74 – Passover
Where: Upper room, Upper City, Jerusalem, Judea
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It was now after sunset and the beginning of the Galilean Passover. The Passover lamb had been roasted, the pelt given to the homeowner, and the meal prepared. As Jesus and the remainder of the disciples arrived at the upper room [model], they lay down on the cushions around the table. The woman of the house, and the women that followed Jesus, were very busy with the final details and the effort to serve so many.
Jesus noticed that the simple custom of a host, to see that the feet of the guests had been “refreshed”, had been overlooked. And since none of the disciples seemed willing to humble themselves to do this menial “servant task”, Jesus decided that he would do it. It is human nature that after a few days of successful resistance in the face of the religious leaders, and backed by large crowds, the disciples would be feeling a bit “superior”. But they must not be left with such a feeling.
So Jesus got up from the table, filled a basin with water and began to wash and dry the feet of each disciple following the example of Abraham and the custom of the land. Though all the disciples then protested and volunteered to do the work, Jesus told them to be quiet and allow him to finish.
One-by-one Jesus washed their feet, until he prepared to wash Peter’s feet. Peter, as always, boldly misunderstood. ‘Let me wash yours, master. You should not wash mine. You are the master. You should not do this’.
Jesus responded, ‘Relax. Let me finish. If you reject my service now, then you will have no place among the leaders of God’s people.’
Then Peter, as was his nature, overcompensated. ‘Then wash more of me so that I may become a better leader’, he pleaded. Again he had missed the mark.
Yet Jesus was so patient with Peter. ‘You are already a leader’, he explained, ‘but you need this lesson. You will understand later that to lead, one must first serve’. And Peter allowed Jesus to finish.
When Jesus had finished washing the feet of each disciple, he put his robe on again and reclined at the “U” shaped table. Jesus and the disciples reclined to eat the meal. As they leaned on their left elbows and reached for the common dishes in front of them with their right hands, the disciple “behind” Jesus [to his left] was Judas. In “front” of him [to his right] was John and in “front” of John was Peter. Jesus then lit the candles that separated the profane day from the sacred. Now the supper could begin.
Supper began with Jesus lifting a cup of red wine in his right hand, and all the disciples did the same. Jesus thanked God for this fruit of the vine and took a sip. Now all the disciples could drink also. A pitcher of water, basin and towel were offered by servants to all the participants so that they might wash their fingers. The disciples sipped the wine while each became ritually clean washing their fingers up to at least the second set of knuckles.
Then Jesus picked up the Karpas (celery or other vegetable), dipped it in salt water, to remind the people of God of the tears of the slaves in Egypt, and held it up. The disciples did the same. Jesus gave thanks and all ate.
The youngest member present then asked four questions about the meal, and then the entire history of the Exodus story was told. They chanted the first part of the Hallel [Psalms reminding them of the glory and power of God].
With their cups refilled, Jesus again gave thanks and everyone then began to drink the second cup of wine. Again they washed their fingers to be pure for the next moment. Jesus then held up some matzah [unleavened bread], thanked God for bread, and passed it around for each to eat. Then Jesus dipped a bitter herb [such as parsley] into the haroset [a fruit and nut puree], gave thanks, ate it, and then the disciples also ate.
Then the Passover meal [including the lamb] was served and eaten while Jesus and the disciples talked. They remember the past, the Exodus and the Psalms they had just sung. And Jesus discussed the passed actions of God, and the actions of God now. Jesus reminded them of their time together and of their purpose. Then he informed them that he would be leaving them and going to prepare a place for them somewhere that they could not yet follow. Instead, they could expect to be hated, as he is by some, and to suffer.
Then Jesus said quietly, just to those disciples closest to him, ‘One of the disciples will betray me’. Confused, Peter looked at John, raised his right hand palm up, and quickly nodded his head toward Jesus (‘Who? Ask him!’). John also did not understand what Jesus had meant, so he leaned back and the top of his head bumped Jesus in the chest. John looked Jesus in the eyes and whispered, “who?”
Jesus answered John that it would be the person to whom he gave the next dipped morsel. Jesus then dipped a piece of bread and gave it to Judas. This was a sign of friendship that the other disciples noticed.
While Jesus knew that it was necessary to press the authorities, and to proceed on the path that Moses and Elijah had lain out, Judas did not know this. Judas was acting with his own “agenda”. Judas would hand Jesus over to the authorities in order to pressure Jesus to act as the Messiah. Jesus must not be shy about raising an army and driving out the Romans. Because Judas was acting on his own, Jesus felt betrayed.
Then Jesus spoke of the future. When he is gone, he would send an “advocate” who would help them remember things they had forgotten, and who would teach them new things. One day they would all join together in the Messianic Banquet in the Kingdom of God.
With the meal over, the Seder continued. Jesus held up the last bread, gave thanks, broke it, passed it to the disciples and cryptically said, “This is my body”. Then they joined in the prayer of thanksgiving. Jesus then picked up his cup, which has been refilled [though the disciple’s cups had not yet been refilled at Jesus’ request], gave thanks, took a sip and said, “This is my blood shed for you, and for all people, for the forgiveness of sin”. Jesus then passed his cup around for all to sip from. “Do this and remember me, for I shall not drink of it again until we drink it in the kingdom”. All the cups of the disciples were then refilled and they drank their third serving of wine.
When all the cups had been refilled for the last time, they sang the second part of the Hallel, trusting God’s steadfast love to deliver them, and thanking God that all nations will praise God.
Jesus then spoke to the disciples about other things while they sipped the wine. The coming kingdom. His own absence from them. That Jesus is the true vine in God’s vineyard. And that trouble would be coming and that their faith would be tested.
Then Jesus raised his cup and gave thanks. All the disciples drank, but Jesus put his cup back down. Then Jesus said a final prayer in which Jesus gave glory to God for all that Jesus had done, and gave thanks to God for those folks that had chosen to follow Jesus. ‘May all we do be to your glory’, he concluded. And then, with the final blessing, the Seder was concluded.
Jesus knew that Judas was planning to hand him over to the authorities. Judas would know that Jesus would be going over to the olive grove on the Mount of Olives. Jesus leaned over to Judas and said, ‘what you must do, do now!’ And Judas gathered his things and left immediately. Jesus and the rest of the disciples collected their things, including weapons, and prepared to leave the house. As always, they would cross the Kidron valley as David had done when he was going into exile, and go to the olive garden called Gethsemane, where they gathered every evening.
No questions have been asked yet.