The Passover Supper of Jesus

We are continuing to meditate on the last supper of Jesus and His disciples the day before Christ’s crucifixion. The Jews of Galilee had a different time-keeping system to the Jews in the south. The Galilean Jews counted the day as starting at the time when the sun came up; whereas, the Jews of Judah and Jerusalem counted a new day as starting as soon as three stars could be seen in the sky. This was beneficial when it came to the sacrifices going on in the temple. Jesus could eat the Passover on a Thursday night and deliver Himself in Jerusalem as the Passover Lamb slain before the foundation of the world on the Friday we remember as “Good Friday.”

8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” 9“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. 10He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.” 13They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover (Luke 22:8-13).

The Lord was aware of Judas’ betrayal. It would have been easy for Judas to give directions to the religious leaders if he had known where Jesus would be eating the Passover with His disciples. Jesus’ enemies could have arrived during the meal. Therefore, Jesus gave a cryptic message as to how to find the room He had prearranged beforehand. It was very rare to see a man carrying water, so Peter and John would notice and follow him to the place Jesus had arranged. Judas had to wait until Jesus and the other disciples met up with John and Peter after they had made their preparation.

As they arrived at the upper room that Thursday night, the lamb was already roasting on the spit and the table laid by John and Peter. We are told that they reclined around the table. The table, called a triclinium, consisted of three tables set twelve to eighteen inches off the floor and shaped in the form of a large U. The disciples lay on cushions or low couches on the floor around the table with Jesus at the head. They rested their weight on their left elbow and side, reaching onto the table with their right hand to get food. On the table were flat pieces of unleavened bread to remind them that they left Egypt in haste. There were bowls of bitter herbs to remind them of the bitter slavery that they endured in Egypt. Also on the table was the charoseth, a savory mix of chutney made of apples and nuts, to remind them of the mixture they used to make bricks as well as salt water to remind them of the tears that they shed at the time.

The traditional Passover meal followed a set pattern:

  • A prayer of thanksgiving by the head of the house and drinking the first cup of (diluted) wine.
  • The eating of bitter herbs.
  • The son’s inquiry, “Why is this night distinguished from all other nights?” and the father’s appropriate reply, either narrated or read.
  • The singing of the first part of the Hallel (Psalms 113, 114) and the washing of hands. The second cup.
  • The carving and eating of the lamb, together with unleavened bread.
  • Continuation of the meal, each eating as much as he liked, until the last of the lamb was finished. The third cup was then drunk.
  • Singing of the last part of the Hallel (Psalms 115-118). Then the fourth cup.[1]

The eating of the lamb was a picture to the Israelites that the True Lamb of God, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus would come and reside within their lives, cleansing and renewing them from within. Paul the apostle wrote, “Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Have you eaten of the Lamb?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

[1] William Hendricksen, Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1978) pp. 959-60.

Faith in the Passover Blood

We are continuing to meditate on the Passover celebration meal that Jesus had with His disciples the night before His crucifixion (Scroll down to see yesterday’s meditation). What happened in the first Passover? God was requiring faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites took a bunch of hyssop plant and dipped the hyssop into a bowl of some of the blood from the sacrificial lamb. The bowl containing the blood was placed at the door step, and the hyssop was dipped into the blood, and the lintel and each side of the door frame was struck with the blood, forming an image of a cross over the door. God describes what is happening in Isaiah 31:5:

Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it” (Isaiah 31:5).

The context of this passage above is one of protection of the city of Jerusalem. In this prophetic word, the Lord describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding them from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover, has this to say about the Hebrew word that is translated into English as “pass over”:

The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pasha, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over” in order to protect.[1]

The picture is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. It brings new light to the passage when Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem. He said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love yearns to bring us close to His heart, and to wrap His arms around us to protect us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings. The blood of the substitute lamb brought the presence of the Lord to protect those who believed God’s Word:

When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). As a destroying angel went through the land, God’s presence was over the household whose faith was in the blood of the substitute lamb. The blood showed that they were under covenant with God, and the destroyer could not touch that household. There had to be obedience to what God had said. All the first-born of those disobedient to the message of salvation were destroyed. This is what the Passover celebration meal was all about that Jesus was now about to eat with His disciples. It was to remind them of the deliverance of God from bondage and slavery.

