“NOW the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the 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 it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”—Matthew 26:17-30

God had instructed the Israelites each year to commemorate that first passover night in Egypt when the shed blood of the lamb had prevented death from coming to the firstborn so covered. It was generally observed as a family, and no doubt before the roast lamb was eaten with bitter herbs the head of the household recounted the story of the first passover.

It is interesting that Jesus observed his last feast with the twelve disciples—those who represented his family which was yet to be revealed. It seems reasonable that some, or all of them, had been with him on previous passover nights. However, this last one was recorded in detail because of the profound truths to be illustrated for the first time.

No doubt his accurate and colorful recitation of the facts surrounding Israel on that faraway night in Egypt was most impressive. However, they were quite unprepared for the remarks which followed. They were concerned when he stated, “One of you shall betray me.” In virtual disbelief and sorrow each began to ask, “Lord, is it I?” At this point they could not realize the full extent of that betrayal. Perhaps they imagined it something much less severe than an act which would cause his death. Hence, their inquiry probably included the thought, “In what way?”

The Original Memorial

The room evidently quieted down when they observed him placing some bread near his plate. No doubt they were all watching when he bowed his head in his customary way to pray. With words and intonation of voice familiar to them, he asked his Father’s blessing on the bread. Then came something quite unexpected and new—he broke the bread in numerous pieces, enough for all in attendance. Strange words came to their ears. He gave the bread to his disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

As the plate was passed from one to another around the table we can imagine the strange quietness, the silent glances among themselves, and to Jesus. What did this mean?

When the plate had made its circuit, we read he took the cup of wine that was in front of him. All eyes were on him, as once more they saw him bow his head in prayer over the wine, and still stranger words they heard. He gave the wine to them saying, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The cup passed silently from one to the other, and as they supped there must have been looks of sheer bewilderment. The wine, he said, represented his blood. They wondered how this could be! Some no doubt recalled a statement he made before which was similar and just as confusing as was this one.—John 6:53-56

After the Memorial

The Scriptures indicate that shortly after this they sang a song and went into the Mount of Olives. Terrible things began to happen in such quick succession that the apostles soon forgot the events of the last supper. Before long he was imprisoned by the authorities, and then the Jesus whom they loved was crucified in a cruel, inhuman way. Those gentle hands which had touched and healed were nailed to the cross. Some of the poor to whom he had preached the Gospel cried to Pilate, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt. 27:25) He who had opened the blind eyes, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead was himself dying as a spectacle before a strange gathering of Jews.

We can never fully feel the despair which came to the apostles and disciples when Jesus died so terribly. The apostles had seen him miraculously heal the sick—these same powers to perform miracles they had received from him as well. Before them, he had admitted to Peter he was the Messiah.—Matt. 16:16,17

The disciple who must have been bowed most deeply in sorrow was his mother. The others had, in time, come to accept him as the Messiah. The angel Gabriel had told her he was, as we read in Luke 1:31-33, “Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” She was to remember later what Simeon had said to her, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.”—Luke 2:35

Between the time of Jesus’ arrest and his revealment to his disciples as the risen Lord, we doubt they thought much of the “last supper” experience. The details concerning the events after his resurrection and his revealing of himself are filled with tender and heart-warming incidents. One of the most memorable of such is that found in Luke, chapter 24.

The Walk to Emmaus

We are told of two disciples, one named Cleopas, who were walking to the village of Emmaus, a few miles from Jerusalem. En route they were joined by a stranger that we know was our risen Lord. He had assumed a body which was different in appearance from anyone they had known.

Evidently these two were still so sad and shaken over Jesus’ death they could think or talk of nothing else. It appears that after a polite acceptance of the stranger as a walking companion they fell into their previous unusually sad conversation. The supposed stranger interrupted to say, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”—Luke 24:17

Their conversation had been about Jesus’ crucifixion, because Cleopas said, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” (Luke 24:18) When the stranger replied, “What things?” these two began in detail to tell the facts.

They told of Jesus and his “mighty deeds,” evidently referring to his miracles of healing. They then, in obvious bewilderment, told how the chief priests and rulers had crucified this one who had been such a “prophet” of God. Then the full truth came from their lips. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” In other words, they were saying, “We had at one time thought this prophet was the promised Messiah who was to sit on David’s throne forever.” They also explained to this stranger, supposedly unacquainted with the facts, “today is the third day since these things were done.”

Almost as an afterthought they further said some of the women disciples claimed they saw angels at his empty tomb who claimed Jesus was alive. However, the two disciples continued, some of the men went back to the tomb and it was empty, but they did not see Jesus.

The stranger replied first of all with a question. “Ought not Christ [or Messiah] to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” The object of the question evidently was to prepare their minds for a new approach to the solving of their confusion. Normally, when one is asked a question there is an immediate attempt to frame an answer. While they were yet pondering what to say, Jesus began to speak.

