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“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him; for they feared the people. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought oportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude. Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed! And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto Him, Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death. And He said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me. And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough”—Luke 22:1-38.
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We now look at this lengthy section which deals with five distinct events: first, the treachery of Judas; second, the preparation and observance of the passover; third, the Lord’s Supper instituted; fourth, the place which His disciples will occupy in the future kingdom; and last, the Lord’s warning to Peter.
The Passover Lamb was slain on the night the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt. For the Jews the passover was a memorial of that event, but it was also a type of something that was yet to take place. The day had now come when this was about to be fulfilled. In 1 Cor. 5:7, 8 we read, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In the Bible leaven is always a symbol of evil, as we have seen. So we are called upon to put away from our lives everything unclean, everything contrary to the Spirit of Christ.
For centuries Israel had kept this feast. Now the Lord Jesus Christ, the real Paschal Lamb, was in their midst and most of the people were utterly unaware of His presence. While He was preparing to keep the feast, the chief priests and scribes were conferring together how they might kill Him, little realizing that He was the antitypical Passover Lamb. “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.” He was doing only what God had foreseen should be done. The perfidy ,of Judas was prophesied centuries before it became a reality. The leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, and Satan took possession of one of His disciples, who offered to betray Him for money. Think of Judas, companying with the Lord and the other disciples for three-and-one-half wonderful years, now communing with the chief priests and captains how he might deliver Him into their hands! There are many today who associate with Christians and take active part in religious services but have never known Christ themselves. Such was Judas. So when the time came Satan found in him a ready instrument to carry out his will. “And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him unto them.” It would seem almost unbelievable were it not for the fact that the same kind of conduct has been repeated many times since. “And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude.” Judas imagined that no other eye saw nor ear heard as he plotted with the chief priests; but Jesus, God manifest in Him, knew all about the transaction, as He later revealed.
Then the day came when the passover was to be killed. This involves a perplexing question for some people. We need to remember that the Jews’ day began at sunset, and it was after sunset on the fourteenth of Nisan that the Lord kept the pass-over with His disciples. Before the next sunset, that is, in the afternoon of the day following, our Lord Himself died on the cross. So He kept the Passover on the first evening of the appointed day, and He Himself suffered and died as the true Passover before the next evening. According to the Jews’ reckoning, therefore, both events took place on the one day.
Jesus sent “Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.” And they put the natural question to Him, “Where wilt Thou that we prepare?” He had no home in or about Jerusalem. But in those days it was customary for the Jews to have a special room set apart as a guestchamber where they might entertain travelers, especially at the passover time. Now Jesus knew of one in whose house He would be welcome, and where He could eat the passover with His disciples. So He said, “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.” We might think these directions were rather indefinite. He did not tell them the man’s name nor anything else whereby to identify him; how were they to know when they met the right person? Well, you see it was a very unusual thing for a man to be found in the public streets bearing a pitcher of water. Ordinarily it was the women who went to the wells and carried the water, generally in earthen jars upon their heads. This is the common practice still in Oriental lands. So when Jesus said, “There shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water,” He indicated something distinctive. The water-bearer may speak to us of those who with joy draw water from the wells of salvation. “And ye shall say unto the good-man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?” That was all that was necessary. The owner of the house was evidently a believer in the Lord. “And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.” It may be that this was the house in which John Mark lived, and that this large upper room was the same as that to which the disciples resorted after the resurrection of our Lord, and where the early Church held its first prayer-meetings. “And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” They set the table with the roasted lamb, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the Passover wine. Then we read, “And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.” It was a blessed scene of fellowship, save for one jarring note—the presence of Judas the traitor. “And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” He had often participated in the pass-over feasts in the years that had gone. It was a picture of His own approaching death, and His love led Him to long to have His own with Him at the paschal table. He knew so well what was ahead of Him. He was the only One in Israel who knew that this passover prefigured His own death on Calvary and the salvation which He was to procure by the shedding of His precious blood. Now He had come to the last passover that God would ever recognize, the last passover of which He Himself would partake before fulfilling all He came to accomplish. He said, “I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” The type was passing away, the antitype was seen to take its place. “And He took the cup, and gave thanks.” This cup has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper; it concluded the passover. He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” God had not commanded them to use the fruit of the vine in the passover, but this was a custom that had been practised for many centuries, and the Lord recognized this and accepted it. He Himself did not drink of it, for the fruit of the vine speaks of joy and gladness. He was going to death and sorrow: it was not His hour of gladness; He was to endure the cross before He entered into His joy. Following the passover He established the beautiful .ordinance which has been carried on by the Church of God for nineteen hundred years as a memorial of His death and suffering. “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” He took one of the passover loaves, the flat unleavened cakes, which He brake. Strange that anyone should have ever supposed that what He meant here was that the bread was changed into His own physical body. It was a symbolic act. The bread remained as it was after His thanksgiving, but it now had a special character as a picture of His body about to be given up to death. He said, “This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” That is, do this from time to time to call Me to mind. “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you.” The word for “testament” and “covenant” is the same. I prefer the word “covenant” here. This is the cup of blessing (1 Cor. 10:16) setting forth the new covenant in His blood about to be shed upon the cross for our redemption. As they drank of it they were expressing their fellowship as sinners redeemed to God by His blood. The day of the old covenant was passing away, and He was about to seal the new covenant by the shedding of His blood upon the cross.
