Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 26: 17- 46

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Supper and Betrayal


Supper and Betrayal
 
General Idea: Now begins Jesus' final hours as being fully human; His life here on this earth is at a close. He knows some of His Disciples will betray Him; one will manipulate Him for selfish greedy reasons then forsake Him; another will betray Him out of confusion and desperation, and then deny Him. Yet, Jesus seeks to be intimate with the Disciples-even the ones who will betray Him-one more time before His Passion commences. All this time, the religious leaders were seeking to kill Him. I do not believe we can ever fully appreciate or understand what Jesus has done on our behalf. Betrayal is perhaps the one most heinous emotion in human experience. To have remained focused and committed at this time was perhaps the ultimate test and frustration Jesus undertook!
 
Jesus has two suppers with them (Luke 22:17-20); one was a meal and the other was to commence a lasting ordinance, a sacrament to remember and honor Him. We see the bread and the cup; perhaps it has become just a ritual and rhetoric to many, but the real meaning is far more profound. We have a Savior who not only saved us, but demonstrated victory and character. Jesus models committed character, character that shows the works of the Spirit even in the mist of extreme and dire circumstances and His pending, agonizing death. Jesus' character was in contrast to the pious frauds who called themselves "religious leaders," who sought their own will and used their innate wickedness to destroy Him. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, modeling submission, surrender, and poured-out obedience for us.

 

1.   Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a festival that followed immediately after Passover. It was, and still is for the Jews, a feast to commemorate the finale of the plagues as the angel of death slew the firstborn animals and the sons of the Egyptians.

a.   God told the Israelites, in the OT, to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes. Seeing the sacrificial blood, the angel "passed over" their homes, sparing their lives. This paved the way for Israel's exodus from Egypt and their freedom from oppression and slavery.

b.   The Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated beginning after sunset (6:00 p.m.), on the 14th, and ending on the 21st of Nisan, which is our March-April. (Technically, it begins on the 15th, since the Jewish day ended at sunset.) The unleavened bread symbolized the rush to leave Egypt, when they were unable to bake their bead with yeast which was their primary staple.

c.   The Passover points to the coming Lamb of God. And, here is God, modeling and commissioning its fruition for us. Now, death and judgment will "pass over" us as He covers us (1 Cor. 11:23-32)!

d.   Where do you want…? Family and close friends would prepare for the Passover, find a place, and have a priest slaughter the lamb.

e.   My time is at hand. Jesus is foretelling of the Passion to come, and this is the night before His crucifixion!

f.    When evening had come. The Passover is traditionally eaten at sunset with the observance of the Sabbath. It also was to be eaten quickly, and in Jerusalem. Because of the large crowds and limited space, two or more families ate a Passover together, thus many guests may have been there with the Disciples; or, it may have been a private matter in a small room, perhaps the "Upper Room," mentioned in Luke 22:12.  

g.   One of you will betray me. This would horrify those who were there as only a trusted and intimate person would share the dip! In most ancient cultures, sharing hospitality created an intimate bond. Today, we tend to take it for granted!

h.   He who dipped his hand. Traditionally, bitter herbs and bread were dipped into a sauce of nuts and vinegar and were shared. Eating bitter herbs symbolized the Exodus as well as the stress and suffering of life. The sauce represented how God quenches the bitterness.

i.    Had not been born, meaning "mourning." A wish not to have been born expressed severe regret and tragedy (Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18).

 

2.   Jesus took bread. It was the custom of the head of the household to give thanks and a blessing. What was said was, "this is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate when they came out of Egypt." The bread now represents Jesus body, given for us all (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24).

a.   This is my body does not refer to consuming Jesus, as many pagans thought and used as an excuse for persecution; rather, Jesus represents the affliction, as He took our afflictions and sins, and bore (emptied) them on the cross for our eternal life. The leavened bread was not 1400 years old; it was a symbolic representation, just as this passage is! As the bread then represented the Jews being saved and brought out of Egypt, it now represents our being saved and brought out of our sins.

b.   He took the cup. The head of the house would take the center cup and raise it, up to four times (as in four cups full), to pronounce blessings. This represented Jesus' shed blood as a sacrifice to pay for our sins and judgment so God's wrath would "pass over." It represents His substitution, His sacrifice, on the cross.

