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Temple--Its Ministry and Services
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Chapter 12

The Paschal Feast and the Lord’s Supper

‘And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My Body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’—Matthew 26:26-28.

Jewish Traditions about the Passover

Jewish tradition has this curious conceit: that the most important events in Israel’s history were connected with the Paschal season. Thus it is said to have been on the present Paschal night that, after his sacrifice, the ‘horror of great darkness’ fell upon Abraham when God revealed to him the future of his race (Gen 15). Similarly, it is supposed to have been at Passover time that the patriarch entertained his heavenly guests, that Sodom was destroyed and Lot escaped, and that the walls of Jericho fell before the Lord. More than that—the ‘cake of barley bread’ seen in the dream, which led to the destruction of Midian’s host, had been prepared from the Omer, presented on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread; just as at a later period alike the captains of Sennacherib and the King of Assyria, who tarried at Nob, were overtaken by the hand of God at the Passover season. It was at the Paschal time also that the mysterious handwriting appeared on the wall to declare Babylon’s doom, and again at the Passover that Esther and the Jews fasted, and that wicked Haman perished. And so also in the last days it would be the Paschal night when the final judgments should come upon ‘Edom,’ and the glorious deliverance of Israel take place. Hence to this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service—just after the ‘third cup,’ or the ‘cup of blessing,’ has been drunk—the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah, while appropriate passages are at the same time read which foretell the destruction of all heathen nations (Psa 79:6; 69:25; Lam 3:66). It is a remarkable coincidence that, in instituting His own Supper, the Lord Jesus connected the symbol, not of judgment, but of His dying love, with this ‘third cup.’ But, in general, it may be interesting to know that no other service contains within the same space the like ardent aspirations after a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, nor so many allusions to the Messianic hope, as the liturgy for the night of the Passover now in use among the Jews.

If we could only believe that the prayers and ceremonies which it embodies were the same as those at the time of our Lord, we should have it in our power to picture in minutest detail all that took place when He instituted his own Supper. We should see the Master as He presided among the festive company of His disciples, know what prayers He uttered, and at what special parts of the service, and be able to reproduce the arrangement of the Paschal table around which they sat.

The Modern Ceremonies

At present and for many centuries back the Paschal Supper has been thus laid out: three large unleavened cakes, wrapped in the folds of a napkin, are placed on a salver, and on them the seven articles necessary for the ‘Passover Supper’ are ranged in this manner:

A roasted Egg   Roasted Shankbone of a Lamb
(Instead of the 14th day Chagigah)   (Instead of the Paschal Lamb)
 
Charoseth Bitter Lettuce
(To represent the mortar of Egypt) Herbs  
 
Salt Water   Chervil and Parsley

Present Ritual not the Same as the New Testament Times

But, unfortunately, the analogy does not hold good. As the present Passover liturgy contains comparatively very few relics from New Testament times, so also the present arrangement of the Paschal table evidently dates from a time when sacrifices had ceased. On the other hand, however, by far the greater number of the usages observed in our own days are precisely the same as eighteen hundred years ago. A feeling, not of gratified curiosity, but of holy awe, comes over us, as thus we are able to pass back through those many centuries into the upper chamber where the Lord Jesus partook of that Passover which, with the loving desire of a Saviour’s heart, He had desired to eat with His disciples. The leading incidents of the feast are all vividly before us—the handling of ‘the sop dipped in the dish,’ ‘the breaking of bread,’ ‘the giving thanks,’ ‘the distributing of the cup,’ and ‘the concluding hymn.’ Even the exact posture at the Supper is known to us. But the words associated with those sacred memories come with a strange sound when we find in Rabbinical writings the ‘Passover lamb’125125The words of the Mishnah (Pes. x. 3) are: ‘While the Sanctuary stood, they brought before him his body of (or for) the Passover.’ The term ‘body’ also sometimes means ‘substance.’ designated as ‘His body,’ or when our special attention is called to the cup known as ‘the cup of blessing, which we bless’; nay, when the very term for the Passover liturgy itself, the ‘Haggadah,’126126The same root as employed in Exodus 13:8—’And thou shalt show thy son in that day,’ and from this the term ‘Haggadah’ has unquestionably been derived. which means ’showing forth,’ is exactly the same as that used by St. Paul in describing the service of the Lord’s Supper! (1 Cor 11:23-29)

