“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 22:14-16)
During the Passover meal, we encounter this tender moment above, that Jesus “eagerly desired” to spend time -quality, Passover time- with his close friends. Maybe there is more of this than we usually give credit for at Gethsemane, when Jesus asked “Could you not watch with me for one hour.” The emphasis is certainly on the “you” and that central place of intimacy. Intimacy with God is our source of strength, said a wise Bill Johnson.
But then comes a curious addition. What did Jesus mean that the Passover would be fulfilled in the kingdom of God? “I shall not eat it until it (the passover) is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Of course, on the simplest level of interpretation, the passover was fulfilled in the death of Jesus our final Passover lamb. As we noted above, the Passover was the yearly celebration of the time in Egypt when God sent an angel of death who passed over homes where blood from a slain lamb was on the door post. It was a celebration of past deliverance from Egypt and of future deliverance when Messiah comes.
And when in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul calls Christ “our Passover Lamb,” he uis underlining the key Gospel truth that God will save anyone from judgment who banks his hope on the blood of Jesus. If that is indeed the case, then wasn’t the passover was fulfilled at Calvary when the Lamb of God was slain to deliver us from death?
But in verse 16 Jesus says the passover will be fulfilled in the kingdom. What does he mean? John’s glimpse of the kingdom in Revelation 5:9–10 gives a deeper answer. The twenty-four elders sang to Christ the Lamb, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom.”
Here’s the key. Jesus the Passover Lamb was slain to ransom people “from every tribe and tongue and nation.” So the Passover can’t be fully fulfilled until all are safely gathered in and the kingdom is established.
It is stirring to think of Jesus, just a few short hours before his death, setting before himself the joy of his coming kingdom, telling his disciples that what he is signifying tonight in the meal and accomplishing tomorrow on the cross will one day be fulfilled in the kingdom—a kingdom of people ransomed from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Then -as John Piper puts it- he adds this: “I’m not going to eat it till that day comes.
You eat it to remember me and keep your hope strong and empower yourselves for mission. But I am going to wait until I can eat it new with you and with all the ransomed that you will gather from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.”
And finally, deeper still, is the truth that “fulfilment in the kingdom of God” is inextricably linked with the “eager desire” of Jesus to be with his friends. François Du Toit wrote in God Believes in You, “The more aware we become of God in us, the more overwhelmed we are with a sense of total fulfilment and completeness; needs disappear into insignificance. He is not a God who is afar off; he is Emmanuel! Nothing you can seek to do or wish and pray for could qualify you more for life. Nothing can make you more attractive or your life more significant than to simply become aware of his nature and presence in you and his favour towards you mirrored in the finished work of Christ”
Do you see the point? The act of communion is the very centre-point of incarnation. It is the proleptic finishing of the work of Christ. And to accomplish the purpose of God is to dwell where his presence and glory is. In this way, we too are drawn into the fulfilling of the kingdom of God, through that relational intimacy expressed in the eager desire to be with one you love.
As we take communion this morning, let us bow in prayer 1) to confess our sin and renew our faith in Christ’s justifying death, and 2) to ask God to give us the heart of Christ for the coming of his kingdom, and the completion of his cause.
And 3) to open our minds and hearts to “eagerly desire” to eat Passover with him who loves us, and whom we love.