Thursday, 5 April 2012

Passion Week: Day 4 (Last Supper)

Sometime after 6pm on Tuesday evening, at the beginning of Nisan 14, when the disciples had made ‘the upper room’ ready, Jesus came and celebrated the Passover Seder.  Because there is so much tradition that has developed around this Seder, the comments on the underlined phrases may help to explain the Jewish background assumptions that the Gospel writers make:
In the evening He came with the twelve… they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’  Then He took the Cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them...and said, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.   I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.’     Mark 14.22-25

·         He took the Cup refers to the Cup of Redemption, the third cup of the Seder, which reminds us of the third promise that God gave in  Exodus 6.7, I will redeem you.

·         ‘...drink of the fruit of the vine until that Day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God’ refers to the Day of His Second Coming when Isaiah prophesies about the Feast of wines, and the Apostle John describes as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb:
In this Mountain (Jerusalem) the LORD of Hosts (Jesus) will make for all people a Feast of choice pieces, a Feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined wines on the lees...and it will be said in that Day (at His Second Coming at The Marriage Feast of the Lamb) ‘This is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’    Isaiah 25.6-9

‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb!’    Revelation 19:9                   

The Apostle Paul fills in more of the detail which helps to explain what Jesus was doing at the Passover Seder:
Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the Cup after supper, saying, ‘This Cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  As often as you eat this bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.    
1Corinthians 11.23-26

·  took bread; broke it; broken for you, and the Cup after supper.

These phrases indicate at which point the Seder had reached. The leader of the Seder takes the middle piece of unleavened bread, matzah, from the stack of three whole matzot on the Seder table. He breaks this middle piece of matzah in two, returning the smaller piece to the stack, and putting aside the larger piece to be eaten later.  The following excerpt, from the Bethesda Passover Haggadah, explains what happens when the Haggadah, the Seder liturgy, resumes after the break for the actual meal:
The  Afikomen, the Hidden One, is the matzah that was broken, wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden.  The Seder cannot continue until the Afikomen is found. The children search for it.  In Jewish tradition, the Afikomen represents the Passover Lamb.   It also represents Jesus our Messiah because it is unleavened as He was sinless, striped as He was beaten, and pierced as He was with nails.   It was wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden, as He was in the tomb.
The Afikomen is the last piece of food that may be eaten on this night.  It is broken and distributed.  The third Cup of wine is poured; the Cup of Redemption.   This Cup is a symbol of the redeeming blood of the Passover Lamb, and the redeeming blood of Jesus our Messiah.

·         ‘This Cup is the new covenant in My blood.’
Jesus suddenly identifies Himself, and His forthcoming crucifixion, with the Afikomen, the unleavened bread, and the Cup of Redemption.  In addition, He states that the Cup is the new  covenant in My blood. 

What is this new covenant? The disciples knew the reference to Jeremiah 31:
The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel ..not according to the covenant.. in the day that I .. lead them out of Egypt, which they broke...But in this covenant ..I will put My Torah in their minds and hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be My people....all shall know Me...For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.     Jeremiah 31.31-34

This new covenant that was begun at His last Passover Seder will be fully operational in the Messianic Age, the 1000 year Millenium.  Ezekiel describes the same new covenant:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will...give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you ... and you will keep My Judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36.26-28

‘Supper being ended’, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, after which Judas went out immediately, and it was night.

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