We are going to consider one of
the most solemn and edifying subjects presented to us in the Bible.
We refer to the Lord’s Last Supper, of which
we read in Mark 14:12-42.
Supper was held at the Passover, which is the first night of the Jewish Feast
of Unleavened Bread.
It was at the
celebration of the first night of this Feast, called today the “Seder Night”,
that our Messiah and Lord presided before He suffered.
Our understanding of the ceremony known as
the Breaking of Bread will depend on the extent to which we are familiar with
the Jewish Passover ceremony.
solemn and edifying subject, because
it holds up Messiah to our wondering gaze.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is one of the three Pilgrim Festivals of
Israel, the other two being Pentecost and Tabernacles. On these three occasions, the Law of Moses
required the people to be present at the Temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:11, 14) and to rejoice before
God. It has been given a threefold meaning
by the teachers of Israel.
is the Season of Redemption, when they remember their redemption from Egypt.
Jewish tradition teaches that the Messiah will appear to redeem Israel
at the Passover, and that He will be preceded by Elijah the prophet (Malachi
4:5). Accordingly, a cup of wine is
filled in honour of Elijah, and at a certain point in the celebration the door
is opened to admit him in case he is standing outside, waiting to announce Messiah’s
is also the beginning of barley harvest, when the corn stands ripe in the
fields. It is significant that Ruth the
Moabitess was redeemed into the light and blessings of the people of God at
this season of redemption. (Ruth 1:22;
preparations for the Passover began early, perhaps a month or so
beforehand. Workmen were sent out by the
Jewish Council to repair the roads leading to Jerusalem. This was necessary, as the heavy winter
rains had washed away part of the soft upper surface of the roads, leaving them
cracked, uneven and holed. Isaiah in
foretelling the coming of the Messiah, referred to this custom in his prophecy (Isaiah 62:10-12) “Go through, go through the
gates; prepare the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out
the stones; lift up a standard for the people”. Visitors were received into most houses, as
this was a religious duty and a privilege.
graves and sepulchres were also whitewashed, in order to make them conspicuous;
their brilliant whiteness in the glaring Eastern sun served for warning, and
for proclaiming their uncleanness to the pilgrims - any one who touched these
was rendered ceremonially unclean. Such
persons were not allowed to partake of the Passover until the second month
(Numbers 9:6-12). Yeshua compared the
religious hypocrites of His day to these whitened sepulchres. (Matthew 23:27-28).
the home, the housewife would be cleaning the house from top to bottom, as no
trace of leaven was to be found in their dwellings during the Feast (Exodus
12:18-20). Perhaps this is the origin
of the annual custom of spring-cleaning!
New cutlery and dishes, pots and pans were brought out and used, and
then carefully stored away until the next Feast. Around the sunset of the day preceding the
Passover, the master of the house personally convinced himself that there was
no leaven remaining in his possession.
He searched all the rooms in every corner, often with a brush and by the
light of a candle (see Zeph 1:12), after saying the following blessing: “Blessed art Thou, O Eternal our God, King of
the Universe, who has sanctified us by Thy commandments and commanded us to
remove the leaven”. In the New
Testament, this figure is used, in order to remind us to use the same diligence
in spiritual matters - “Know ye
not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye
may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.
For even Messiah 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”.
(I Corinthians 5:6-8).
days before the Passover, the people selected their lamb for the sacrifice
(Exodus 12:3-6). We can picture the anxious
owner carefully re-examining it during the three to four days before the great
night; and in the same manner, if we substitute years for days, Yeshua was
scrutinized most critically by all.
