Easter is now just a couple of weeks away, and this year our Good Friday service will be on April 3, which is a week from this Friday. And as we mentioned, we will be joining with 3 other churches that morning at 10:30 at FBC in Welland, as we worship together & take time to remember Jesus’ death on the cross.
But another important event also happens to coincide with GF this year, because that is also the day when the feast of Passover begins.
And so that evening, our Jewish friends will be celebrating the Passover seder as they have been doing for thousands of years. I should also mention that on April 12, the 1st Sunday after Easter, Andrew Barron, the Canadian director of Jews for Jesus will be coming here to our church to do a special presentation entitled “Christ in the Passover”. He will be explaining how the elements of the Passover Seder point to the eventual coming of Jesus
Now if your mother tongue is French or Spanish, you are already aware that there is a close conection between Passover and Easter. That’s because the same word: “La Paque” in French, or “La Pascua” in Spanish, is used for both Passover and Easter Sunday. In English we have adopted this strange word “Easter”, which really has nothing to do with the cross or the resurrection. It actually comes from the Old English word “Eastré”, which was the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of the dawn. But the OT feast of Passover and the events of Good Friday are closely intertwined together, and that’s what we want to look at this morning.
We all know that just before he was about to go to the cross, Jesus had a final supper with his 12 disciples. But in our scripture reading from Luke 22, we discover that this was not just any ordinary meal.
Because that night Jesus & his disciples were doing what thousands of other Jewish families were also doing. They were taking part in the feast of Unleavened Bread, or Passover. They were sharing in a tradition that had been handed down by their forefathers from generation to generation ever since the people of Israel had left Egypt to return to the promised land. A tradition that will still be celebrated in many Jewish homes just a couple of weeks from now.
Our OT scripture reading from Exod 12 details for us what the Passover celebration was all about. God had sent Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. And God had already sent a number of terrible plagues upon Egypt in order to persuade Pharaoh to let them go. But he had stubbornly refused, & so God tells Moses he will send one more final plague, in which all of the first born sons of Egypt would be killed.
But he also commanded that the night this was to happen, each Hebrew family would take a year-old sheep or goat w/o any kind of defect, & sacrifice that lamb. They were to take some of the blood from the lamb & put it on the doorframes of their houses. Then they were to roast the lamb with bitter herbs, and eat the meat, along with bread made without yeast. That night the angel of the Lord came & struck down the first born sons of Egypt, but wherever he saw the blood on the door frames, the angel passed over, so that the sons of Israel would not be harmed.
God also commanded that every year after, down thru the centuries, the people of Israel were to share that same meal of roasted lamb, & unleavened bread, as a way of remembering how God had so miraculously delivered them from Egypt.
And so because Jesus & his disciples were Jewish, the Passover would have been one of the most significant times of the year for them. And for Jesus, this particular Passover must have been especially full of meaning.
As this Passover approached, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to return one last time to Jerusalem. He understood that this was the time his Father had appointed for him, when the Son of Man would be handed over to be crucified, as had been foretold in the scriptures, as had been planned by his Father even before the creation of the world.
How did Jesus know this was the time? Obviously Jesus, being the son of God, had divine insight into his Father's plan, but that insight was primarily based on his understanding of the OT scriptures.
Throughout this series, we have seen how all thru the OT, there are many different visual images or symbols which foreshadow what would eventually take place at Calvary. We have seen for eg, that when Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mt Moriah, this event was pointing ahead to the day when God would offer his son as a sacrifice on Mt Calvary. We also saw how the Jewish high priest, entering the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle each year on the day of atonement, was a type or symbol of Christ entering God's presence on our behalf, not with the blood of bulls & goats, but with his own blood.
And the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, was one of the most important of these OT types. And Jesus understood this very clearly, that right from the beginning, the OT Passover had always been meant by God as a sign, pointing ahead to that day when his very own son would become the unblemished Passover lamb, that his blood would be shed to take away the sins of world.
Altho I'm sure they were not aware of this at the time, it was certainly no coincidence that all of these events: the chief priests deciding to bring Jesus to trial, Pilate sentencing Jesus to be crucified, all of these took place at Passover. And so Lk 22:7, begins here by saying "Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed."
