The Passover Lamb
Passover was a time of celebration when the Jews remembered how God had “passed over” their houses during the final plague in Egypt. By applying the blood of a lamb to their doorposts, the Jews were protected from the plague, sparing their firstborn children. God said “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). On that night, the lamb that had been slaughtered was eaten by the family, sustaining them for the journey that was to begin – the Exodus from Egypt, where God led the Israelites from slavery to freedom. Fast forward 1400 years, and we find Jesus two days before His death, declaring His purpose to His disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2). Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t a surprise to Him; it was the very reason He had come down to earth from heaven, all part of God’s redemption plan to bring His children back into relationship with Him. Jesus’ life purpose was to die. He revealed to us so much of the character of God during His life, but the culmination of His ministry was to die on a cross, a sinless sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.
The Passover Lamb from the Exodus had been a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus, and now Jesus, The Lamb of God, was about to fulfil His mission to provide a way for us to be brought out of slavery into freedom. A way for God to see the blood of Jesus and pass over the sins of those who believe in Him, restoring us to righteousness. Despite the fact that the chief priests and elders did not want to put Jesus to death during the feast, “lest there be an uproar among the people” (v.5), Jesus had other plans and that is precisely when He was crucified. Jesus willingly gave His life for us and did it in His perfect timing.
In preparation for Jesus’ death and burial, a woman (thought to be Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus – John 12:3) anointed him with very expensive ointment. The disciples didn’t understand her actions and were “indignant” at what they saw to be waste, but Jesus said she had done” a beautiful thing” (v.10). When He explained, “you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (v.11), He was not minimising the plight of the poor – His whole ministry is about compassion for people – He was simply preparing the disciples again for His death. The woman’s gift meant so much to Jesus because it came from the heart. We don’t know if even she understood the full implications of her actions, but it was quite clear that she wanted to give Jesus her very best and for this Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (v.13). When we give our all for Jesus, He honours us too.
In Matthew 26:15, Judas Iscariot discusses with the priests the fee for handing over Jesus. They offer 30 pieces of silver, which could be anything from £15 to half a year’s wages for a labourer, depending on how it is calculated. The worldly value is irrelevant, though, because Jesus, the son of God, is priceless. Sadly Judas’ attachment to money, which also included stealing from the communal purse (John 12:6), blinded his vision to Jesus’ true worth. Knowing Jesus is the most precious gift we can ever have, far beyond any earthly treasure.
By supper time, Judas has fixed his resolve and even Jesus’ foreknowledge of the betrayal, warning “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (v.24) does not deter him from his path. There is such a contrast between Judas and the other disciples who “were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?'” (v.22). Not only were they genuinely concerned that they might commit this evil deed, but they also looked to their own behaviour first rather than accusing and blaming one another. It’s a good model to follow when things go wrong – to examine ourselves first! Right to the end, Jesus was giving Judas an opportunity to turn away from the course of action he had decided on, but Judas ignored it. Jesus is always for us, whatever the situation and He is always waiting for us to turn His way when we lose ours.
After the meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, also known as the ‘Eucharist’, from the Greek ‘eukharistia’ meaning ‘thanksgiving’, as a prophetic remembrance of His death for us. As He gives the disciples bread and wine, He is revealing His promise to the world, a new covenant, that His blood will be ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (v.28). As the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for all our sins, Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, covers every single person who puts their trust in Him. The offer is open to all!
What a beautiful act before leaving for the Mount of Olives – the group sang a hymn! It was likely one of the Hallel, Psalms 116-118, traditionally sung at the end of the Passover meal, with verses such as:
“I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:13-15)
Even as Jesus knew He was shortly to be betrayed, He honoured God with praise and at the same time the words of the Psalms ministered to Him. It’s amazing to think that when we find comfort in the words of the Bible, we are following in the footsteps of Jesus himself!