“Let Us Keep the Feast”

THE last Passover our Lord kept with his disciples is now known as “The Last Supper.” As his present-day disciples, we have a memorial service once a year to commemorate a certain part of that long-ago experience in the upper room.

The Passover Supper was a holy convocation, or feast, which the Israelites were to observe every year to commemorate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. (Lev. 23:4,5) Each family was to roast a lamb on the anniversary of the night of their deliverance. At the service, the head of the house was to preside and recount the historical facts regarding the experience. Then they were to eat the roast lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as the Israelite families had done at the first feast.

We assume that our Lord probably had kept these feasts previously with his disciples as they traveled in the ministry. Hence his instructions regarding this last supper in no way disturbed them. We read in Matthew 26:17-20: “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.”

After the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, their minds were enlightened, and they realized that the Passover feast was a wonderful type of important truths. The key statement about this enlightenment was made by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 5:7. It reads, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

The original account in Exodus 12 gives these particular instructions: on the tenth day of the first month each household was to get a lamb; it was to be kept for five days, until the fourteenth, and then be killed in the evening (Strong’s—at dusk).

The blood of the animal was to be put on the side and upper doorposts of the house. The lamb was to be entirely roasted by fire and eaten that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. All the family was to be fully clothed and ready for travel.

The Israelites had been informed that an angel of death would pass over the land of Egypt that night. Any firstborn of a family in a home not sprinkled with blood would die. At midnight the avenging angel passed over the land, and the Bible states that all the firstborn of the Egyptians died, from “the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon.”—Exod. 12:29

“There was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (Exod. 12:30) Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and told them: “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.” (Exod. 12:31) In the morning the Israelites began their exodus from the land of oppression to the promised land of Canaan.

As previously noted, the Apostle Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 5:7 becomes most revealing, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” This key statement opens to us the meaning of this type or picture. In Hebrews we read of the time when the kingdom of God is established in the earth. It tells of this time yet to come and states that then there will be “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.”—Heb. 12:23

The firstborn of Israel on that night picture the church of the firstborn of the Gospel Age. Only they have been covered by the blood of Christ, or the merit of his sacrifice. When this nighttime of sin and death is over and the church is complete, then the remainder of mankind will be delivered from sin and death, as pictured by the release of Israel from Egypt. That slain lamb pictures our sacrificed Lord. As their lamb was taken five days before it was sacrificed, so the true Lamb of God offered himself to Israel five days before he died on Calvary’s cross. He died at the very time of the year when their literal lamb was being offered. Of course the disciples knew nothing about the typical feature of the Passover feast when they ate it with the Lord on that night before he died.

At the Last Supper he instituted something new, and this is what we repeat once a year and call the “Memorial.” At the conclusion of the Passover meal Jesus did something which must have been most puzzling to those in attendance. We read in Matthew 26:26-29 these words: “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 [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

This was, for them, a startling departure from the usual procedure at a Passover meal. He had once before spoken of eating his body and drinking his blood. (John 6:53) The thought was so repugnant to some of his disciples that “many … walked no more with him.” (John 6:66) When Israel was instructed in the Law, among the strict commandments was one we read in Leviticus 17:10: “And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will even cut him off from among his people.”

However, the disciples did not have much time to dwell in thought on his remarks as he broke bread, asking them to eat, and then passed the cup of wine, suggesting they drink. This act terminated the Passover Supper, and the tragic events which followed in quick succession erased for a time all thought about it.

To them Jesus was the promised Messiah, or the one God had promised to anoint to sit on David’s throne forever. The Scriptures they had learned promised that the Anointed One would bring multiplied blessings to all the world. He was to stop wars, cause sickness to cease, make an end of death, and even restore to life those who were asleep in death.

As they walked with him they had been thrilled with the messianic powers he had demonstrated. They had seen his tender touch open blind eyes. At his command one crippled from birth arose to a standing position and walked with a body made whole. Just a few days before the last Passover he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Their good friend and fellow disciple had died and had been buried four days. In hushed awe they witnessed their Messiah stand before the newly opened sepulcher and cry “with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth.” (John 11:43,44) No doubt that resurrection party finally went to the home of Lazarus, and the hours which followed must have been filled with a joy which exceeded any they had ever before experienced.

They were totally unprepared for the events of that last night and the black, tragic hours of the next day. They were numb with sorrow as they heard the raucous mob call for his death. They were aware of the inhuman brutal treatment he received that night at the direction of the high priest. They knew of the demeaning cruel treatment inflicted by the Roman soldiers. They were drained of all hope during those interminable hours when he was nailed to the cross.

