Luke 22:7-13 “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. 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, 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?’” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.’ They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”
You will not see immediately the fascinating connection between this text and the opening verses of this chapter. Judas, we are told was watching, “for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (v.6). Well, there would be a good chance of doing this at the Passover feast. The whole nation would be split up into family groups sitting around their tables eating a delicious meal of freshly roasted lamb on a holy day. No one would suspect anything could happen to Jesus of Nazareth on such a day. There would be no crowds about. The Temple courts would be deserted. It would be like our Christmas Day, the streets empty and every gathering meeting together in their own homes or in their hired rooms. What a good time for the Temple guard and the chief priests to burst in and pick up Jesus and whisk him off to the Praetorian without a crowd gathering.
But Jesus foiled such plans. He didn’t say, “Any volunteers to arrange the Passover?” If he had then Judas would have been the first to raise his hand. Rather, Jesus calls for Peter and John and asks them to do something for him. Judas pricks up his ears because Jesus would be giving them the address of the room they were going to meet in. Judas would rush off at the first opportunity and inform the chief priests of the place, and he’d even lead them to the room. But as he listens Judas is bitterly disappointed because though Jesus does tell the two men to go and make preparations for the Passover, he gives them no address. When they ask for it this is what he says, “‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 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?’” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there’” (vv.10-12). Peter and John are not given the address. All they know is that as they enter the city a man carrying a water pot – not a woman – is going to meet them. They are to follow this servant to his house and that is where the Passover is to be prepared.
Jesus is completely in charge of every detail of those final 24 hours of his life. He needs time before, during and after the meal in that upper room to be at the table and talk, and talk some more with the disciples, and then finally to pray with them. He is going to draw everything together. He is going to tell them that in a short time he will be with them no more, and that the Holy Spirit will come to them in his place. He makes sure that there will be no interruptions, and so he defeats Judas’ plotting, and he proceeds to deliver in the shadow of the cross the greatest of all his sermons to the apostles.
JESUS OBSERVES THE PASSOVER FEAST.
The first Passover took place in Egypt where the children of Israel had been living for 400 years. For a long time they had been enslaved to the Egyptians. Then God acted to deliver them. At the burning bush in the wilderness he met with Moses, who had been born and raised in Egypt, and Jehovah commissioned him to be his spokesman. He tells Moses that he’s to be his mouthpiece and he is to say these words to Pharaoh; “This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” (Ex.4:22&23). “This nation is my first-born son. I have given them life and love; they are my beloved ones and you are treating them cruelly. You are making my son your slave. If this goes on I warn you of the devastating consequences. Any defiance on your part will lead me to kill your first born son. But I will give you every opportunity to end this provocation. Let my people go I will have to show you what I will do to protect and deliver my son . . .”
Then the Lord began to deal with impotent gods of the Egyptians. They worshipped the Nile, so God made it undrinkable and useless. “Let my people go!” “No.” They worshipped frogs and they died by the million. “Let me people go!” “No!” They worshipped their cattle and God destroyed them with a plague, but not the cattle of the children of Israel. “Let my people go!” “No!” They worshipped their health and God sent a plague of boils. “Let me people go!” “No!” They worshipped the sun and God sent darkness. “Let my people go!” “No!” Jehovah humbled all the gods of Egypt one by one, and initially Pharaoh promised freedom, but once a particular plague was lifted he hardened his heart again and shook his head. The plagues became increasingly devastating and yet Pharaoh kept refusing to let God’s first-born son go. Nine plagues fall on Egypt and the land was groaning. None of them fell on Israel. The judgment was always limited, because the judgment was supernatural. The people living in the land of Goshen were always spared. It was a plague-free zone.
However, for the tenth plague Israel was not to be exempt. No first born in the whole land would be spared; not even the animals. It was a devastating plague, provoked by Pharaoh’s defiance, but this time embracing Israel too. The target was now the firstborn in the land. A sentence of death was passed on all of them, Gentile and Jew, without exception, man and beast. Pharaoh had seen nine plagues come and go at the order of Moses. Pharaoh was warned of this plague. The judgment hanging over the land was made spectacularly clear. “Let my first-born son Israel go!” God pleaded with Pharaoh through Moses. Would the king of Egypt risk the loss of his son, the crown prince, and all the first born of Egypt, simply to keep a nation of slaves and not lose face? Would he be that proud? Yes, he was that proud. He would sacrifice the deaths of his own family and nation rather than climb down and listen to a shepherd’s request. His heart was like a stone.
Then God announced the way of deliverance from this plague. Israel was told that all the families must take yearling male lambs that were without defect. Then four days later this action was to be taken; “all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast” (Ex.12:6-8). Each person was to be dressed ready for a journey because the next day Pharaoh would certainly let God’s firstborn son go. This was the message that was taken to all the families in Goshen.
