Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
The first day of Unleavened Bread most likely was 14 Nisan. It was the first day of the Jewish calendar. Jesus celebrated Passover that evening. He was crucified the next day. There is some confusion about the exact date. Was this on Passover or the day before? Even so, it is clear Matthew identifies the meal as the Passover meal.
Jesus told His disciples “My time is at hand.” The crucifixion was 24 hours away. It is easy to forget that. Matthew slows the story down. Christ made clear first, he is aware He has 24 hours to live. Second, God is in control of the events. Third, He submits to the Father’s will. He did not go to the cross kicking and screaming. He was not even reluctant.
Matthew tells us Jesus sent them to a specific man. Mark and Luke tell us they went looking for a man carrying a jar of water. The man was unknown to them at the time. And all the writers avoid telling his name. They were looking for a specific man. Man carrying a jar of water as they entered the city. Jesus was at the same time vague and specific.
There is no doubt the man was someone they knew. Christ requested a room to eat the Passover with His disciples. The man complied.
But why Christ did not call the man by name? Why give such obtuse instructions? It was to show He was in charge. God controls all things. Even when all things point to the contrary God is in control. In a few hours, Christ would suffer humiliation, beating, and death. That does not look like an all-powerful God. But it is. Praise God! He was and is more powerful than death. He was, is, and will always be in control of everything. Appearances be damned.
The disciples complied with Jesus’ command. There is no evidence they questioned it. It was a strange command. “Go find a man carrying a jar of water and tell him to give me a room.” That is strange. But the disciples complied. They were obedient to their Lord. They found the man. They requested the room. He gave them the room. And they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening He reclined at table. This is the first change in the Passover meal. God required the Jews to eat the meal standing. They were travelers in haste. They were to have shoes on their feet. They were ready to go. But here Christ shows the journey has ended. We can now recline a table. We do not stand. We rest. We recline. We enter a new covenant.
John tells us Jesus arose from the supper and washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus removed their shoes. They were not going anywhere in haste. They were at rest with Christ.
Then Jesus announced something that worried them all. Someone was going to betray Him. One of them was going to betray Him. They all ask a very strange question. “Am I the one who will betray you?” You would think they would know if they were planning to betray Jesus. At the least, it shows that they had no idea the betrayer had already initiated the betrayal.
Judas had already made arrangements for the betrayal. He knew He was the one. Yet he tried to blend in by asking the same question. Judas was the one who was the traitor.
Jesus answered their question without bringing Judas into any danger of retaliation. We should not be discouraged when intimate friends become traitors. Christ experienced what must happen to us His followers.
Jesus proclaims a woe upon Judas.
“The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”Matthew 26:24
That brings us to the question, why did Judas betray Christ? Many believe Judas had good intentions. He intended to force Jesus’ hand, throw out the Romans, and establish the Kingdom of God. It is clear the disciples did not understand the Kingdom of God was a heavenly Kingdom. And when his actions proved him wrong, the guilt was more than he could bear. So he hung himself.
This assumes Judas was a zealot. And he saw righteousness in political terms. But Judas is never referred to as a zealot. There was at least one zealot in the twelve, Simon the zealot.
That view ignores or overlooks scripture. We allow ourselves that sin by saying the writers we prejudice against Judas. They saw him as only evil. In other words, we allow our prejudice to claim that God’s word is wrong.
I have to admit I held that position for a very long time. It was not until very recently it changed. I held that position without a careful reading of the scripture. I used my judgment rather than reading what the scripture said. Scripture tells us Judas was self-centered. He was greedy. He wanted money.
He stole from Christ Himself. John 12:5-6. He betrayed Christ for money. Matthew 25:14, Luke 22:3-6, and Mark 14:10. It was not political. It had nothing to do with bringing the Kingdom of God. It was all about Judas. He could see the pressure was mounting. He knew it was only a matter of time. He wanted to be on the winning side. His motivation was self-centered. “How much will you pay me?” Judas was all about Judas. Oh, and there is one more thing, the devil entered Judas. Luke 22:3. That is the scariest part. Judas’ concern was about Judas and that was all the opening Satan needed.
Are we not most concerned about ourselves? If we don’t look out for ourselves no one else will. The sin of selfishness was the crack in Judas’ armor. And it is the crack in all our armor.
Was Christ’s death on the Cross the will of God? Yes. Was it all foretold beforehand? Yes. It all worked out as God ordained. Can Judas use that as His defense on judgment day? No. Jesus told His disciples it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. God’s redemptive plan did not interfere with Judas’ wicked treachery at all. God used Judas’ self-indulgent desires to a righteous end.
Many try to soften this problem. They think it is too harsh. They admit Judas chose to betray Christ. They will say God only predicted what He foreknew. They substitute God’s foreknowledge in place of the decree. They act as if God only saw future events from a distance. He was impotent to arrange them according to His pleasure.
Judas acted of his own free will. And God preordained it. God commanded it for His glory. Men can do nothing but what God has appointed. But that does not free us from condemnation.
Judas asked a ridiculous question. “Is it I Rabbi?” He reminds me of a child who has eaten all the cookies in the cookie jar. And he has crumbs covering him. Mom walks in and says were you in the cookie jar. And the child says, “No.” The evidence proves him a liar.
Judas had already set the plan in motion. Rather than repenting and crying for mercy, he tries to blend in with the others who were asking, “Is it I?”
Jesus answered him, “You know it is.” (my paraphrase.) According to John at that point, Jesus told him to leave and do what he planned. (John 13:26-27)
Jesus institutes what we call the Lord’s Supper. There is much debate on what these words mean.
“Take eat this is my body.” “This is my blood of the new covenant.” Understanding these words divided the reformers. All the reformers rejected Rome’s understanding. The Eucharist is not sacrificing Christ. It was not a propitiation. But there was no unity in the actual understanding.
Zwingli understood the word of Christ as metaphorical. He believed Christ used them the same way as the “I am sayings.” I am the door. Christ did not swing on hinges.
Luther understood the words as literal. This is my body. Mean that was Christ’s body.
Calvin took a middle ground Christ was present in the bread and wine. The bread and wine embodied Christ so in that sense they were the blood and body of Christ.
I have to admit I have held all three positions. So I have to give charity to all who are in opposition to my current position.
Yet I do stand in firm opposition to those who claim we can use milk and cookies rather than bread and wine. That takes Zwingli’s view too far. Christ blessed the bread. He blessed the wine. He did not bless milk and cookies nor coke and pizza. To use them in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is blasphemous.
This is an important issue. But the key takeaway is Christ established a new covenant. We live in a covenant dependent on works. But they are Christ’s works. Praise Christ Jesus.