What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus’ becoming our Passover Lamb, i.e. the substitute in whom we are to place our faith. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who has had us under cruel slavery in our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world system in which we live, and Moses foreshadowed our deliverer, Jesus. Not only is Jesus our deliverer, but He is also our sacrificial lamb Who Himself would lay down His life to deliver us, if we will place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants “to presence” Himself over the home of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Paul the Apostle wrote, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

[1] Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Christ in the Passover, Printed by Moody Press, Chicago, 1978. Page 22.

What is the Passover Celebration?

We are meditating on the last days before the crucifixion of Christ, so now we come to the day before, when Jesus reclined at table for one last Passover meal with His disciples. Before we talk about it, we have to explain what needed to happen for each of us to have a place in heaven. To break the hold of Satan’s enslavement of the human race, a substitutionary sacrifice was required. The sentence for rebellion against the moral law of God is that of death (Ezekiel 18:4), i.e. separation from God. In His love for all men, God planned before the foundation of the world that He Himself would come as a substitute and pay the price to buy us back by His blood, i.e. a life for a life. Without the shedding of blood, there is no redemption (Hebrews 9:22). When Peter the Apostle preached on the Day of Pentecost before thousands of people, he told them:

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

The cross of Christ was not a mistake for God. He does not make mistakes. The plans of evil men against Jesus were allowed to take place in order to bring about the plan of redemption to all who will place their trust in Christ. This was clear to all the early believers:

27“Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen(Acts 4:27-28).

Satan and evil men conspired against the Messiah and were culpable [deserving punishment] for their act, but behind it all, it was all part of God’s plan for He Himself to be a substitute to pay the price of deliverance. Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18). Twelve hundred years prior to the crucifixion, God foreshadowed what He would do at the cross by delivering the children of Israel from Egypt. We call the event which commemorates the deliverance of the children of Israel the Passover, i.e. the beginning day of a seven-day celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The day Jesus sat down with his disciples for the Last Supper was the Passover meal that commemorated what God did in Egypt.

It will help us in our understanding of the Last Supper passage if we can get a picture of what it was like to be a Jew and living in Egypt in the days of Moses. The descendants of Jacob, renamed Israel, had been living in Egypt for four hundred years when a new Pharaoh came to power in that land and forced the children of Israel into cruel bondage and slavery. When the Israelites began to cry out to God under their heavy workloads, God raised up for them a deliverer, Moses. When Pharaoh would not allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, God displayed His power through Moses by executing judgment on Egypt’s false gods through ten plagues. While the Egyptians endured much, God’s protection was over the Israelites. As the plagues got increasingly worse, God told Moses that there would be one more plague, and after that Pharaoh would command them to leave:

22Then say to Pharaoh, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I told you, Let my son go, so he may worship me. But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son’ ” (Exodus 4:22-23).

The last plague that God sent was to put to death all the first-born children in all of Egypt. God told Moses that He would protect the Israelites if they would slaughter a lamb as a substitute and put the blood of the lamb upon the lintel and sides of the door frames of their houses. The blood would be the sign of a substitute lamb instead of the first-born of the families of Israel.

12On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).

The night Jesus sat down with his disciples, was a celebration of what God did in supplying a substitutionary lamb that would deliver the Israelites from judgment. Something that Christ himself would now do.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

The Plan to Kill Jesus

1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).

