passover – to commemorate God making them his nation, breaking them out of Egypt, when they painted lamb’s blood on their doorposts to escape death. But Jesus isn’t being nostalgic as a Jew here. It might be a bit like Easter brunch with family – longing for camaraderie with disciples he’ll soon leave behind. No, it’s not just these. There’s something greater going on here and it’s this: Jesus is celebrating this last meal before the new kingdom.
Jesus knew that “fulfillment in the kingdom of God” was coming – finally at Judgment Day it would arrive, but from Good Friday until then, you might say that Jesus would rule in a new way. Passover and animal sacrifices and purity laws and food regulations, the things that pointed ahead to the Savior’s work – they were the old way of operating as God’s children. Soon the Savior’s work would seal the “new” promise of God’s love. Jesus was going to make the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind and pay to take away our guilt and provide life with God. This covenant or promise would be sealed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. His blood painted on the beams of the cross, death would pass over us. Dead, he would rise to life again, that we might enjoy being completely safe under his rule, now and forever.
It’s this kind of kingdom work that is behind their Passover meal and our Communion. Really, in his work Jesus is preparing everything so that we can enjoy fellowship with him under his powerful rule. St. Paul will later say it like this, “the kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Or to be very simple about it, you could say that God’s kingdom is his rule in human hearts, ones in which the Holy Spirit has worked faith. These believers receive and know the truth that by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection they are righteous – free from sin’s guilt and punishment and holy; that they are at peace with God and have peace of mind and heart because he rules over death, world, and all things; and that finally he will bring them to perfectly experience that kingdom rule in the joy of heaven. You might say, everything is just as Jesus says here in this way: this is the last Passover meal before the new kingdom rule of God that Jesus is about to make certain and complete at the cross.
And, friends, he does not want you to forget that you are and will be under his rule in his kingdom as his people. So, by this Passover meal passing away, he brings a new meal for lasting remembrance. The new meal, of course, is the Sacrament of Holy Communion. A sacrament is a holy activity, one begun by our Lord in which he pairs his Word with earthly things to bring heavenly blessings. This meal is Jesus’ Word with the bread and wine he took during their Passover meal. He did it in this way: “This is my body given for you…This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
It’s tempting to think of these words how we would like or in some way that would satisfy our reason – to define this meal by what we can understand. Or maybe we tremble, trying to discern how and when what Jesus says could possibly work, and we worry that if we can’t reasonably figure it out that means sinning against Jesus. Put these things aside and remember that God doesn’t call us to understand how he does what he says. He calls us to be just like Peter and John: to understand what he says and to trust he will do it – for everything is always just as he says it is.
By eating and drinking this meal, you receive everything Jesus says he has done for you. In Holy Communion, Jesus replaces an old meal commemorating God’s power in work past, with a new meal filled with Christ’s powerful work, present now. As you eat this meal, Jesus miraculously brings his body and blood, given and poured out for you at the cross, to be present with the bread and wine here. He does that so that, eating it, you again and again receive the new covenant assurance his cross brings. By his power and work your sins are forgiven. By his perfection and payment you are made new in his righteousness. By his selfless death, salvation from sin, death, and devil are yours. By his rule over all things, you have peace. And by eating, these things are yours again and again, more and more, better and better.
Some of us have celebrated this meal thousands of times. And when we do it passes quickly. So don’t forget the word Jesus speaks to you in the middle. He says, “do this in remembrance of me.” The word Jesus uses, “in remembrance”, is less like a “memorial” and more like “refreshing our memory”. Maybe a bit like when your child asks about grandpa who’s in heaven and you break out the family photo album to smile over pictures of 70’s short shorts around the boat at the lake, or sepia Christmas memories in horrible sweaters. You refresh the memory and enjoy again things grandpa did – his significance for you. Tonight, friends, take and eat, take and drink, refreshing in your memory everything Jesus has done. At the cross he gave himself to fulfill every promise God has made so that you, by faith, might live under his rule. In communion you remember that in the best possible way by saying that you love what he has done and you want to receive it in whatever way he promises, every way he promises. In this way, you make a lasting remembrance of the Savior you love.
Come then, take and eat, take and drink – commune and share your fellowship with one another and with your Lord Jesus. He has made everything ready. And just as it is with everything else, so it is here, everything is just as Jesus said.