Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peter's Perspective - The Passover Lamb (Thursday)

It was the night before Passover.  We were tired; tired of the jostling crowds who came out to hear the words of the Master in the temple and to receive healing, tired of the growing sense of hostility against Jesus, and tired of waiting for the Messiah to take His rightful place as the ruler of Israel.  Nonetheless, all of us were feeling the building anticipation.  Jesus' replies to his critics were stunning in their wisdom, but we knew there were some who sought His death.  Some might have expected an aspiring King to compromise with the temple rulers, but we knew that the Messiah would never form an allegiance with such corrupt pharisees and Herodians.  He was preparing us, His followers, to fill those roles as the new leaders of the coming Kingdom.  Still, the suspense was emotionally and physically draining.  We had been going at night to our camp on the Mount of Olives, which was a peaceful retreat from the tension of Jerusalem, but the disciples looked forward to soon living in a palace - or at least spending the night under a roof again.  John and I had volunteered to be on watch, and it seemed that the land had been sentenced to a long imprisonment under the darkness of that night.  Finally, the horizon began to fade to gray.

As the morning sun slowly dawned, the red light spread over the eastern hill country beyond Jerusalem until it looked like the all the blood of Bethlehem's lambs had been spilled over the landscape.  Being from Galilee, we would commemorate Passover tonight, being Thursday.  We asked Jesus, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?"  He told us to go into the city and speak to a man who we would see carrying a pitcher of water.  Just as He foretold, the man met us as we entered the city, and we said, as we had been commanded, "The Teacher says, 'My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.'"  The man left his task and led us to his house, where he gave us the upper room in which to gather that evening.

John and I bought a lamb in the market place and brought it to the temple.  The court was teeming with people who brought their fearfully bleating lambs to the altar.  Many laughed and talked with their neighbors in the long line to the place of sacrifice.  Some stood near stalls that sold the lambs nearest to the temple, haggling over the inflated prices, and disgustedly handing over the sum for the obligatory sacrifice.  As we approached the place of sacrifice, the smell of blood became sickening.  Hundreds were being sacrificed that evening, and hundreds more would be sacrificed tomorrow by the Judeans.  Our lamb having been slain, and its blood sprinkled on the altar, we brought it back with us to be roasted for the Passover meal.
As evening fell, and the aroma of roast lamb filled every street and corridor in the city, Jesus and the other ten disciples arrived at the house where we were staying.  Looking back, I can see that we were so blind then.  During the meal in the upper room, we again brought up the dispute of who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.  I had finally succeeded in drowning out the argument of my opponent when I realized that a hush had fallen over the room.  The Master had removed His robe, and with a towel around His waist, He was stooping to wash John's feet.  We were all in shock, struck by the impropriety of the action; the base humility of it.  This was a servant's job!  John initially pulled his feet away, eyes filled with questioning bewilderment.  Jesus looked up into his face, and something John saw there must have led him to acquiesce.  He next came to me, and set the basin down before my dirty, smelly feet.  As usual, I was the first to find my voice.  "Never shall you wash my feet!" At His next words, I felt the sting of His gentle reproof.  "Peter, if I do not wash you, you have no part with me."  When He had washed all of our feet, we reclined again at the table and He disclosed the purpose of His actions, saying "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."
As we ate the bitter herbs, the Lord began to speak of a betrayer in our midst - a thought that was bitter indeed to our ears.  He said to us, with great sadness, "One of you will betray me - one who is eating with Me."  We were all struck with grief, and I was the first to protest, "Surely not I, Lord!"  The others joined in with their denial of the charge.  John was sitting next to Jesus, and I asked him, "Who is He talking about?" He leaned over and asked the Lord, whom I heard to quietly say, "It is the one to whom I give this piece."  He dipped a choice piece of bread into the herbs and gave it to Judas, who was sitting near Him, in a place of honor.  Jesus spoke quietly to Judas, and he quickly left, and we assumed he had been sent on an errand.

Proceeding with the meal, Jesus broke bread and passed it to us, saying that it was His broken body.  After supper, He took the cup, saying that it was His blood of the New Covenant.  At that time, we still did not fully understand these things, but I was beginning to feel, for the first time, the sense that there were great and terrible things to come of Jesus' words.  I felt a thrill of the glory and the sorrow of something in the Teacher's voice that I could not yet imagine.  After the meal, He taught us, addressing each one with love and exhortation.  When He turned to me, He said, "Simon, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

Together, when the time had come to sing the last Hallel, we lifted up our voices, singing the words of the Passover Psalm,

The stone which the builders rejected
         Has become the chief corner stone.
 This is the LORD'S doing
It is marvelous in our eyes.
    This is the day which the LORD has made;
         Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    O LORD, do save, we beseech You;
         O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
         We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
  The LORD is God, and He has given us light.
(Psalm 118)

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