The Children of Israel ate the first Passover supper at the time of their release from bondage in Egypt.
God had promised to set them free. He had told them that the first-born son in every family of the Egyptians was to be slain.
He had told them to mark their own door posts with the blood of the slain lamb, that the angel of death might pass them by.
The lamb itself they were to roast and eat at night, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs, which represented the bitterness of their slavery.
When they ate the lamb, they must be all ready for a journey. They must have their shoes on their feet, and their staves in their hands.
They did as the Lord had said, and that very night the king of Egypt sent them word that they might go free. In the morning they started on their way to the land of promise.
So every year,the same night on which they left Egypt,
all the Israelites kept the feast of the Passover at Jerusalem. And this feast each family had a roasted lamb, with bread and bitter herbs, as their forefathers had in Egypt. And they told their children the story of God's goodness in freeing His people from slavery.
The time had now come when Christ was to keep the feast with His disciples, and He told Peter and John to find a place, and make ready the Passover supper.
A great many people came to Jerusalem at this time, and those who lived in the city were always ready to give a room in their houses for visitors to keep the feast.
The Saviour told Peter and John that when they had gone into the street, they would meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Him they were to follow, and they were to go into the house where he went. And they were to say to the good man of that house:
"The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples?"
This man would then show them a large upper room furnished for their needs; there they were to prepare the Passover supper. And it all happened just as the Saviour had told them it would.
At the Passover supper the disciples were alone with Jesus. The time they spent with Him at these feasts had always been a time of joy; but now He was troubled inspirit.
At last He said to them in tones of touching sadness:
"With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."
There was sweet wine on the table, and He took a cup of it, "and gave thanks, and said:
"Take this,and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." Luke 22:11, 15,17, 18.
This was the last time that Christ was to keep the feast with His disciples. It was really the last Passover that was ever to be kept. For the lamb was slain to teach the people about Christ's death; and when Christ, the Lamb of God, should be slain for the sins of the world, there would be no need of slaying a lamb to represent His death.
When the Jews sealed their rejection of Christ by putting Him to death, they rejected all that gave to this feast its value and significance. Henceforth its observance by them was a worthless form.
As Christ joined in the Paschal service, there was before His mind the scene of His last great sacrifice. He was now in the shadow of the cross, and the pain was torturing His heart. He knew all the anguish that awaited Him.
He knew the ingratitude and cruelty that would be shown Him by those He had come to save.But it was not of His own suffering that He thought. He pitied those who would reject their Saviour and lose eternal life.
And the thought of His disciples was uppermost in His mind. He knew that after His own suffering was over, they would be left to struggle in the world.
He had much to tell them that would be a stay to their hearts when He should walk no more with them. Of these things He had hoped to speak at this their last meeting before His death.
But He could not tell them now. He saw that they were not ready to listen.
There had been a contention among them. They still
thought that Christ was soon to be made king, and each of them wanted the highest place in His kingdom. So they had jealous and angry feelings toward one another.
There was another cause of trouble. At a feast it was the custom for a servant to wash the feet of the guests, and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service.The pitcher of water, the basin, and the towel were there, ready for the feet-washing. But no servant was present, and it was the disciples' part to perform it.
But each of the disciples thought that he would not be a servant to his brethren. He was not willing to wash their feet. So, in silence they had taken their places at the table.
Jesus waited awhile to see what they would do. Then He Himself rose from the table. He girded Himself with the towel, poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet. He had been grieved by their contention, but He did not reprove them by sharp words. He showed His love by acting as a servant to His own disciples. When He had finished, He said to them:
"If I then,your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you." John 13:14, 15.
In this way Christ taught them that they ought to help one another. Instead of seeking the highest place for himself, each should be willing to serve his brethren.
The Saviour came into the world to work for others. He lived to help and save those who are needy and sinful. He wants us to do as He did.
The disciples were now ashamed of their jealousy and selfishness. Their hearts were filled with love for their Lord
and for one another. Now they could give heed to Christ's teaching.
As they were still at the table, Jesus took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
"Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood,which is shed for you." Luke 22:19, 20.
The Bible says,"As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." 1 Corinthians 11:26.
The bread and the wine represent the body and the blood of Christ. As the bread was broken, and the wine poured out, so on the cross Christ's body was broken, and His bloodshed to save us.
By eating the bread and drinking the wine, we show that we believe this. We show that we repent of our sins, and that we receive Christ as our Saviour.
As the disciples sat at the table with Jesus, they saw that He still seemed greatly troubled. A cloud settled on them all, and they ate in silence.
At last Jesus spoke and said, "Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me."
The disciples were grieved and amazed at these words. Each began to look into his heart to see if there was any shadow of an evil thought against their Master.
One after another they asked, "Lord, is it I?"
Judas alone remained silent. This drew the eyes of all to him. When he saw that he was observed, he too asked, "Master, is it I?"
And Jesus solemnly replied, "Thou hast said." Matthew 26:21, 22, 25.
Jesus had washed the feet of Judas, but this had not caused him to love the Saviour more. He was angry that Christ should do a servant's work. Now he knew that Christ would not be made king, and he was the more determined to betray Him.
When he saw that his purpose was known, even this did not cause him to fear. In anger he quickly left the room, and went away to carry out his wicked plan. The going of Judas was a relief to all present. The Saviour's face lighted, and at this the shadow was lifted from the disciples.
Christ now talked for some time with His disciples. He was going to His Father's house, He said,to make a place ready for them, and He would come again to take them to Himself.
He promised to send the Holy Spirit to be their teacher and comforter while He was gone. He told them to pray in His name, and their prayers would surely be answered.
He then prayed for them, asking that they might be kept from evil, and might love one another as He had loved them.
Jesus prayed for us as well as for the first disciples. He said:
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me, . . . and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." John 17:20-23.