This instance of our Lord’s enlightening them has numerous lessons. First of all, he wanted them to be devoid of overwhelming emotion as he reasoned with them. If he had not used this approach and, instead, first revealed himself, they might have been quite unable to follow even the superb prophetic presentation he made.

From the Scriptures

The Scriptures state, “And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) This statement opens the door for much contemplation on our part. It would seem the Lord would explain first the need of redeeming Adam. Perhaps he told how the passover lamb foreshadowed the Messiah’s death. Probably the atonement sacrifices were enlarged upon to show how God required a pour-out life before the world could be blessed. It also seems reasonable the stranger outlined the detailed prophecy of Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection, as noted in Isaiah, chapter 53.

The scriptural explanation had the desired effect in the minds of the disciples. Their confusion was swept away and their faith restored that Jesus had indeed been the Messiah. Replacing their doubts came a stronger faith and a hitherto unmatched joy of heart. Hear the words they spoke: “And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”—Luke 24:32

When the two disciples reached their destination “he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening. … And it came to pass as he sat at meat with them, he took bread and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” Then he opened their eyes to know him and he vanished. Perhaps as “he took bread, and blessed it, and brake it” they recognized the words he often used in such instances. The sound of his voice then used was distinctive and familiar—and caused them to lift their eyes toward him—and he vanished. The stranger’s chair was empty—slowly they looked into each other’s eyes and immediately knew that it was the risen Messiah who had walked and talked with them.

The Report to Jerusalem

As we would expect, they hurried back to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together, and others. And it reads, “They told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.”

No doubt, as they told “what things were done in the way,” this meant a recitation of the numerous scriptures called to their attention by Jesus. Without question, the gathered disciples responded to these prophecies as did the two on the road to Emmaus. In spite of this they were “terrified and affrighted” when Jesus suddenly appeared in the midst of them.

He gently allayed their fears by words and actions. Then when they were calmed he said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me.”

His next words specially make us wish we could have been there. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” How wonderful it would have been to hear the risen Lord delineate the prophecies involved and explain their meaning in his matchless words!

It would seem reasonable that on this occasion he first explained that the perfect Messiah, himself, had his life transferred from the realm of heaven. It was necessary that they realize his need of absolute sinlessness in order to be the ransom price. Thus the phrase he uttered as the stranger had meaning—“Ought not Christ [Messiah] to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”

When the disciples first learned Jesus had been the firstborn of all creation, they were overawed. Allusions to his prehuman existence and glory keep appearing in John’s writings. Note John 1:1,3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. … All things were made by him.” Also in John 1:14 we read, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

He walked with them to Bethany, and then departed. No doubt the rest of the night was spent in animated conversation. They must have noted with amazement the clarity of God’s testimony concerning everything that happened to Jesus!

They might have discussed his unusual statements at the last supper. No doubt they had heard from his own lips how the passover supper pictured his death. They now realized why he had been called the “Lamb of God” by John the Baptist, as recorded in John 1:36. They attempted to place in order the words of his ministry as they recalled them with the newly revealed truth. Perhaps they thought his statement recorded in John 6:53 was the basis for the bread and wine symbols at the last supper. It reads, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

Different Appearances

He appeared to his disciples at various times in different locations, “to whom he showed himself … being seen of many forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) When they realized he was the risen Messiah and knew his death was a necessary part of God’s plan, they became anxious for the kingdom to start. Note their words, “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”—Acts 1:6

He did not answer directly; instead he said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power [to know], after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” (Acts 1:7) Then he vanished from their sight. From his last remarks they drew hope they would soon know when the messianic kingdom would be set up.

More Truth Revealed

After the Holy Spirit came upon them they were to learn an astounding truth not previously mentioned by Jesus in his various appearances. They were to learn that the Messiah was not just Jesus, but it included also a disciple class who were to be selected from among men. They were to learn this disciple class was to be called by various names, such as his body, the bride, joint-heirs, as well as being illustrated in other ways.

By the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit the disciples learned that the Messiah, composed of Jesus and his body members, was to have a heavenly inheritance. This class would need to be drawn of God, begotten of his Spirit, and be developed in the likeness of Jesus’ character. Then when it is complete, and in glory, there could begin the establishment on earth of the long-promised kingdom of the Messiah. This would mean the resurrection of the dead and the end of sickness and death. Every rich promise of the Old Testament would have its complete fulfillment.

