The Last Supper “Remember Me”

The following is not the work of Gerald Fugit. It was given to me by Don Wort.

There is a unique and wonderful picture in the way God designed the sacrifices and feasts for His nation, Israel. A principle first seen in His acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s, later established in the system of sacrifices given through Moses; the first fruits of every thing they produced, before they partook themselves, was to be given to God, crops, livestock, even their own sons.

But some things were considered unclean and unacceptable, for them a substitute was to be offered. When Pharaoh refused to free Israel, all Egypt paid with first-born sons. But for Israel a lamb was substituted. God established an annual Sabbath (the Passover) on the full moon of the first month of the Hebrew calendar as a memorial of that event and a type of a greater one yet to come. On the first day after the weekly Sabbath after the Passover a swath of barley was cut and presented to God. After this “Wave Offering” they could partake themselves.

When Jesus, the first fruits of the resurrection, appeared to Mary at the tomb and said, “Don’t hold me” , He was saying the wave offering must be made before you partake. Later he could eat with the disciples and ask Thomas to feel his wounds. To relieve her grief He appeared to Mary before presenting Himself, (The Wave Offering) to God.

On the first day after the seventh weekly Sabbath after the Passover another Wave Offering was made for the wheat harvest. It was on this day (Pentecost) The Church was born.  We assemble on the first day, not a change of the Sabbath, but as partakers of the resurrection because the first fruits have been offered.

What I want to say about the Last Supper can be introduced by the following article by Solomon Birmbaum.

THE STORY THAT WOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN

We Jews, as people, are not exactly stupid, Generally speaking we have our wits about us –wits sharpened and made keen by the centuries long battle for survival. And yet in some respects we are most unrealistic. We seem to imagine we are keeping something which in reality no longer exists.

A mystifying example of this is the manner in which we persuade ourselves we are keeping the Passover.

The law of Moses which gave the Passover to Israel carefully prescribed the manner in which it was to be kept. The outstanding feature of that feast was the lamb offered by the priest in the temple of Jerusalem. Commemorating the lamb slain in Egypt, and which alone was called “The Passover”.

Yet today with the Temple and the Priesthood gone, and no possibility of offering the lamb, we nevertheless imagine that we are keeping the Passover.

A NEW INGREDIENT

And as if to make up for that deficiency a new ingredient has been added, namely the WINE. Although neither in the writings of Moses nor in those of the rabbis (Including Hillel) during the fifteen centuries that followed the days of Moses, is there any mention of wine being necessary for the keeping of the Passover.

The Hafadda (the Jewish Passover story) tells us how Hillel kept it. Only three things were essential: Pesach, Matzo, and Moror, that is the Passover lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs.

In other words during the fifteen hundred years between Moses and the birth of Christ, Israel kept the Passover without the necessity of using wine.

Yet today the four cups of wine for the celebration of the Passover are mandatory. No Jew could keep the Passover without them. The Schulchan Aruch (Jewish Book of rules) further instructs us that the wine used on that occasion should be red!

THE DRAMA OF THE MATZO

Moreover as an additional feature, so as to makeup for the sorely felt loss of the Passover lamb, part of the Matzos on the Passover table or “the Seder” (as it is now called) is no longer just “unleavened Bread.” It is called Aphikomen and has been vested with a new significance. It symbolizes the Passover Lamb itself.

An interesting little drama is being enacted every year in connection with the Matzos: Three Matzos are placed on the table, one on top of the other. The person who conducts the ceremony breaks the middle one in two unequal parts. The larger piece he wraps in clean cloth and hides it. Then at the close of the meal, he recovers it from its hiding place and shares it among all members of the family. That piece of Matzo, or the “Aphikomen” the Schulchan Aruch bids to be treated with special regard and is eaten at the close of the meal. As the matter now stands, it is no longer the Passover Lamb, commanded by Moses, which constitutes the main feature of the Jewish Passover, but the bread (Matzos) and the wine.

This marks a radical departure from the feast initiated by Moses. What was the cause of this departure? Who substituted the Matzo for the Passover Lamb? Who made wine part of the Seder? Why should it be red like blood?