The Roasting of the Lamb

Before proceeding further we may state that, according to Jewish ordinance, the Paschal lamb was roasted on a spit made of pomegranate wood, the spit passing right through from mouth to vent. Special care was to be taken that in roasting the lamb did not touch the oven, otherwise the part touched had to be cut away. This can scarcely be regarded as an instance of Rabbinical punctiliousness. It was intended to carry out the idea that the lamb was to be undefiled by any contact with foreign matter, which might otherwise have adhered to it. For everything here was significant, and the slightest deviation would mar the harmony of the whole. If it had been said, that not a bone of the Paschal lamb was to be broken, that it was not to be ‘sodden at all with water, but roast with fire—his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof,’ and that none of it was to ‘remain until the morning,’ all that had not been eaten being burnt with fire (Exo 12:8-10)—such ordinances had each a typical object. Of all other sacrifices, even the most holy (Lev 6:21), it alone was not to be ‘sodden,’ because the flesh must remain pure, without the admixture even of water. Then, no bone of the lamb was to be broken: it was to be served up entire—none of it was to be left over; and those who gathered around it were to form one family. All this was intended to express that it was to be a complete and unbroken sacrifice, on the ground of which there was complete and unbroken fellowship with the God who had passed by the blood-sprinkled doors, and with those who together formed but one family and one body. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread’ (1 Cor 10:16, 17).

Distinct From All Levitical Sacrifices

Such views and feelings, which, no doubt, all truly spiritual Israelites shared, gave its meaning to the Paschal feast at which Jesus sat down with His disciples, and which He transformed into the Lord’s Supper by linking it to His Person and Work. Every sacrifice, indeed, had prefigured His Work; but none other could so suitably commemorate His death, nor yet the great deliverance connected with it, and the great union and fellowship flowing from it. For other reasons also it was specially suited to be typical of Christ. It was a sacrifice, and yet quite out of the order of all Levitical sacrifices. For it had been instituted and observed before Levitical sacrifices existed; before the Law was given; nay, before the Covenant was ratified by blood (Exo 24). In a sense, it may be said to have been the cause of all the later sacrifices of the Law, and of the Covenant itself. Lastly, it belonged neither to one nor to another class of sacrifices; it was neither exactly a sin-offering nor a peace-offering, but combined them both. And yet in many respects it quite differed from them. In short, just as the priesthood of Christ was a real Old Testament priesthood, yet not after the order of Aaron, but after the earlier, prophetic, and royal order of Melchisedek, so the sacrifice also of Christ was a real Old Testament sacrifice, yet not after the order of Levitical sacrifices, but after that of the earlier prophetic Passover sacrifice, by which Israel had become a royal nation.

Guests of the Paschal Table

As the guests127127The Karaites are alone in not admitting women to the Paschal Supper. gathered around the Paschal table, they came no longer, as at the first celebration, with their ‘loins girded,’ with shoes on their feet, and a staff in their hand—that is, as travellers waiting to take their departure.

On the contrary, they were arrayed in their best festive garments, joyous and at rest, as became the children of a king. To express this idea the Rabbis also insisted that the Paschal Supper—or at least part of it—must be eaten in that recumbent position with which we are familiar from the New Testament. ‘For,’ say they, ‘they use this leaning posture, as free men do, in memorial of their freedom.’ And, again, ‘Because it is the manner of slaves to eat standing, therefore now they eat sitting and leaning, in order to show that they have been delivered from bondage into freedom.’ And, finally: ‘No, not the poorest in Israel may eat till he has sat down, leaning.’ But, though it was deemed desirable to ‘sit leaning’ during the whole Paschal Supper, it was only absolutely enjoined while partaking of the bread and the wine. This recumbent posture so far resembled that still common in the East, that the body rested on the feet. Hence, also, the penitent woman at the feast given by Simon is said to have ‘stood at His feet, behind,’ ‘weeping’ (Luke 7:38). At the same time, the left elbow was placed on the table, and the head rested on the hand, sufficient room being of course left between each guest for the free movements of the right hand. This explains in what sense John ‘was leaning on Jesus’ bosom,’ and afterwards ‘lying on Jesus’ breast,’ when he bent back to speak to Him (John 13:23, 25).

The Use of Wine

The use of wine in the Paschal Supper, 128128Every reader of the Bible knows how symbolically significant alike the vine and its fruit are throughout Scripture. Over the entrance to the Sanctuary a golden vine of immense proportions was suspended. though not mentioned in the Law, was strictly enjoined by tradition.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, it was intended to express Israel’s joy on the Paschal night, and even the poorest must have ‘at least four cups, though he were to receive the money for it from the poor’s box’ (Pes. x. 1). If he cannot otherwise obtain it, the Talmud adds, ‘he must sell or pawn his coat, or hire himself out for these four cups of wine.’ The same authority variously accounts for the number four as either corresponding to the four words used about Israel’s redemption (bringing out, delivering, redeeming, taking), or to the fourfold mention of the cup in connection with the chief butler’s dream (Gen 40:9-15), or to the four cups of vengeance which God would in the future give the nations to drink (Jer 25:15; 51:7; Psa 75:8; 11:6), while four cups of consolation would be handed to Israel, as it is written: ‘The Lord is the portion of my cup’ (Psa 16:5); ‘My cup runneth over’ (Psa 23:5); ‘I will take the cup of salvation’ (Psa 116:13), ‘which,’ it is added, ‘was two’—perhaps from a second allusion to it in verse 17. In connection with this the following parabolic story from the Talmud may possess some interest: ‘The holy and blessed God will make a feast for the righteous in the day that His mercy shall be shown to the seed of Israel. After they have eaten and drunk, they give the cup of blessing to Abraham our father. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Ishmael came from me. Then he gives it to Isaac. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Esau came from me. Then he hands it to Jacob. But he saith: I cannot take it, because I married two sisters, which is forbidden in the Law. He saith to Moses: Take it and bless it. But he replies: I cannot, because I was not counted worthy to come into the land of Israel, either alive or dead. He saith to Joshua: Take it and bless it. But he answers: I cannot, because I have no son. He saith to David: Take it and bless it. And he replies: I will bless it, and it is fit for me so to do, as it is written, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”’

The Mishnah Account

As detailed in the earliest Jewish record of ordinances—the Mishnah—the service of the Paschal Supper was exceedingly simple. Indeed, the impression left on the mind is, that, while all the observances were fixed, the prayers, with some exceptions preserved to us, were free. Rabbi Gamaliel, the teacher of St. Paul, said (Pes. x. 15): ‘Whoever does not explain three things in the Passover has not fulfilled the duty incumbent on him. These three things are: the Passover lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. The Passover lamb means that God passed over the blood-sprinkled place on the houses of our fathers in Egypt; the unleavened bread means that our fathers were delivered out of Egypt (in haste); and the bitter herbs mean that the Egyptians made bitter the lives of our fathers in Egypt.’ A few additional particulars are necessary to enable the reader to understand all the arrangements of the Paschal Supper. From the time of the evening-sacrifice nothing was to be eaten till the Paschal Supper, so that all might come to it with relish (Pes, x. 1). It is a moot point, whether at the time of our Lord two, or, as at present, three, large cakes of unleavened bread were used in the service. The Mishnah mentions (Pes. ii. 6) these five kinds as falling within the designation of ‘bitter herbs,’ viz. lettuce, endive, succory (garden endive?), what is called ‘Charchavina’ (urtica, beets?), and horehound (bitter coriander?). The ‘bitter herbs’ seem to have been twice partaken of during the service, once dipped in salt water or vinegar, and a second time with Charoseth, a compound of dates, raisins, etc., and vinegar, though the Mishnah expressly declares (Pes. x. 3) that Charoseth was not obligatory. Red wine alone was to be used at the Paschal Supper, and always mixed with water.129129Of this there cannot be the slightest doubt. Indeed, the following quotation from the Mishnah (Pes. vii. 13) might even induce one to believe that warm water was mixed with the wine: ‘If two companies eat (the Passover) in the same house, the one turns its face to one side, the other to the other, and the kettle (warming kettle) stands between them.’