c.   New covenant. In ancient cultures, serious agreements were ratified by a blood sacrifice (Isa. 53). The drinking of blood was strictly forbidden in the Law, so Jesus uses this symbolically (Lev. 6:24-7:27; Duet. 12:16).

d.   I will not drink. This was a vow of abstinence until the occasion would come (Gen 24:33; Judges. 13:16; Isa 25:6; Amos 9:13-14).

e.   Sung a hymn. It was traditional to sing Psalms 113-118.

f.     What about "The Holy Grail," the cup Jesus used at this Last Supper? Nowhere in Scripture is the cup itself honored; it is the symbol of who Christ was and what He was to do on our behalf that is honored. Those who seek a relic, a substitute for the Christ, seek adventure and an idol to worship and control, not the real substance that the cup represents. The real honor is our trust and obedience to His commission and sacrament.

 

3.   All of you will be made to stumble means they will fall away. Jesus is saying that all of the Disciples, in one way or form, would betray Him. And, they did so by not going with Him after His arrest. Only Peter followed, but at a distance; and, then, he denied Jesus.

a.   I will strike the shepherd is a quote from Zachariah 13:7 foretelling this event centuries before. This Zachariah passage also refers to scattering false shepherds and contrasts the foolish and worthless shepherds (Duet. 13:1-11; 28:64; 29:24-25; Zech. 10:2; 11: 3-17). For us, Jesus is now the Good Shepherd (Matt. 18:12-14; 25:32; John 10:11-14)!

b.   Before the rooster crows was the ancient alarm clock, very reliable and consistent so all in ear shot would know when it was sunrise. They crowed from 3:00 a.m. to sunrise, depending on their mood. Jesus tells Peter that his denial is imminent even as he is proclaiming his steadfast loyalty! Peter would betray Jesus before the end of that very night!

c.   Gethsemane means "olive oil press." It was a garden valley where olive oil was made from the olives of nearby groves, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, a 15 minute walk from the "upper room." This pristine prayer spot is where Jesus was to be betrayed. They probably arrived around 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.

d.   My soul is exceedingly sorrowful. Jesus is deeply grieved and draws on O.T. lament language (Psalm 42:5-11; 43:5; 142:3-6; 143:3-4; Jonah 4:9; Matt. 27:46). Jesus knows what is ahead and can at anytime get out of it; He chooses to remain true to His mission and God's redemptive plan!

e.   Stand here with me. This is the imagery of the security of palace guards (Mark 13:34-36). By failing to stay awake, they showed disrespect and unconcern with the agony Jesus was going through. After a heavy meal, this was tough, but still do-able! It was also tradition to stay up late after the Passover! They should have stayed awake and displayed their loyalty. In a few years, all but John would display the ultimate loyalty by giving their lives for Jesus; John would be exiled!

f.    The cup refers to Judgment (Matt. 20:22; 27:48; Mark 10:39).

g.   Temptation, here, refers to "you are about to fail a testing," as the Jews used the phrase. In the context of not staying awake, it means, "you are about to fall to sin."

h.   Spirit…Body refers to losing self control-to being impulsive; thus, exhaustion takes control.

 

          Jesus remained faithful while His Disciples displayed impulsiveness that would lead to their betrayal! We may not be able to fully comprehend what Jesus did on our behalf here at Gethsemane and on the cross, but, we can strengthen our faith and resolve not to misunderstand who He is and what He has done for us!  Most Christians assume it was Jesus' imminent death and suffering that He was in agony over, and, thus, He was seeking another way. But, this is not so, as Jesus came to earth to die, just as we all do. There is no escape from our corporeal existence other than the death of our body, nor is there any skipping out on our physical suffering. This is just a part of life for all things in the universe; all things have a limit and a time of destruction, from our galaxy to our sun to our very selves. Only God and our place with Him to come are eternal. Jesus was seeking a way, if possible, not to fail at His mission. He was fully human and experiencing all the emotions we do, plus having the weight of the universe on His shoulders, plus experiencing the impeding betrayal of His closest friends! As God, this was no big deal for Him. As a man, this was nearly impossible for Him. He had to make it through as fully God and fully man to pay our debt of sin. If He could not, He could not be our Savior; Satan could win. Jesus was capable of failing, but He persevered and went on to victory. Subsequently, we are saved and Satan is thwarted (Luke 4:13; Heb. 9:11-15)!

