Another sermon I originally did during my college interniship in Colorado in 2010. I have updated and adjusted it slightly. As we are getting closer to this year’s Passover and Easter celebration I thought this was an appropriate one to post.
Has anyone ever participated in a Passover Celebration? Even a Christianized version? I have once in college. My wife and I celebrated with some friends at school, one of whom used to be a Messianic Jew. Passover is a lot of fun. But do you realize that this Jewish celebration is where our Lord established the Lord’s Table? We need to realize that to understand the Lord’s Table we need to understand Passover.
I. The Passover is a reminder to Israel vv 17-25
We see in the text that Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, better known as Passover. On a side note since Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper whil ecelebrating the Passover where only unleavened bread (bread with no yeast) that at any communion service only unleavened bread should be used in the elements. We see in a parallel passage (Luke 22) that Peter and John, two of the inner-circle, were sent to make the preparations for the feast that night. Now if you are like me you can get in the habit of thinking that just because one verse says this and the next is the next part you assume that it happened really quickly. But we need to remember that the Gospels are narrative, historical books. When it says the Peter and John went to prepare for the Passover meal that was no small task especially on the day of the meal. You all know what goes on in planning and purchasing a big celebratory meal like Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving. Try doing all that on Thanksgiving Day. Now the disciples had it easier, there was no planning and wondering what they were going to make, it was an issue of will the shops have what they need. Peter and John had their hands full. They had to find the place that the Lord had told them about, then go buy the unleavened bread, the herbs, the wine, find a perfect lamb, take that lamb to the temple, have it’s blood sprinkled on the altar, have the lamb roasted whole, then the feast would be ready.
I want to take some time and explain the modern Passover, not that it was changed that much. Now must of us know that Passover was instituted with Moses during the tenth plague against Egypt when the Lord caused the death of the firstborn in the houses that did not have the blood on the doorframe. The Passover celebration is a time of remembrance of that event The exodus story is told throughout the meal. At chabad.org is an in-depth explanation of the Seder. I should mention that the afikomen was probably not started until after the AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. For more information on the afikomen check this article at chosenpeople.com. The afikomen bag as three compartments. Besides the lamb did you notice Christ? Christ’s death, burial and act of redemption was shown with the afikomen.
Except for the afikomen this is what Jesus and His disciples were in the middle of when our Lord made a stating announcement, verse 21. Verse 22 says that the disciples “deeply distressed”. Could that be the understatement of the millennia? Surprisingly though, they did not start to accuse and point fingers at one another, they simply asked “Lord is it I?” Jesus gave an unusual answer to identify the traitor, verse 23. What is Jesus saying? Probably, since they were in the middle of the Passover Seder this was referring to one of the bowls, salt water, bitter herbs, or charoset. And I would imagine that since there was 13 people eating this meal they probably had a couple of bowls of each on the table for people to share. So probably what happened was that Judas, since he was sitting on the Christ’s left hand which is a place of honor, shared one of those bowls with our Lord.
Verse 24 is a good example of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Even though, through prophets of old, God foretold that Jesus would be betrayed, Judas was still responsible for his own sin. We may never, as humans, understand how these coexist, but they do. I can picture the room, the eleven have asked “Lord is it I,” Judas has been silent, Christ has identified him and then Judas asks, “Rabbi is it I?” Notice the change in words there. The eleven called Jesus “Lord”, but Judas called Him “Rabbi” which is different. He called Jesus Master or Teacher, but he didn’t call Him Lord. In John’s account, Jesus tells Judas to go do what he had to quickly (John 13:27). And the eleven didn’t understand exactly what was going on. I think they may have been in shock that they had a traitor, or they just didn’t understand, but for whatever reason they didn’t try to stop Judas from leaving. After Judas had left, Jesus continues the Seder, but adds something new to it for His disciples.
II. The Lord’s Table is a reminder to the Church vv 26-30
Christ interrupted the process of the Seder slightly. After they recite the first part of the Hallel, they have the meal. Today, the afikomen is done right after the meal, but at the Last Supper Christ instituted the communion here. He took a piece of the unleavened bread said the specific blessing over the bread which is “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” He then said, “Eat, this is my body.”