Each of the four cups must contain at least the fourth of a quarter of an hin (the hin = one gallon two pints). Lastly, it was a principle that, after the Paschal meal, they had no Aphikomen (after-dish), an expression which may perhaps best be rendered by ‘dessert.’

The ‘Giving Thanks’

The Paschal Supper itself commenced by the head of ‘the company’ taking the first cup of wine in his hand, and ‘giving thanks’ over it in these words: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who has created the fruit of the vine! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God King of the Universe, who hast chosen us from among all people, and exalted us from among all languages, and sanctified us with Thy commandments! And Thou hast given us, O Jehovah our God, in love, the solemn days for joy, and the festivals and appointed seasons for gladness; and this the day of the feast of unleavened bread, the season of our freedom, a holy convocation, the memorial of our departure from Egypt. For us hast Thou chosen; and us hast Thou sanctified from among all nations, and Thy holy festivals with joy and with gladness hast Thou caused us to inherit. Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah, who sanctifiest Israel and the appointed seasons! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, King of the Universe, who hast preserved us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season!’130130Such, according to the best criticism, were the words of this prayer at the time of Christ. But I must repeat that in regard to many of these prayers I cannot help suspecting that they rather indicate the spirit and direction of a prayer than embody the ipsissima verba.

The First Cup

The first cup of wine was then drunk, and each washed his hands.131131The modern practice of the Jews slightly differs form the ancient here, and in some other little matters of detail.

It was evidently at this time that the Saviour in His self-humiliation proceeded also to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). Our Authorised Version wrongly translates verse 2 by, ‘and supper being ended,’ instead of ‘and when supper had come,’ or ‘was begun.’ Similarly, it was, in all probability, in reference to the first cup that Luke gives the following account (Luke 22:17): ‘And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’—the ‘cup of blessing,’ which was the third, and formed part of the new institution of the Lord’s Supper, being afterwards mentioned in verse 20. In washing their hands this customary prayer was repeated: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments, and hast enjoined us concerning the washing of our hands.’ Two different kinds of ‘washing’ were prescribed by tradition—’dipping’ and ‘pouring.’ At the Paschal Supper the hands were to be ‘dipped’ in water.132132The distinction is also interesting as explaining Mark 7:3. For when water was poured on the hands, they had to be lifted, yet so that the water should neither run up above the wrist, nor back again upon the hand; best, therefore, by doubling the fingers into a fist. Hence (as Lightfoot rightly remarks) Mark 7:3, which should be translated: ‘For the Pharisees . . . except they wash their hands with the fist, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.’ The rendering of our Authorised Version, ‘except they wash oft,’ has evidently no meaning.

The Herbs

These preliminaries ended, the Paschal table was brought forward. The president of the feast first took some of the herbs, dipped them in salt water, ate of them, and gave to the others. Immediately after it, all the dishes were removed from the table (as it was thought so strange a proceeding would tend to excite the more curiosity), and then the second cup was filled. A very interesting ceremony now took place, It had been enjoined in the law that at each Paschal Supper the father was to show his son the import of this festival. By way of carrying out this duty, the son (or else the youngest) was directed at this particular part of the service to make inquiry; and, if the child were too young or incapable, the father would do it for him.

