The Last Supper Memorial Thoughts 2012

Mar 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Special Features (click on Article name)

This is an abridged account of the Passover Memorial celebration with suggestions of what took place considering the Jewish traditions of the time.  (Based on information from “Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim)  

“With desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I say to you, that I will not eat of it until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  Luke 22:15-16 

The Passover meal was the last sustenance that Jesus partook of before his death.  He went forward in the strength of that meal of deliverance, fulfilling its meaning as the Lamb of God in every respect, until his testing time was completed.  May the strength we absorb from this simple feast he instituted empower us to go forward in this “new year” (Exodus 12:2) to faithfully face and embrace our testing and challenges as we remember him.  With awe and gratitude that we can walk this way together with Christ,     Joy.

Jesus eyes scanned the brown and weathered faces of the men he had grown to love with fatherly and sometimes playful attachment.  He raised the traditional first cup to heaven with both hands and repeated the traditional prayer.

“Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who has created the fruit of the Vine.  Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Who hast chosen us for Thy service from among the nations…Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who hast kept us in life, Who hast preserved us, and hast enabled us to reach this season.”  (Psalm 66:8-10)  After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  Luke 22:17-18  (These verses precede the Memorial cup and bread, and so seems to refer to the traditional first cup of the Passover service.)

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.  John 15:16  NIV His unfailing love proved faithful during their three and one half years together, and that love that would continue faithful in the darkness and chaos of the hours and years to come.  He desired to equip them for the difficult times ahead.  He saw clearly the authority that would be his, for the Father had put all things in his hands.  He knew who he was, sent by God and soon to return to His presence.  He was ready to show the full extent of his love by serving in the lowest of ways, as well as in his mighty use of resurrection power soon to come.  John 13:3  And so he rose. Slowly and deliberately  he removed his cloak and his tunic, as a slave would have done, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  The splash of water as it was poured into a large copper basin was the only sound heard in the silent room, as every eye fastened on the Master.  They watched, sensing he was about to do something quite different than the traditional washing of hands.  He knelt by each disciple’s feet, washed them, and then dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  John 13:5-12

The washing of hands ceremony in the traditional Passover was done by the Head of the company, and served to distinguish the Head as the one in authority, (Edersheim 818)perhaps as the one who was the teacher and source of purification.  Jesus transformed this tradition to convey the humble use of authority and distinguished ‘greatness’ as the willingness to do the littlest and most menial service in love.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”  Uneasy eyes gazed from the Master to the floor.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Since you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”   John 13:13-17

“For which is greater, he that reclines (at the table) or he that serves?  Is it not the one who reclines at the table?  But I am in the midst of you as he that serves.”  Luke 22:27  The menial slave is generally considered insignificant because his job is to serve.  But this night, Jesus, as their Master, sanctified the role of a servant to show that greatness is love reflected in willing service.

He spoke of the power they would one day share because of the great love and loyalty that would be developed in their hearts.  He spoke of a resurrection power that would be exercised to serve all people in love.  “But you are they who have continued with me in my temptations.  And I appoint to you, as my Father appointed to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and may drink at my table in my kingdom, and may sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Luke 22:28-30

Jesus as the Head of the Company dipped some bitter herbs into vinegar, spoke another blessing, and then handed a serving to each one at the table.  Then, according to the tradition of the time, he broke the large unleavened cake in half, set aside one piece and raised the other broken cake. “This is the bread of misery which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt.  All that are hungry, come and eat; all that are needy, come, keep the Pascha.”  He poured a second cup of wine, at which point the youngest of the group, probably John, may have asked the traditional question, “What is the meaning of this night?” followed by a discussion of the Passover symbolism.  Jesus may have raised the second cup to the heavens, prayed aloud, and then Psalm 113 and 114 were read, songs that celebrated the deliverance of the barren woman Israel and all the nations of the earth.

Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD…

            The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens…

            He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

            He seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.

            He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.

           Praise the LORD.  Psalm 113 

The God of Israel knows how to deliver the oppressed. 

          When Israel came out of Egypt,

           the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,

            Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

            The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back;

            You mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs…

            Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

            at the presence of the God of Jacob,

            Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water. Psalm 114 

No obstacle is beyond the power of Your delivering power. The day will come when all will tremble in awe at Your deliverance and sustaining power on behalf of Your people, natural and spiritual Israel and finally on behalf of all the families of the earth.

Jesus may have raised the second cup a third time, prayed aloud, and passed it among his disciples.  He suddenly became agitated and troubled.  “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”  Matthew 26:20-21; Luke 22:21

The room grew quiet as the disciples stared at each other, trying to fathom the meaning of their Master’s words.  Who among them could do such a thing?  The concrete statement that one of the twelve reclined at this table would betray the Son of Man created turmoil and sadness as each one looked into the face of their Teacher and whispered, “Is it me, Lord?”  “Is it me?”  Luke 22:22-23; Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19

Jesus took the sop, the lamb and bitter herbs wrapped in unleavened bread, dipped it in vinegar and predictably handed it to Judas, who had taken the seat of honor.

