“The Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed” (Luke 22)


“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’

‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.

10 He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.’

13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”  (Luke 22: 7-13)

Four times comes the noun or verb “preparation” or “prepare.” There’s a studied carelessness about the repetition because the first readers would have completely understood the subtext interplay between historical and spiritual, between ancient tradition and new revelation. For the literal Passover celebration was about to be upstaged and filled with new meaning – or was it that the old meaning was to be entirely explained for the first time? Jesus said, “I come not to destroy [the old] but to fulfil…” after all. The “lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) was about to be slain in actual history.

“The Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed.”

There’s a tightness -almost a grim fatalism- about that word “had.” In terms of the historical religious event, it means no more than the sacrifice was due to occur. In the terms of which Luke expounded the gospel of Christ, however, we are entitled to read of the sovereign purposes of God.

This theme of God’s sovereignty is there, as we’ve seen, in the choices of Judas, the machinations of the chief priests and especially in the determination of Jesus the Messiah, setting his face “like a flint” to got to Jerusalem. But now, the journey is done, and we come to the time of last preparations before “The Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed.”

And that sense of God as the Chief Actor in the unfolding drama is there too in the word of knowledge that led Peter and John to the right man at the right time and to his fully furnished upper room. Even if this is a simple prior arrangement to which P & J were not privy (which seems unlikely) we are still presented with that sense of things following a preordained route. The old prophecies are about to snap into focus like iron filings on a sheet of paper pulled into order by the presence of the magnet beneath.

And along with the prophecies, the ancient time-honoured ritual of Passover -the holiest night of Judaism- is itself to be transformed into a prophecy.  The key passage is Exodus 12:21-30:

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down….

The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.29At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”

And so for centuries the people of Israel had remembered the Passover. They escaped judgment because the lamb had been sacrificed instead.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the original Passover lamb. He was sacrificed in our place. So, instead of judging us for our sin, God passes over us. He sees the blood of the lamb, his only Son Jesus.

John the Baptist said, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

 Pause for a moment and thank God that he has passed over you. And thank him for sending the lamb of God to take away your sin.

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