Episode 125 - The Last Supper, part 1
Hi I’m Josh Hawkins, this is Episode 125 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 124, I gave a summary of some of the important points that I’ve covered in Jesus’ public ministry. I also spent a little bit of time talking about Wednesday of Passion Week, where Jesus presumably did not do any ministry at all and spent a day of rest with His disciples. In the final episodes of this series beginning with this one, we’ll be looking at the events that the Gospels record more than any other, and that’s the crucifixion of Jesus. Though we’ll be looking at a lot of detail, we have to remember to turn all of it into meditation and dialogue with Jesus. Go back to the very beginning of the series and watch Episodes 5 and 6 for more on what I mean by “meditation”. These events are so dramatic and their consequences so far reaching that we must not just breeze over them and not take the time to really ponder and meditate. The drama of these last several days of Passion Week have captivated the hearts of Christians for over 2,000 years, and it’s Messiah crucified that is what confronts the Jew head on. Now in looking at the events that lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion, I will endeavor to simply tell the story and not really dive too much into theology, though I will a little bit at some points. It can be confusing reading all four accounts in the Gospels, but I hope to bring them together for you in a way that causes you to marvel and be humbled by what Jesus has done.
So, let’s jump right in. If you recall from the past several episodes, Jesus has been spending His days in Jerusalem and withdrawing at night to the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of Jerusalem and to Bethany, the city of Mary and Martha just a couple of miles away from Jerusalem. He was there for the third and final Passover feast of His two year ministry, and it was during this Passover where He would be crucified. Now according to Exodus 12:6 and Leviticus 23:5-6, the Passover feast formally begins when the first three stars are seen on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. So this would be sundown on what we would call Wednesday evening, and what the Jews would have thought of as the beginning of Thursday. Jesus presumably is in Bethany again for this night, and it was the following morning when He tells His disciples to go to Jerusalem and begin preparing the Passover meal. Luke 22 says:
"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover."
(Luke 22:7–13 ESV)
So how amazing is that - Jesus, from the house in Bethany knows exactly what Peter and John will find when they get to Jerusalem - a man carrying a jar of water. Considering Jerusalem was teeming with thousands and thousands of people for the feast, this is a pretty general statement. It’s almost as if someone said to us today, “yeah, go down the road and in the crowd you’ll find someone wearing a hat, follow him to his house.” Would it have been awkward to meet a guy and just follow him to his house, then walk in and talk to his boss? Probably a little bit! But oh, how glorious is Jesus? And how amazed were Peter and John by this? Take some time to meditate on this scene.
Now Peter and John went to Jerusalem to “prepare the Passover”, which meant that they would go and join the crowds in the Temple to offer their Passover lamb for sacrifice. So after finding the furnished upper room which some hold was the house of John Mark, they proceed to the Temple. Now remember, it’s Thursday morning according to our modern reckoning. The previous afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, is when the lamb would have been purchased. Judas, as the one in charge of the money, would have likely made this purchase and then brought it into the Temple to be inspected by the priests. If you remember from the last episode, I said that it was on Wednesday that Judas agreed to betray Jesus. So the purchasing of the Passover lamb was the natural reason for him to leave Jesus and the other eleven in Bethany and go to the Temple, where he met with the Jewish authorities and agreed to the betrayal. So with this lamb purchased and inspected on Wednesday, Peter and John take it into the Temple complex, through the Court of Women, and then into the Court of Priests. There would be many many others in the Temple seeking to do the same thing, so likely they waited in line for a while with their lamb until they could enter each court and finally approach a priest. Alfred Edersheim says this about these moments:
As at about half-past one of our time the two Apostles ascended the Temple-Mount, following a dense, motley crowd of joyous, chatting pilgrims, they must have felt terribly lonely among them. Already the shadows of death were gathering around them. In all that crowd how few to sympathise with them; how many enemies! The Temple-Courts were thronged to the utmost by worshippers from all countries and from all parts of the land. The Priests’ Court was filled with white-robed Priests and Levites—for on that day all the twenty-four Courses were on duty, and all their services would be called for, although only the Course for that week would that afternoon engage in the ordinary service, which preceded that of the Feast. Almost mechanically would they witness the various parts of the well-remembered ceremonial. There must have been a peculiar meaning to them, a mournful significance, in the language of Ps. 81, as the Levites chanted it that afternoon in three sections, broken three times by the threefold blast from the silver trumpets of the Priests.
Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Vol. 2, p. 487). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
So the crowds of people waiting in line would bring their lambs to the Nicanor Gate where they were sacrificed by a priest. We have no real context here in the West to understand what’s really happening in this scene. We aren’t familiar with Herod’s Temple and what Peter and John were required to do. There were 500 priests on duty because so many lambs had to be slaughtered and there just wouldn’t be enough time in the day to do it otherwise. The lambs had to be slaughtered in the Temple in the manner according to the Law - the priest slit the throat, its blood was caught and then sprinkled at the base of the altar. This was done so quickly, because there were so many people waiting in line. Think about what this could have been like. It was very orderly, but imagine the scale of it all… Imagine the smells, the noises. That is what they experienced on Thursday, just a day before Jesus was crucified. Now, what would the disciples and Peter and John specifically have felt and thought about the Passover and the sacrifice even in retrospect after the cross? Imagine what could have been going through their heads beforehand too. Jesus had predicted that He would suffer and die. Would thoughts of Jesus’ possible death be filling their minds? They understood that something was going on… Things clearly weren’t going as they expected. Again, take some time to meditate on this scene.
Peter and John would now have to take the slain lamb, cook it, and prepare for the Passover feast in a few hours. There would have been many things for them to take care of, and so they likely stayed in Jerusalem until Jesus came into the city with the other ten. Mark 14:17 says:
"And when it was evening, he came with the twelve."
(Mark 14:17 ESV)
Jesus sets out from Bethany that evening, and it would be his last time in the rest and comfort of Mary and Martha’s home. Edersheim paints their approach into the city beautifully:
Before them lay Jerusalem in her festive attire. All around, pilgrims were hastening towards it. White tents dotted the sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or peered out from the gardens or the darker foliage of the olive plantations. From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the smoke of the Altar of Burnt-offering. These courts were now crowded with eager worshippers, offering for the last time, in the real sense, their Paschal Lambs. The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with a first sight of the sacred City for which they had so often longed, or else once more rejoiced in view of the well-known localities. It was the last day-view which the Lord could take, free and unhindered, of the Holy City till His Resurrection. Once more, in the approaching night of His betrayal, would He look upon it in the pale light of the full moon. He was going forward to accomplish His Death in Jerusalem; to fulfil type and prophecy, and to offer Himself up as the true Passover Lamb—“the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Vol. 2, pp. 488–489). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
Well in the next episode we’ll go into the upper room in Jerusalem and detail the Passover meal itself. There are so many things about the Passover meal that are often misunderstood or just not commonly known, so I hope you come back next time. Before then, if you want to watch any of the past episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, hope to see you then.