Updated: Mar 27
On the night Jesus was betrayed, he shared a meal with his disciples. Jesus came to Jerusalem as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called Passover, drew near. A plot was underway as the chief priest, and the scribes sought how they might kill him. One of Jesus' close disciples conspires against him (Lk. 22:1-6). Why this meal? What is the significance, and what is Jesus doing here at the table?
Over the next few weeks, we will follow Jesus from this meal to the resurrection. We will conclude our series with another meal in the village of Emmaus. Following Jesus through Jerusalem, we find the glorious hope of the resurrection and the gospel's good news.
Luke 18:31–34 (NIV)
"Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."
How would Jesus explain what he was doing? How would he open their eyes so they could see? He would do so through a meal he eagerly desired to share with them (Lk. 22:15). The meal, though, was not an ordinary meal. It was Passover. Passover was a meal that had deep meaning in the story of God and the history of Israel.
Israel was enslaved to Egypt, and God had heard the cries of His people. From a burning bush, God called to His servant Moses:
Exodus 3:7–8a (NIV)
"The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey..."
Passover was a remembrance of God's judgment and His power to deliver. An angle of death struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. But the children of Israel, whose doorposts were covered in the blood of the sacrificial lamb, were spared from judgment (Ex. 12). On this night, Pharaoh released the people of God. However, it was only a short time before Pharaoh realized what he had done. Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly as he summoned his chariots and army. The armies of Egypt overtook Israel as they camped by the sea (Ex. 14:6-9). As Pharaoh and his army drew near, Israel was frightened as they cried out to the Lord.
Exodus 14:13 (NIV)
"Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again."
Through the power of the Lord, the sea was swept back, and Israel crossed over on dry ground (Ex. 14:21-22). As the armies of Pharaoh pursued Israel, by the word of the Lord, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters came back over the Egyptians.
The Lord, in His mighty power, had delivered His people from the oppressive hand of the Egyptians. As Jesus and the disciples came to the table, it was this remembrance they participated in through the Passover meal. Just as Israel had done each year, a holy time set apart in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 12-13:10).
The New Covenant
This sacred remembrance would take on a new significance as Jesus gathered with his disciples. Jesus eagerly desired to share this meal with his disciples. However, he would not do so again until "it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (Lk. 22:16). The unleavened bread and fruit of the vine would have new meaning through Jesus.
Luke 22:19–20 (NIV)
"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.” 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."
Through Jesus, this sacred remembrance would become new
When God had delivered His people Israel from Egypt, they came to the Mountian of the Lord, Mt. Sinai. God had appeared to Moses in a burning bush at this place, and it was a sign to Moses that when God had delivered His people, Moses would return to the mountain and worship Him (Ex. 3:12). Faithfully delivering Israel, God joins Himself to them in covenant community. The covenant was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20), and a people called out became God's covenant community.
God's covenantal blessing and promise were not limited to Israel. From the time of God's promise to Abraham, God desired to bless all nations.
Genesis 12:2–3 (NIV)
"I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
The covenant at Sinai was a continuation of God's promise to Abraham to bless all nations. As God's promised blessing is revealed through His prophets, we learn there is to be a New Covenant established by God as the promise continues through the story of God.
Jeremiah 31:31–34 (NIV)
"The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Through Jesus, the sacred remembrance becomes new as the story of God's redemption continues. The bread and fruit of the vine become the sacred meal of the New Covenant, established not in the blood of bulls and goats but through the blood of Jesus the Son (Lk. 22:14-20). The promise of blessing to all nations, given to Abraham, finds fulfillment in Jesus.
Hidden in the plot of Luke's account is the adversary (Lk. 22:3). The satan has sought to disrupt and subvert the purposes of God in times past (Gen. 3), and he does so again. One of Jesus' close disciples, Judas Iscariot, slips out into the night (Jn. 13:30) as the plot to take Jesus' life is put into motion. The deceiver takes the first steps toward accusations as the Passover Plot unfolds.
Bridging The Context
Jesus continues the promise of God in blessing all nations of the earth, and he will be the fulfillment of this promise. As Jesus leads a new exodus, delivering people from the oppressive power of sin, He forms a New Covenant community. This New Covenant community is established in him through the sacrifice of his body and his blood given as a covering.
Today, we have the opportunity to apply his blood to the doorpost of our lives. A covering as we are led out of captivity and bondage to sin (Rom. 6:20) and into a new life through him.
Jesus sought to open the understanding of his disciples through a meal. It was a reminder of God's power to deliver. As those who have applied the blood of Christ to our lives, this sacred meal serves as a reminder of Christ's power to save and deliver from the oppressive power of sin. It is a meal instituted by our Lord and celebrated together as a people who have been called out in his New Covenant community.
Scripture references and quotations:
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
lesson notes: the PASSOVER PLOT
study guide: the PASSOVER PLOT
slides (PDF): the PASSOVER PLOT
series images: Hope of the Resurrection
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