“Is it me, Teacher?”  Matthew 26:23-25

“It is one of the Twelve,” Jesus replied. “It is one who dips bread into the bowl with me…” Mk 14:20, Jn 13:26

Jesus leaned slightly backward, so that he could address Judas quietly to his face. “Yes, it is you,” he said softly with sadness in his voice.  Matthew 26:25 The color drained from Judas face as he realized that his teacher knew what he was about to do.  A renewed wave of irritation and greed swept over his heart, and he sat upright, preparing to leave.

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him.  The disciples whispered to one another when they heard Jesus words.  “He must be sending him to buy provisions for the Feast,” one after another commented.  “It makes sense because he has charge of the money,” said another.

Judas rose and left abruptly.  And it was night.  John 13:27-30  (Judas left the upper room after taking the sop from Jesus. The sop was part of the Passover Meal, and so it is reasonable to conclude that Judas left before Jesus instituted the Memorial.)

The atmosphere in the upper room lightened after Judas had gone.  Judas betrayal was part of the imminent unfolding of God’s plan and the glory to the Father that would result.  Jesus expressed that faithfulness in every respect would bring glory to the Father as he would face his remaining hours of life.  Even the approaching ignominy and humiliation would bring glory to God.  The resurrection glory would come quickly. “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.”  John 13:31-32

Perhaps it was at this juncture toward the end of the Passover supper that Jesus took bread, the remaining half of the unleavened cake that had been set aside.  Diverting from tradition, he gave thanks, and passed the bread to each of his disciples, saying, “Take and eat.  This is my body given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

Jesus filled the third Cup at the close of the supper and prayed a blessing over it.  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you {to drink}. (?)  Luke 22:20  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for {the} many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Matthew 26:28-29

This was the third time that Jesus stated he would not partake until fulfillment.  He ate of the Passover supper but stated in Luke 22:15-16 that he would not eat of it again until its fulfillment in the Kingdom.  The second time, at the raising of the first traditional cup, he stated he would abstain from drinking wine until the Kingdom.  Luke 22:17-18  The third and final time, when he instituted the profound meaning of the bread and the wine, he stated there would be a new celebration with them in Kingdom glory.  Matthew 26:28-29  To choose to abstain from drinking of these cups would grab the attention of his followers as very unusual.  He deliberately emphasized that this Passover Supper and Memorial-remembrance of his sacrifice pictured far reaching future realities.  Beyond the darkness of this night and the atrocities of the days to come, beyond the dark times of the Gospel Age testing, refinement and persecution, there was a grander higher hope.  This was not the last Passover or the Last Memorial.  There would be a future grand celebration with Jesus himself when the deliverance of the Passover Lamb and the emblems would bring about the reality of life and highest blessing for all.

Jesus warned his companions of the short time he had left with them, and Peter insisted that wherever he went he would follow, and that he was willing to die for him.

“Simon, Simon,” Jesus responded in a quiet voice, addressing Peter by his old name which was meant to remind him of his vulnerability.  “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Peter’s reply was obstinate.  “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

“Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, Peter, before the rooster crows today you will deny three times that you know me.  Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

After giving them the assurances of John 14 that he would not abandon them, but rather equip them through the power of the holy spirit and through the power of his peace, it was time for them to leave the safety and sanctity of the upper room.

“Rise up, let us leave.”  John 14:31

The group stood, and sang a hymn from the Hallel, from Psalm 116-118.  Mark 14:26

His determination was strong to fulfill his vow to do His Father’s will.  He was motivated by the goodness of God and the knowledge that the Father esteemed his sacrifice as precious in His sight.

How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

O LORD, truly I am your servant;

I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;

You have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD—in your midst, O Jerusalem. 

Psalm 116:12-14, 19

 He rejoiced in the time when all the human family would finally praise the Father, resurrected and healed from their unbelief and blindness.

Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Psalm 117:1-2

 He trusted in the sureness of his deliverance.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: his love endures forever.

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?

The LORD is with me; he is my helper.

I will look in triumph on my enemies.  Psalm 118:1, 5-7

He saw the future conversion of his people Israel.  They would mourn the one they pierced.  They would say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.’  He saw the time when they would finally see the blessing that God bestowed upon them through His Son. And he rejoiced in the willing surrender of their lives to the Father, a foretaste of the surrender and blessing of all the peoples of the earth.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord.

From the house of the LORD we bless you.

The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us.

With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession

Up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give you thanks;

You are my God, and I will exalt you. 

Give thanks to the LORD,

for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:22-29

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:26


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