The Upper Room
Passages of Scripture can be read many times without realizing that hidden beneath the surface is a wealth of interest.
Such is the case with the record of our Lord when He instituted the first breaking of bread service. It is probably read each time we partake of the feast of remembrance.
That Jesus himself had already started making preparation for the Passover can be seen in his reply to Peter and to John when they asked him, “where shall we prepare the Passover? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?” (Luke 22:10-12). Jesus must have started making arrangements in advance and then handed the final details over to the disciples who prepared the Passover under the guidance of the Lord.
When all was ready for Jesus and the twelve to partake, and when they were all seated Jesus said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Jesus knew that his end was near, but having spent three years with his disciples, why does he appear to treat this occasion with such urgency? The language our Lord uses is strong. One translator puts it this way: “How I have longed to eat this Passover with you”. Another translator says this: “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you”. The Son of God desires, longs for, is passionate for this; not only to eat the Passover, but to do so with his disciples, regardless of the fact that He knew one of them would betray him and another deny him and we know that later He would be abandoned.
I believe that by engaging in this feast our Lord wanted to impress upon the disciples the main part of His teaching over the past three years and if we look at the records we shall see how He demonstrated this. Jesus tell them that one of them will betray him and Matthew tells us that they were exceeding sorrowful and began every one of them to say unto Him, “Lord, is it I?”
In John 13 Peter asks Jesus who it is. Verse 26 gives the answer: “Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the Son of Simon”.
Several commentators suggest that usually the giving of the sop first as is suggested here, was to give it by the host to someone of importance who would be sitting next to the host. If Judas was sitting next to our Lord and partook of the sop first, could it be a sign that Jesus would forgive Judas of this forthcoming betrayal thereby practising what He had preached to the disciples and followers that we have to forgive?
Going on a little further to when our Lord was crucified, scripture records that He cried to his Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” If our Lord did not forgive Judas in the upper room, his forgiveness might have been included in the “Forgive them” spoken on the cross. This is a debateable point and fortunately not a doctrinal issue, and we shall all have to draw our own conclusion for we are not told what happened!
Returning to Christ’s desire to meet with his disciples in this way, He wanted so far as it was possible to strengthen them for what lay ahead. He had been their guide for three years, and shortly they would be on their own. In John chapter 13 and verses 14-15 we have the record of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. A protest was made by Peter but on an occasion like this it was necessary for Jesus to do it. The situation is explained in verse 14: “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”. Jesus was demonstrating humility through which he showed his love for them, thus fulfilling the words of scripture, “What doth the Lord require of thee but to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.”
In John chapter 13 and verses 34-35, he records the words of Jesus showing the importance of Love: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another”.
During his ministry Jesus had demonstrated on many occasions the need for forgiveness. An instance is recorded in Luke chapter 6 verse 37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”, so at this feast Jesus stressed the importance of Serving, Humility, Love and Forgiveness, but of great importance was the partaking of the Bread and the Wine when our Lord asked them and us to “do this in remembrance of me”. Not just once, but a continual and regular partaking of these emblems in memory of our Lord.
Jesus was to demonstrate love in the great sacrifice that he made and we read of this in John chapter 15 verse 13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. We see at this first feast of remembrance our Lord demonstrating the attributes that we should have as his disciples.
Brother John Roberts in his thoughts on the Breaking of Bread says this: “When on Sundays we see the table spread, it signifies the altar and reminds us that our Lord Jesus offered himself without spot, but it signifies also the power and true wealth of our Great Host. We are reminded that we of all people, have been graciously invited to His house and offered peace and fellowship with Him. What an honour and privilege is the table of the Lord”.
Bro Roy Soffe (Portsmouth, U.K.)