When God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, He sent ten punishments to the Egyptians, to convince them to let their workers go. On the night of the last punishment, the Israelites celebrated a special dinner together. Those who followed God had the punishment pass over them. God gave them an instruction to remember this event every year, by having a special dinner, called Passover.
Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His disciples: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, another James, Thaddeus, Matthew, Philip, Simon, Thomas…and Judas.
Before this, Judas had gone to the chief priests and asked them, “How much will you pay me if I help you arrest Jesus?” The priests were tired of all the attention Jesus was getting and hoped their Roman rulers would take care of Him for them. So they paid Judas thirty silver coins, and Judas began to look for an opportunity to betray Jesus.
As Jesus led them through the dinner, the disciples tasted different foods to remember how God led their ancestors out of Egypt. They ate a bitter herb to remind them of the bitterness of slavery, a mixture of apples and honey to remind them of the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to stick the bricks together, a vegetable dipped in saltwater to remind them of the tears shed, a hard-boiled egg as a symbol of crying for those who were lost and the bone of the Passover Lamb, a symbol of trusting God to take away their sins.
Jesus told them that He was going to be the new Passover Lamb. He would be the substitute for people’s sins from now on.
Beside the seder plate were three pieces of flat bread, called matzoh, reminding them that the Hebrew slaves didn’t have time to let their bread rise in the oven before fleeing Egypt. One of the three pieces was broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden. During the meal they would drink four glasses of wine: one to represent God setting them apart for a special purpose, one to represent being rescued, one to represent having their sins paid for, and one to represent praise.
Jesus knew that His time on earth was coming to an end. Soon, He would return to His Father in Heaven. While they were eating the Passover meal, Jesus got up, took off His cloak, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured a large bowl of water. He began washing His disciples’ feet, a job normally done by the least important person in a house.
Peter was confused when Jesus came to him. “You’re not really going to wash my feet, are You!?!” he protested.
“You’ll understand later,” Jesus told him. “But if you don’t let Me wash you, you won’t truly belong to Me.”
Peter still didn’t understand, but never one to do things halfway, replied, “Well, in that case, Lord, wash my hands and head, too!”
Jesus smiled at him. “Once someone has bathed, they only need their feet washed again. All of you are clean…well, except for one of you.”
Jesus sat down again and continued the meal. His face became serious.
“One of you is going to betray Me to My enemies,” He told them.
Shocked and worried, they all began asking Him, “You don’t mean me, though, do You?”
“I am going to die as has been written in the Scriptures,” He added.
“I know you don’t mean me, Rabbi,” Judas asked nervously.
“Don’t I?” Jesus replied. “It’s time for you to do what you have planned.”
Judas excused himself from the room, his head dizzy with tension.
By now the hidden matzoh had been returned to the table. Jesus took it in His hands and prayed. He broke the bread and gave it to His disciples to eat.
“This will remind you of My body,” He told them. “It will be broken.”
Then He took the cup of salvation and passed it around for them to drink. “This will remind you of My blood. It will be poured out so that everyone who believes can have their sins forgiven by God.”
Jesus looked with love at the remaining eleven disciples. “This is the last meal I will eat on earth. The next time we eat together will be in My Father’s kingdom.” Then they sang a hymn and walked to a garden.