Matthew 26:1-5, 14-35
Mark 14:1-2, 10-31
The Lord’s Supper. For some churches, a weekly ritual; for others once a month or several times a year. Most of us have participated in the ceremony, and we may remember the Bible stories about this supper, but today I pray you will learn more about the meaning-within-a-meaning that is Communion.
Obviously, it was instituted by Jesus on the “night He was betrayed”. Did you know that this was one of the most sacred evenings for most Jews? But Jesus didn’t arrive in Jerusalem the night of Passover. He came five days earlier – the day that the sacrificial lamb was chosen, entering Jerusalem as the Lamb of God on “lamb selection day”.
When Jesus told Peter and John to “prepare the meal”, the task was not easy. They had to:
· Purchase the Passover lamb, making sure that it was without spot or blemish;
· Take the lamb to the place of sacrifice at the appointed time, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m.;
· Take the lamb to that upper room, roast it whole;
· Prepare the unleavened bread, bitter herbs, dates, apples, pomegranates, nuts, wine and charoseth for a group of 13;
· Prepare the ceremonial place settings, etc.
The Passover meal represents Jesus’ New Covenant, foretold in Isaiah 42:6, Jeremiah 31:31-33, and Ezekiel 11:19-20. Jesus instituted it during the Passover meal, which has seven major elements.
· Drinking a cup of red wine mixed with water
· Ceremonially washing hands which symbolizes the need for spiritual and moral cleansing
· Eating bitter herbs, symbolizing the Jews’ bondage in Egypt
· Drinking a second cup of wine. The head of the household explains Passover’s meaning.
· Singing part of the Hallel (for a review of the significance of the Hallel, see my previous post at http://readthroughthebiblechallenge.blogspot.com/2012/05/week-21-egyptian-hallel.html
· Serving the lamb and the unleavened bread. The bread represented the freedom received from bondage in Egypt. It reminded the Jews that they needed to separate themselves from the leaven of sin and worldliness, and return to a life of holiness and godliness. For the Christian, this bread now symbolizes Christ’s body broken for us.
· Drinking the third cup of wine (the cup of blessing). It represented blood shed for sin. This is the cup that the Lord used to institute the Supper.
Jesus plainly tells the disciples that He will soon die. He institutes a ceremony to remind us of His voluntarily death for each of our sins. He washes their feet to symbolizing the washing away of sins (which was usually done by menial servants, which is why none of the disciples were willing to perform this task). They were too busy arguing over who was greatest!
As Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He made it clear that we are all to serve one another. His actions were not only practical, they were symbolic of spiritual cleansing (John 13:6-9) and Christian humility (John 13:12-17).
“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:12-17 (ESV)
Do you take time to “wash another’s feet”? We can participate in a foot washing ceremony, of course, but do you serve others daily? Do you emulate Jesus in every instance possible? Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate in selfless service. What do you do to follow His example?
With the meal complete, we’ll see Jesus complete His final private ministries to His disciples. Imagine – He knew that He would be dead in a matter of hours, yet He took the time to lovingly console them and show one more act of love.
Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. This was an embarrassingly low price – the price of a slave.
If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. Ex 21:32 (ESV)
Judas was motivated by Satan, but we can’t excuse his behavior by saying “SOMEONE had to betray Christ”, or “the devil made him do it”. Judas kept the purse for the disciples, so he was an important member of Jesus’ entourage. He had listened to Jesus’ preaching and teaching for all these years. He literally slept near the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven on earth – and he missed the kingdom for a few pieces of silver.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt 7:21-23 (ESV)
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a part of God’s plan. Did Judas get upset with Jesus once he realized that Jesus wasn’t going to take an earthly kingdom? Did he hope to be an important part of the new dynasty that he expected Jesus to create? Remember, the people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as they would a king. Many were hoping that Jesus would be able to cast off Roman oppression. The disciples even argued about positions in the kingdom. Judas was angry at Jesus and retaliated in the only way he could. The “leaven” of sin in his life percolated and grew until it created “malice and wickedness”.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:6-8 (ESV)
Judas destroyed himself by betraying the Lord. He didn’t want the money anymore and brought it back to the temple, then went out and hung himself, fulfilling another prophecy.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” Matt 27:3-10 (ESV)
Judas fulfilled his destiny just as Jesus fulfilled His. Next week we will have an eyewitness view of some of the last moments in Jesus’ life. But before He dies, He takes time to promise His disciples a comforter – and to pray the “Master’s Prayer”.
See you tomorrow as we watch Jesus offer final promises and words of comfort.