Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13:1-18:27
On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus celebrated a traditional Passover meal with His disciples. (well… maybe not so traditional) He sent John and Peter ahead to get the meal prepared. When they arrived the disciples thought it was just gonna be “business as usual.” They had celebrated the Passover meal every year for as long as they could remember. They knew how it worked, but Jesus was about the change it up.
At the beginning of the meal, the host (usually the father in a home) washed His hands to purify Himself to lead. However, Jesus didn’t need to purify Himself so He started changing things up from the very start of the evening. Jesus took the basin and towel and used it instead to wash the feet of the disciples telling them that they should serve others as well. At this point, it probably become more clear that Jesus would be doing the Passover differently.
God had instituted the Passover meal to help Israel to remember what He had done during the time of Moses and the Exodus. They remembered the 10 plagues that God sent upon Egypt – including the lamb which each household sacrificed in order to put its blood on their doorways so the angel of death would passover them. The blood of the lamb had saved them. They ate bitter herbs to remember their lives as slaves in Egypt. They ate a sweet mixture of fruit, honey, and nuts, and recognized that God had been present with them even in those bitter times. He brought a sweetness to their lives even in the midst of slavery. They dipped vegetables in salt water to remember how God had brought them through the Red Sea.
After the meal, they ate unleavened bread to remember how God had miraculously provided “bread from heaven” (manna) for them to eat in the desert. In those moments, they said a blessing over the bread, “Blessed art thou OH LORD, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” In this blessing they remembered the manna, but it also pointed forward to the fact that Jesus himself (Bread of Life) was about to come “forth from the earth.” In just a few days, He would be resurrected and come out of the tomb!
Immediately following the bread, the traditional meal required them to drink a cup of wine called the “Cup of Redemption.” This cup and the color of the wine was intended to remind the Jewish people of the blood of the Passover lamb that had been sacrificed for their salvation. Jesus deviated from the usual way of doing this meal when He told them to drink it in remembrance of Him. It had always been in remembrance of the lamb slain in the original Passover. However, this would be something new. The new covenant which Jesus instituted that night would still celebrate the blood of the Lamb, but this lamb was Jesus Himself. There is Jerusalem, just that same week He was in the midst of choosing a path which would lead Him to the cross. There, he would die for the sins of the world, sacrificing Himself so we can be in relationship with God.
(Sidenote: The Cup of Redemption was also used in their culture as part of weddings. When a man chose a bride, He said “Will you marry me?” by offering her the cup. Drinking it was her way of saying, “Yes!!” – When we drink of the cup in communion, we are agreeing to live our lives married to Jesus and His ways. It’s an incredible offer – to become a part of the Family of God)
After the Passover meal, Jesus prays for His disciples (those present with Him and those who will become disciples later on) and then He the disciples make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spends some time praying. It’s not long before Jesus is officially betrayed by Judas and then is arrested.
Inner monologue: Am I prepared for a life with Jesus? In what ways do I need to prepare more? Do I recognize the sweetness of the Lord while I’m in the midst of struggle? This meal tells the story of God’s interaction with His people. What are some ways that I can tell the story of God’s interactions with me?
Tonight I had the privilege to lead a group from our church through a teaching called “Christ in the Passover.” Here’s a link to the guide I created for the event as well as a link to pics for the video presentation.
No one plans to have two weddings, but I do. No, I’m not threatening to leave Miranda (and by the way, that’d be the dumbest thing in the world for me to do.) I’m referring to the Wedding of the Lamb (Jesus) to His bride, the church. Although my wedding was amazing, I don’t think it’s gonna be anything compared to this wedding. Bridezillas have nothing on this one. It’s “THE” Wedding. Nothing can compare.
Yesterday, I taught a group of students about all this stuff by looking further at the cultural practices of Ancient Jewish Weddings. I learned the basics of the material from a guy named Dan Kimball who wrote “The Emerging Church” – www.vintagefaith.com. I did a little more studying on the topic and discovered some really cool things. Many of Jesus’ words fly right over our heads ’cause we don’t understand the wedding customs of His day. The connection between the ancient Jewish wedding and the time when Jesus will return (A Future Wedding) are significant. He (the Groom) will return to take the church (the Bride of Christ) as His own. Check out the process for getting married in Jesus’ day: (The bulleted sections refer to the Future Wedding of the Lamb when Jesus returns to take the church as his bride.)
1. Selection of the Bride – The first step in the process was when the father of the groom selected the bride. Young Jewish girls had little say in who they would marry and would dream about who would select them. The groom committed his love to the bride based solely on his father’s decision. The bride loved her groom simply because He had loved her first.