 

 

Questions:

 

1.   Have you ever stayed up all night? How did you do it, and why?

 
 

2.   What do you think Jesus was thinking and feeling, knowing that His Disciples would betray Him?

 
 

3.   Have you ever experienced betrayal? How did you feel; how did you respond?

 
 

4.   What does Jesus model for you in this passage?

 
 

5.   How does the Passover point to the coming Lamb of God?

 
 

6.   Why do you suppose Jesus seems to be secretive regarding the arrangements for the Passover?

 
 

7.   Sharing hospitality then was an intimate bond that today we take for granted and even regard as trivial! Why is that?

 
 

8.   Read 1 Cor. 11:23-32; what does the Lord's Supper mean to you? What should it mean?

 
 

9.   What do the bread and blood represent now? How do you honor and practice the Lord's Supper?

 
 

10. What does it mean to you that the judgment of God's wrath will now "pass over" you?

 
 

11. How do you reconcile that the drinking of blood was strictly forbidden in the Law (Lev. 6:24-7:27; Duet. 12:16), yet Jesus says, this is my blood? Was it symbolic, or...?  

 
 

12. Why do you suppose "The Holy Grail" has captivated so many for so long?

 
 

13. What would it take for you to betray, or fall away from Jesus? What can you do to be on guard against falling away?

 
 

14. How do you think Peter felt as Jesus told him his denial was imminent?

 
 

15. Why was Jesus deeply grieved? Can you identify with Him is a small way?

 
 

16. Why do you think the Disciples showed disrespect and unconcern with the agony Jesus was going through? What would have you done? What about after a big turkey dinner?

 
 

17. How have you lost self control to impulsiveness and, thus, exhaustion took over in you?

 
 

18. How can you strengthen your faith and resolve not to misunderstand who Jesus is and what He has done for you?

 
 

19. How can the facts that Jesus was fully human and experiencing all the emotions we do, He had the weight of the universe on His shoulders, and, He was facing the imminent betrayal of His closest friends strengthen your faith, trust, and appreciation in Him?

 
 

20. The next time Passover comes, make a commitment to take your church group to a "Seder Dinner," celebrating the Passover, and take note of all the wondrous things that point to our Lord. Many Messianic groups have these, too http://www.christianseder.com!

 

 

Theological Thought

 

Communion: We are to Celebrate the Lord's Supper/Communion (Isa. 52:15; 53:12; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Cor. 11:20-25)!

 

This was instituted by Jesus on the night before His Crucifixion. He told the Disciples that the cup of wine (most Protestants now use grape juice; however, the type of element is irrelevant to the obedience of the statute) represented His own blood, shed to establish a new covenant between God and humanity. The bread represented His body, broken on our behalf. Thus, when we partake of the Lord's Supper, we meet Christ and become present with Him (Omnipresence of God) in remembrance of His atoning death and sacrifice on our behalf, and look to the fullness and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Calvin said,"We are given a taste of Heaven.

 

There is debate amongst denominations as to whether the elements of bread and wine are actually Christ's body and blood (Catholics call it transubstantiation), physically added in to the elements (Lutherans call it consubstantiation). Christ is not physically present because His body is in Heaven; however, beliefs are that He still is really present (Calvin-Reformed), or partially present, or, it is just a memorial (Zwingli-Baptists). 

 

The Lord's Supper also pointed toward the consummation of the Kingdom of God. At first, the Communion was a part of a gathering for a meal in private homes (1 Cor. 11:17). Over time, it became a part of the Sunday worship of the local church. To the Catholics, this became the focal point of the service, observed toward the end. The first parts were the reading of the Word, prayers, singing of psalms/hymns, intercessions, and a homily (the Reformers switched to the sermon as the focal point).  

 

 

© 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org 

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