Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why is This Night Not Like Any Other?


And so the deal was struck between Judas Iscariot and Caiaphas.  The next day Some of Jesus disciples began to ask Him about where they would eat he Passover Seder, as it would seem Jesus had been tight lipped about the subject.
Finally He called Peter and John, and let them in on His plan.  He informed them that if they went into town they would meet a man there carrying water.  They would have no trouble identifying him , since it was not a common sight in the city, as carrying water was considered to be a woman’s work.  The man would then show them an Upper Room where they were to prepare the Passover.   And so Peter and John began the preparations.
When evening fell Jesus arrived with the other 10 disciples, and they all began to recline around the table.  In Exodus and Old testament times, the Jews would be seated around the table, with shoes on, girded loins, and staff in hand, and eat the Passover meal in haste.  In Roman times it was a more relaxed affair, since they were in their own land, no longer in bondage, at least to the extent that they were under Pharaoh. Instead of being seated around the tale , they would recline on cushions, raised up on their left elbow, so they could use their right hand to help themselves to the meal.


The Seder, or Paschal supper would begin with the first cup of wine, followed by a prayer calling down the Blessing of God on the wine and he feast. Then  the roasted paschal lamb would be brought, along with unleavened bread, bitter herbs and sauce for dipping. A Second glass of wine is poured, and the senior male present, presumably Jesus, if not by age by rank and he would begin the telling of he Passover Story with the words “Why is this night like no other?” Then the story of how the Israelites had gone to Egypt during a famine, and after Joseph had been forgotten were put into slavery to Pharaoh, and how Moses arose, and the miracles wrought by God  as Moses asked for permission to leave, and then finally the Passover night itself, when death took the firstborn of all Egypt except those of the Hebrews who had marked the lintels of their doors with the blood of The Passover Lamb, and then their hasty departure, and God’s miracle f parting the red Sea so they could cross over to Sinai in safety, and the journey on to the Promised Land.

It was at this point, that the question became why is THIS Passover not like any other?

Jesus knew that the countdown had begun. That in less than 18 hours he would be dead. A pulverized, beaten, spat on object of horror and contempt hanging dead from a cross.  And yet, he still had so much to do and to impart to his apostles.  He was also saddened by the fact that his betrayer sat among the group.  Moreover, the Apostles were at it again, discussing among themselves who was the greatest among them all. Jesus would settle this question once and for all,  before all else.  he rose,  and removed his garment, and girded himself with a towel.  He poured water into a basin and commanded his apostles to allow Him to wash their feet.  In the modern western  mind, that does not seem like a big deal, but in that time foot washing was the task performed by the lowliest of slaves, and there was Jesus, who had been recognized as the Son of God Himself, about to engage in that very task!  Peter saw this and recoiled in horror, admonishing Jesus NOT to wash his feet, to which Jesus replied that unless He did wash Peter’s feet, he could have no part in Him.  To which the always impetuous Peter said “If you are going to wash my feet wash my head and hands as well! “ Jesus replied “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, and he is clean all over, and you are clean, but not all of you are clean” This was his first of several references to his being troubled at the presence of Judas.
He then told them that since He had washed their feet, they were to wash others’ feet, this was heir ordination, and the message that they were not to think in terms of who is greatest among them, but rather as servants.  Such is the priesthood. The Roman Collar is the symbol of servanthood.


Then Jesus put on his robes again, and they once more reclined at the table. Jesus once again allowed his troubled state to show, and again voiced his thoughts “I do not speak of you all for i know who I have chosen. But that scripture may be fulfilled, One who eats bread bread has lifted up his heel against me. I tell you now before it comes to pass so that when it has come to pass, You may believe that I am he.”
Once again Jesus looked up from the meal and it was clear he was troubled in spirit “ Verily I say to you, one of you will betray me” . All the Apostles looked at one another wondering who it may be, They started asking “is it I?” perhaps having learned the true nature of man’s heart after following Jesus for so long, that they even called their own motives into question. Peter motioned to John, who refers to himself as the Apostle whom Jesus loved, who was seated to the right of Jesus and said “Ask him who it is”. John Complied, and in reply Jesus said “ It is he for whom I shall dip this bread and give it to him", whereupon he handed the bread to Judas. At that point, John noted that “After the morsel, Satan entered into him” , the implication being that at that moment Judas made the irrevocable decision to go through with the betrayal, and was thus, lost, the son of perdition.

With that, Jesus told Judas “ What you must do, do quickly” , dismissing him.  John, knowing the truth commented on his impressions as Judas made for the door, saying “Now it was night”, implying that all he saw around Judas Iscariot was darkness.
What of the other apostles?   According to John, they thought that Jesus had dismissed him to go buy some things they might have needed, or to give some money to the poor, and thought no more of it.  Even Peter seemed to have become distracted and no longer pursued the answer to the question he had asked. As for John, he may very well have held his silence about Judas out of fear that Peter would have lashed out at Judas then and there.

Judas had just become the first person to ever leave Mass early, as Jesus then instituted the Eucharist. Jesus then got their attention and said “ I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I say to you I will eat of it no more until it has been fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”. And having taken the cup, (The third cup of wine at  this Seder) He gave thanks, and said “ Take this, and share it among you, for I say to you that I will not drink the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God Comes.” And having taken bread he gave thanks, and broke and gave it to them, saying”This IS my body which is being given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In like manner He took also the cup after the supper saying "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which shall be shed for you”.
He told them many things after this.  (I have omitted these for the sake of brevity, but the accounts of what Jesus said and did at the last supper are recounted in full here: MT 26:1-35,  MK 14:1-31, LK 22: 1-38 & JN 13, 14, 15, 16)   He predicted once again his death in a matter of hours, and gave them a new commandment” “Love one another as I have Loved you, you also love one another.”

As the Seder drew to a close, Jesus warned the Apostles that as Zechariah predicted , “ I will Smite the Shepherd and the sheep of the Flock will be scattered.”  All the Apostles immediately protested, Peter the loudest. Jesus looked at Peter, no doubt with great love-and sorrow- and said, “ Before the cock crows , you will deny me three times”.

And so the meal ended, as they sang the Hillal , the traditional hymn taken from a group of Psalms sung by the Jews to end the Passover Seder, and left the upper room, and made their way to the Mount of Olives near which was Gethsemane, where Jesus would meet his betrayer once more, for he last time.

As a postscript, there is another reason why this Passover was like no other. Only Three cups of wine were drunk. The fourth will come later. Stay tuned to find out more.



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