The Last Supper
October 1, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The first Lord's Day in October is "The World Holy Communion Day." On this day, churches in every country around the world hold the Lord's Supper while reflecting on how they are joined to one another through Christ. This day is also the day that reminds us again of what worship on the Lord's Day is, which we practice every week. We are not just worshipping with about one hundred thirty people gathering here each week. We are taking part in great worship on the Lord's Day that is spread around the globe and is held the whole day through.
2. The Lord's Supper that is held in countries around the world on this day is derived, as you know, from [the evening meal] commonly called "The Last Supper" at which Jesus had eaten with his disciples. The scene of this last supper was read in today's gospel reading. This is what happened on the day before that Friday when Jesus was crucified on the cross, "Maundy Thursday."
3. Now I did say "the day before" but actually this is not an accurate statement. Going by our calendar, then the last supper would fall on "the day before" Jesus' execution because the date would change at twelve o' clock at night. However, going by the Jewish calendar, a day begins in the evening at twilight. With the setting of the sun it turns into a new day. Thus, the last supper and Jesus' crucifixion turn out to be events actually on the same day. You might as well say, that supper was at the start of the day of his passion.
The Passover Meal
4. When we look at verse twelve, the disciples asked Jesus, "Where shall we go and make preparations, so you will have the Passover meal?" We understand that this evening supper was not a normal meal, but the special meal called "The Passover Meal."
5. "Passover (The Passover Festival)" is one of the three great festivals that Jews celebrate. Still today Jews celebrate Passover and have the Passover meal. The origin of this festival goes back to the time when led by Moses the Israelites escaped from Egypt. In today's first reading Exodus was read, which tells of the things that happened then. Just as it has it in today's passage of scripture, the Lord commanded the festival of the escape from Egypt through Moses to the Israelites. I'll read it to you again. "So, [let] each family take a sheep and slaughter the Passover sacrifice. Then take a bundle of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the bowl, and daub the blood in the bowl onto the lintel and the two pillars of the entrance. No one must come out of the entrance to the house until the next morning. When the Lord goes around to attack the Egyptians, he will see the blood daubed on the lintel and the two pillars and pass over that entrance. For, the destroyer will not enter [your] house and attack you," (Exodus 12:21-23).
6. This is the derivation of the Passover Festival. Upon escaping from Egypt, they slaughtered the sheep, and painted its blood on the door jambs. In remembrance of this event, likewise even in the time of Jesus, they practiced the slaughtering of the sheep and the painting of its blood on the door lintels and pillars. And together they would eat all of the sacrificial sheep. This is the meal of the Passover.
7. "Passover" -- In the Jewish language they would say "Pesach." Going by a Japanese translation it means "to pass through" or "to pass over." What passed over? It's saying the judgment had passed over. Thus, it is "Pesach - The Passover." The blood became the sign and the judgment then passed over. The judgment passed over and deliverance then visited. This is how the Israelites were delivered. The meal to commemorate this, that is the Passover meal.
8. The other day or so, some of the youth saw the movie "The Passion Of The Christ." The movie depicts a day in the sufferings of the Christ. As those who have seen it know, there are continuous gruesome scenes in it, such that you want to cover your eyes, you are at a loss for words. What actually took place was very cruel. But, the suffering that day began after the Passover meal, which was to commemorate the fact that judgment had passed over and that deliverance had come. With this in mind, let's turn our attention to today's passage of scripture.
The Special Passover Celebration That God Has Prepared
9. I will read to you from verse twelve. "The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, namely the day to slaughter the Passover lamb, the disciples said to Jesus, 'Where shall we go and make preparations, so you will have the Passover meal?' Whereupon, Jesus spoke as follows and sent out two disciples as messengers, 'Go to the capitol city. Then, you will meet a man carrying a water jar. Follow him. Say this to the master of the house into which he will enter, The master says, 'Where is my room to have the Passover meal with my disciples?', After he shows you the spacious second floor room in which the seats are arranged and he had ready, keep it ready for us there.', " (14:12-15).
10. These words of Jesus show what a risky situation it was to have a Passover dinner in Jerusalem. We cannot quite understand the tense situation that these words show, but I'd say that as an example the Chinese [in their] "house churches" who have experienced oppression can understand this at a sensory level. As a matter of fact, for the people to assemble together in avoidance of the the watchful eyes of the authorities, they would use a marker like this. Because that guy was standing there holding something, it said to them, "Follow him, go into the place of meeting." In that way then, everyone would assemble together.
11. The fellow carrying the water jug was the marker for them. Normally the drawing of water was women's work, so there weren't [usually] men like that, carrying a water jar. So, they would figure out right away that he was it. Therefore, they followed him without saying a word to him. By doing that therefore, they could arrive at a place where a Passover meal was ready without being suspected.
