Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Last Supper, Part 2

The Last Supper
Part 2

The Passover meal is over now and Jesus is reclining at the table with the disciples. He tells the disciples that one of them is going betray Him.

"But the hand of him who is going to betray Me is with Mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays Him!' They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this." (Luke 22:21-23) How hurtful this must have been to Jesus, knowing Judas would betray Him. Judas had the same opportunities to believe in Jesus as the other eleven. But he chose instead to allow greed and sin to influence his actions, so much so that Satan himself entered into Judas. What really strikes me about the disciples is the way they ask among themselves who it will be, and that's because they have no clue. Nobody really stands out to them as a betrayer. This tells us that on the outside Judas looks like the rest of them, just as devoted a disciple as the other eleven. But he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. Judas is a false disciple. He was probably looking for a warrior who would rise up against Rome and lead a revolt to overthrow the oppressor. In the beginning Judas most likely believed this was what Jesus would do, but when it became apparent Jesus intended to die, Judas turned from Him and now wants to profit from His death.

I want to include this account from Chapter 13 of John, "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: 'He who shared my bread has turned against me.' I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the One who sent Me.' After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray Me.' His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant.'" (John 13:18-22) The Scripture Jesus quotes is from Psalm 41:9, "Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me." I would be willing to bet that just about everybody reading this blog has been betrayed by somebody you trusted and counted as a friend. John tells us that this made Jesus "troubled in spirit". Jesus loved Judas just as much as the other eleven. I can almost feel the pain and heartbreak inside Jesus when He speaks of the betrayal, but I think most of the pain is not for Himself, but for Judas. Judas is about to make such a terrible, brutal mistake that he will end up taking his own life in despair.

In Matthew 26:22 the disciples are shocked and upset at the thought that anyone would betray Jesus. "They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, 'Surely You don't mean me, Lord?'" These men know that if put to the test, every single one of them has the potential weakness to betray Him. Here is something very interesting: each of them calls Jesus "Lord" when they ask the question, all except Judas who says, "Surely You don't mean me, Rabbi." (Matthew 26:25) Judas has never brought himself to call Jesus "Lord" up til now and he never does that we know of. Judas is a lost man, and even though the other eleven recognize they have it within them to betray the Lord, they do believe that Jesus is the Lord. And I think that is the difference between them and Judas.

Somewhere in the aftermath of the Passover meal, Jesus turns quietly to Judas and says, "What you are about to do, do quickly." (John 13:27b) The others who heard this think that since Judas carries the money, maybe Jesus is telling him to go get supplies or give an offering to the poor. But Judas is carrying more than the combined money of the disciples and the Lord Jesus; he has the heavy weight of those thirty silver coins he accepted from the religious leaders to betray the Lord. I don't know what Judas is thinking or how he feels at this moment, but John tells us when Judas went out "it was night". I once heard someone say it was night in Judas' soul too. Even after all the years of observing Jesus close up, witnessing the miracles, seeing the perfect and holy character of the Lord, hearing the truth of the Scriptures, Judas still prefers the darkness to the light. I picture the eleven remaining disciples with the Lord in that cozy upper room, candles and lamps burning with a homey glow. And as the wayward disciple goes out in the night to do his dark deed I feel like something in the Lord's heart breaks for Judas as he walks the shadowy path to do what he has consented to do.
Next, Jesus says to the faithful ones, "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as My Father conferred one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:28-30) Someday they will rule with their Lord. But first they will suffer the shock and despair of seeing Jesus arrested, beaten, nailed to the cross, and buried in the tomb. They will hide in an upper room, perhaps this same room they are in tonight, behind locked doors in fear that soldiers are coming for them too. They will see all their dreams turned to ashes.

But these same men will rejoice when they see the Lord Jesus after the resurrection, when they will again touch Him and eat with Him and hear Him speak. After His ascension the men who formerly feared they could all betray Jesus will look death straight in the eye and not even blink while proclaiming the gospel to the world. No sword or whip or prison or threat of death will be able stop them after they see the risen Lord. They will suffer many things for the sake of Jesus, all of them but John being martyred for the faith. But glory is ahead of them and it's still ahead of you and me too. Someday we will sit in the upper room of heaven with the Lord Jesus at the head of the table, forever free of fear and sickness and pain and loss and death.

Jesus turns now to Peter and warns him, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32) What fear must have entered the heart of Peter at these words! The Lord speaks of him turning back and nobody can turn back unless they have turned away first. Peter knows Jesus is saying he will fall somehow. He will give in to the enemy. What a dreadful thought.