The Son’s Question

The son asks: ‘Why is this night distinguished from all other nights? For on all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread? On all other nights we eat any kind of herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs? On all other nights we eat meat roasted, stewed, or boiled, but on this night only roasted? On all other nights we dip (the herbs) only once, but on this night twice?’ Thus far according to the earliest and most trustworthy tradition. It is added (Mishnah, Pes. x. 4): ‘Then the father instructs his child according to the capacity of his knowledge, beginning with our disgrace and ending with our glory, and expounding to him from, “A Syrian, ready to perish, was my father, ” till he has explained all through, to the end of the whole section’ (Deut 26:5-11). In other words, the head of the house was to relate the whole national history, commencing with Terah, Abraham’s father, and telling of his idolatry, and continuing, in due order, the story of Israel up to their deliverance from Egypt and the giving of the Law; and the more fully he explained it all, the better.

The Dishes

This done, the Paschal dishes were brought back on the table. The president now took up in succession the dish with the Passover lamb, that with the bitter herbs, and that with the unleavened bread, and briefly explained the import of each; for, according to Rabbi Gamaliel: ‘From generation to generation every man is bound to look upon himself not otherwise than if he had himself come forth out of Egypt. For so it is written (Exo 13:8), “And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which Jehovah did unto me when I cam forth out of Egypt.” Therefore,’ continues the Mishnah, giving the very words of the prayer used, ‘we are bound to thank, praise, laud, glorify, extol, honour, bless, exalt, and reverence Him, because He hath wrought for our fathers, and for us all these miracles. He brought us forth from bondage into freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning to a festival, from darkness to a great light, and from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us sing before Him: Hallelujah!’ Then the first part of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, comprising Psalms 113 and 114, with this brief thanksgiving at the close: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the Universe, who hast redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt.’ Upon this the second cup was drunk. Hands were now washed a second time, with the same prayer as before, and one of the two unleavened cakes broken and ‘thanks given.’

The Breaking of the Bread

Rabbinical authorities distinctly state that this thanksgiving was to follow not to precede, the breaking of the bread, because it was the bread of poverty, ‘and the poor have not whole cakes, but broken pieces.’ The distinction is important, as proving that since the Lord in instituting His Supper, according to the uniform testimony of the three Gospels and of St. Paul (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24), first gave thanks and then brake the bread (‘having given thanks, He brake it’), it must have been at a later period of the service.

Pieces of the broken cake with ‘bitter herbs’ between them, and ‘dipped’ in the Charoseth, were next handed to each in the company. This, in all probability, was ‘the sop’ which, in answer to John’s inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord ‘gave’ to Judas (John 13:25, etc.; compare Matt 26:21, etc.; Mark 14:18, etc.). The unleavened bread with bitter herbs constituted, in reality, the beginning of the Paschal Supper, to which the first part of the service had only served as a kind of introduction. But as Judas, after ‘having received the sop, went immediately out,’ he could not even have partaken of the Paschal lamb, far less of the Lord’s Supper. The solemn discourses of the Lord recorded by St. John (John 13:31; 16) may therefore be regarded as His last ‘table-talk,’ and the intercessory prayer that followed (John 17) as His ‘grace after meat.’