In verses 27 and 28 we see Jesus adding something new to the third cup of the Seder called the cup of redemption. Again, Jesus said a specific prayer over the cup, the same blessing that is said over all the cups during the Seder. This blessing is, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine” He then said, “Drink…this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” What’s this new covenant that He is talking about? The eleven disciples that were still there knew what covenant He was talking about, whether or not they realized what He was saying is unknown, but because these were Jewish men their minds went right back to the prophets.
This covenant is found primarily in Jeremiah 31. Now put your finger in Matthew and turn to Jeremiah 31 and will take a look at what this is talking about. Jeremiah 31:31-34. Verses 35-40 I’ll just summarize quickly for you, God is assuring the people that the nation will stand forever through a few metaphors. But the part I want to focus on is verse 31-34.
Verse 31 starts with a phrase common in Jeremiah. He says the that “the days are coming” in Jeremiah this is a reference to the Messianic age. God is specific as to who this new covenant is with, it is with the houses of Israel and Judah. Notice how God unites the people even though they have divided the kingdom. This is a promise to every Jewish person. You’re probably wondering what makes this new and what was the old covenant?
Verse 32 tells us what covenant becomes the old one. Understand that national covenants do not die of old age, or become voided when a new covenant is made. God is just making some changes. The old covenant is the Mosaic Law. That covenant was established not just at Mt Sinai, but also with the physical redemption from Egypt and the blood of lambs. A covenant usually has two parties where each agree to do something for the completion of the covenant. With the Old Covenant the people of Israel agreed to follow the Law and in return God would bless them. This new covenant is different as the people don’t have to agree to anything. God promises to do everything in this covenant. Well what is in the covenant? Look at verse 33.
God says that He will put His law in the mind of the people and write it on their hearts, that’s so they will never forget it. They don’t need to worry about breaking it anymore. God uses a familiar term, “I will be their God and they shall be My people,” God is showing that the relational part of the covenant is not going away. God wants the personal relationship with each of His people and He wants them to treat Him as they should. Verse 34 continues the covenant. This verse starts with a new element. People are not going to have to be instructed about the Lord, everyone will know who He is. There will be no need for Bible studies, for every person will “know the Lord”. There will be no need for any outward instruction by man, the Spirit will be instructing from within. The Lord then says in the second half of the verse that He will forgive the people’s sin and will not remember it anymore.
This covenant is what came to the mind of the eleven in the upper room that night. Whether or not they realized that it would be ushered in with Christ’s death the next day, I don’t know. But we see that in Acts chapter 2 these spiritual blessings began to be poured out. There is a debate in the theological world between Covenant Theologians and Dispensationalists about how much of the new covenant the church actually participates in. But even in Dispensationalism, there is a difference of opinion about this. There are some who think we participate in New Covenant like blessings as Christians and there are some who think we are actually participating in some of the spiritual blessings. I tend to believe that we participate in some of these blessings. Now you’re asking, “okay, so what are these blessing that we do participate in?” Well, obviously we still have teachers and preachers so the promise of not having to say, “Know the Lord” is not fulfilled yet. So, what do we have? Renald Showers in his book, There Really is a Difference lists them, “Church believers have been regenerated, received forgiveness of sin, been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and received the new nature” p 104. Even though the Old Testament presented the New Covenant to literal, national Israel the Church partakes in it. This is not to say that the Church is Israel, we are distinct, or that Israel is not going to receive any of these blessings. This covenant will be fulfilled completely in the Millennium. Israel did not enter into the covenant with the first coming of the Messiah but it will at the second coming.
Returning to Matthew 26 we pick up at verse 29. This verse, I’m really not sure what Christ is saying, I tend to believe that He is saying that He will not partake of the Lord’s Table or Passover or something like it until the Millennium. Verse 30. This is the second part of the Hallel, they probably sang Psalm 118, then drank the fourth cup, the cup of praise then went to the Mount of Olives.
Just as the Passover feast was a reminder to Israel, so is the Lord’s Table a reminder to the Church. It reminds us what God did for sinful man, but it is also a reminder that Christ is coming again we will enter into an age with national Israel where everybody sins will be forgiven, Israel will see the fulfilled covenant and accept their Messiah.
For more information on the Christ in the Passover check out these ministries.