“...Just as he told them.”
Jesus always seems to have an eye on the future. Some might call him “forward-looking” or even “visionary”. He says something will happen, and it does. Just like he says. It's the mark of a true prophet, and Jesus is the prophet of all prophets.
For some time, he had been predicting that he would be taken by his enemies in Jerusalem, tried, convicted, suffer, and die. And also rise again on the third day. And all of this was about to happen, just as he told them.
Speaking of rising from the dead, he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. He had gotten word that Lazarus was sick, and rather than rushing to his bedside, Jesus lingered. “This illness won't end in death.” But two days later, he tells them, “Lazarus is dead. But he's only sleeping. I go to wake him up. And I'm glad this happened, for your sake, and for the glory of God.” And so, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and called his shot even before doing it.
His entry into Jerusalem at the time of this great passover feast was no accident. The buzz about his raising of Lazarus whipped the crowds into a Hosanna frenzy. The air was electric with Messianic fervor. If the people didn't cry out, the stones would have. And Jesus knew it all. He even knew where the exact donkey was – so that he would ride on, ride on in majesty, ride on in lowly pomp to die.
And now it was time for the Passover meal. The Last Supper, a poignant and intimate meal with his closest friends. One last time before the bitter task ahead. And true to form, Jesus knows, he sees the future - “follow the man with the jar, he'll take you to a large upper room, furnished and ready.”
And so they found everything, “just as he told them”. With Jesus, it's always “just as he tells you.”
The problem with you and I is that we don't always take Jesus at his word. Apart from the out-and-out breaking of his law, which we do in many and various ways. Apart from the sins of omission, those things we should be doing but aren't and don't. Apart from sins of word and sins of thought. We also lack faith and trust in his promises of Gospel. Can this really be for me? Are my sins really forgiven? Even mine? Does a little wafer and a swig of wine really do all of that? Is this really Jesus, here, for me? Oh you, oh we of little faith. Things are always the way Jesus says they are, and will be. Even when what you see or hear says otherwise. For eyeballs and eardrums can lie and deceive, but the incarnate Word of God does not.
In the second part of this passage, Jesus also tells them a little about this meal they are eating. The Passover. A yearly celebration for observant Jews with which these disciples would be largely very familiar. But it seems they didn't get the whole picture just yet. Jesus tells them this meal had to be “fulfilled”. Yes, the meal itself is a sign pointing to something greater.
Long ago, in the Exodus, God rescued the people from slavery in Egypt. He delivered them from their hard labor, from a wicked Pharaoh, and bitter persecution. God sent plague after plague and finally the death of the firstborn of Egypt. But he prescribed a sacrifice, a lamb without spot or blemish, whose blood on the doorposts marked each Jewish household to be spared from the destroyer. Each year, the Israelites would relive this event, rehearse its details, in order to remember God's great deliverance... but also... in anticipation of the final deliverer, the Messiah who was to come. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, as John the Baptist would describe him.
In Jesus, this Passover is fulfilled. He is the great “aha!” to the year in and year out observance of this feast. He is its end, what it was always driving toward. And tomorrow he will meet the destruction he has set his face toward. Tomorrow the Lamb's Blood will be on the cross-timbers. Tomorrow the one without spot or blemish will take on all spots and blemishes to make us free of all spots and blemishes. Friday, he comes to set free all those in bondage to sin, to destroy the destroyer, and to proclaim once and for all, “It is finished”. It will be the great fulfillment. And it will be, like all things, just as he says.
So when does he eat this passover with them again? What is this great fulfillment? Is it the cross itself? Is it the sacrament he now institutes? Or is it the final feast at the second coming, the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which has no end? The answer, of course, is yes. They are all connected. They are all part of the same great deliverance that comes in Christ, who fulfills the kingdom of God.
In this meal, you are connected to his cross. 1 Corinthians teaches us, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” In other words, the same body and blood that was sacrificed there is given to you to eat and drink. The same Lamb of God that was sacrificed for you, is now given to you for the forgiveness of your sins. Just as Jesus says.
In this meal, you are connected to that final consummation. This is a foretaste of the feast to come, when we with all the saints and angels sing his eternal praises in glory. Just as the Passover pointed forward, so does the sacrament point us forward, to the promises of Christ that still remain.
In Luke's account of the Last Supper, he doesn't use the words “forgiveness of sins”. We see those words in the other accounts. But in Luke Jesus does make it clear that this is is “for you”. This, my body, is given for you. This cup is my blood, poured out for you. And the “for you”, just like all of Jesus' words, should be understood just as he says them. For. You. This blessed meal is not for his own glory or benefit. You're not doing Jesus any favors by coming to his table.
Nor is this meal for some person who really truly deserves it. The “real Christians” or the “true believers”. No, its for sinners. And if you're a sinner, it's for you. It's Jesus, for you. And he is truly worthy to receive who has faith in these words, “given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins”.
He is the New Covenant in that he fulfills the Old Covenant. And the New Covenant is sealed with and bound up in his blood. That blood shed at the cross, that washes away sin in its holy tide of grace. That blood more precious than silver or gold, but free-er than the sunshine. Poured out, for you. Just like he says.
All of what Jesus does and says is for you. From his conception and birth. To his baptism and fasting. His teaching and healing. And especially his suffering and dying and rising. He does it for you. For your benefit and good, he takes all detriment and evil. For your forgiveness he bears sin. And for your life he swallows death whole.
So come this day, to this meal, where all has been made ready. Come to receive the one who was and is and always will be “for you.” Come and eat and drink his true body and true blood. And by it receive what you need most – forgiveness, life, salvation. Come partake in the great Passover, fulfilled in Christ, flowing from the cross, and with the promise of a feast yet to come. Come and eat and drink and live. It's Jesus, for you. Just like he says. Amen.