The Three Elements of the Feast

The Paschal Supper itself consisted of the unleavened bread with bitter herbs, of the so-called Chagigah, or festive offering (when brought), and, lastly, of the Paschal lamb itself. After that nothing more was to be eaten, so that the flesh of the Paschal Sacrifice might be the last meat partaken of. But since the cessation of the Paschal Sacrifice the Jews conclude the Supper with a piece of unleavened cake, which they call the Aphikomen, or after-dish. Then, having again washed hands, the third cup is filled, and grace after meat said. Now, it is very remarkable that our Lord seems so far to have anticipated the present Jewish practice that He brake the bread ‘when He had given thanks,’ instead of adhering to the old injunction of not eating anything after the Passover lamb. And yet in so doing He only carried out the spirit of the Paschal feast. For, as we have already explained, it was commemorative and typical. It commemorated an event which pointed to and merged in another event—even the offering of the better Lamb, and the better freedom connected with that sacrifice. Hence, after the night of His betrayal, the Paschal lamb could have no further meaning, and it was right that the commemorative Aphikomen should take its place. The symbolical cord, if the figure may be allowed, had stretched to its goal—the offering up of the Lamb of God; and though again continued from that point onwards till His second coming, yet it was, in a sense, as from a new beginning.

The Third Cup

Immediately afterwards the third cup was drunk, a special blessing having been spoken over it. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that this was the cup which our Lord connected with His own Supper. It is called in Jewish writings, just as by St. Paul (1 Cor 10:16), ‘the cup of blessing,’ partly because it and the first cup required a special ‘blessing,’ and partly because it followed on the ‘grace after meat.’ Indeed, such importance attached to it, that the Talmud (Berac. 51, 1) notes ten peculiarities, too minute indeed for our present consideration, but sufficient to show the special value set upon it.133133It is a curious circumstance that the Mishnah seems to contemplate the same painful case of drunkenness at the Paschal Supper, which, as we know, actually occurred in the church at Corinth, that so closely imitated the Jewish practice. The Mishnah does not, indeed, speak in so many words of drunkenness, but it lays down this rule: ‘Does any one sleep at the Passover meal and wake again, he may not eat again after he is awaked.’

The service concluded with the fourth cup, over which the second portion of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, consisting of Psalms 115, 116, 117, and 118, the whole ending with the so-called ‘blessing of the song,’ which comprised these two brief prayers: ‘All Thy works shall praise Thee, Jehovah our God. And Thy saints, the righteous, who do Thy good pleasure, and all Thy people, the house of Israel, with joyous song let them praise, and bless, and magnify, and glorify, and exalt, and reverence, and sanctify, and ascribe the kingdom to Thy name, O our King! For it is good to praise Thee, and pleasure to sing praises unto Thy name, for from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.’

‘The breath of all that lives shall praise Thy name, Jehovah our God. And the spirit of all flesh shall continually glorify and exalt Thy memorial, O our King! For from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God, and besides Thee we have no King, Redeemer, or Saviour,’ etc.134134Exceptionally a fifth cup was drunk, and over it ‘the great Hallel’ was said, comprising Psalms 120-137.

