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TEXT: Luke 22:1-23

SUBJECT: Luke #83: Christ Our Passover

THE SETTING-PASSOVER

The Passover Meal was the most sacred event in the life of God's People. From the outside, it seemed an ordinary dinner-though a bit fancier than usual. From the inside, it was anything but. In one meal of roast lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and red wine, the devout Jew saw the whole history of Israel and the eternal purpose of God.

Passover looked back to what God had done for His People. Long ago, a family went into Egypt as the honored guests of the king. They did well in the land for a time, until a new king arose who didn't know the family and forgot that one of its member had his kingdom.

The proud king hated the family and made them his slaves. When they protested, he increased their load and beat the work out of them. When their numbers got too great, he threw their babies into the River. The family cried to God-and for many years-He did not answer them.

But His heart was always moved by their misery and in His own good time, He sent a man to save them. The man confronted the evil king, but was turned away time and again. He called down the powers of nature on the king, but the king's heart only grew harder. Finally, God had had enough of the proud king and brought him down with a blow of infinite power and justice!

The Angel of Death passed through the land of Egypt, killing the first born-from the son of the stable man to the son of the king himself--every last one of them was cut off in a single night.

The Angel who brought death to Egypt passed-over the Jews. When he finished his fell work, God's People must get out-right then!

But it's not wise to travel on an empty stomach. So an order was given: prepare a meal that could be cooked and eaten fast. Don't take time to cut up and marinade the lamb, roast it whole! You don't have time for the vegetables to ripen-eat them green! There's no time for the dough to rise, bake it without yeast. Don't milk the or the goat, use the wine you've already got! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

As the people scarfed down the food, the Angel visited death on every home in Egypt, the king's will broke, and Israel went free.

This is what the Passover looked back on, on God's great work in saving His people from the enemies. But it was more than a fond memory of a golden past.

It also looked to the present. Israel was no longer free politically, but they were a distinct People, with a special claim on God, and were the guardians of His Word and recipients of the promise that from this nation, Messiah would come to save the world from its sin and misery.

All these blessings began at the Passover. Had the Lord not saved them from Pharaoh's reckless hate, they would have perished. There would be no Israel, no Law, no Messiah, and no hope!

This filled the believing Jew with thankfulness and put a song on his lips. Even if things weren't going well at the moment, the People are still here, and with them, the hope of the world is alive. And not just the world's hope, but our hope, your hope, my hope.

Passover looked to the future. The Exodus from Egypt was an historical event-it really happened in time and space and not just in the hearts of the faithful. But the Exodus was more than a history; it was also a prophecy-a word of better things to come.

Slavery in Egypt was a real, concrete problem for the Jews. Think of the hardships: the grief, the despair, the pain, the poverty, the loss of babies, and more. These were real things, things that cut the hearts out of God's People.

But there is another slavery. It is a slavery to sin under the iron hand of Satan. The more thoughtful Jew felt his captivity and though the Law and the ceremonies were good, they did not free him from it. Even the Day of Atonement had to be repeated every year-because it didn't do the job! It couldn't! No goat or lamb or bull can atone for the sins of the world!

Only God can do that by the gift of.Himself. That's what Passover looked forward to! The details were sketchy, but the big idea was sure: some day, God would have to offer Himself for the sins of His People and only then would they be free indeed.

For now, they're not free. But, every year, at Passover, they knew that one day they would be.

This is what Passover meant to the People of God back then. It was a fire burning in the soul of every pious Hebrew. It was on this holy day that our story takes place.

THE PLOT

The Passover was a bright day in Jerusalem-but not for everyone. The Rulers of Israel were sitting in darkness, gnawing their tongues in hate and frustration. What had them so upset? The Lord Jesus Christ.

For three years He has been exposing them for the hypocrites they are. If they're going to keep their high positions and big salaries, they have to shut Him up-they have to!

The surest way to do that is to kill Him. And so they make up their minds to do it.

But this creates a problem. The capital city is packed with visitors for the holiday-and many of them are from Galilee, where the Lord is from and where His support is strong. If they openly arrest Him, the people may riot. And, if they do, the Romans will crack down-on the Rulers who couldn't keep order. So they have to find a way of catching Him alone. And that's not easy because no life is lived more publicly than His. Imagine Billy Graham arrested at the Rose Bowl in front of 100,000 adoring fans. Would the cops would get out of there alive?

The Rulers are stuck.