To the Jewish person, Passover is the biggest meal of the year, like the Thanksgiving meal for an American or the Christmas meal for a British person. God had commanded the Israelites to appear before Him at the Temple in Jerusalem three times a year (Exodus 23:13-15), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread called Passover was one of the three times. In the time of Christ, it was difficult to accommodate all the pilgrims that would come to Jerusalem for the annual Feast.

Estimates of the time tell us that Jerusalem swelled to over 2,700,000 people during Passover. With such a huge throng of people, we can understand why the disciples and Jesus would sleep out in the open on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane was less than half a mile from the temple, an easy short walk to arrive early in the morning for all the people to hear Christ teach in the temple (Luke 21:37-38).

We have the benefit of hindsight in knowing that Jesus had no designs on taking over the religious government of Israel, but the priests and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin did not know that. It is possible that they were afraid of a religious coup against them and that there would be an accounting for their money-making schemes. It is also possible that they were fearful of a riot and losing their positions if the Roman government didn’t think them capable of keeping order. With more people arriving day by day, their fear of the people grew. They felt they had to do something before the Passover, when religious sensitivities would be at their highest. But how were they to arrest Him? It had to be in secret. The religious leaders had sent the temple guards once before to arrest Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, but when the temple guards came back, they had not arrested the Lord. Why not? Because His hour had not yet come. The guards were under direct orders of the High Priest, yet they refused to arrest Jesus. The reason that they gave was even worse; they directly disobeyed the chief priest’s orders because they were overcome with Christ’s words:

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. 47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted (John 7:45-47).

Such influence and spiritual authority over men was scary for the chief priests and teachers of the law. Thousands were attending His teaching from early morning till dark during the days leading up to Passover. No wonder they sought some way to get rid of Jesus (v. 2). (The Greek word anaireō is translated into English with the words get rid of; it means to kill, put to death.) While they were trying to figure out a way to get Him (apart from the crowd) and to the great relief of the religious leaders, one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, came to them with a plan of how he would betray Jesus. We’ll continue this thought over the next few days…

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas

Jesus, the Passover Lamb

We are told that Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). In Israel, everything stops for the Passover festival. At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem swelled in size anywhere from one to two and a half million people with pilgrims arriving from all over the world. Jesus waited in Bethany until four days before Passover, presenting Himself to the Jewish people as the Passover lamb on the tenth day of Nisan, in fulfilment of Moses’ command:

3Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight (Exodus 12:3-6).

Jewish people were instructed to take the lamb during the tenth day of the month and to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. During the four days, the lamb could be inspected and observed as to its worthiness to be a substitute for the family. In the days when Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God had spoken that He would judge the Egyptians for not releasing Israel from their slavery. The Lord told the Israelites that a destroying angel would go through Egypt and that judgment would not fall on the Israelite homes if the blood of a substitute lamb was seen on the doorposts and lintel (Exodus 12:12-14). The blood was a sign that a substitutionary sacrificial lamb had been slain for the occupants of the house.

Messiah would endure four days of inspection by the religious elders and the people, before He would be crucified as the Passover Lamb slain to deliver them from the slavery of sin. He was crucified at the same time the Passover lambs were starting to be sacrificed for the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan. When no sacrificial lamb’s blood was seen on the doors in Egypt, the destroying angel took the lives of every first born. It was a very visual reminder for the Israelite families to see this innocent lamb give up its life as a substitute for each household. As the Israelite families followed this ritual every year, they remembered how they were protected by the blood of the slain lamb (Hebrews 11:28).

The blood of an innocent lamb had to be shed for the Israelites to leave Egypt, the place of slavery. In the New Testament, the writer to the book of Hebrews writes, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). The lamb was to be pure and with no spot or defect. Of course, this was a shadow picture for what God was going to do when Jesus the Messiah came. His blood would make atonement for all who trust His sacrificial death to deliver them from slavery to sin and Pharaoh/Satan. In the plan of God, Messiah is the One slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the Lamb of God, innocent, pure, and with no fault or defect. Thank God for His deliverance!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas