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BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 5B

The Last Supper

The Synoptic Gospels and John give different accounts of the last supper of Christ with his disciples, so we will look at both.

 Read Luke 22:1-13

  • Passover is also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the Exodus the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread (without yeast) for seven days as a symbol of purity.
  • Luke omits Mary’s anointing Jesus at the dinner in Bethany (found in Matthew and Mark), since he recorded a similar story of another woman in ch. 7.
  • Mark and Matthew specify it was the “first day” of the feast. The week-long celebration of Passover began on our Thursday night at 6:00 pm, the beginning of the Jewish Friday (Nisan 15th on the Jewish calendar). The Jewish “day” began at our 6:00 pm, rather than 12 midnight as we calculate it today.
  • Jesus’ instructions indicate that this upper room location was pre-arranged, as he tells them who will meet them. Jesus may have wanted to keep the location secret from his enemies. Although he knew he would be arrested, he wanted some private time beforehand to prepare his followers.
  • Luke agrees with John 13:27 in saying that Satan entered Judas to tempt him, although this should not be confused with being “possessed.” Judas was not forced against his will but freely chose to betray Jesus.
  • Matthew 26:15 specifies that the chief priests offered Judas 30 pieces of silver. Other than the bribe, scripture never explains why Judas was willing to betray his master.
  • People have always been fascinated by Judas. Why did he do it? Was he ever a true disciple or was he bad from the beginning? One theory speculates he wanted to force Jesus into becoming the revolutionary leader the Jews were looking for, but the Bible never says this.
  • In 2006 the National Geographic Society published a new translation of an ancient manuscript, “The Gospel according to Judas.” The text portrays Judas as Jesus’ favorite with whom he shares mysterious secrets which none of the other disciples would understand. This “gospel” is a typical example of the heretical doctrine called Gnosticism from the 2nd century AD, which taught that Jesus was not truly a man. God could not appear in the flesh, for everything made of physical matter is evil. Judas had a divine mission to free Jesus from his evil body so that only his pure spirit would live on. This idea is pure fiction and contrary to biblical teaching.
  • Frequently today we see books and TV specials promoting “lost gospels” which some claim challenge our traditional view of Jesus. However, all of these are typical Gnostic texts written a century or more after the time of Christ, and were rightly rejected by the early church as heretical. For instance, the Gospel of Philip claims that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife/lover. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas describes Jesus as a child performing tricks such as making clay birds come alive, stretching pieces of wood which his father had cut too short, and causing a teacher who corrects him to fall dead. None of these works has any historical credibility despite the sensational claims.

 Read Luke 22:14-23

  • Unlike the famous painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, the custom in those days was to recline on the floor around a short table to eat.
  • (17) This first cup was part of the traditional Passover feast and doesn’t conflict with the institution of the Lord’s Supper in 19-20. Note that Jesus doesn’t define its significance as he does the other. Luke is the only gospel which mentions two cups.
  • Instead of relating the bread and cup to the events of the Exodus (as was customary at Passover), Jesus applies them to his coming death. In Greek the words for Passover and suffering are similar.
  • Jesus’ death will establish the new covenant that was promised in Jer. 31:31. Matthew 26:28 has “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” explaining the foundation for this new covenant which God had promised long ago.
  • Luke’s version is closer to Paul’s account in 1 Cor. 11, with the inclusion of the words “given for you” and “do this in remembrance of me.” Only Luke separates the bread and the cup with the main part of the meal in between (20).
  • Luke places the betrayal prediction after the Supper, agreeing with John. Matthew and Mark mention it happening before the meal.
  • According to John 13:25-30, Jesus gave a piece of bread to Judas to indicate who would betray him, but the other disciples don’t seem to understand. He tells Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” When he leaves, they think he is taking care of the expenses for the meal or giving money to the poor, as Judas was the group’s treasurer.
  • Jesus will die by divine decree, but this doesn’t relieve Judas of his guilt. Judas was not predestined to sin, but did so by his own choice.

 Read Luke 22:24-38

  • The Caesars were called benefactors, so v. 25 may be an allusion to them.
  • Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of servant leadership, different from the type of leadership found in the world.
  • John 13:3-17 records Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet at this point, an example of servant leadership and perhaps an object lesson in response to their arguing over who’s the greatest. Jesus, their master, humbles himself to do the work of a servant.
  • Satan requests to test the disciples (“you” is plural in Greek), similar to the story of Job.
  • Sifting wheat separates the good grain from the useless chaff. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him at first but would then become one of the early leaders of the young church.
  • (37) This is the only time in the gospels Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53 directly, linking himself with the suffering servant portrayed there. This text in Isaiah is the most important prophecy about Jesus in the OT, as it explains his life’s mission to die for the sins of others. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace fell upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:3-6).
  • Jesus’ death was not an accident, a premature end to a life cut short in its prime. His death didn’t interrupt his mission; it was his mission.
  • Jesus contrasts their easy time of ministry with the conflicts ahead, but they take his advice about swords too literally. He rebukes them saying, “Enough of that!” (a better translation than the mild “It is enough”)