The answer to the above questions may surprise the reader. But I am sure he will be glad to know it will throw new light upon one of the most vital episodes of Hebrew history. The things we are doing to the Matzo and the Wine is a story in action, or drama, of something that happened long ago, about someone that lived long ago.

The story is told in secret, as it were, because the people are afraid to tell it openly. And for centuries Jewish lips were forbidden to utter the name of the hero of that story or to reveal its source.

That story, however, could not be forgotten. It became indelibly enshrined in the soul of Israel. In order to keep it alive and fresh it was re-enacted year after year at the Seder, the most sacred and most religious occasion of the Jewish home. It waited until the book where that story is written could be opened and be read without fear. That book is the book of the New Testament. It is the book, which tells of the Life, the Teaching, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah!

THE CORE SUBSTANCE OF THE SEDER

About three decades before the destruction of the second temple (A.D. 70) we are told that Jesus, as the close of His career went up with His disciples to an upper room in Jerusalem to keep the Passover with them. Someone present on that occasion describes the incident in the following words, “As they were eating (at the close of the supper), Jesus took bred (Matzo) and blessed it and break it and gave it to His disciples and said: Take eat, this is My body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them saying: Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the New Testament shed for you for the remission of sins.”  Matthew 26: 26-28

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In these few sentences which describe the institution of “the Lord’s Supper” or Christian Passover, the answer to the question we asked above is found: Why does the Jew, while eating the piece of Matzo which he calls Aphikomen, believe (according to the Ahulchan Aaruch) that he is eating the PESACH (or Passover Lamb)?

The origin of this idea is not found in the Talmud; it comes from the New Testament. It is BECAUSE Jesus took bread (Matzo) and said, “This is my body”. It is He who gave His disciples bread and told them as they were eating it to believe that they were eating the Korban Pesach. He was the true Korban Pesach. It was from Him that the Rabbis learned to make such an identification.

Some Jewish readers at this pint might protest and cry, “This is impossible! Jews would never eat such a thing!” Yet it is so. The New Testament undoubtedly is the source and origin of the essential features of the Jewish Seder. What follows will dispel any further doubt in the matter.

To continue   …

Why are there three Matzos on the Seder table and WHY is the middle Matzo broken?
The customary explanation for the presence of the three Matzos is that they represent the three groups of Israel; the Cohens, the Levites, and the Israelites. But if that were the case, Why is the middle Matzo broken, wrapped and hidden, and then recovered from the hiding place and shared among the members of the family? Why also is it called by the Mysterious name, Aphikomen? What has all this to do with the Levite: Nothing like this happened to him!

But every single act done to that middle Matzo is a description of what happened to Jesus. It is He therefore whom it represents. And all three Matzos are symbolical of the threefold revelation of the Godhead according to the Bible God the Father and Creator, God the Savior or Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit. The middle matzo which represents Jesus is therefore broken. He was broken when He was crucified.

WHY is the broken Matzo wrapped in a cloth and hidden? Because the DISCIPLES OF JESUS, when he died on the cross, took His body down and wrapped it in grave clothes and placed it in a tomb.

WHY is the broken Matzo, called Aphikomen, recovered from its hiding place: BECAUSE on the third day God raised Jesus from the grave in His resurrection from the dead.

WHY is the Aphikomen eaten as last act of the Seder: BECAUSE other parallel reports of this incident inform us that this institution of the “Lord’s Supper” took place at the close of the meal in the upper room in Jerusalem.

And finally WHY is the Philomel shared among all the members of the family? BECAUSE the believers of Jesus are regarded as the family of God; and Jesus had said to them, “take, eat!” he is the bread of life to all who believe in HIM.

THE WINE THAT IS RED

The incident related in the New Testament also answers the questions with reference to the wine on the Seder table.

WHY is the wine necessary for the Seder? BECAUSE Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to His disciples.

WHY is the wine to be red, resembling blood: BECAUSE Jesus said, “this is my blood of the New Testament, shed for man for the remission of sins”.

