Obligations. This is not an exciting word. We often see obligations as a burden to be shed for exciting opportunities of self-fulfillment. In Luke 22:1–23, though, “opportunity” is negative and obligations are positive! Judas Iscariot and the religious leaders see an “opportunity” (22:6) to fulfill their desires (22:1–6), but Jesus fulfills his obligations, since “the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed” (22:7; cf. 7–13) and “the Son of Man goes as it has been determined” (22:22). Nevertheless Jesus desires to fulfill his obligations because he puts the purposes of the kingdom of God before his own self-fulfillment, anticipating the kingdom to come (22:15–16). How can we see obligations as opportunities? Jesus invites us into joy-filled obligations as we anticipate the kingdom of God (22:14–18), sustained by his broken body (22:19) in the inauguration of his new covenant (22:20).
Jesus anticipates the kingdom (22:14–18). Unlike the first Passover which was eaten standing in haste to flee Egypt, later Passovers were eaten reclining in remembrance of what has been accomplished. Yet this posture of reclining does not suggest passivity; Jesus earn estly desired to eat this Passover with his disciples (22:15), and he eagerly anticipates the fulfillment of this Passover in the Kingdom of God (22:16). There is a decidedly forward-looking posture to this meal, and every time the church celebrates this, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
Until the coming of Jesus though, we are sustained by his broken body (22:19). Jesus takes the unleavened bread that symbolizes the haste with which Israel originally left Egypt. Yet he reinterprets this image, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.” His body is broken, destroyed upon a cross, “for you.” He “became a curse for us” (Gal 3:13), as “God demonstrated his love for us” when Christ “died for us” (Rom 5:8). This was for us. And we are sustained by this gift for us.
Even as we are sustained by Jesus’ broken body, we step into the inauguration of the new covenant (Luke 22:20). Just as the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb inaugurated the Mosaic covenant (Exod 24:8), so the blood of Jesus inaugurates a new covenant by his blood. We step into a new covenant, a new set of relationships, a new opportunity to engage with and grow in the true and living God.
So what? The obligation to “do this in remembrance of me” (22:19) is an opportunity to step into the kingdom. Jesus calls us to anticipate the kingdom, sustained by his broken body and living in the reality of his new covenant. May we live in the new kingdom reality that Jesus has inaugurated by his death and resurrection.