It’s good for us to remember that God chose us. Even in the midst of our sin against Him, He still loves us.
Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“
Of course it is out of our response to the love that He offers us that we are able to love Him.
1 Jn 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.“
2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. . .“
2. “Mohar” – The second step in the process is called the “mohar.” This is the price that was paid to the bride and her family. It represented the magnitude of how the groom valued her. The greater the price, the more value they had ascribed to her.
For us, we should remember that Jesus (the groom) paid the ultimate price for us with His own life. This is proof that we are incredibly valuable to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.“
3. “Ketubah” – After paying the “mohar,” the groom would offer the bride a list of promises (called a ketubah) which he was committing to her for the life of their marriage. (like the vows we take in the modern wedding)
Jesus has also given us many promises. The Bible is full of them. Here’s a short list:
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” – Deut 31:6
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28
“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” – John 6:47
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:26
4. Gifts – The groom would give her gifts to remind her of his love while he was away. (see step 6) Today, we exchange rings as reminder of our love and commitment for one another.
Jesus gave us gifts too.
Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.“
These gifts come in the form of spiritual gifts like serving, administration, compassion, teaching, etc and also in the form of other people (the church) that He has brought into our lives. And of course the greatest gift He gave us is His Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.“
5. Wine – Next, the groom would offer a cup of wine (Cup of Redemption) to his girl. If she accepted his offer, then she would drink of the cup without saying a word. This act ceremonially sealed the engagement before he left. (check step 6)
Mark 14:23-24 – “Then he [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.“
Did you realize that every time we receive communion, Jesus is proposing? Essentially, this is the picture that Jesus was giving the disciples that night. He’s going to leave for a while and so He is sealing the engagement.
6. Groom Leaves – He leaves to prepare the wedding chamber. Typically this would last about a year, but the groom could not decide when he was ready to come back for his bride. This decision was made by his father. Most grooms would typically want to rush through the preparations to “get on with” the honeymoon, so their fathers would decide when the chamber was ready.
Jesus has left us to prepare a place for us too. John 14:2-3 says,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.“
Also check out Matthew 4:26. Jesus is speaking of the time that he’ll return and he says,
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“
This sure sounds a lot like the tradition from the Jewish wedding to me.
7. “Mikvah” – While the groom is away preparing a place, the bride is at home preparing herself. The “mikvah” was a ritual bath that the bride would take in order to set her apart “from the world” and “for her groom.” Symbolically, she was saying, “My old life is gone and the new one has come.”
Our baptism is our “mikvah.” It is the time when we decide to “set ourselves apart” for Christ. It is during this time that we are made “new” again.
2 Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!“
In the same way that a modern bride is concerned about the way she will present herself on her wedding day, this time is important for us as believers. It’s the time that we are becoming holy, spotless, pure through the blood of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Ephesians 5:25-27 describes the goal of this mikvah saying,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.“
8. Wedding March – When the day finally came, the groom would gather his friends and together they’d march into town blowing a “shofar” (like a trumpet) and making all kinds of noise to announce their arrival. The louder they were, the more excited and proud the groom was to be able to marry this girl. It was the bride’s job to be ready (to have her lamp trimmed) for when he came.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.“
Matthew 25:1-13 – It’s our (we are the bride) job to be ready for His arrival.
Rev 19:7 – “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.“
9. Wedding Ceremony – In most cases a “chuppah” (canopy) was built for the ceremony to be performed under. It symbolized the “covering/blessing” of God on this union. The bride would receive a crown and the couple would drink another cup of wine. (Another custom which was added later is that this cup would then be broken as a symbol of the “bittersweetness” of the day – sweet for the couple, but bitter for their people whose temple had been destroyed.)
When Christ returns and gives us our crowns (James 1:12 & Rev 2:10), our union will be complete and we will be with Him forever. Also, remember that when Jesus was in the upper room enjoying the Last Supper, He drank from the first cup (that was the proposal “Cup of Redemption”) and then he said,
“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.“
This was Jesus’ way of referring to this particular cup of wine found within the wedding ceremony. He was saying, I’m gonna leave you, but I’ll be back and we’ll drink again for the wedding ceremony. (It also interesting to note that the Passover meal normally required them to drink of the cup one more time. When Jesus skipped it, he was purposefully trying to help them see this larger “wedding” symbol instead of the regular Passover symbols.) As the cup is destroyed, we can remember that we will no longer need it for communion – we’re already communing with Him.
10. Wedding Feast – There was one final step in the wedding process. The party time! It usually lasted for about a week. The couple would consummate their marriage in a room with the best man standing guard as the guests partied outside. Wow!! Talk about pressure.
