The word “Passover” comes from Exodus 12:12-13: “On that same night I [God] will pass through Egypt and strike down ever firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I am the LORD. The blood [lamb blood on the doorframes of the Israelites – vv. 1-7] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and I will pass over you. No destruction will touch you when I strike Egypt.
Jesus is celebrating the Feast of the Passover (or Seder) with His disciples in an upper room. They are eating a lamb dinner, along with drinking four cups of wine, which they drink throughout the meal, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and other foods commemorating the First Passover, when God freed Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. I am finding out, as I write this post, that there varying names for the four cups of Passover. For instance, the Passover booklet I have been using calls the first cup, “the cup of thanksgiving” and there is no mention of “the second cup”, but there is an “Elijah cup”.
After asking my Pastor if he knew the name of the second cup of Passover, he emailed to me the following web page:
“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am The LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be My people, and I will be Your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:6-7 ESV).
The web page explains: “As the Lord spoke these words to Moses, He revealed to him the plan by which He would redeem His elect to become His children. Based on the four promises in the passage above we have the four cups of the Passover Feast.
*The Cup of Sanctification – based on God’s statement, ‘I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians’
*The Cup of Judgment or Deliverance – based on God’s statement, ‘I will deliver you from slavery to them’
*The Cup of Redemption – based on God’s statement, ‘I will redeem you with an outstretched hand’
*The Cup of Praise or Restoration – based on God’s statement, ‘I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God.’”
All these cups point to our Redeemer Jesus Christ, no matter the differing names given to them. I hope this isn’t confusing. But, what do you expect from a Gentile?
We return to the upper room and Judas almost plows us down. He is going to the chief priests to discuss his betrayal of Jesus. It looks like this is the end, but it’s just the opposite. It is the beginning of God’s redemptive plan to save mankind from the slavery of sin. John 13:31-32 tells us, “When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once.’”
After Jesus and his disciples finished their lamb dinner and time of fellowship, it was the custom to conclude the Passover meal with a piece of unleavened bread. It was possibly at this time, Luke 22:19 records, “And He [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them [disciples], saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”
In the Passover booklet, it says the third cup of wine (“the Cup of Blessing” or “the Cup of Redemption”) is poured. The Apostle Paul refers to this cup when he asks, “Is not this cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16). Luke also tells us, “In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20).
During this time in the Seder the leader talks about Elijah returning to announce the coming of the Messiah, and he goes and opens an outside door to welcome him in. Jesus, instead of opening the outside door, He took “the Cup of Elijah” and, offering the blessing, He says to His disciples, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27b-28).
Finally, the fourth cup of wine is poured (the Cup of Praise or Restoration”) to remember the fourth promise God made to Israel and to us who believe in Christ (from the Passover booklet), “I will make you a chosen people to spread My Word among the nations of the world!” Numbers 6:24-26 is recited: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
The Bible says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).
Many other crucial events occurred on the first “Maundy Thursday”: Jesus says farewell to His disciples and promises that He is preparing a place for them, the Holy Spirit will come to comfort them and He gives them His peace that is not like what the world offers (John 14:1-31). Jesus also talks to His disciples about Him being the “True Vine” and that they are the “branches”; their strength will come from Him and their “sorrow will be turned into joy” because He has “overcome the world” (John 15-16). Jesus prays for His disciples; for His Father to keep them safe and for His future disciples: “…in order that the love You [the Father] have for Me [The Son] may be in them [all of Jesus’ followers]” (John 17). Jesus agonizes in the Garden of Gethsemane, while His disciples sleep. He asks His Father three times, if there is any way “this cup” can pass from Him. Luke tells us that Jesus’ sweat became “like drops of blood.” At the end of each prayer, Jesus said, “yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1). Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss and is arrested and all the disciples desert Him (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12). Jesus is tried before Annas (John 18:12-23), tried before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:15-27). Finally, Peter – His friend Peter, denies knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27).
On the first Maundy Thursday, Jesus give His disciples a New Commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). How do we love like Jesus? He shows us how to love by His own example. Jesus shows us how to love by all the things He did and by all the things He endured on that first Maundy Thursday. But, He didn’t stop there. He explains in John 15:12-14, 17: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command…This is my command: Love each other.” Jesus never tells us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. On that first Maundy Thursday, He gave us the Sacrament of Communion, to remember Him, and He washed His disciples’ feet. Next, comes “Good Friday” when He died to make us free!
During this past Fall and Winter, I had a weekly Bible study at my house. A group of friends and I, as well as our whole church, studied “Authentic Community: Practicing the one another commands” by Jim Van Yperen. (It is an excellent Bible study book.) You know the “one another” commands – “Love one another”, “Accept one another”, “Have concern for one another”, “Be kind and compassionate to one another” and so on. At the beginning of each study, we took turns leading Communion. Each week, we had a different “style” of Communion. One week, we had a Lutheran Communion, the next week we had a Presbyterian Communion, the next week we read what the Bible said about Communion. It was a very enriching time. We were able to see Communion is so many ways. The experience deepened my understanding and also my awe of Communion and what an awesome gift Jesus gave us to give us joy and unity, instead of being set in our ways and separated from each other. I believe this is what God wants – to love and appreciate one another and to learn from one another. O Lord Jesus, make us one. Help us to love each other as You love us. Amen.
May the Love of Christ Consume Us!