It is impossible for us to realize fully the depth of their despair when the Lord’s head dropped on his breast in death. The last chapter in Luke reveals something of their deep sorrow and also the surge of joy which came when they really knew he lived again.

This 24th chapter of Luke tells of Mary Magdalene and other women who reported to the apostles their experience in the garden early on the resurrection morn. But the brethren did not believe their testimony that he had risen. Instead we read, “And their [the women’s] words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”—Luke 24:11

That same day two disciples, Cleopas and another, walked toward Emmaus, where they planned to spend the night. En route, one who appeared to them as a stranger joined them in their walk. No doubt it was a custom for those walking in the same direction to join company. The two did not realize that this “stranger” was the risen Lord who had assumed a human body.

Evidently, after acknowledging their new companion, the two went back to their previous conversation. Their talk was filled with the sad events of our Lord’s death. Then Jesus inquired about the nature of their remarks. To them it seemed this stranger (Jesus) was unacquainted with the facts of the recent crucifixion. Their answer was: “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he [Jesus] said unto them, what things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”—Luke 24:18,19

Then they explained how the chief priests and rulers had him condemned to death by crucifixion. Their sorrow and vanished hopes were manifested in the words, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21) In other words, the man they had thought was God’s anointed one, the Messiah, was not the one of whom the prophets spoke.

They made other comments about some women mistakenly claiming that Jesus had risen. It was then that our Lord, as the stranger, began to speak. His key statement was, “Ought not Christ [Messiah] to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”—Luke 24:26

After stirring their minds with this thought-provoking question, Jesus began with Moses and quoted other prophets concerning himself. Evidently he enlarged upon such types as the Passover Supper and those which were performed on the Day of Atonement. It is quite possible they were reminded that John the Baptist in identifying Jesus spoke of him as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

Suffice it to say that the skilled, careful presentation of types and prophecies to these two sorrowing disciples accomplished the wonderful result desired. A short time later they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) It was a momentous, unforgettable experience as their deep despair was replaced by a surge of hope and joy which exceeded anything known before.

When the two came near the village where they planned to stop, Jesus indicated he would go farther. It is so evident that they wanted very much to talk more with this man who had revived their faith and hope. We read, “They constrained him, saying, Abide with us.” He agreed, and at the evening meal it appears they asked him to offer thanks to God for their food. We read in Luke 24:30, “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” It could have been that the words he used or the intonation of his voice at the breaking of bread were so distinctly those of the Master with whom they had walked that they recognized him immediately. We read, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.”—Luke 24:31

Immediately they began their seven-mile return journey to share with the others their newfound hope and joy. On the homeward journey their hearts were still burning, and conversation must have been animated. No doubt they went over again and again the numerous scriptures which had foretold that “special” day. When they got to Jerusalem they located the place where the eleven apostles and others were gathered. As they were let into the room their first words were, “The Lord is risen indeed.”

They told the astonished brethren about their experience along the way and how Jesus revealed himself in the breaking of bread. Before they had concluded their remarks, Jesus stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace be unto you.” They were visibly frightened. Evidently they thought they saw a spirit. To allay their fears he wanted them to know he had assumed a human body, saying, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” To further emphasize the point he ate a piece of fish.

When they were fully calmed and at ease, 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. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44,45) How much we would have rejoiced, on that occasion, to hear the Master explain the prophecies that pertained to him and his sacrifice!

Because of the next verse we can correctly deduce what explanation was made. It reads (vs. 46), “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ [Messiah] to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.”

Perhaps for the first time they learned of his prehuman existence. It was necessary to explain why he died. Adam, a perfect man, had in his loins the human race when he disobeyed. It was God’s desire that man should live again. Before this could be, a perfect man must be willing to die in Adam’s place. All on the earth were condemned; so the mighty Logos, the first being God ever created, was willing to have his life transferred to earth and become a man so he could die as a ransom.

We also read that Jesus explained why it behooved Christ, the Messiah, to suffer. He probably made clear to those listening disciples that when he gave his human life he would have gone out of existence unless God had made other provisions. They learned that when he offered himself at Jordan it was as if the Father said: “My Son, I shall beget you to a spirit life. If you are faithful in laying down your human life in the exact way I instruct, then when it is poured out, this new creature started in you shall be perfected or completed and you shall be born on the spirit plane as a divine being.”

