At sundown of that same Passover day so very long ago, thirteen men met to celebrate with dinner in a great gray hall, in an upper room in a house in the northeast corner of Jerusalem. In the tall-roofed chamber, likely the only furnishings were rattan divans and a long oaken table, on which tall candles were burning. Picture with me the flickering flames that played upon the sturdy figures of the disciples and our Lord, and then repeated them in distorted shadows against the walls without windows. Can you see it? During the afternoon their sacrificial lamb had been properly and ritually killed in the forecourt of the Temple sanctuary; soon now, dinner would be eaten, when the day of the Passover was legally come. With the twilight, came a new day, beginning when the sun went down ~ an analogy full of hope. Ahhhhh, can you feel it?
In spite of the warnings Jesus had given the Twelve, none of them realized that this would be their last meal together. They were still too earthbound and too worldly to grasp as they would later, the great historical realities of the drama in which they were actors, playing as a group, a major role. No doubt, some in the room had noticed that a strange mood had fallen on the treasurer and keeper of the bag. The son of Simon Iscariot seemed afflicted with melancholy; there was in him none of the spirit which dominated the meal. Pale, glassy-eyed, it was as if Judas were looking upon some dire vision, visible only to him.
This is so symbolic, replete with meaning: Jesus sat at the table, surrounded by the twelve familiar faces he loved so much. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”1
And then, after a long silence, Jesus lifted his voice in one of the psalms of David, which was familiar to all of them. The first of four cups of wine was passed, and blessed: "Blessed be Thou, O Lord, our God, thou King of the world who has created the fruit of the vine!" And the Kiddush, Cup of Blessing, was drunk. Each had his portion then of the bitter herbs, endive and lettuce, dipped into a compote of almonds, nuts and figs. By the color of these fruits, they were reminded of the bricks which their ancestors had to make without straw. With this bitter dish, they again ate the bread of misery, the Matzah, to remind them of the hasty flight out of Egypt. The Cup of Judgment recalled this bitter time for the Hebrews. Then they ate the lamb and drank a third cup, which all knew to be the Cup of Redemption. He who would be their redemption, Jesus, passed them the cup this night. Hmmm.
Right then, Jesus stopped, and told them that one among them was about to betray him. And while the men looked from person to person, trying to decide who could do such a thing, the guilty one had a chance to reconsider the deal he had struck with those seeking to apprehend the Lord. "He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped," Jesus answered. And then the Master dipped a morsel of bread in the dish of lamb and gravy and quietly held it out toward Judas. The voice of the treasurer trembled as he gasped: "Is it I, Master?" "You have said it," answered Jesus. Even then he could not keep the pity from his eyes. Judas ate the morsel quickly and ran from the room with the door slamming loudly behind him. Silence hung in the room for a while.
Jesus then took the bread and broke it, passed a piece to each of the eleven, as he said, "Take you and eat. This is my body." They ate together. Then he took the chalice and filled it with wine, and after he had given thanks, passed the chalice. Jesus said, "Drink you all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins. Do this for a commemoration of me." This was the Cup of Praise, and alas, the Lord's Supper was born.2
Such a night was this, and really, the disciples' understanding was so limited. Our Lord showed himself to be the fulfillment of the symbolism of the Passover meal ~ the ultimate Pesach, Sacrificial Lamb, slain once for all. [The apostle Paul later instructs believers to examine themselves before they partake of this meal—so as not to incur judgment.]3
Confession is cathartic; confession is right, and it is good for our souls. May I invite you today - right now - to bow your head and ask your gracious Lord if there is anything that stands between you and him? Here’s a simple prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any sinful way in me.”4
Be quiet a moment, and listen. . . does God have anything to say to you? Do you have a hard heart... a sharp tongue? Is there anything he might put his finger on and say, 'Now that, Child, should go . . .' If so, get rid of it! Clear your conscience, ask for forgiveness; accept it, and let your soul be refreshed. “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”5
God is good . . . all the time, and certainly as we look to him to prepare our hearts for the day we remember that he AROSE!
1 – Luke 22 2 – the four cups come out of Exodus 6.6,7 3 – 1 Corinthians 11.27-34 4 – Psalm 139.23-24 5 – 1 John 1.9 Other sources for today’s Morning Briefing: The Greatest Story Ever Told 1952, Doubleday (I just found this treasure in an old book store); "Messianic Passover Haggadah", Chosen People Ministries; "Passover Haggadah", Rabbi Bernard Levy.