Passover with Jesus. Luke 22.1-23
Happy Passover! or "Chag Pesach Sameach" in Hebrew
Jesus and his men have come to Jerusalem amid a throng of welcoming cheers and waving palms on Sunday. It is Passover time, and the city is teeming with people, since all Jewish males over the age of 12 are required to attend the festival. The pilgrims come from all over the Roman Empire, converging on Jerusalem to remember. They remember the night the death angel killed all the firstborn sons in Egypt, sparing only the Jews who had spread the blood of a lamb across their doorframes. The Passover observance was and is an annual time of remembering, honoring and giving thanks to God for saving the Jewish people.
But before the Passover dinner that week some 2,000 years ago - several noteworthy things. Jesus clears the temple, and declares, "My house shall be called a house of prayer."1
When he comes upon a fig tree, Jesus curses it, making a symbolical statement that those who follow him ought to be fruit bearers2
; that is to say, there should be enough evidence in the Christian's life to show his devotion to God. Jesus goes on to teach in the Temple and entertain the challenges of the Jewish leaders3
, and finally, delivers a packed message about the signs of the end of times4
. More description of each of these accounts -http://pastorwoman.com/FTBAll.aspx?Category=Matthew
But on Thursday afternoon, Jesus tells Peter and John to prepare the Passover meal. And at sundown, 13 men meet to celebrate the feast of Passover in a great gray hall, in an upper room in a house on Mount Zion, in the northeast corner of Jerusalem. In the tall-roofed chamber, they recline at a long oaken table, on which candles are no doubt burning.
Their sacrificial lamb had been properly and ritually killed in the forecourt of the Temple sanctuary and soon the meal will be eaten. In spite of the warnings Jesus has given the Twelve, none of them realize that this would be their last meal together. No doubt though, some in the room notice that a melancholy mood has fallen on the treasurer, the son of Simon Iscariot. Pale, glassy-eyed--it is as if Judas is looking upon some dire vision that only he can see. Truly.
Jesus sits at the table, surrounded by the twelve familiar faces. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," Jesus tells them. "For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." And then, after a long silence, he lifts his voice in one of the psalms of David, which was familiar to all of them. The first of four cups of wine is passed and blessed: "Blessed be Thou, O Lord, our God, Thou King of the world Who has created the fruit of the vine!" He who would be their redemption passes them the cup this night.5
Right then--Jesus stops, and tells them that one among them is 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 has a chance to reconsider the deal he has struck with those seeking to apprehend the Lord. "He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped," Jesus answers. And then the Master dips a morsel of bread in the dish of lamb and gravy and then very quietly holds it out toward Judas. The voice of the treasurer trembles as he gasps: "Is it I, Master?" "You have said it," answered Jesus. Even then he cannot not keep the pity from his eyes. "That which you do, do quickly." Judas eats the morsel quickly, and runs from the room, with the door slamming loudly behind him. Silence hung in the room for a while.6
Jesus then takes the bread and breaks it, passing a piece to each of the eleven, as he says, "Take you and eat. This is my body." They eat together. Then, he takes the chalice and fills it with wine, like Melchizedek once offered the liturgical sacrifice of bread and wine in the very beginning days. Only, once Jesus has given thanks, and passes the chalice of wine, he 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."
Such a night is this--and really, the disciples' understanding is so limited. But all these years later, ours is not. We know that on this Passover night Jesus will be betrayed; it is the night when the end has come . . .
Thank you, Jesus, that you were willing to be betrayed, willing to go into the night, for we who you love.
1 - Matthew 21.12-13
2 - Matthew 21.20-22
3 - Matthew 21.23 - 23.39
4 - Matthew 24 - 25
5 -"Messianic Passover Haggadah", Chosen People Ministries; "Passover Haggadah", Rabbi Bernard Levy.
6 - from Luke 22