And so when Jesus comes to this final Passover supper that he shares with his disciples, it is a very important time, not only for them, but for us today. Because it was here that Jesus gave a whole new significance and meaning to the Passover meal. There it became what we know as the Lord's Supper, in which we will participate together once again on Good Friday, the 1st day of Passover.
Earlier that same day, Jesus had sent Peter & John ahead to make the necessary preparations. He had told them to look for a man carrying a large water jar, and he would take them to the upper floor of a house, where they would eat the Passover together. Later in the afternoon, Peter & John would have gone to the temple to have the priests kill a young lamb, & burn the fat on the altar. After sundown, the disciples would have begun the Passover meal, reclining on couches around a low table.
Jesus begins by saying how much he had longed to eat this Passover before the time of his suffering. And that He would not eat this meal again until the kingdom of God came in all of its fullness.
As Andrew Barron will show you in much more detail in a few weeks, there are several specific foods that were an integral part of the Passover meal. There was first of all a preliminary course of greens and bitter herbs. Then the 1st of 4 special cups of wine was drunk, accompanied by a prayer of thanksgiving. Psalm 113 would be sung, and then a young child would ask the quesion: "What is special about this night above every other night?" In response, the head of the household would explain the various components of the meal, as they related to the Exodus from Egypt. The main course, consisting of the unleavened bread and the roasted lamb, was then followed by the cup of blessing
As we read Luke's account, what we find is that some of the elements of the traditional Passover meal were incorporated into what has become for us the Last Supper. But Jesus took these elements and gave them a whole new significance.
Let's look at what some of these were:
1. v19: "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." The "motzah", the bread eaten at the passover was unleavened because it was meant to emphasize the hurried preparations that the Israelites had made as they were about to leave Egypt.
In preparation for Passover, Jewish families were to remove all of the leavened bread & yeast in their houses, & eat only unleavened bread for 7 days. In the NT, this image of yeast or leaven is used as a metaphor. Jesus warned the disciples to watch out for the "yeast" of the Pharisees, by which he meant to be on guard against their teaching. In the scripture verse in your bulletin, 1 Cor 5:7, Paul said to "get rid of the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, & replace it with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."
At the last supper, Jesus gives the Passover bread a completely new significance when he says "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." As he approaches the time when he would be offered up as a sacrifice, Jesus identifies his own body with the Passover bread which he is sharing with his disciples. And as we break bread together at the Lord's table, we share in a tangible reminder of Jesus’ body, broken for us. While we understand Jesus to be speaking figuratively, not literally, I believe that as we break bread together, Jesus comes & makes himself real to us, in a way that we perhaps don't experience any other way.
v20: "In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Here Jesus takes the passover wine & uses it to inaugurate a new cov't with his disciples. God had established the Old cov't thru Moses after the Exodus, which was affirmed thru the blood sacrifices of animals. This new cov't was established thru the blood of Christ himself, & the cup of the Lord's table is a sign that we have entered into that new cov't
It’s interesting that there is no mention in any of the accounts of the Last Supper, of the most important element in the Passover feast: the Lamb that was sacrificed & eaten as part of the meal. And that's because Christ himself becomes the Passover lamb. The very next day, in the words of the prophet Isaiah that we read last Sunday, "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter"
And Paul writes "For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed"
And so for us today, Jesus himself is the Passover lamb, the one who was sacrificed for us, so that our sins might be forgiven, so that we might be reconciled back to our Father
The Lord's Supper is an important symbol for us, because it speaks in a very powerful way of the death & resurrection of Jesus. When the people of Israel celebrated the Passover, it was meant to be a dramatization, a reenactment of what God had done in delivering them out of Egypt. Year after year, by repeating the same words, going thru the same actions, they were remembering, they were passing on from one generation to the next, the central event of their faith, the Exodus from Egypt. Remembering the moment when God acted decisively in history on their behalf.
The Lord’s table is also meant to be a visual re-enactment of the central event of our Christian faith: not the Exodus-event, but the Christ-event. It is here that we remember. We remember how God became a man- that he was conceived by the HS- born of the virgin Mary- suffered under PP- that he was crucified, buried, & on the 3rd day rose again from the dead. This is the Jesus that is spoken of thru this table. The one who said: "I am the bread of life", "I am the true vine". Paul reminds us "whenever you eat this bread, & drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes"