Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 01/29/1996
Luke 22:1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put him to death, for they were afraid of the people. 3 And Satan entered into Judas, who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the Twelve. 4 And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 And he consented and began seeking a good opportunity to betray him to them apart from the multitude.
7Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 And they said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” 10 And he said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him into the house he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they departed and found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
14 And when the hour had come, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” 17 And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves, 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But the hand of the one betraying me is with me on the table. 22 For indeed the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.
As we consider the passage of Scripture before us today, we ought as it were to remove the shoes from off our feet, for we are standing on holy ground. At last the Lord comes to the crisis up to which his whole life has led. We have been in Passion Week since the Triumphal Entry in chapter 19. But now we come to the very night in which he was betrayed. As we enter with the Lord and the Twelve into that Upper Room, we may learn something both about the Savior himself, and the Supper he instituted.
The whole context—and that is why I read such a long passage this morning—focuses our attention on our Lord Jesus as the Passover Lamb. In verses 2-6, his betrayal by Judas, and thus his own sacrificial death, is foreshadowed. In verse 7, what we have come to call the Last Supper takes place on the very day on which the ritual Passover lamb was sacrificed. Clearly the Last Supper is a Passover Seder, but Luke carefully mentions only the unleavened bread and two of the cups. Why is there no mention of the main course, the lamb? Because none of Luke’s words will be allowed to distract attention from Jesus, the true Passover Lamb, for whose real sacrifice all this symbolic meal serves as preparation—indeed has served so since the very first Passover lamb was sacrificed by Moses himself. Then we return to the topic of betrayal in verse 21-23. It is no accident that this account of the Last Supper begins and ends with reference to the betrayal which will hand this innocent victim over to the religious authorities. Everything is here to point to one inescapable fact: the words of John the Baptist are about to be fulfilled. “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world!”
If the point of this passage is to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the true fulfillment of Passover, as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, then we must pause to think about that ancient Jewish feast which commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In the first place, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was substitutionary. It was God’s provision to protect his people from his wrath and judgment in the final plague poured out on the Egyptians, the coming of the Death Angel to smite the firstborn. One can put it no plainer than to say that the lamb died instead of the firstborn son; the lamb died in his place; the lamb died that he might live. The lamb died as a substitute for the son. And so it was with the death of our Lord. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man some would dare even to die. But God demonstrates his love toward us in this, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). The Greek “for us” can accurately be translated “in our place.” “For the love of Christ constrains us, having concluded this, that one died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ became identified with us to the point that he could take our sins, be identified with them, and be punished for them in our place. “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Like the Passover lamb of old, Christ died in our place. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was substitutionary.
In the second place, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was propitiatory. That is, it covered the sin of his people from God’s sight, and thus averted his judgment. They showed this by sprinkling the blood as a sign on their doorposts, so that when the Death Angel came, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” They were covered, protected from judgment, by the blood. This is why the feast which celebrated that deliverance was called “Passover.” The sacrifice of the Passover lamb was propitiatory. And so it was with the death of our Lord. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith” (Romans 3:23-25a). “And when you were dead in your transgression and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, and which was hostile to us. And he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). Because he died as our substitute, Christ’s death covers our sin, cancels it, takes it out of the way, and protects us from the judgment which would otherwise inevitably befall it. Like the Passover lamb of old, Christ died to protect us from judgment. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was propitiatory.
Third, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was obligatory. Without it, without the blood sprinkled on the doorposts and the lintel, there would be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, there would be the death of the firstborn the next morning. Good intentions would count for nothing. Only a faith in God’s promises that was serious enough to produce obedience and lead to the sacrifice and the sprinkling would distinguish you from the Egyptians. There were no exceptions. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb was obligatory. And so it is with the death of our Lord. “There is no other name given under heaven, whereby you must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Good intentions are worth nothing; sincerity will not avail. Only the blood of Christ applied to your heart by faith will save you in the day of judgment. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was obligatory.
Fourth, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was freely available. Anyone could do it. All who trusted in God’s promise and who sacrificed the lamb and sprinkled his blood would be saved—even Egyptians. Though God had chosen Israel as his special possession and his peculiar people, then as now he was no respecter of persons, and his salvation was made available to anyone who responded to him in faith. And so it is with the death of our Lord. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Is there a more bracing, a more exciting, a more inviting and encouraging and heart-stopping word in the English language than that one little word in this context, whosoever? The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was freely available.