The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20) is a feast of remembrance, which is intended to carry our minds back to the death of our Saviour and also to cause us to look on to His coming again (1 Cor. 11:26). It consisted, in the beginning, of a very simple meal, called the breaking of bread (Acts 2:46), and seems at first to have been observed daily or whenever a few Christians came together, possibly at the close of every ordinary meal. Later it appears to have been celebrated regularly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), though there is no hard-and-fast rule as to this. “As oft” as ye do this, seems to leave the question of time and frequency to the love and spiritual sensibilities of the disciples of Christ. In this service of remembrance the bread remains bread, and the fruit of the vine in the cup is unchanged in character, but the representative characters of both are insisted on. When Jesus said, “This is My body,” and, “This… is… My blood,” He sat in the midst of His followers, and His blood was still flowing in His veins and His body manifest among them. It was as if one held a photograph before a friend and said, “This is my mother.” No one would think that the piece of cardboard had been actually changed into the flesh and blood of a woman! But these memorials were designed to bring before us vividly the Person of our adorable Lord, enabling us to call Him to mind with more than ordinary clarity. Because of this, and of the expressed desire of Jesus Christ that we should thus remember Him, it has been the joy of christian hearts down through the centuries to come together around the table of the Lord to think of His sufferings, to meditate upon His love, and to enjoy communion with Him.
In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper we are to be occupied with Christ Himself, with the memories of His love and grace, recalling His sorrows, sufferings, and death, and bearing in mind His promise to come again and receive us unto Himself. It is a mistake to think of this blessed ordinance as a means of grace, in the sense of having to do with the salvation of the soul. It is intended to deepen in the heart of those already saved, the realization of the preciousness of Christ. We come together to remember Him, and as He fills the vision of our souls we feast in spirit upon all that He is and all that He has done.
Following this we have the treachery of Judas. “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table.” We read, “After the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” And he went immediately out and it was night—night not only outside but also in his own soul, never to be relieved by one ray of light. Jesus went on to say that the fact that the Son of Man had come into the world to die would not excuse those who deliberately sought to crucify Him. “And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed!” Actually, according to John 13:29, 30, Judas left the room before the Lord’s Supper was instituted.
In verse 24 we read of a strife among” the disciples as to which of them should be the greatest. The Lord was about to die; He had just given them the communion, a picture of His death, and now these who really loved Him began to quarrel among themselves as to who would have the chief place in the coming kingdom. Pride is so hard to root out. There they were with the shadow of the cross falling over them, striving among themselves as to who should be greatest. He gently rebuked them by indicating that although this ambitious spirit is common among the nations and is to be expected among sinful men, it should not be found among His own. “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” It was customary for worldly leaders to seek to hold their fellows in subjection, and those who did so were looked up to as benefactors if they seemed to govern righteously. But this lust for place and power is inconsistent for a disciple ,of Jesus. Greatness is shown by lowly service. The kingdom of God is the only kingdom ever known to man where the greatest are those who take the humblest place. “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth.” In this attitude Jesus has set the example which all His followers should emulate.
Then our Lord said, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.” When He comes again to reign in glory, those who share His rejection now will participate with Him in His triumph (Rev. 3:21). He refers not to the present age but to that which succeeds this, when His kingdom will be established over all this earth; and in that day those who have been identified with Jesus, His own people, who owned Him when He was mocked and rejected, will have a wonderful place of recognition. The twelve will sit ,on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. “That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The twelve (Matthias taking Judas’ place, Acts 1:26) are to have a special place in the administration of the coming kingdom in connection with restored Israel. While of the Church, they will rule with Christ over Israel on earth.
The Lord says finally, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The word translated “desired” is really a stronger term than our English word; it is better rendered “demanded.” Just as Satan went before God and practically demanded to have the opportunity to test Job, accusing him before God, saying that Job loved God only for what God gave him, so Satan demanded to test Peter. But Jesus said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” You know when we get into the devil’s sieve he can shake us up badly, but all that is left when he is through is chaff: the wheat falls through, and Satan has only the chaff. So do not be afraid of the devil’s sieve; God is able to sustain us. Remember that Jesus has said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not!” Peter failed sadly. He denied his Lord three times, but his faith was preserved, and we find him turning back to Jesus and able to say, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” The Lord Jesus said, “And when thou art converted (when you are restored), strengthen thy brethren.” Sometimes the Lord has to allow some of His best servants to fail terribly in order to show them their weakness, and that they may be more tender and sympathetic toward others. Not realizing his own weakness Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death.” But the Lord said, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me.” The Lord knew Peter far better than he knew himself, and He knows you and me better than we know ourselves.
Next our Lord warned His disciples of coming conflicts. He knew what would take place, and He said to them, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing?”—that is, when He sent them out into the cities of Galilee to give out the message of the gospel of the kingdom. “And they said, Nothing.” Everything had been provided. He said to them, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his script: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” He did not mean literally that they should be armed with material swords; but we are taught elsewhere in Scripture that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). When they were ready to leave the upper room they said to Him, “Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough”— that is, no more talk about that. He was not speaking about actual defense; He was not interested in weapons. He wanted them to go forth armed with the sword of the Spirit that they might meet the enemies of the truth as they went forth to proclaim the gospel.