Now, I’m a theology guy. I want us to understand what good theology is and where it comes from. And when I read the Bible, I look for theological insights in the text that I can apply to myself, my life, and the lives of people around me.
Here’s the funny thing, though. The Bible wasn’t written as a theology textbook, or a book of ready-made answers for me to cut and paste into my experience. A lot of the time, biblical texts take the form of narratives — stories of God’s dealings with his people. There are definitely insights for us to glean from those stories, but not before we take the time to enter into those stories. What does that mean? Well, entering into biblical stories means trying to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who are involved in the stories themselves. It’s really easy to read the stories from the perspective of somebody who has the benefit of two thousand years of history — or more — plus a well-developed tradition of theological reflection on the passages we’re reading.
But here’s the kicker. The people in the stories didn’t have the benefit of what we know, and they didn’t have the benefit of thinking about what they were experiencing in hindsight — at least not at the time the events of the story were unfolding. So, I want us to walk through the passage together and think about some things that might have occurred to us if we were close to the apostles as the events leading up to the Last Supper were happening.
Thing I noticed comes in the first couple of verses, in Luke 22 verses 7 & 8. Here we read that Jesus sent some of the disciples ahead to prepare the Passover meal in Jerusalem. Now, that might not seem like an earth-shattering observation, but it is important. We often read these details in light of the end of the story, which we already know. We have to remember that this was a time of serious turmoil. The disciples had to know that stuff was going on. Jesus certainly was aware of the plot that was unfolding against him. I can easily imagine that the tension around Jesus and his 12 disciples was palpable.
It’s a curious thing that good habits sometimes fall by the wayside in extraordinary or difficult circumstances. I know I’m not imagining things because a number of years ago, Bill Hybels even wrote a book about it, entitled Too Busy Not to Pray. Whatever we may think about Bill Hybels now, I think he made an important observation about our habits of Christian discipleship that we need to heed.
Jesus, on the other hand, recognized the importance of maintaining habits of spiritual discipline. Specifically, he is attentive to the importance of observing the Passover celebration in commemoration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt.I think at least two reasons why this is important. First, the Redemptive work Jesus came to do was connected to God’s covenant relations with his people Israel as described in the Old Testament. Jesus was not rejecting what God has done in the past. Second, observing what we now call The Last Supper in the context of the Passover meal cemented the connection between the Passover sacrifice and Jesus the sacrificial lamb of God for Jewish believers who would have understood what this meant immediately. What’s the takeaway? Jesus meets people where they’re at.