“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

Holy (Maundy) Thursday
April 14, 2022

“The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat” (Luke 22:14-20)

During this season of Lent, we’ve tried to be realistic as we learn again to trust our God. The realism has to do with evil–the evil that betrayed, condemned, and crucified Jesus long ago, and the evil in our world and in our lives also today. In the face of that evil, we trust our God and the plan he carried out in Christ. We can say to Satan, to the world, and even to ourselves, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

This evening’s service is a break in the action in a way. It’s because of the gift that the Lord Jesus created that night long ago in the upper room. This is a night to be quietly joyful. It’s a night to marvel at what happened when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples and to marvel at the gift that has come down also to us.

Jesus said to them that night, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” That was a particular ritual at a particular moment in a particular place. But it was also an eternal Passover. By “eternal” I mean that it was not isolated, disconnected, alone, or even limited. For the Jews, Passover gathered up and brought to fruition so many things from the past, from the exodus, and the past gave meaning to the present. But that particular moment in the upper room, with Jesus, was part of the most significant event in the history of the world. History was turning a corner that night. And from that Passover came a new gift for the future, a gift that would last until tonight and until the Lord returns in glory. It happened the night that Jesus was betrayed–past, present, and future, all coming together in “The Eternal Passover That Jesus Desired to Eat.”

If you listen, you can almost hear the past rushing into the upper room that night. It was an evening around the year 30. The first Passover happened more than 1400 years before. The point is this: Beginning with the events in Egypt, with Moses and Pharaoh, the plagues and the exodus, every Passover throughout the centuries had been pointing ahead to, leading up to, that night and the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat.

A quick review. Israel had been enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt. But the Lord God set them free. The blood of the lamb marked Israel’s homes and the angel of death passed over. God brought the Israelites out of slavery, through the waters of the Red Sea, and out into a new life on dry ground. The Passover meal began as a remembrance of that liberating event, and down through the centuries, Israel was supposed to remember.

But they didn’t always remember very well. Israel broke their covenant with the Lord. He was eager and willing to be their God. But they wanted to be his people at the same time that they were the people of the Baals and the gods of the nations around them. But a covenant with the true God is exclusive–no other gods. Israel broke the covenant.

The covenant that Israel broke was in need of something greater. God had always planned it that way. Those past events were pointing forward to something greater. And so that night in the upper room, with sin and evil all around, the past came rushing up to cry out: “How long, O Lord? How long until you deliver us again? How long will your people wander? When will you do a new thing?”

And the answer was, “Tonight. Right now.” That particular night remembered the past mercy of God and magnified it. On that particular night, Jesus confronted the slavery of all of the gods of the world and Satan himself. He faced that slavery, took hold of it, and did not let go. On that night Jesus freed sinners of all the ages and invited them to the table. It all came together in the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat.

In a way, that evening and the hours that followed were the turning point in all of human history. Jesus embraced the old, even as he created something new. Not utterly new, with no connection to the old. But larger, greater than. New in the sense of “renewed,” greater and stronger and more beautiful.

Jesus begins this turning point in history with the old ritual that the disciples had known their entire lives. Then turning from the old, Jesus gives them something new. “This bread is my body, given for you. As you have remembered deliverance from long ago, now you will have a new deliverance to remember. Do this in remembrance of me.” It was new. “This cup being poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” It was new. The old Passover meal has now passed away. Something new has come.

This new deliverance is once and for all, unrepeatable. Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb, whose blood is over the people, and whose death protects us from God’s wrath, from death, and from every evil. His death enables us to leave slavery behind, and to be God’s people in freedom and mercy. Jesus is the new and greater Passover lamb.

And there’s even more. Jesus is not just the lamb who protects from death. He is the deliverer, the leader, the one greater than Moses. Jesus is both sacrifice and deliverer, and in that moment that began on Thursday evening, Jesus performs a new exodus. Jesus goes ahead of us into death, death on the cross. He goes ahead of us so that we don’t have to die for our sins. But he also goes through death, through the sea, and he comes out onto dry ground–to a new life that leaves our sins drowned and death permanently undone. Jesus rose to life as the Lamb who was slain but who lives forevermore. He is both Lamb and Deliverer. And he did it for his disciples, for you, and for the whole world. That was the turning point of all of history. The past was rushing forward, and Jesus took it and fulfilled it. This was the eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat, so that he could do something new, for us and for all people.

Past. Present. And future. The events of that night were for the future, too. Think of what Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Even though the sacrifice that Jesus made is one-and-done, once and for all, the new meal that he gave to his disciples is a gift that keeps on giving. The events of that night push out, they keep running out into the future and around the world, as the gospel goes out and is proclaimed and believed. And that new gift of the meal has come from the upper room, through the cross, out of the empty tomb, and down to us. Jesus lives. And our living Lord gives us his true body to eat and his true blood to drink. And he tells us, “Remember.”

Not just “recall,” something you might do only in your head. But “remember,” something you do both in your head and in your heart. Remember and believe. Remember and give thanks. The gift is real. Your remembering does not make it real. We don’t make that happen. The living, ascended Lord Jesus does that. Christ gives us his body and blood for us to eat and drink.

But remembering in faith, in humility, in need–remembering is how all of God’s gifts are received to our benefit, to our blessing. Remembering is faith, faith that says, “Yes, Lord. The new gift is here again for us, protecting us from the death of our sins. The new gift is here again, strengthening us as we draw together in love for one another. We remember you, Lord, and so we eat your body and drink your blood, and we are one body in you. Yes, Lord. The new gift is here again for us, and it will be . . . until.”

“Until.” Twice Jesus says, “until”: “For I tell you I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And a moment later, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” The gift of Jesus stretches out into the future until it is fulfilled in the coming kingdom of God, until the kingdom comes in all its glory and power. And so, the Lord’s Supper is a gift “until,” until then. It is a foretaste of the feast to come. A banquet at which death will be swallowed up forever. A banquet at which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be sitting. A banquet at which all who remember and believe will be sitting. By God’s mercy, you and I will be sitting there, too.

Past, present, and future. It was an eternal Passover that Jesus desired to eat that night with his disciples. The past was fulfilled, the present was changing all of history, and the future was reaching out even to us here tonight. Tonight, here in the new meal that our Lord instituted, Jesus is bringing forward into your present all that he fulfilled back then–liberation from bondage to sin and death–and he is bringing you forward into his future, the heavenly banquet in the kingdom to come.

Published in: on April 14, 2022 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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