12. But, in truth, these words of Jesus show one very important thing. It is that Jesus himself was already making ready "the time and the place" of the Passover meal. If the disciples would follow the water jug man, they would arrive at the one house that was being made ready. And in it there was already "the spacious second floor room in which the seats are arranged and he had ready." Jesus' having already arranged it with the master of the house, that place was being made ready.
13. Jesus already had "the time and the place" ready. What does that imply? It wasn't just a Passover meal, this last supper. In fact, all the events of his passion which begin after it point to the fact that they were set up by the Lord. The special Passover Festival set up by the Lord was really about to begin now. The true Passover Festival, this special Passover held just once in the history of humankind, was about to begin. It was the Passover in which the son of God would be slain as the paschal sacrifice. That kind of Passover was about to begin, the judgment of God would pass over and salvation would come not with the blood of a lamb, [but] through the blood of the son of God. The Lord had already made arrangements for that kind of Passover. Jesus was at about this time thirty years old. You might say that for about thirty years, the Lord had been preparing this special Passover Festival.
14. But if we take this even further, the very history of Israel spanning [back] to one thousand and several hundred years was preparation for it. Through the long history of Israel, which is recorded in the Old Testament scriptures, God himself had arranged for this one time only special Passover festival. That special Passover was actually about to begin now. This is the scene which is called "The Last Supper."
Until That Day We Drink Anew And Again In The Kingdom Of God
15. In addition, let us shift our attention to the seats at the dinner. At the seats of this dinner, the Lord said, "When [Jesus and] his group were having dinner, Jesus took the break, and reciting a prayer of praise, he broke it, and he gave it to his disciples and said, 'Take. This is my body.' Then he took the cup, and reciting a prayer of thanksgiving, he handed it to the disciples. They all drank from the cup. And Jesus said, 'This is my blood, the blood of the covenant which is shed on behalf of many.'," (verses twenty-two through twenty-four).
16. What the Lord is talking about by using that bread and cup is about what would happen in a few hours from then. [Jesus was talking about how] he would be judged, crucified, and killed, that is, the son of God would be slain as the Passover sacrifice. It means none other than the fact that the son of God himself broke and handed over himself, saying "[This] is my body. Eat me." The Lord has handed himself to us as this Passover dinner.
17. Then the Lord went on to say, "I clearly say to you. Until that day we drink anew and again in the kingdom of God, may I never again drink from that which is made from the fruit of the grape," (verse twenty-five).
18. This dinner is called "The Last Supper." But, it is not truly "the last." While pondering his own death on the cross, the Lord spoke about his body and his blood. However, his eyes were not just turned to the cross, but were turned to "that day we drink anew and again in the kingdom of God." Therefore, this meal is not the last. The Lord says, "The hour is coming when I will sup with you again."
19. As a matter of fact, Jesus will arise from the dead in three days and he will have a meal again with his disciples. But, what Jesus is saying here is not about a post resurrection meal. It is still no more than just a model, a sample. Even nowadays the Lord's Supper is done over and over. Even today the Lord's Supper will be practiced. This is the meal with the Christ of the resurrection. But, even this is still no more than a sampling. At that hour the eyes of Jesus were turned to "that day we drink anew and again in the kingdom of God." It is the banquet of the kingdom of God. God will completely rule, the love of God will be to overflowing, the joy of God will be to overflowing, that will be the banquet of the kingdom of God.
20. The son of God certainly was crucified in the middle of this world so filled with sin. The true paschal sacrifice was slain in the middle of this pitch black world. And still, we see how the darkness is still as ever covering over this world. The power of sin wields its fury, the power of death rules over all persons. We are living and dying in this world filled with the cries of sighs.
21. But, the Lord's eyes pierced through that darkness and turned to the banquet of the kingdom of God. And he would also let us turn our eyes to "that day we drink anew and again in the kingdom of God." It is not the power of sin, the power of death which finally rules over us. It is God himself. Our last and final state of being is not the figure of embracing worry and fear, crying with sadness, being tormented with minds of hatred and anger, suffering for personal sins, being frightened by the shadows of death. Before too long, the time of the true banquet, the time of the banquet in which joy will be to overflowing is coming. The time is truly coming when we will be able to joyously celebrate from the heart. Jesus hung on the cross for this reason, that we could have a share in that joy, in that celebration [because] the judgment has passed us over.
22. Therefore, when the Lord's Supper is practiced, it is the time when we turn our eyes steadfastly to the past and to the future. Mindful of the past, we participate in the Lord's Supper. Two thousand years ago the special Passover Festival that God had prepared was held. Mindful of the fact that the once-for-all festival has already been held in which the son of God was slain, we participate in the Lord's Supper. But, at the same time, mindful of the future, we participate in the Lord's Supper. Mindful of the fact that the time of the banquet of the kingdom of God, the true banquet is coming, we participate in the Lord's Supper. At that time the Lord will drink with us from "that which is made from the fruit of the grape." The time is coming when we will joyously celebrate the banquet of the kingdom of God with [our] Lord amid the light of overflowing joy.