1997-07-24 - The Last Supper
The Cross Series, Part 2
The events of The Last Supper are usually set for Thursday. I don't want to argue timetables here. It is the events that are more important to this discussion. If you have a differing opinion on the timing, I am not dogmatic about it. I intend to follow Luke's account primarily. Luke was a physician, and his account has some medical details that are important.
On the previous day, Judas Iscariot had made a secret agreement with the chief priests, to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. If these were denarii, it would come to about 5 weeks' pay. It could obviously be much more. We are informed by the text that the enemy entered into Judas. This indicates that Judas was not a believer. He was probably motivated by the political power that the Messiah that the Jews expected, might bring. Perhaps he expected to force Jesus' hand and have him take the throne of David and throw off the Roman oppression. It was not the plan of the ages (Rev 13:8). The price given to Judas was the price of a slave.
Exodus 21:32 "If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
This was to make reparations for the loss of the slave to the owner. Property had been lost, amends had to be made.
There is a tremendous theological question that will probably never quite be answered until we can ask Jesus Himself. How much of His deity did He lay aside to come and live with us? There is no doubt that it is significant indeed, and that He lowered Himself tremendously in His great love for us. As the disciples walked with Jesus, He showed them various things that gave them glimpses of His power and authority. He calmed the storm, healed many sick, raised the dead to life again, fed thousands from a child's lunch box. Here the Lord once again assures His followers of Who He is.
Luke 22:8-13 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." 9 And they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare it?" 10 And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you, carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 "And you shall say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 12 "And he will show you a large, furnished, upper room; prepare it there." 13 And they departed and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
Men did not fetch water unless there were seriously mitigating circumstances. This was a woman's job in a very patriarchal society. It was not unheard of, but rare. Peter and John asked a question, and the Lord answered it in predictive fashion to the detail of what would be said, and when they would be given opportunity to ask the owner to use His room for the Passover.
Peter was older than John, and had probably taken a Lamb to the Temple before. John was younger and may not have. John was the beloved disciple of the book of John. Young John had been a disciple of John the Baptist, who had sent them to follow Jesus when He had been baptized. John was already a seeker, and that probably made their relationship as student and teacher unique. Jesus had made it very clear to the group in Bethany that He was going to die, and how, and soon. Seeing the Lamb's throat slit, and the blood drained into a golden bowl as it's life ebbed away, may have had a powerful impact on young John. This could easily have been just another way that Jesus was preparing John for what was coming.
John and Peter would have then taken the Lamb back to the room to prepare it and the rest of the Passover meal. There are many wonderful symbols there as well. The bitter herbs, unleavened bread and charoseth sauce among others. Jesus, according to tradition, would arrive last, as the host of the meal.
Luke 22:14-16 And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
At this point John records Jesus' washing the disciples feet. They have acknowledged Him as God. Perhaps to rattle their preset images of deity, and their positions in the future as they will become the leaders of the fledgling church. Can anyone imagine the Pharisees doing this? Jesus inverts the leadership that He teaches, and indicates that they must lead by example and serve each other. How hard it is for us to serve even those who we see as on our level. But Jesus was clearly their Leader. And yet, He removed the towel He had covered Himself with, to wash the dusty feet of the twelve, including Judas. This was truly the menial job of a servant, and yet Jesus did not hide behind either His station as Host of the feast, or Lord of the Universe. Which of us can not understand Peter's objection? Jesus did. He graciously corrected Peter twice without rebuke. Again, Jesus was leading by example, to Peter whose temper and emotions had yet to be harnessed.
Matthew and Mark both refer to Jesus' pointing Judas out to John, and perhaps to Peter, as Jesus' betrayer. Both also indicate that this was before the institution of the Lord's Supper. Judas was dismissed from the table, with only Peter and John probably knowing that Judas was the betrayer. Luke makes it clear in vs. 21-22 that Judas remained for the institution, but not long after. Jesus is still reaching out to Judas, even at this point. Here again, Jesus warns his friends that He is about to suffer and indicates that it will be very soon. For this part of the meal, the Master may have moved to the seat reserved for Elijah, but it is not certain. This would be very significant in the Jewish mind. I hope that Rick will one day do this point justice.
The Lord then takes the cup of wine and a loaf of bread and institutes what we know as Communion today, the beautiful, powerful reminders of the suffering of Jesus for our sakes. He tells the apostles how much He has waited for this day to come. I can imagine that it is a bittersweet moment for Him. As the cup and the bread are passed and He describes the meaning of the symbols, the suffering that is waiting in the wings for Him must be becoming very real to Him. Again, in a very vivid picture of wine and bread for blood and flesh, the Lord is preparing those close to Him for what is about to happen. Those images may be diminished today by the use of small plastic cups and little square or wafers of bread. If you have never participated in a common cup Communion, I urge you to ask your minister to have one.
Why flesh and blood? His flesh indicates Jesus' humanity. We are told that He was tempted in every way as we are tempted, and yet sin never had a place to grab hold of Him. His sinless life, spotless, would be a requirement to be the Passover Lamb of God. The wine for His blood reminds us of the terrible price sin requires. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Only blood is the price God will accept as an atonement. Our lives are not perfect, and that would make our sacrifice unacceptable. We could do nothing to reach out to God for salvation. He had to do it all for us. Jesus' perfect sacrifice was once for all time. There is never a need to call Him back to the cross. Every sin past, present and future was covered forever by His sacrifice.
Romans 6:8-10 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
With the power of sin destroyed by the perfect Passover Lamb, sin would no longer separate us from God. Our spirits are made alive again when we accept this sacrifice for sin as our own. Jesus makes it available to us for the asking. If you would like to know more, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.We would love to help answer your questions and lead you to meet the Messiah Jesus.
We will pick up here next week, Lord willing.
Lord Jesus, there is so very much packed into these few chapters. Please give us patience and insight as we move forward looking into the simple, direct lessons You have played out and discussed for us. Keep us mindful of Your love for all of us as we step through these few days, and the ways You prepared Your disciples then for things and You prepare us today. Help us to see how deeply You reached down to pull us up from death to life. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.