But help is on the way. Satan enters the black soul of Judas Iscariot, and under his wicked influence, the greedy man strikes a deal. For thirty pieces of silver, he'll take them to the Lord's favorite place to be alone. There, they can take Him and do whatever they want to Him.

The Rulers are satisfied and the plan is set in motion. Within the next few hours, the Lord will be in their hands and they'll hang on a cross!

This is the black canvass on which today's story is painted.

THE PREPARATION

The Lord knows what's going on. As a Man, He doesn't know every detail, but He doesn't have to. He knows the end is near and that it won't be pretty. An appalling death awaits Him-a death full of pain and humiliation.

But He's not consumed by it. As an obedient Jew, it is His duty to obey the Law and not to worry about the future. God has commanded His People to observe the Passover on the fifteen day of the month-and the Lord means to do it.

Peter and John are chosen to find the dining hall and make it ready for Passover. Where is it? When they enter the city, they'll see a man carrying a bucket of water. Tell him what they're looking for and he'll do the rest.

The man is soon found, they tell him the Lord needs the room, and the man is happy to let them use it. It's a large room, upstairs, and with all the furniture they need for a dignified Passover.

Peter and John scurry about to ready the room for the Sacred Meal. When they're finished, they send word to the Lord, and He and the other disciples come to dinner-including Judas.

THE LAST SUPPER

The Lord is the first to sit down at the Table. The others follow, and before they take their first bite, the Lord opens His heart to them:

"With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you."

The word, "desire" is usually translated "lust"-the drive, the craving to possess someone or something you shouldn't have. Here it's used positively, of course, and stands for a passion to eat with His friends one last time.

This shows the Lord's great love: Knowing His time has come, He might have sneaked away from the men to spend some time alone with His Father. But He cannot do that! This will be a hard time for them, too, and He has to be there for them! And He will be. They need knowledge and comfort and courage and He's going to give it to them, even if He has to work in the shadow of the cross. There's not a drop of self-pity in the Lord!

"And Jesus, having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to the end".

It also shows the Lord's real humanity. He's scared and He needs to be with people who love Him. What a reversal: The Infinite, Eternal, and unchangeable God in need, in need of the company of numskulls like Peter, James, and John.

After telling them how much they mean to Him, He breaks the bad news: this is the night. For years He has told them that He must suffer and die, but they thought it would be way, way, way off in the future: but the future is now.

"With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."

This will be His night of suffering. And the suffering will not stop short of death. This will be the last time they will eat together in this life.

"For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God".

What does this mean? Many Christians take it to mean heaven-the disciples will not see Christ on earth again. But this is false to the facts; they did see the Lord again and He ate with them too! But when the next saw Him and when He broke bread the next time, it was in the Life of the Resurrection! When the Kingdom of God had been established on the Earth.

This is our privilege too! When we sit at the Lord's Table, we don't eat alone! We eat with Christ who joins us in His Spirit. His Spirit cannot be seen or touched-like His body can be-but He is here and we know that because He has promised to be!

How dear the Lord's Supper would be if we would remember Who's at the Table with us! The President eating at Burger King makes Burger King an important place-the place to be!-the place we'd like to be! But who is the President compared to the King? But sitting at the head of every Communion Table is the King, who wants our company there.

THE FIRST SUPPER

When the Last Supper ended, the First Supper began. Clearing away the leftovers of lamb and vegetables, the Lord took bread and wine and created a new feast for God's People.

As the bread was torn and passed around He said,

"This is My body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me".

A cup of wine was also passed around the Table, and of it He said,

"This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you".

What do the words mean? Christians have long quarreled over that. Some say the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ. Others say they don't become His body and blood, but His body and blood are with them in a special way. Others say the words should be taken to mean: "This represents My body; this stands for My blood".

I happen to agree with this last view, but I don't think the Lord is pleased with our wrangling over the mysteries. The basics are enough: Christ is with us in eating the bread and drinking the wine and we ought to remember Him in the Supper. How happy the Church would if the Supper that was meant to unite us would do just that!

THE BAD NEWS

The Supper closes with bad news:

"Behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed".

The disciples were not stupid men; they knew the Lord had many critics and enemies in the world; and that even some of His professed disciples were not truly devoted to Him. But this must have hit them like a punch in the face-like a long draught of turpentine!