"But he replied, 'Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death.'" (Luke 22:33) Peter honestly believes this. He isn't boasting or lying. Peter loves the Lord Jesus and is truly convinced he would die for Jesus if he had to. If Peter couldn't trust himself, neither can we. None of us have seen the Lord Jesus in the flesh or witnessed the miracles. If Peter could experience all these things and still deny the Lord, how much easier would it be for us to deny Him? This is why we are called to, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:38) Peter has a willing spirit and he thinks his flesh was willing too. But when Jesus is on trial and Peter is called out for being one of His followers, in desperate terror we find Peter denying he has ever met Him.

"Jesus answered, 'I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.'" (Luke 22:34) I believe Jesus said this gently and with no condemnation. He just wants Peter to understand that he can't trust in himself. Peter has a bold and impetuous personality and a lot of self-confidence. But all his opinions of himself will be shattered by the time the sun comes up. Knowing Peter will deny Him, Jesus doesn't throw Peter away or denounce him as a disciple or refuse to let him preach the gospel. Jesus encourages him instead. This disciple who was once so confident in his own power and strength later becomes confident in the power and strength of the Lord. This man who will be so broken by morning that he weeps bitterly will be made so whole by the day of Pentecost that thousands will be saved when they hear him preach.

Before we follow Jesus and the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane tomorrow I want to take time today to study part of John's account of what is said in the upper room following the Last Supper. Jesus has been saying some upsetting things to the men about betrayal and denial. Now He gives them comfort, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you may also be where I am." (John 14:1-3) Jesus makes a great promise to the disciples here and we see Him declaring Himself to be the Son of God. Jesus equates Himself with God by saying, "You believe in God; believe also in Me." And He declares Himself to be the Son of God the Father in heaven by saying, "My Father's house has many rooms." There's going be room there for every one of us! Maybe there have been times in your life when you felt left out or unwanted or unloved. Nobody in the kingdom of God will ever feel that way.

Jesus goes on to say, "You know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we don't know where You are going, so how can we know the way?'" (John 14:4-5) These men still can't understand the purpose of Jesus' life and the coming cross. They are confused and shocked and sorrowful at the thought of the Lord leaving them. Thomas wonders how they can know the way when they don't even know the destination. Jesus then speaks some of the most well-known Scripture in the world, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14on:6) There's no way around a statement like this. There aren't "many ways to God". There is only one way and it's a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we get to the Father's house unless the Son takes us there? We don't know where it is. We don't know how to get there. We can't get there on our own righteousness. Someone who truly is righteous is going to have to take us by the hand and lead us to the Father's house. Jesus is the only reason there is room for us in the Father's house and Jesus guarantees that everyone who trusts in Him will make it all the way home.

Jesus speaks more words of comfort by promising the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach the disciples about Him and remind them of all the things He said. This is the Spirit that gives peace in a troubled world. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) The world gives us temporary comfort from our troubles and it tends to do so in ways that aren't good for us. The peace that comes to us through knowing Jesus as our Savior can never be taken from us and it can never harm us. The disciples are about to face perilous times yet Jesus says not to be troubled or afraid. The only way they remain calm and secure in the dark days of persecution for their faith is because Jesus will send them the Holy Spirit.

It must have been difficult for the eleven to take in all the things Jesus is telling them. I can well understand them wanting to block out all talk of arrest and crucifixion and death. They can't see the whole picture yet but Jesus says they will when the Holy Spirit comes, plus there is something else to look forward to: seeing Jesus again. He tells the men that for a little while they won't see Him but then they will see Him again. The entire doctrine of the cross and the death of their Master and His resurrection is too hard for them to grasp as yet, so He makes them this precious promise, "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (John 16:22)

Things look bleak on this Passover night. Over the next couple of days the disciples will feel like the world has dropped out from under their feet. Everything that matters to them will appear to be gone. The Lord they loved and trusted in will lie dead in a tomb. Their own lives will be in jeopardy. Nothing is going to turn out like they wanted or expected. But Jesus will be true to His word about their sorrow turning to joy. The arrest of Jesus, the beatings, the cross, the death, the tomb, and all the sorrow that follows is temporary. Early on Sunday morning the Lord of all creation, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, rises in victory over death, conquering sin and the grave, bruising the head of that ancient enemy Satan. Nothing will be able to hold Jesus in the tomb. The resurrection is what will transform a band of misfit failures into the bearers of a gospel that takes the world by storm. Jesus is going to the tomb but He won't stay there. If only the disciples knew on Passover night that, in the words of an old song about the tomb, "He'll only need it for the weekend."

"He'll only need it for the weekend.
He won't be there long.
He'll only need it for the weekend,
Cause He'll be up and He'll be gone."

No comments:

Post a Comment