WHY is it necessary that every Jew should drink wine at the Seder? BECAUSE Jesus said, “Drink ye all of it”.

THE MYSTERY OF THE APHIKOMEN

WHAT is the meaning of this mysterious word “Aphikomen”. It looks like a Greek word; and most scholars agree that it is so. But different opinions exist as to is meaning. Some say it comes from “Epikomos” and means “dessert”.  But that does not seem correct, since a great deal of violence had to be perpetrated on the word “Epkomos” to turn it into Aphikomen.

But there is another Greek world which gives full satisfactory explanation, and where violence is not at all necessary to give it meaning. It reads exactly as our Aphikomen. What does it mean? According to the Greek lexicon it means, “I came.”   Who came?

The One, obviously, whom the broken Matzo represents, namely, the Lord Jesus, the true Pesach.

In the Aphikomen, therefore, the Lord Jesus calls to all who are waiting and longing for the coming of the Messiah, “Why do you wait any longer?  I came already! Aphikomen! Open your eyes of faith and behold Me. I am the true Passover. I shed my blood to shield you from death and give you eternal life. I stand in the place of your Passover because I am its fulfillment”

Jesus is the Shepherd of Israel. He has not forsaken His people. We cannot escape Him. Like the Good Shepherd, He is following His sheep through all the vicissitudes of our sorrowful existence. ‘In all their afflictions He was afflicted.’  Still He is calling, “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

HOW IT HAPPENED

Before we leave our subject, we must still say a word as to how it was that the “Lord’s Supper” became the core of the Jewish Seder. Briefly, it happened like this; At the time of the birth of Jesus, and about thirty years after, only one kind of Passover was in vogue in Israel, the kind Moses instituted at the Exodus, and the Hillel observed fifteen hundred years after Moses. Then Jesus held His memorable Supper in the upper room in Jerusalem. Thereafter, there were two kinds of Passovers in Israel, the one that Hillel kept and the other which Jesus instituted.

Being devout Jews, the disciples of Jesus in all probability, observed both kinds. As long as the Temple stood, they, with the rest of the Jewish people, ate the Passover after the manner of Hillel, and at the close remembered, with the bread and the wine, the death and the resurrection of their Lord. Then in 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple with the priesthood were destroyed. As a consequence the Passover after the manner of Hillel was done away with and only the Passover after manner of Jesus remained.

The abolition of Hillerl’s Passover left an intolerable void in the religion of Israel. That void had to be filled if Israel, as a nation, was to survive. But it had to be a kind of “Passover”, which was not inseparably tied to the Temple and the priesthood that were no more. The Passover of the disciples Jesus completely answered the purpose. The Jewish leaders, therefore, incorporated it into the religion of their people, building around it embellishments and other features and embellishments with which they loaded it, they could not efface its inner and original impact.

Always and ever, therefore, it was Jesus, the Shepherd and Savior of Israel, who provided for the spiritual need and sustenance of His people to insure their survival; and forever He will stand by their side, waiting till they hear His voice, find safety in His fold, and find rest for their troubled hearts. Solomon Birmbaum.

When Jesus and His disciples ate that last Passover meal He gave meaning to the picture God put into that celebration, it was that last piece of unleavened bread (Matzo), recovered from its hiding place in the house, that Jesus called His body and told them to eat. It is then that it became identified with the Passover Lamb, the one clean unblemished sacrifice that could be substituted for us who are unclean and unfit to be presented to God…He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19)

In preparing for the Passover, every trace of leaven is cleansed from the house. Three loaves of unleavened bread are baked and staked. The middle loaf is taken out and broken in two. The smaller piece is put back in the stack that is to be eaten with the bitter herbs. The larger piece is wrapped in a clean cloth and hidden. At the end of the meal this piece is retrieved and eaten. The lamb, sacrificed as our substitute, is resurrected to become our bread of life.