One of their own is a traitor. One of the men sitting at the Table has already sold the Lord. None of the disciples was perfect; all had their faults and blindspots and weaknesses. But this is no mistake: this is treason, sacrilege, and blasphemy. Of all the wicked things men have done in the past, none compares to this one. Uzzah touched the ark and died! The Amorite touched King Saul. If a man touched Mt Sinai, he died! If a man went into the Holy Place, He died!

But here's a man willing to touch the One whom all the other Holy Things in Israel pointed to. If boxes and tents and temples and mountains and kings are anointed of the Lord and untouchable, then what will become of the man who touches The Christ?

The betrayal is in the plan of God-the Lord says so, and so does Peter a few weeks later.

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."

But God's decree does not excuse Judas; though he was destined to do the evil did, he also did it of his own will, yielded to Satan. Another Gospel says

"It would have been better had he never been born".

And that's right: Judas' end was a frightening one. Regretting his choice, he offers to buy the Lord's freedom back for Him, but the Rulers laugh. Judas throws down the money in despair and hangs himself.

What a warning his life and death provide us! Being close to Christ isn't enough; being thought of as a holy man isn't enough; preaching, casting out devils, performing miracles aren't enough. No, it is a life of faith and obedience that pleases the Lord and secures the soul.

The disciples are sick with grief and worry. Judas is such a fine man nobody suspects him. Each man looks at himself and wonders, "Is it I?"

And so, the darkest day in the history of the world has begun. The next few hours will be even darker. Man has done his worst; at last, Satan has relieved his thirst for revenge.

The Lord is sold. The buyers are on the way.

THE MEANING

Much good can be said of this story. It teaches us the evil that is in a man. We want Judas to be a monster of iniquity. But he isn't! He's just a nice fellow who's a little too fond of money. And his love for money ruined him.

We see the cunning of Satan. Christian parents often worry about their kids and the occult. They won't let them play with ouiji boards, for example; they won't let them read their horoscopes or have a deck of Tarot cards. Some even worry about books with witches or wizards in them. I'm not for these things, but the story says Satan has other ways into our hearts too: One of them is the love of money. Judas wasn't reading magic books; he was reading his bankbook! And this love of money opened the door for Satan to possess him and destroy him body and soul.

It hints at the importance of the Lord's Supper. Surely, if the Lord wants to eat with you, you'd want to eat with Him. But do you? Is the Lord's Supper dear to you? Dear enough to come an hour early to take part in it?

These can be justly inferred from the story, but it's not about Judas, Satan, or the Lord's Supper. It's about Christ. What does it say about Him? It says

Jesus Christ is the Passover.

The central figure in the Passover was the Lamb. It must be without blemish and spot. It was taken and its throat was cut, with the blood caught in a pan. The meat was then roasted over an open fire and the blood was painted alongside and over the door frame. When the angel of death saw that blood, he passed over the home and no one died. All because of the death of an innocent lamb.

It was the lamb that saved Israel from the Death Angel; it was the lamb that broke the bonds of their slavery; it was the lamb that brought them to their Promised Home.

Who would have thought it? It wasn't a mighty beast that broke Pharaoh's will, but the meekest of all creatures.

What it did for Israel, Christ does for us-only more so. We are guilty and sin is only paid for with human blood. But it is not our blood that is spilled, but His! And seeing that blood over us, the justice of God is satisfied and it passes over.

With the forgiveness of sin comes freedom from the slavery of sin, of Satan, and of death. The old powers are broken. By the Blood of the Lamb!

PLEA

There is forgiveness for you; there is freedom; there is hope. It's all bound up in one Person-the Lord Jesus Christ who, the next morning was "delivered for our transgressions" and three days later, "raised for our justification".

THEOLOGY

This throws light on reading the Old Testament. The laws, offices, and ceremonies of Israel had two purposes: one was to keep the nation together and to make them a holy people, separate from all others. This purpose has been met and so the customs are no longer in effect.

But as useful as these things were to Israel, they are even more useful to us: for their main purpose had nothing to do with Israel in the days of Moses and so on. No, they pointed to the future--to our time. They pointed to Christ and in them we see Him!

Don't read the Bible as though you were a Jew living a hundred years before the Lord's birth. Don't read it as a man would have in A.D. 30, even (like Peter and John once did). No, read the Bible as a Christian living under the New Covenant and finding your Savior and His mercy on every page.

If Christ won't make you a better Bible reader, nothing will. God bless you, everyone. For Christ's sake. Amen.

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