This is the time after we are joined with Christ forever and begin the eternal party with Him. Read Rev 19:6-9 and check out who is invited to the wedding in Rev 3:20 – the normal/poor people.
Below is a chart I created to help put all of this together. The “Modern Wedding” section may have the pieces in a different order, but each part coincides with something from the Ancient Jewish Wedding too. (Click on it or download it to see it in full resolution.) Ultimately, the main lesson here is for our own future wedding with Jesus as the groom. Better get ready!!
I had a cannibal meallast night. Let me explain. A few years ago, I studied up on the Jewish Passover, which is the meal that Jesus celebrated with the disciples in the upper room. We have come to know it as the “Last Supper.” You know. . .the one where Jesus asks us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood – the cannibal meal. (Sorry the whole cannibal thing was just a hook I was trying to use to lure you into reading this stuff. If you’ve gotten this far, maybe it worked?)
Anyway, I was amazed at the connections between Moses and Jesus and between the Passover lamb and the “Lamb of God.” The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) took on brand new meaning for me. I especially loved the wedding imagery that Jesus used that night and how He spoke of cultural things that the Jewish disciples would have understood perfectly which fly right over our heads.
Out of my excitement, I was telling some other people about what I was learning and ended up leading our whole church through a Passover/Seder experience which was a combination of the meal with some teaching about it. I also led my small group through it last night. We ate/celebrated last night. I guess that means I’m a cannibal. (By the way, Romans accused the first Christians of cannibalism for these very same misunderstandings.) Anyway, I love teaching this stuff!! Tomorrow night (Maundy Thursday) is the traditional night that Jesus would have celebrated it with his disciples in the upper room (John 13, Luke 22:7, Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12) and so I wanted to post this material so my on-line friends could remember/understand the “Last Supper” in deeper ways too. I’d love to talk to you guys about all this stuff, so please make comments or better yet – give me a call!!
Anyway, if you’re interested in the guide (also called a Haggadah) I wrote and used, you can just click the links or the picture to the right. It should take you right to it. (There is a regular guide and also a leaders guide with notes marked in blue.) If you prefer a version which can be printed and then folded together to make a booklet, you can get it here: Christ in the Passover (There are actually 2 versions of this one too – one for copiers that will print front to back without rotations and the other for those that rotate. If you’re not sure, do a test run on the first 10 pages and then try again with the last 10 pages.)
Palm Sunday is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Anyway, here’s what I learned about the culture of this whole:
During Jesus’ day, Pilate ruled over Jerusalem as a Roman governor. Pilate’s superior would have been Caesar.
Caesar believed that he literally had come from heaven to earth and that he was the son of God incarnate on earth. He wanted to show people his power by spreading propaganda. Some of the sayings of his day were: “Caesar is Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved than that of Caesar.” He also had a 12-day celebration of his birth called the “Advent of Caesar.” You could even give him offerings so that your sins could be forgiven. He was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Caesar also minted coins with his face to help spread his name. When Rome conquered Jerusalem he also required a tribute in the form of a tax from that country. This is a huge deal to the Jews ’cause Caesar was claiming to be god. If they paid the tax, then they would be breaking thefirst two commandments – no other gods before me, and you shall have no graven image. (coin itself was an image) When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with this issue he asks them for a coin – this means that Jesus didn’t have one (He wasn’t carrying a graven image) When the religious leaders pull one out, they have already broken the second commandment. Jesus is so cool!!!
During Jesus’ day, there were a few times a year that all Jewish people were supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate specific holidays together. The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem, but during these celebrations, the Jews would certainly have outnumbered the Romans who were present in the city. Pilate (the Roman governor) would probably have felt pretty weary about these festivals. I mean, there was always a big mess to clean up, fights to break up, and simply more people to govern and take care of during these times. It would have been a stressful time in government and there was also the ever-present threat that if the Jews decided to all get together, they might be able to overtake him. Pilate lived in a mansion in Caesarea, but during these festivals and specifically this week (Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover – this festival celebrated that God heard their cry during a time when they were oppressed by a foreign government.) Anyway, Pilate would march into Jerusalem to keep things in order during these festivals. His procession was designed to be authoritative and show his power. It was designed to scare the people so that they would never even dream of uprising against Rome. The procession began with the Roman emblem which was an eagle.
Sidenote: A teacher of the law, says Jesus I’ll follow you wherever you go, and Jesus responds “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was speaking about Rome as the “bird” and the word “fox” referred to the Herods who were corrupt kings who lived in palaces but didn’t care about the people. Jesus’ answer spoke saying “These other movements are about power, mine is different – I don’t even have a place to sleep.”