The Supper in Our Lord’s Time

In this manner was the Paschal Supper celebrated by the Jews at the time when our Lord for the last time sat down to it with His disciples. So important is it to have a clear understanding of all that passed on that occasion, that, at the risk of some repetition, we shall now attempt to piece together the notices in the various Gospels, adding to them again those explanations which have just been given in detail. At the outset we may dismiss, as unworthy of serious discussion, the theory, either that our Lord had observed the Paschal Supper at another than the regular time for it, or that St. John meant to intimate that He had partaken of it on the 13th instead of the 14th of Nisan. To such violent hypotheses, which are wholly uncalled for, there is this one conclusive answer, that, except on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, no Paschal lamb could have been offered in the Temple, and therefore no Paschal Supper celebrated in Jerusalem. But abiding by the simple text of Scripture, we have the following narrative of events:—Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan, the Lord Jesus having sent Peter and John before Him ‘to prepare the Passover,’ ‘in the evening He cometh with the twelve’ (Mark 14:17) to the ‘guest-chamber,’ the ‘large upper room furnished’ (Luke 22:11, 12) for the Supper, although He seems to have intended ‘after Supper’ to spend the night outside the city. Hence Judas and the band from the chief priests do not seek for Him where He had eaten the Passover, but go at once to ‘the garden into which He had entered, and His disciples’; for Judas ‘knew the place,’ (John 18:1, 2) and it was one to which ‘Jesus ofttimes resorted with His disciples.’ ‘When the hour was come’ for the commencement of the Paschal Supper, Jesus ‘sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him,’ all, as usual at the feast, ‘leaning’ (John 13:23), John on ‘Jesus’ bosom,’ being placed next before Him, and Judas apparently next behind, while Simon Peter faced John, and was thus able to ‘beckon unto him’ when he wished inquiry to be made of the Lord. The disciples being thus ranged, the Lord Jesus ‘took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’ (Luke 22:17). This was the first cup, over which the first prayer in the service was spoken. Next, as in duty bound, all washed their hands, only that the Lord here also gave meaning to the observance, when, expanding the service into Christian fellowship over His broken body, He ‘riseth from Supper,’ ‘and began to wash the disciples’ feet’ (John 13:4, 5). It is thus we explain how this ministry, though calling forth Peter’s resistance to the position which the Master took, did not evoke any question as to its singularity. As the service proceeded, the Lord mingled teaching for the present with the customary lessons of the past (John 13:12-20); for, as we have seen considerable freedom was allowed, provided the instruction proper at the feast were given. The first part of the ‘Hallel’ had been sung, and in due order He had taken the ‘bread of poverty’ and the ‘bitter herbs,’ commemorative of the sorrow and the bitterness of Egypt, when ‘He was troubled in spirit’ about ‘the root of bitterness’ about to spring up among, and to ‘trouble’ them, by which ‘many would be defiled.’ The general concern of the disciples as to which of their number should betray Him, found expression in the gesture of Peter. His friend John understood its meaning, and ‘lying back on Jesus’ breast,’ he put the whispered question, to which the Lord replied by giving ‘the sop’ of unleavened bread with bitter herbs, ‘when He had dipped’ it, to Judas Iscariot.

Judas Iscariot

‘And after the sop Satan entered into him,’ and he ‘went out immediately.’ It was an unusual time to leave the Paschal table, for with ‘the sop dipped’ into the ‘Charoseth’ the Paschal Supper itself had only just begun. But then ‘some of them thought’—perhaps without fully considering it in their excitement—that Judas, who ‘had the bag,’ and on whom, therefore, the care of such things devolved, had only gone to see after ‘those things that they had need of against the feast,’ or to ‘give something to the poor’—applying some of the common stock of money in helping to provide ‘peace-offerings’ for the poor. This would have been quite in accordance with the spirit of the ordinance, while neither supposition necessarily involved a breach of the law, since it was permitted to prepare all needful provision for the feast, and of course also for the Sabbath, which in this instance followed it. For, as we have seen, the festive observance of the 15th of Nisan differed in this from the ordinary Sabbath-law, although there is evidence that even the latter was at that time by no means so strict as later Jewish tradition has made it. And then it was, after the regular Paschal meal, that the Lord instituted His own Supper, for the first time using the Aphikomen ‘when He had given thanks’ (after meat), to symbolise His body, and the third cup, or ‘cup of blessing which we bless’ (1 Cor 10:16)—being ‘the cup after supper’ (Luke 22:20)—to symbolise His blood. ‘And when they had sung an hymn’ (Psa 115-118) ‘they went out into the mount of Olives’ (Matt 26:30).

Our Lord’s Agony

Then it was that the Lord’s great heaviness and loneliness came upon Him; when all around seemed to give way, as if crushed under the terrible burden about to be lifted; when His disciples could not watch with Him even one hour; when in the agony of His soul ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground’; and when He ‘prayed, saying: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’ But ‘the cup which the Father’ had given Him, He drank to the bitter dregs; and ‘when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Heb 5:7-9).

Thus the ‘Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (1 Peter 1:20)—and, indeed, ‘slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev 13:8)—was selected, ready, willing, and waiting. It only remained, that it should be actually offered up as ‘the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).


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