Exodus 12:1-13 Matthew 26:17-20
It’s hard to imagine what disciples were thinking, feeling, experiencing that night 2000 years ago. They didn’t know the rest of the story, we can’t un-know it. We can gain some understanding of what might have been going through their minds, though.
Do know Passover a big deal for Jews – so closely connected with their identity. God established their calendar (opening Scripture), then said they were to observe Passover on the 14th day of the first month every year. Also represented their beginning as distinct theocracy – a nation of people under government of God. Then there’s deliverance from slavery and oppression in Egypt and the blood sacrifice necessary for that, defining their religious identity. All wrapped up in one celebration.
There’s no single day in our experience that compares. It’s kinda like combining New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Christmas and Easter all in one. Disciples probably weren’t surprised at Jesus’ statement: his eager anticipation of being part of the celebration about to begin.
In a hurry to get the hard stuff over with? No, he says “great longing”, “eager desire”. Super hungry that night? Probably not. Excited that he finally would get to be the host for a Passover meal? Possibly; we’ll come back to that. A glutton for punishment? He didn’t run from hardship but didn’t suffer needlessly either. Wanted to spend quality time with his friends? close!
Jesus knew what would come next: Judas crossing the line of no return; Satan’s assault in the Garden; betrayal, trial, mocking and scourging, crucifixion and death. Not anything we would eagerly desire; neither did Jesus: author of Hebrews tells us “for the joy set before Him he endured the cross”. (Heb. 12:2) He also was well aware of significance of the Passover meal, and this one specifically.
A. his labor
John 17:4 “I have finished the work” Shortly after conclusion of meal, Jesus’ teaching and healing work would essentially be complete. Extended beyond 3 years of public ministry; even by age 12 expected his parents to know he had work to do, his Father’s.
He had preached to the Jews; he had given them full proof that he was the Messiah; he had collected his disciples; he had taught them the nature of his religion; he had given them his parting counsel, and there was nothing remaining to be done but to return to God. …So completely had he done his work, that even before his death he could I say, “I have finished the work.” Barnes
Jesus had trained the Twelve to go into the world with the Gospel, be the instruments he would use to build his church. He had begun his ministry with the declaration, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”. Mark 1:15 This meal hosted by the Lord Jesus – next significant milestone in ushering in the Kingdom. Even though Jesus would ask for further confirmation from his Father, he knew he had successfully completed his labor, had satisfied the Father thus far.
B. the lamb
John 1:29 “Lamb of God” 1 Corinthians 5:7 “Christ, our Passover”
the last time sacrificing a lamb would be needed, not just at Passover but at any time. Even though John Baptist had identified his cousin as the Lamb of God who would take away sin, disciples probably didn’t get the full picture until some time after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ joyful task that evening: move disciples forward in understanding he was the real Lamb, the one whom apostle Paul would identify as Christ the Passover lamb who had been sacrificed.
Which is preferrable? Molded Chinese vase from Marden’s or Ming porcelain from 15th century. A VW Lamborghini replica or the real deal. Picture of the meal on the package or the meal itself, skillfully prepared. From Adam to Jesus, animal sacrifice served as a picture of what God intended to do. Passover meal a more intense picture, visual aid, but still not the real thing. Jesus had joy of showing disciples the old way of doing things was at an end; new and better way began that night, continues today and for our benefit, too.
C. his legacy
legacy: a gift of personal property by will [WordNet]
— a better Helper John 16:7 “it is to your advantage”
You’ve probably thought: if only I could have been with Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet. What it must have been like on the road to Emmaus; wouldn’t that have been a real treat! Often fond desire to have been contemporary of Jesus, seen his miracles, heard his teaching, felt his gentle touch, benefitted from his daily example.
But Jesus assured disciples that better than his staying would be his going. While his ministry was wonderful and necessary, ministry of the better Helper, the Holy Spirit would be far superior. His would be a more powerful and pervasive presence: permanently indwelling and equipping the saints.
— a better ministry Hebrews 8:6 “a more excellent ministry” “Mediator of a better covenant” “established on better promises”
Even Jesus’ ministry from heaven as Mediator of new covenant is far superior to his earthly ministry – in how far it extends and what it achieves. Creation ex nihilo a glorious demonstration of infinite wisdom and power. The new creation in which sinful man is restored to fellowship with God through work of Christ as Mediator is far more glorious demonstration of wisdom and grace. (see Owen on Hebrews 8:6)
New covenant by which God now dictates terms of his relationship with redeemed mankind a far better covenant. It is internal rather than external: law written on hearts, not tablets of stone. It supplies power to meet God’s requirement which old covenant did not. Takes away sin, not simply temporarily covering it over. New covenant actually secures redemption, satisfies all God’s demands to atone for guilt of sin, is able to remove pollution from sin. (see A W Pink on Hebrews 8:6)
Jesus in joyful anticipation looked beyond the Eleven at the table with him – also saw those who would believe in him because of the ministry of apostles (John 17:20). That’s us! Because Jesus’ desire was to please his Father, train his disciples, institute a new covenant, give his life so the covenant could take effect, we are here preparing to gather around His table. It was in part Jesus’ loving desire for a large family, many brothers and sisters, that he went to the cross.
Yes, these are symbols before us, but symbols of an accomplished reality: a perfect sacrifice, a finished redemption, a future resurrection and complete deliverance from sin. Let us thank God for his love and grace in providing so great a salvation for us, his people.