Behind the the eagle in the procession would have been the Roman soldiers carrying etchings of the Caesars with all kinds of things reminding the people of all the power they had and all the battles they had won. The etchings were all about power, strength, and domination. They also marched with metal shields which made sounds which would have brought about fear and terror to the people watching. Pilate would have entered next on a horse – a huge stallion – again a symbol of power, strength, and military conquests.
PILATE ENTERED JERUSALEM ON A HORSE FROM THE WEST!
Luke 19 describes another event which happened the same week. Jesus went to Jerusalem and from the Mount of Olives (east of Jerusalem) he sent some people ahead of him to get a donkey. As you look west from the Mount of Olives you can see Jerusalem just past the Kiddron Valley. They brought the donkey to him and people spread their cloaks on the road as He went past them. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This word “King” might not have been a good one to use in light of Pilate who had just come in himself. Some of the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples and to kind of “keep it down.” Jesus responds, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” Now, there were a bunch of stones/graves on the Mount of Olives, because the Jewish belief was that the Messiah would raise from the dead all the good Jews who had died. From there they believed He would lead them all into Jerusalem where there would be peace and prosperity. Therefore, they all wanted to be buried near Jerusalem. So anyway, the Pharisees told them to be quiet, but Jesus says basically, “I’m the Messiah who will raise these people from the dead!” The Pharisees lightbulbs came on ’cause they certainly knew what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus doesn’t walk into the city, but rides a donkey. (Matthew 21) Zechariah had said years ago that the King would come “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus used the donkey to say, “Hey, I’m the guy you’ve been waiting for.” Now the way Matthew quoted this verse is called a “remez” – where Jews would quote the first part of a verse knowing that the other Jews would know the 2nd part of the verse. (Remember, they all had to memorize the Old Testament)
Here’s the whole verse: Zechariah 9:9-10 “See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.(That’s the part Matthew quoted – next is the part the Jews would have known.) I will take away the chariots from Ephraim (Jews) and the war-horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” Now check this out: Pilate came from the west proclaiming his war abilities, Jesus comes from the east and takes the peoples weapons away so he can proclaim peace. Jesus’ kingdom is totally different than the kingdom of Rome. His kingdom is about peace, not war. His parade is humble rather than proud.
JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM FROM THE EAST ON A DONKEY!
Why did Jesus weep as He entered the city? In the year 70AD the Jews decided to do it all Pilates way and they took up arms against Rome – they got destroyed! The temple was also destroyed. Jesus knew that Jerusalem would fail to do things His way, even though they were quick to follow Him now. In the city of Rome today stands the “Titus Arch” in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem. Can you hear Jesus? “You guys don’t realize it, but you’re gonna end up falling into the trap of war too.”
OK – here’s the point for you and I: THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO ENTER A CITY – the way of Pilate or the way of Jesus. There are two ways to enter a conversation. There are two ways to treat your family. There are two ways to deal with conflict in a relationship. There are two ways to deal with pain. There are two ways to treat your friends. Which will it be for you? Horses or donkeys? From the West or from the East? The way of Pilate or the way of Jesus?
I had the pleasure of leading our congregation through a Seder/Passover meal a couple of years ago. I put together a little booklet called a “Haggadah“ to explain the symbolism behind each element of the meal. I made the booklet into a slide show for anyone interested. I’d encourage everyone to step through it and truly think about depth of Jesus’ participation in this meal as the actual Passover lamb. You can also download the booklet and print it out here along with an extra leaders guide: Christ in the Passover (It has a few extra meaningful notes in blue.) For a better understanding of the fact that Jesus deviated from the normal Passover meal during the 3rd cup (Cup of Redemption), I’d also encourage you to read this blog I wrote about Jewish wedding customs.
Click on the first pic and the rest will come up in “book” form.
Alright, this past week was Holy Week. I had shared in a previous post that I was going to have the opportunity to lead our church through the Passover Meal. Anyway, I thought I’d give you a little report about how it all went.
I was certainly nervous as we started the whole thing, but once I got going, I settled into it all and really enjoyed it. Delia and Debbie did a great job of putting together all the food for the plates and decorating so all I had to do is teach. Santhia also helped out by doing some music and reading the Passover story. Miranda was supposed to do that part, but ended up being sick. (That’s a whole other story.) Anyway, it was fun to watch as the “lights” went on for people regarding the passover meals relationship to communion. I also got lots of compliments from people following the whole thing. I think it’s something I’d enjoy doing again. Maybe next year, I’ll even be more comfortable with the material and be able to teach it even better.
Here’s the “Haggadah” (guide) that I put together for the meal.