 Read John 13:31-38

  • In John’s account of Passover, he does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper, but gives a lengthy record of the last teachings of Jesus preparing the disciples for his death.
  • Our reading from John picks up right after Judas leaves to betray Jesus. Jesus now speaks of his being glorified, but this is an unusual meaning of the word, as Jesus is talking about his death. Most of us would not consider dying as being glorified. We might expect to receive some great honor or reward, but Jesus considers his fulfilling the task given him by his Father as the way he will be glorified. His focus was always on God, not himself. Only in John’s gospel does “glorify” refer to Jesus’ death. Also see John 17:1-5.
  • The OT taught love of neighbor as self (Lev 19:18) so what’s new about this command? Jesus’ supreme example “… as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love for us sheds new meaning on the word, and sets the standard so much higher. We must love as he loved.

 Read John 14:1-14

  • The disciples are disturbed by Jesus’ saying that he is leaving them, so he spends some time trying to comfort them, promising to return after he has prepared a place for them, which they do not understand.
  • (12) Jesus is not saying that believers will do greater miracles than he did, but that their work, testifying about him and bringing the message of salvation to the world, will be greater than any miracle.
  • Praying “in Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula to get whatever we want, but whatever will bring glory to the Father. “In my name” means according to Jesus’ nature, following his example. What does Jesus pray for? He asks that God be glorified through his sacrifice. Praying like Jesus may mean risking all for the glory of God.

 Read John 14:15-31

  • “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Love is not just a warm feeling but a life of obedience. Some misguided Christians say things like, “We don’t need to study the Bible and all those commands. We just need to be led by the spirit of Jesus.” This attitude is very reckless and not in keeping with Jesus’ teachings. We would not know anything about Jesus or the will of God for our lives if we didn’t have the Bible. And if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then these commandments are not limited to his own words but include all of God’s word, which Jesus upheld and quoted throughout his ministry. Only the Bible can tell us how to be pleasing to God. We can’t rely on vague feelings which are unreliable and self-serving, as the lyrics of a popular song in the 1970s said, “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.” We can easily convince ourselves that anything we want to do is right if it feels right. This is not the path Jesus would have us follow. If we love him, we will study the Bible diligently to know all of God’s commands and follow them, even when our society tries to convince us otherwise.
  • Jesus promises his disciples “another helper,” referring to the Holy Spirit. The Greek word parakletos means “one called alongside” as an aid, supporter, advocate, counselor, comforter.
  • Jesus promises to return to his disciples soon to be with them always, not physically but in spirit. Jesus describes this new experience as “another” paraclete to indicate that they will experience his divine presence in a different way from their physical relationship to him so far. This is the way Christ dwells “in us,” through his Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit is the same as the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7, Phil 1:19). Having Christ in our lives means having his Spirit (Rom 8:9-10). The Spirit is not a substitute for Christ’s presence but is that very presence in our lives.
  • 1 John 2:1 refers to Jesus as our paraclete, so “another paraclete” means having Jesus in our lives in another manner, a spiritual reality.
  • (20) “On that day” probably refers to his resurrection or possibly Pentecost when the disciples would finally begin to understand.
  • (21-4) Love in the true sense is not mere emotion but action, a life of obeying God. We can’t say that we love God without being obedient.
  • (26) The Spirit comes in Jesus’ name to teach and remind. The Spirit does not bring a new revelation beyond what Christ taught. The Spirit represents Christ in our lives, but does not replace him. This promise is given specifically to the disciples to help them understand more fully what Jesus had taught and done after his resurrection. Only then would they comprehend what Jesus had accomplished.
  • The last verse may suggest that Jesus and the disciples left the upper room at this point and were walking and talking on the way to the garden.
  • Further thoughts on the Spirit of Christ: In Acts 2:38 Luke records Peter’s first sermon, saying that all who are baptized in the name of Jesus receive his Spirit. What does it mean to have the Spirit of Christ in us? For one thing, Paul in Romans 8:13 says, “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” The Spirit of Christ dwelling in believers helps us in our struggle with sin. But have you ever wondered, “If I have the Spirit of Christ, why do I still struggle so? Why do I continue to sin?” Even the apostle Paul admits that he waged war with sin all the time, often doing the things he knew he should not do (read Rom. 7:18-23). In his helpful commentary on Romans, Cranfield writes: Don’t be discouraged by the struggle, as this is evidence of Christ’s Spirit working in us. If he weren’t, we wouldn’t struggle with temptation; we would simply give in.

 Read John 15:1-17

  • “I am the true vine” is the last of seven “I am” statements in John. The others are: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the door for the sheep, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life. This way of Jesus’ speaking about himself is unique to John’s gospel.
  • One sign that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us is if we are bearing fruit for the Kingdom, showing God’s love and sharing Christ with others. Some people think that having the Spirit of Christ means experiencing a “warm fuzzy” feeling inside, but feelings can be deceptive. It’s easy to “feel” that we are right with God when we are not; the Pharisees who considered themselves righteous are a good example. True spirituality is not measured by a good feeling but by our lives producing good works, what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the signs of the Spirit of Christ working in us.
  • Prayer depends on abiding in Jesus and his words abiding in us. God will answer our prayers when we are praying for the things that concerned Jesus, not our selfish desires.
  • Our love for God is shown in obedience, just as Jesus’ love was demonstrated through obedience. Love in the NT is more than mere emotion but always indicates action. For instance, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he doesn’t mean have warm feelings for them but to treat them in a loving manner.
  • We are called God’s friends if we obey him. This is not a mutual, reciprocal relationship between equals, pulling God down to our level. Jesus defines friendship by obedience, not in the modern sense of being “buddies.”

 Read John 15:18-27

  • (22) Jesus refers not to sin in general but to the sin of unbelief, rejecting or hating him, thus hating the Father. If he hadn’t clearly demonstrated by his words and signs that he was who he claimed to be, then no one would be at fault for rejecting him, but the evidence is clear, and they have no excuse.
  • (26) Just as his words and deeds testified about who he was, Christ’s Spirit in the disciples will continue to testify to the world, thus the world will have no excuse either.

 Read John 16:1-15

  • Jesus warns the disciples that the unbelieving Jewish leaders will persecute them. The enemies of Christ were not necessarily hypocrites; they truly believed (as did Paul before his conversion) that Jesus was a fraud, but they did not truly know God.
  • Although the thought saddens them, Jesus reassures the disciples that they will benefit once he goes away. How is this possible? How could Jesus’ absence be for their good? While Jesus was on earth, he had the limitations of a physical body, and could only be in one place at one time. However, now that Jesus dwells with his followers through his Spirit, he can be with all believers everywhere at once. We might think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Jesus in the flesh as his disciples did?” but in a real sense we are better off now that Jesus’ Spirit is with us all the time.
  • Jesus explains three things in which the Spirit will convict the world. The Spirit will (9) convict the world of the sin of unbelief, (10) convict the world of Christ’s righteousness demonstrated in his resurrection and return to the Father, and (11) convict the world of its false judgment against Jesus; instead, Satan “the prince of this world” has been judged.
  • The Spirit will guide the disciples into all truth. The Spirit will continue Christ’s teachings, not deliver a new message. The Spirit will speak not on his own authority, just as Christ spoke only what the Father gave him (Jn 8:28). Some people claim that the Spirit speaks to them directly today, sometimes saying things that contradict scripture. This will never happen, as the Spirit only teaches what Christ taught.
  • The Spirit will glorify Christ. In my estimation v. 14 is the best summary of the Spirit’s work. In the original word order in Greek, the emphasis is clearer: “Me he will glorify;” the focus is always on Christ.

 Read John 16:16-33

  • (23) This unqualified promise about prayer should be read in context of the themes running through this discourse: remaining in him, obedience, bearing fruit, and glorifying God. The point is not, “If I obey, then I can ask for whatever I want.” If we are truly remaining in Christ and stay focused on him rather than ourselves, then we will not be asking for selfish reasons, but for whatever brings glory to God.
  • Most commentators interpret v. 31 as a question: “So, do you now believe?” rather than a statement. Jesus challenges their naïve, superficial belief much like he did the people (John 8:31), and Peter (John 13:38). He knows that their faith will falter and they will forsake him for a short time.

 Read John 17:1-5

  • In this prayer we must remember that in John’s gospel, glorification refers to Jesus’ death (12:23, 27-8, 13:31-2). Jesus prays that through this shameful act of crucifixion he be glorified, because of his complete submission to God’s will. He asks God to turn his shame into glory. But this request is only a selfless means to a higher end, “that the Son may glorify you.” This is how Jesus prays “for himself,” that whatever happens to him, it will bring glory to God, even if this means his death.
  • In the synoptic gospels Christ prays in the garden for this cup to pass — if it be God’s will. This is the key to understanding prayer: if we pray selfishly for our list of wants, God may choose to say no, but when the ultimate purpose of our prayers is uniting our will with God’s, then all prayers can receive a positive answer.
  • If we follow the example of Christ, prayer is not about changing God’s will to conform to ours, but changing our will to conform to God’s.

 

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