Fifth, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was totally efficacious. There is no record of any family who sacrificed the lamb and sprinkled the blood who was not spared. The faithful were distinguished from the rebellious with infallible efficiency, and those protected by the blood were spared with inexorable effectiveness. The promise of God was a thing you could trust, a thing you could lean your whole weight on, a thing you could stake your life and indeed your eternity on. And so it is with the death of our Lord. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). None! Not one word of condemnation for any of them! “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name” (John 1:12). “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed’” (Romans 10:9-11). This is what the sacrifice of Christ has done. It is the most powerful act in the history of the universe, as was shown when its first fruit was our Lord’s own resurrection from the dead. It has never failed, it will not fail, it cannot fail to save those who trust in it with all their hearts. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was totally efficacious.
Finally, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was celebrated as a continual memorial in Israel. After a millennium and a half, Jesus and his disciples celebrated that memorial in the Upper Room. And two millennia more have passed since then—to what effect? To this very day observant Jews around the world still hold that feast on the day of Passover. To this day the father still asks the oldest son, “Why is this day different from every other day?” To this day the cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the Passover lamb are served at a table with one empty seat. So powerful was the sacrifice of that Old Testament shadow of Christ that the hope of that people has not died yet, and is still expressed in the confession, “Next year in Jerusalem!” The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was celebrated as continual memorial by God’s people. And so it is with the death of our Lord. “This do, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of me,” he said. And so we shall obey his commandment once again this very morning. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was substitutionary, it was propitiatory, it was obligatory, it was freely available, it was totally efficacious, and it was celebrated as a continual memorial in Israel. It was the perfect picture, the perfect prophecy, the perfect object lesson to prepare for the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death fulfilled all these truths in the most profound way imaginable. Truly, he was the Passover Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world.
But do you see what else is here? If Jesus was the Passover Lamb, then the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, is the Lamb’s Passover. It was out of the context of the Passover Seder that Jesus plucked those elements which became the Lord’s Supper. It was that unleavened bread, that wine, already associated with the Old Testament redemption, that he chose to represent his own body and blood, which he was about to sacrifice for us. Do you hear all this in his words when he says, “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.” “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” “This do, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of me.” There many things in life which are so important that you do not want to forget them. That is why we still re-enact the Thanksgiving celebration of the pilgrims. It is why we still celebrate the Fourth of July, the day we declared our independence as a nation. It is why we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. And rightly so. But those things, deserving of a memorial as they are, pale into insignificance next to this! “This do, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of me.”
It is because Jesus was the Passover Lamb that Communion is the Lamb’s Passover. Why is this day different from every other day? Christian liturgies do not typically include that question in the celebration of Communion, but they should. Why is it different even from the Jewish Passover? Because Jesus was the Passover Lamb, the reality to which the Old Testament sacrifice pointed. Do you hear that question in your mind when you receive the bread and the wine? Do you supply the answer? You should. And do you remember another New Testament phrase we often quote? Whenever we eat the bread or drink the cup, we show for the Lord’s death until he come! When we hear that, we should also hear that other affirmation from the Jewish feast which is our antecedent. Do you not hear it ringing from the bread and from the wine? It is implied right here in our passage. “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the Kingdom of God comes.” Do you hear it? “Next year in Jerusalem!” Next year in Jerusalem! My friends, because Jesus was the Passover Lamb, because this is the Lamb’s Passover, because all of this really happened as Luke records it, this bread and this wine is God’s promise to every person who believes in Christ and confesses his name. It is God’s promise that we a re going home!
What our Lord said to the Twelve in verse 15 he says to you right now. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” He earnestly desires you to receive him by faith as your own personal Savior and Lord so that you may truly partake of these symbols of his body given and his blood shed for us, in remembrance of what he did for you. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was substitutionary, it was propitiatory, it was obligatory, it was freely available, it was totally efficacious, and it was celebrated as a continual memorial in Israel. The sacrifice of God’s true Passover Lamb can therefore be all those things for you. And therefore, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed’” (Romans 10:9-11). Do so now, that you may join us! For this we shall do in remembrance of Him. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams