Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day of the New Covenant

    Today is a wonderful and amazingly special day.  Today is the day, that God’s people will celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Many years ago, back in Old Testament Scriptures, we can read about how God saved His people from a very hateful and mean people called Egyptian's, who kept God’s people for slaves.  God delivered His people from being the Egyptian's slaves.  On the day that God’s people were able to leave Egypt , they had to leave swiftly.  God told them to make their bread without yeast.  Yeast is the leaven in bread that causes it to rise, but yeast takes time to work.  So, the women made their bread without yeast.  Once they were free, God told them to remember Him and how He saved them by making their bread without yeast the same time every year.  He told them to have a big celebration every year and to call it the, “Feast of Unleavened Bread”.  This Feast lasted seven days, and always started the day before Passover.  That is why God’s people celebrated the two together like a big festival.  It was a happy time for God’s people.  No matter what was going on at that time, when it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they remembered how much God loved them and took care of them.  This is why all of God’s people came to Jerusalem this week.  Since tomorrow will be the Passover, today is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

     Jesus’ disciples went to prepare the Feast just as He had told them to.  Once all of the disciples and Jesus were together in the upper room above a certain man’s house,  Jesus said something that shook the disciples up.  He told them that one of them was going to betray Him.  One His own disciples would betray Him.  He told them that one of them that had just dipped their bread in the bowl with Him, would be the one to betray Him.  In that day, only friends and family that trusted each other would dip their bread in the same bowl of wine or honey.  Jesus is saying here that the one who would betray Him, was one who had shared the bowl with Him.  Someone Jesus should have been able to trust would betray Him, and Jesus knew it.  The disciples began to ask Jesus one by one if it would be them that hurt Him.  Jesus told them that it would really be terrible for the one that was betraying Him, and that it would have been better for that person to never to have even been born.  Jesus told them that He knew it must be this way because the Scriptures from the Old Testament said it would happen like this.  Even though one disciple would betray Him, it would not happen if God did not have it that way. But God’s plan was that this year, Jesus would be the once and for all,  Passover Lamb.

     Then finally,  Judas asked if he was the one.  Judas knew he was.  He had already been paid to hand Jesus over to the religious leaders.  He was just seeing if Jesus knew it was him that would be the betrayer.   Jesus told him that it was indeed him,  Judas Iscariot, that was the betrayer.

     After this, Jesus did a very amazing thing.  The unleavened bread and wine they were having was because of their celebration.  But,  Jesus was about to change all of those years of tradition.  He took the bread, blessed it, broke it into pieces and gave a piece to each of His disciples.  He then told them, “Take this and eat it, for this is My body. Do this to remember Me.”  They had never heard such a thing.  Then Jesus took the cup and gave thanks to God for it.  He gave the disciples the cup and said, “Each of you drink from it, for his is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.  It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”  This was something new for Jesus to say.  The wine in the cup always reminded the people of the blood over the door posts.  The bread reminded them of how God quickly freed them from slavery.  This was a new teaching  Jesus gave them.  Jesus was teaching the disciples about the new and better covenant they would have.  From here on this would not be called the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover.  This time of remembering God’s goodness would be called, “The Lord’s Supper”.  This is very important but they did not understand.... yet.  They all sang a hymn and went out and back to the, Mount of Olives.  They probably sang Psalm 116-118.

     On the way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told the disciples that tonight each one of them would desert Him, the Old Testament Scriptures said that it would happen that way.  But He told them that after He was raised from the dead that He would go ahead of them and meet them in Galilee.  Jesus’ disciple Peter said he would never desert Jesus.  Jesus told Peter that this very night before the rooster crows in the morning he would deny Him three time and tell people he never even knew Me.  Peter insisted that he would die with Jesus before he would deny Him.  The other disciples said the same thing.

     When they got to the Mount of Olives, they went to an olive grove called, Gethsemane.  Jesus asked His disciples to sit while He went to pray.  He took Peter, James and John with Him.  Jesus told the three of them He was very sad because of the sins in the world.  He asked these disciples to stay watch for Him while He prayed.  Jesus walked a little way from them and bowed down, His face to the ground, and prayed to God.  He asked His Father in Heaven if it was possible for Him to not face this awful death tomorrow.  He told His Heavenly Father whatever He wanted,  Jesus would do.  Jesus went back to Peter, James and John.  They were sleeping.  Jesus woke them up and asked them again to please stay awake and watch out for Him as He prayed.  Jesus went back to prayer.  God had answered Jesus about the awful death tomorrow.  Jesus told His Father that He understood that the cup of death could not be removed from Him.  He told God He would be obedient and see to it that His Father’s will was done.  Jesus went back to His disciples.  They were sleeping again.  He said nothing to them and went back to keep praying.  When He was done praying the third time, Jesus woke the three disciples up.  He told them He had been betrayed into the hands of evil men and to get up and get going back to the other disciples because His betrayer had come back and was now among them.
     At some point, Judas had left the group of disciples because he was the one Jesus was talking about coming back, and was now with the evil men that had come to harm Him.  Judas was walking with a group of men toward the other disciples and Jesus.  The men with Judas were carrying swords and clubs.  The religious leaders sent them to arrest Jesus.  It was night time and there was no one around except these men, the disciples, and Jesus.  These men had come to take Jesus like thieves under the cover of night, this way they did not have to worry about what the people would think or do.  Since it was dark and some of these evil men may not have been sure who Jesus was,  Judas had given them a signal to know which One was Jesus.  He would kiss Jesus on the cheek as a sign for them to arrest Him.   Judas greeted Jesus, and then gave him the kiss.   Jesus knew what this meant and told Judas to go ahead and do what he had come to do.  The men with clubs and swords grabbed Jesus and arrested Him.  Peter grabbed the arresting man’s sword to get him to let Jesus go.  Jesus instructed him to put the sword away.  He asked Peter if he did not understand that He could call on His Father in Heaven for help and that God would send thousands of angels to protect all of them instantly?  He told the disciples that He could do that, but then how would the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures be fulfilled as they were meant to be?   Jesus told everyone there He could have been arrested in the temple since He was there everyday; but that this was happening the way it was to fulfill the Scriptures.

     The arresting men took Jesus to the high priest Caiaphas’ house where all of the religious leaders were waiting for Him.  Peter followed some distance behind.  All of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Elders and teachers put together in a council of men were called, the Sanhedrin.  They were all there.  The laws of that day said that there was to never be a trial at night, but the Sanhedrin held a trial right then and there at night.  They broke their own laws because they were so desperate to kill  Jesus.  They tried again to trick Him and they tried to get people to lie about Him.  Finally, they asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus told them He was.  Caiaphas declared that Jesus was speaking disrespectfully about God and asked the Sanhedrin for a vote.  They said He was guilty and should die. These religious leaders began to beat Jesus, they even spit in His face.

     Peter had secretly watched all of this.  He knew they were going to kill Jesus and he was afraid for his own life.  While sitting outside of a house in a courtyard a servant girl said to Peter that  he was one of the men with that Jesus from, Galilee.  Peter said, No! and that he did not know what she was talking about.  A little later out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to the people standing around, “This man was was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  Again Peter denied knowing Jesus and he swore to it.  A little later some of the the people standing around came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”   Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying-I don’t know the man!”  Immediately, the rooster crowed.  Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter's mind:  “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Peter left the courtyard crying very hard... he completely undone.  Now, the sun is starting to come up.  And, it will be Friday, the day Jesus has been talking about all week.

   Today was a day of fellowship in the upper room and of announcing a new and better covenant.

   Oh Father I pray Your church embrace all the Jesus did this night those 2,000 years ago!

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