Then, being found without fault in the sight of God and of honest men -
even of dishonest men- He was sent to the cross for our sins. (see John 1:27; Luke 23:13-15, 47; John 8:46)
custom at the feast was for the celebrants to sit reclining on their left
elbows, as the sign that they were at liberty and at ease from Egyptian
oppressions. The ceremony was usually
presided over by the master of the house; in this case it was the Lord Himself
who led the service. The guests of
honour would be sitting at His right and left hand, the left being the highest
place of distinction. It is very
probable that Judas was in this place, and John in the other. It explains why Judas was able to talk to
the Lord without being overheard by the rest, since their heads would be very
close together when the former sat upright.
the outset of the ceremony, a wine-cup would be filled and drunk. The first cup, of which there were four, was
called the Cup of Sanctification, because of the opening prayers that marked
the start of the feast. The Master then
washed His hands and dipped a piece of parsley or lettuce in salt water, which
was eaten. The story of the deliverance
of Israel from Egypt was read or told, and the cup filled a second time. For obvious reasons this cup was called the
Cup of Redemption.
time for the meal had now come and usually a slave came round with a jar of
water, so that the guests could wash their hands. A towel tied at his waist was used by them
in drying their hands, and he also had a bowl to catch the water that was
poured over their hands. On this sacred
occasion, it was Yeshua who took the place of the slave, in order to impress
upon His disciples the need to be clothed with humility - the more so, as they
had been disputing as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
(John 13:3-17). We will do well to
remember this lesson!
resumed His place at the table, Yeshua then said the blessing, “Bless art Thou,
O Eternal, Our God, King of the Universe, who bringest forth bread from the
earth!”. Each guest now took his turn in
dipping a piece of unleavened bread in the bitter herbs and eating it, as laid
down in the Law of Moses. This is the
“sop” referred to in the narrative. The
leader of the ceremony might, at this juncture, use his prerogative and confer
honour on the one he loved most, by putting his own sop in the mouth of his
friend. Judas had this high honour at
the hands Yeshua; but Satan entered into him, because he did not receive it
with grace in his heart. What a
lesson! Blessings conferred by a
gracious God on a graceless person, will in the end add an intolerable weight
to his condemnation.
evening meal having been concluded, Yeshua followed the usual custom of breaking another piece of unleavened bread
and sharing it with His disciples. As He did so, He said, “Take, eat; this is
my body”. In today’s Jewish ritual, the
piece that is used at this identical point is the middle of three pieces used. It surely conveys to us the thought that if
we regard the three pieces as types of the Trinity, the middle piece would be
the type of the Son, who is the second Person; and that as surely as that
middle piece is broken, so His body was broken for us on the cross. We cannot be sure that in His days there
were three pieces used; but if there had been He would at this point break the
same middle piece as it is broken today.
As He did so, He said, “This
is my body which is broken for you”. (I
third cup, called the Cup of Blessing was now filled and drunk. “The
cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of
The same title is given to this cup today by the
Jewish people. As our Saviour took it
and gave it to the disciples He said “This
is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many”. He also went on to say, “I will drink no
more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new (with you) in
the kingdom of God.”
psalms that were then sung before they left the upper room were Psalms 115-118,
with their numerous references to the Messiah, such as -”The stone which the builders refused is
become the headstone of the corner.
This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes”. (Psalm 118:22,23). These were ordinarily followed by the
drinking of the fourth and last cup, called the Cup of Praise. We know that Messiah did not drink it, but
that He hinted it was being reserved for
all His redeemed in Heaven (see Isaiah 25:6). We also know that He did drink from another
and a terrible Cup, in the Garden of Gethsemane that same night. Unless He had done so, we would never have
been entitled to share the cup of praise in Heaven - we refer to the cup of the
wrath of God, which was our just retribution.
Messiah drank it for us, and left us the sweet cup of mercy and love
that belonged rightfully to Him alone - “O, my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me,
except I drink it, Thy will be done”.
(Matthew 26:42). It was the will of the Father, as well as His own, that He should
drink it instead of us.
the time that Messiah’s life was being cut short on the cross, the same evening
witnessed a procession of pilgrims making their way down to the fields of the
Kidron Valley, where the barley stood ripe.
The Law of Moses required the people to cut down a sheaf of the
firstfruits, and to wave it before the LORD on the morning after the Sabbath
(Lev.23:10-11). It is wonderful to
realize that as the priests were doing this very thing, the disciples were
being surprised with the glad news that their Messiah had risen from the
dead. He truly fulfilled the Type, as
we are reminded in (Corinthians
15:20 - “But now is Messiah risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of
them that slept”.
Likewise, just as the people were able to partake of the harvest after
the waving of the sheaf, so may all Messiah’s people - all believers - partake
of the fruits of His victory over death and sin and the grave.