Though the red wine was not a prescribed ingredient for the Jewish Passover, it was part of that “Last Supper”. It was that fourth or last cup which Jesus declared to be “The New Covenant in My Blood which is poured for you.” And told his disciples to all drink of it. (Luke 22:20). In verse 18 He called it the fruit of the vine, and said He would not drink it again until the Kingdom of God comes. Matthew 26:29 says, “Until I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

The Greek “Oinos” translated wine, was used of grape juice in any stage. This feast was too early in the year for it to have been fresh juice where there was no vacuum or refrigeration to preserve last year’s crop. But neither would it have been in the stages of fermentation Proverbs 23:31 warns against. If there was alcohol content it would have been very low.

The final and perfect sacrificial Lamb has now become the Bread of Life, the Living Word, the complete Expression of God, who sustains the new life provided by his sacrifice. That last piece of unleavened bread pictures the Lamb. His blood applied to our hearts (the doorway to our souls) is pictured in that last cup of red wine. The great feast, given to Israel to remind them how God delivered them from bondage in Egypt, has taken new meaning, The (first born of God) the one perfect Lamb has taken our place. We have been delivered from even greater bondage. Jesus gave us this last portion of that feast to help us Remember.

Many Jews eat the “Passover” once a year. That last piece of Matzo has become the Lamb. They call it Aphikomen and long for the day the Messiah will come not realizing that in their feast He shouts out, “Aphikomen! (I have come!)”. It is a Greek verb in first person plural which would read, We have come!

Christians meet on the first day of each week, rejoicing in the knowledge that He truly has come, The sacrifice has been made! The first fruits have been offered, and it is time to enjoy the harvest! The unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine became a memorial of what He did for us.

There is strong evidence that many Christians in the first century took the Lord’s Supper in their weekly meetings. There are no clear Bible instructions about how often; I think because it far more important that we know what it is about. Some say we should only eat it once a year at Passover time. Others say every quarter or no more than once a month because “if we do it ever week it will become just a ritual”. If we understand and participate in its meaning it will never be just a ritual.

When Jesus established the new meaning, He did it after a strong object lesson on the servant attitude (John 13)   I remember an Ozark Bible College student throwing trash in the general direction of the trashcan. When I suggested he put it in he said, “Cleo Jones gets paid to do that”. Cleo Jones left a job with General Motors to take that job that sometimes took up to four times as many hours and paid one fourth as much; cleaning up after a bunch of inconsiderate young people who were supposed to be training to serve the Lord.

A number of times I walked with Seth Wilson, a man renowned as one of the great Bible scholars, just over two blocks from his house to the Bible College. We picked up trash students had scattered in the neighbors yards and I can still feel the pain in his voice as he commented on the negative witness it made. I think when the book is opened on the lives of these two men near the top of the list will be “they washed the disciples feet.”

The best example of foot washing is not these two men nor even in that upper room but the next day when Jesus struggled up that hill with my trash to be nailed to it and die because of it.

When Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about eating the Lords Supper in an unworthy manner, it was after a reprimand for selfish gluttony at the expense of other Christians. The condemnation he warned about was for not discerning the Lord’s Body. To examine ourselves in this light was not to try to remind God of sin He has blotted out and forgotten, but to discern what we can do to serve His Body (the Church).
The concept of service is an inseparable part of this time of communion or fellowship with the congregation and Jesus Christ as He eats it anew with us in the, Kingdom of God.

The prophesy is fulfilled! The new song of Moses and the Lamb is ours to sing, as we rejoin in anticipation of the day when He comes back, This time as the Lion, to defend those who have accepted Him and to judge those who have not.

MOSES AND THE LAMB

“”Nine plagues had come on Egypt to prove her gods so weak
Before the great Almighty God, for Whom did Moses speak.
‘Twas then he said to Israel, “Let each family take a lamb,
By morn shall haughty Pharaoh bow before the Great I Am.”

Lamb’s blood upon the entryway, death did pass them by.
Each family of Egyptians did have their first-born die.
No more was Pharaoh able God’s people to enslave,
For Israel’s God has chosen His chosen ones to save.””

 

By Don Wort

August 17, 2014

 

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