It must have taken those early disciples some time to absorb all that was meant by this new revelation. For instance, the Apostle Peter had first openly identified Jesus as the Messiah when he said, Thou art the Christ [Messiah], the son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) He was curious as to what such discipleship would mean to him personally. Hence in Matthew 19:27 we read of him asking, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Jesus’ answer must have caused Peter to have some thoughtful moments; he said, “In the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye [the true disciples] also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Whatever Peter made of that promise, we know it must have been earthly. After receiving the Holy Spirit he spoke exultantly of the hope he and we now have. His words in II Peter 1:4 are, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”

Revealed by the Holy Spirit

After the Holy Spirit came upon them, they then saw the passover type with special clarity. The nighttime pictured the entire period of sin and death. The Israelites were a type of the world of mankind, who were to be delivered in the morning of Messiah’s reign. Those in danger of death during that night in Egypt were the firstborn. They were saved from death because of being under the blood of the lamb. So during the Gospel Age, the disciple class of followers are under the blood of Christ, picturing our justification.

The bread and wine symbol of the last supper came to have special solemn meaning to those early disciples, and of course to us. As the stranger on the road to Emmaus said, “Ought not Christ [or the Messiah] to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” By the power of the Holy Spirit they learned that the Messiah was Jesus and his disciples.

Note the clear, simple teaching of Paul in this regard. In I Corinthians 12:12 we read, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body …” What does Paul mean by this? He is simply using our own human body as an example. One could look at another human being and say, he has one body. However, each human body is composed of various members, such as the head, eye, finger, toe, and so forth. So Paul states, “so also is Christ [the Messiah].” In verse 27 of the same chapter he says in conclusion to his presentation, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

Messiah Must Suffer

But the stranger on the road said the Messiah must suffer. Note what Peter says in I Peter 4:12,13, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which shall try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice. …” We might interrupt Peter here to say, with emphasis, Why rejoice? Peter’s answer explains all, “inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s [the Messiah’s] sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

In other places we are told why Jesus suffered. In Hebrews 2:10 we read, “For it became him, for whom are all things, … in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And again in Hebrews 5:8, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”

If we are partakers of the Messiah’s sufferings, it must be for the same purpose. Thus we realize when Jesus offered to die in Adam’s place, the Father would not have it that he go out of existence. At the point of Jesus’ offering at Jordan the Heavenly Father begot him to a new nature. Jesus met the many difficult, and sometimes excruciatingly painful, experiences with heart loyalty, and it fixed in him a character which would never deviate to all eternity. Thus it can be said he learned obedience by the things which he suffered,

Our Lord realized that his Father selected each experience he should have with meticulous care. Thus he could say, as he faced his final ignominious, painful, forsaken experience, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”—John 18:11

We, too, who partake of his sufferings, realize the same thing. The Father selects each experience, and they are designed for the crystallization of our character in righteousness. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.”—Rom. 8:28,29

When this knowledge came to the disciples of the Early Church after Pentecost, they understood fully the meaning of Jesus’ words at the last supper when he took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Our Lord died in Adam’s place that man might live again, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Until the kingdom is established, the only ones released from condemnation are the disciple class of the Gospel Age. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 8:1

However, the only reason any are released from condemnation now is that they may die a sacrificial death. Jesus said, as recorded in Mark 8:34, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. … Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Thus it is that the Apostle Paul states in Romans 6:3, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

Paul’s Observation

The Apostle Paul incorporates the oneness of the Messiah class into the last supper symbols of the bread and wine. We read in I Corinthians 10:16,17, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [or partnership] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [or partnership] of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

Thus we realize the passover celebration commemorated the actual deliverance of Israel from Egypt. It also—and especially for our Lord and the church—pointed toward the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, Also, in a veiled way, it showed that during the nighttime of sin and death, or during the Gospel Age, the firstborn, or the spirit begotten, would be under the blood of Christ. We realize this pictures that those with whom God deals in this special way are released from condemnation—are justified to life.

The symbols of the bread and the wine introduced by Jesus enlarge upon the experiences of the firstborn class in the plan of God. The eating of the bread illustrates that the disciple class now partake of the benefits of the ransom Jesus provides. The drinking of the blood illustrates that those who are of this class must lay down their lives in sacrifice. We must be “baptized into his death.” Those who are to partake of this memorial of our Lord’s death are those who have been drawn of God, have accepted Jesus as their Savior, and have consecrated to be dead with him. As we partake, many thoughts should and will course through our minds.

We should be specially grateful to our Father for our call and enlightenment. We think of the nobility of heart possessed by Jesus that he would die for us and the world. We will thank our Father that we have been called to be a part of the Messiah class, and have the privilege of being baptized into his death. We will also be mindful that ere long we will be with our Lord in the realms of heaven, and experience that matchless moment in heaven when we see our Heavenly Father face to face.

Also, we will rejoice that the nighttime is nearly over. Soon the glad new day of blessing will come to the world through the beneficent reign of the Messiah class. The former things will have passed away. We will have a part in wiping away “all tears …, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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