Hence we read, in Colossians 1:18, that he is the “firstborn from the dead.” Also, in Hebrews we are told that the suffering was to crystallize his character. Chapter 5, verse 8, reads, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And in Hebrews, chapter 2, verse 10, it states that God made “the Captain of their [the church’s] salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Thus, in that room where he first appeared to the eleven and others, came clear understanding about why he suffered and died and why he rose again. They expected that as a great spirit being he would shortly establish the kingdom of Messiah and bless all the families of the earth, which included the awakening of the dead from their long sleep.

He appeared intermittently during the next forty days. He urged them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. When they sensed he was to depart, there came an expected question, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) His forthright answer was, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.” However, his following statement held out hope that they might later have an answer to their question. He said, “But ye shall receive power [to understand God’s plans and purposes] after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you”—Acts 1:7,8

After Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit of enlightenment, they did indeed learn about an important feature of God’s plan that must be accomplished prior to the restoration of the kingdom. They learned a profound truth which the Apostle Paul calls a “mystery” (Greek, musterion), which Rotherham translates a “sacred secret.”

The first indication that the disciples would understand mysteries or sacred secrets was spoken by our Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, there is recorded an instance when the disciples inquired why Jesus spoke in parables. They observed that the parables Jesus used in his public ministry were not too well understood. Later, after he withdrew with only his disciples, he would enlarge on the lesson intended.

They had made bold to inquire, as we read in Matthew 13:10,11: “Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered, … Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries [sacred secrets] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” After Pentecost they learned an astounding truth. The Christ, or Messiah, was not Jesus alone but included all his faithful disciples as well.

The Apostle Paul most clearly states this truth in I Corinthians 12:12, “For as the [human] body is one, and hath many members [such as arms, hands, feet, etc.], and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ [Messiah].” And he restates this same truth in the 27th verse, “Now ye are the body of Christ [Messiah], and members in particular.”

The apostle restates this truth in many other instances. In Ephesians he shows that Gentiles as well as Jews were to be a part of the Messiah. Hear his words: “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery [sacred secret]; … that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ [Messiah].”—Eph. 3:3,6

Then they understood, as do we, that the kingdom of Messiah cannot be established until the Messiah is complete. Not until his body members are with him in glory can there come the blessings of health, life, the end of death, or the resurrection. That kingdom cannot become a reality until his body members are sacrificed and raised with him in realms of spiritual glory.

This great truth about his body members is what was illustrated by him at the Last Supper. As he broke the bread he said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” This illustrates the fact that his great ransom sacrifice for the world is now applied only on behalf of his called disciples of the Gospel Age. They alone, during the Gospel Age, are released from adamic condemnation.

However, they are released for only one reason. They are released, or justified, so they may suffer as did he and be “baptized into his death.” (Rom. 6:3) “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [be faithful unto death], and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”—Rom. 6:5

God had told Israel that the drinking of blood would mean death. Hence, in the picture, Jesus offered the cup of wine and said all should drink. “For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28) Thus was illustrated their willingness to be dead with him; to sacrifice their life as he did to set us an example.

When we keep the Memorial, certain great truths come to us. As the bread is broken and we partake, we first remember how his perfect sacrifice was to take Adam’s place in death as a Redeemer for the world of mankind. Next we are reminded that, during the Gospel Age, only his true disciples eat antitypically of that bread. Only his true disciples are released from condemnation prior to the kingdom’s establishment. We are released that we may sacrifice our lives as he did.

When we drink of the wine, which symbolizes his shed blood, we are to remember our consecration vows. We consecrated to lay down our justified humanity, to be baptized into his death. As he was begotten to a spirit nature at Jordan, so we who consecrate to walk in his steps are spirit-begotten when accepted by the Father. When our sacrifice has been faithfully performed, we, like him, shall be born on the spirit plane. Then his body members in glory will be a part of the great Messiah. Then will begin that wonderful kingdom of life and blessing for all the obedient of the earth. Thus it was foretold “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” (Rev. 21:4) And also those long asleep in the breast of earth shall awake in that glad new day.

Let us keep the feast with understanding. May we be grateful for this prior knowledge of the wonderful plan of salvation. May we renew our consecration vows to walk in his steps. If we do, some glad day we shall see our Lord face to face and experience that matchless moment in eternity when we are ushered into the Father’s presence.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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