Bible Study February 2.27.12, 3.1.12, 3.4.12 For Worship 3.11.12Posted: February 21, 2012
Bible Study 2.27.12, 3.1.12, 3.4.12 For Worship 3.11.12
Luke 22:7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”
9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”
10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters,
11 and tell the householder, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’
12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.”
13 And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
14 And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him.
15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves;
18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
21 But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.
22 For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”
23 And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this.
Jesus was very intentional about the last week of his life. He intended to be in Jerusalem during Passover. When we examine the details of Palm Sunday, we can see that the demonstration as Jesus entered the City was not entirely spontaneous. Jesus had planned his entrance. He had arranged for the donkey in order for people to associate the demonstration with Zechariah9:10-13. He walked into the Temple and deliberately overturned the tables of the money changers in order to force a confrontation with the Temple authorities who were foreclosing on peasant farmers and pushing them into poverty. During the week he returned to the Temple day after day almost daring the Temple or the Romans to try to stop him. But he also knew his days were numbered. Jesus already suspected one of his followers was going to betray him. So he was sleeping in a different undisclosed location outside of the City every night. He also made elaborate plans to be able to celebrate the Passover in the City, without his inner circle knowing where that meeting was to take place. That is why there is so much cloak and dagger going on at the beginning of the passage.
In ancient Israel there was a fairly strict division of labor between the sexes. Carrying water was women’s work. In verse 8 Jesus tells Peter and John to go into the City to prepare the Passover Meal. When they ask him where they should prepare the meal, he tells them to go into the City and look for a man carrying a jar of water. They are to follow him and go into the house the man enters. They are then to ask for the householder and use the secret password, “The Teacher says to you, where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?” Probably by this time Jesus suspected that Judas would be the one to betray him, and Jesus wanted to be sure that Judas did not know the location of the dinner, so he would not be arrested before he had the opportunity to share the Last Supper with the disciples.
In taking such care of setting up the Last Supper, we should infer that Jesus was very deliberate about all of the facets of the meal. The special ritual around the sharing of the bread and the wine was no accident. The words he chose for that ritual were very deliberate. Jesus probably had some hope that he was leaving his followers with a very special memory that might become part of their ongoing mission in the world. The words of institution took ritual form at an early date among the followers of Jesus. We find in I Corinthians 11:23-25 the remembered words of Jesus from the Last Supper written down probably within 20 – 25 years after the Last Supper and 10 to 15 years before the writing of the first Gospel. Because “the breaking of the bread” became the central act of worship of the followers of Jesus, we can assume the words were ritualized early on. What Jesus accomplished in the ritual of the breaking of the bread was to provide a symbolic action using concrete elements, bread and wine, to symbolize his life and mission.
We should also consider the relationship of the Last Supper to the stories of the mass feedings that occurred during the ministry of Jesus. Not only was Jesus pointing to self-sacrificing love as the defining focus of his life and ministry he was also emphasizing table fellowship and the feeding of the poor. Indeed in the early church, “the breaking of the bread” was initially celebrated as a communal meal that also provided sustenance for widows, orphans and the poor.
The meal at which Jesus broke the bread was the Passover Meal. There were seven symbolic foods on the Passover Table: wine, unleavened bread (matzo), bitter herbs, parsley dipped in salt water, charoset (a combination of ground apple, nuts, wine and honey) boiled egg and lamb. The early followers of Jesus would have known the significance of the Passover Foods as well as the story of the angel of death passing over the houses of the Israelites marked with the blood of the Passover lamb. The sharing of the bread is referenced as the body of Jesus, the cup is identified with his blood, but also a new covenant. Since Jesus was always grounded in Hebrew Scriptures “new covenant” takes us to Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV)
Literally the new covenant of the bread and the wine is ingested by the worshipper and in the act of eating and digesting the bread and the wine become part of the flesh of the worshipper. Thus, Jesus’ intention is that the new covenant will be linked to the incarnation of the word of love in his followers.
The last three verses of our scripture bring us to the betrayal. Jesus apparently knew about the betrayal and who would do the betraying. This was a very powerful memory for the followers of Jesus. Judas’ action regardless of motive was shocking and abhorrent. It can be a reminder that even in the most intimate moments of friendship betrayal is never far away.
LET’S ASK QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. On what special day did the action in the passage occur?
2. Who does Jesus send to prepare the meal?
3. Why does Jesus want to keep the location of the meal secret?
4. How will the disciples know where the place is for the Last Supper?
5. What is the secret pass word?
6. What symbolic action did Jesus initiate at the meal?
7. What were the symbols in the ritual?
8. What were the symbols supposed to symbolize?
9. What other issue did Jesus bring up at the meal?
10. Who picked up the check?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Have you ever attended a Passover Seder?
2. What does the Passover meal commemorate?
3. What new significance did Jesus give to the elements of the Passover meal?
4. What do you think about all the cloak and dagger surrounding the Last Supper?
5. Why do you think Jesus chose bread and wine?
6. When you share the Lord’s Supper, what does it mean to you?
7. Do you think the Lord’s Supper is as meaningful, when it is not part of a full meal?
8. Why do you think the early church adopted the “breaking of the bread” as the central act of worship?
9. Why do you think the theme of betrayal at the Last Supper is so powerful?