“The Holy Supper of Our Passover Lamb”
(Luke 22:14-20 – Maundy Thursday – April 14, 2022)
Luke 22:14-20 – 14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
Dear Redeemed in Christ, who was crucified for us:
What is the best meal you have ever had? Perhaps we would think of some extravagant multi-course meal, prepared by the best of cooks in a fine restaurant. Or maybe we would think of some great home-cooking we have tasted, prepared by loving hands at home. What criteria would make a meal “the best” you ever had? Would it be the great taste, the special occasion, the great price, the great health value?
Today in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus serves us one of the best meals we have ever had. Outwardly speaking it is very simple, consisting of tasteless wafers of bread and little cups of wine. Yet it is a priceless meal, for Jesus imparts to us His divine body and blood, given and shed for us on the cross; and with these, we receive the forgiveness of sins. So we partake of a meal that is of great health value for our souls unto eternal life.
Today, we celebrate a special occasion in the Holy Supper Jesus instituted for us to eat and drink. As we will see, it is “The Holy Supper of Our Passover Lamb.”
As our text begins, the meal to which Jesus sat down with His disciples was one of the most special meals in the life of the Jews. The Passover was a meal of remembrance for God’s people. It pointed to His great deliverance of His people in the past. And it also pointed to the fulfillment of all God’s promises to His people in the coming of Christ and His Kingdom and salvation. It pointed to all that Jesus was now about to fulfill in bringing deliverance to sinners through His death on the cross. It is no wonder then that, as Jesus sat down with His disciples, he said to them: “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” In His suffering on the cross, Jesus was about to fulfill all that the Passover foreshadowed.
In order to understand this, let us again recall what the Passover meal was all about for the Jews. It was a meal to remember the days when the Lord God, with a mighty outstretched arm, had saved the Israelites from slavery and death in Egypt.
For centuries, the descendants of Abraham had lived as slaves under the pharaohs in Egypt. But God had heard the cries of His people in their harsh bondage, and He remembered His covenant to Abraham. He was going to deliver His people from slavery and bring them out in freedom to the Promised Land in Canaan. God called His prophet Moses to go before Pharaoh and say in His behalf: “Let My people go!” (Exodus 5:10). But time and again, Pharaoh refused. To punish pride and rebellion, the Lord sent nine devastating plagues on the land of Egypt until it was brought to the brink of ruin. Even still, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart against the Lord.
Therefore, a final plague was to come upon Egypt which would finally force Pharaoh to let the people go. It was the slaughter of the firstborn in every house in Egypt. One last time, God had Moses warn Pharaoh in Exodus 11:4-7: “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.’ “
How did the Lord make that difference between those who were not His people, and those who were His people, so as to save His own from the plague of death? The Israelites were to slaughter a year-old male lamb, an innocent lamb without any blemish on it. They were to paint its blood above their doors and on the door posts. This blood of the lamb would save them. When the Lord passed through the land, striking the firstborn of the Egyptians with death, the blood of the lamb would be a sign that death already occurred in the house. Therefore, the angel of death would not to come there to take another victim.
And that lamb whose blood saved God’s people from death became a key part of the Passover meal. As God commanded, the flesh of the lamb was to be roasted and eaten, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. And on every anniversary of that first Passover, the Israelites were to eat the flesh of the lamb, recalling the death of that first lamb, whose blood had been shed to bring them freedom and life in place of slavery and death.
As we come to our text, after the Jews had been celebrating the Passover for many centuries, Jesus sat down with His disciples to celebrate the last Passover. It was the last Passover, for He had come as its fulfillment. Every innocent lamb without blemish that had been slaughtered, and all the blood that had run on Jewish altars, pointed to what Jesus was about to accomplish in His suffering and death. Already from the beginning of His ministry, His fulfillment of the Passover had been declared by John the Baptist who pointed the people to their Messiah and said: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
So on this night, Jesus took the place of the Passover lamb. Soon, as Isaiah had foretold, He would be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). On the cross, He would put Himself between us and the plague of eternal death and judgment that would have come upon us for our sin. Just as the lamb without blemish was slain in Egypt, Jesus would offer up His own body and blood for the sins of the world. As the innocent Son of God, He would suffer the wages of sin for us. And now, as with the blood of the Lamb in Egypt, Jesus’ blood is the sign before God that a death has already taken place for us; and because of this, we are spared that death and judgment. As it says in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
Therefore, on this night of the last Passover, Jesus celebrated that meal of remembrance, which pointed to God’s great deliverance of His people in the past; that meal which pointed to all He was about to fulfill in bringing deliverance to sinners through His death on the cross.
And it was in this context that Jesus instituted a new meal. There in the upper room, as Jesus was gathered with His disciples, it says: “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.'” Matthew’s account adds: “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
So Jesus instituted this Holy Supper, based on His self-sacrifice as our Passover Lamb. He ended the meal of the old covenant, and established this meal of the new covenant in His blood. As God had commanded His people under the old covenant to eat the Passover in remembrance of His deliverance; so now, Jesus commands us under the new covenant: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Yet it is more than just a meal of remembrance of what He did for us long ago on the cross. It is a meal of deliverance today, as He comes to us with His salvation won for us. When we “do this” as He commanded, when we use the words Jesus Himself spoke over the bread and the cup, these elements are consecrated and become something new. As He promises, along with the bread we receive His very body, given for us on the cross; and along with the wine, we receive His very blood, shed for us on the cross. And as we partake of these, we receive the forgiveness of sins He purchased for us by them.
Therefore, it is the best meal we will eat. It is the Holy Supper of our Passover Lamb. It is a meal of great price, which He purchased for us at the cost of His life. Yet we receive it absolutely free, as a gift through faith. It is a meal of great health value, for in it our souls fed and we receive the eternal life Christ won for us. And as partakers of His Body and Blood by faith, we shall live forever in perfect health of body and soul in heaven.
Truly every believer partakes of Christ and His salvation by faith. As Jesus said in John 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Through the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, we partake of Christ in a spiritual way, and we receive all the blessings of the kingdom and salvation He won for us. In Holy Baptism, we have been washed by the blood of Jesus, the Lamb without blemish; and we have been clothed in the spotless white robe of His righteousness. So through Baptism and faith, we have been cleansed and claimed as the children of God in Christ.
And now in this Holy Supper, our Lord gives us one more means by which He brings these blessings to us. What priceless food He gives to strengthen our faith, in nothing less than His true Body and Blood, given for us to eat and drink!
No wonder Jesus fervently desired to eat that last Passover with His disciples before He suffered. For He was thinking of the great deliverance from slavery to sin and death He was about to win for us. And He was looking forward to that great day when He will bring us, together with all the people of God by faith, into the glorious freedom of the children of God in the Promised Land of heaven. As Jesus told His disciples: “I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Likewise, let us fervently desire to partake of His body and blood for our forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Until at last, He will gather us to Himself in His heavenly Kingdom, together with all who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 14:7). There at His heavenly table, we will sit down to the greatest meal ever in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9); as we partake of the blessed joys of eternal life Jesus gives us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.