You can think of two families living next door to one another. They both heard the instructions of Moses; “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take 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 door-frame. Not one of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the door-frame and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants” (Ex. 12:21-24).
Both these families did exactly what Moses said, and yet what a different emotional reaction in those homes. The father in one family tossed and turned all night; sleep was gone from him. Every hour he got out of bed and walked across to the bed on which his firstborn was asleep to listen to see if he were still breathing, and then he’d return to bed. But he was up in half an hour to walk across to the bed again to listen carefully to check that his son was still alive. He couldn’t wait for the dawn to come to see if his son lived. Next door, what a different picture, his neighbour went to bed and slept like a log. He reassured his wife and family, “We have done exactly what God has told us to do and he won’t permit the destroyer to enter our house and strike down our beloved first-born. God’s own reputation is now at stake. He will have more to lose than we do if a hair on the head of our boy dies. Relax, my honey. Go to sleep; everything will be all right. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” He rose after dawn and rejoiced to find his first born alive and well as God had promised.
In both homes the firstborn was spared. They were spared because the families did exactly what God told them to do. One had great comfort and assurance that all would be well. The other was a doubting home where they did not enjoy redeeming grace as they should have, but in that home also they obeyed God. So it will be with you. Some of you are blessed with strong feelings of assurance; others of you battle with doubts, but all of you who have done what God has told you to do – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” – will not perish but have everlasting life, even though some of you through lack of assurance do not enjoy the comforts of that great promise as you should. Be strong in faith! What do we see in the Passover? Three things . . .
i] Satisfaction. God looked at the blood that night. He did not look at the people; he did not examine the strength of their assurance. He looked at the door, at the posts and the lintel. Was the blood there? Had they obeyed God and sprinkled the doorposts with the blood of the lamb? Yes. So God was totally satisfied. It was the sacrificial blood of the spotless lamb that turned the Lord from judgment to mercy. That is the nature of God; that is how God is. If God is satisfied with the blood that has been shed then let your conscience also be satisfied with that blood speaking peace with God.
ii] Safety. Since God is satisfied the people are safe. Their contribution was simply the obedience of faith. They did what God says. Nothing else matters. God speaks, and they obey. In the transaction that follows there are just two realities, the blood and the Lord; there is nothing more. If that is done then there is no way that the Destroyer can take the life away – just as long as the blood is there.
iii] Substitution. It was the death of the substitute that ‘covered’ each family in the day of judgment. There is the great word ‘for’; the lamb was slain for the firstborn, for their sins, for their redemption, and that ‘for’ is the ‘for’ of substitution. In their place sacrificed and dead was the lamb without blemish and without spot.
So we see that the firstborn of Israel needed to be redeemed. That coming generation would be a sinning generation just as their fathers had been in the earlier generation, and their fathers before them, right back to the time of Adam. Every generation needs to know redeeming grace through the gospel. These firstborn sons had, like their fathers, forfeited every entitlement to divine adoption, but God displayed adopting mercy if they would but avail themselves of a suitable substitute. What a substitute it was! The lambs themselves were only signs. The blood of an animal can in no way wash away the sin of men who bear God’s image. The little lambs pointed to the Lamb of God, Jehovah Jesus, who one day would be given to the world in the love of God. God would find a lamb in his own flock, in his own bosom. He was God’s only begotten and first born Son. The sinful sons of Egypt and of Israel deserved death because the wages of sin is death. The sin of Adam deserved death “because the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But Jesus did not deserve it. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Even so he was not spared even from the death of the cross. Some huff and puff and object to the justice of God in slaying the first born of the next generation, and yet there was not one innocent person slain, and who objects to the mercy of God in providing such a Saviour as the Son of God and making him sin? Then we don’t object to the justice of God when he says, “the soul that sins shall surely die.”
So that was the Passover deliverance. It was one event in history, but it was to be commemorated for ever. God tells the people; “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance” (Ex. 12:14). And so 1,400 years later we are in Jerusalem to meet with Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem us. He has come under the law in order to fulfil it, the moral law and the civil law, but here is the ceremonial law. So Jesus must and will fulfil the ceremonial requirement. He will celebrate this Passover festival to the Lord. “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover” (v.8). Here we are shown Jesus Christ the obedient servant of God observing the Passover and keeping the law of God. Should we not keep it too? But the text goes on and we also see King Jesus the incarnate and omnipotent Lord accomplishing his sovereign will in everything that occurs.
JESUS ORGANISES THE PASSOVER FEAST.
Jerusalem at the Passover was packed with visitors. Maybe up to half a million people were present on the day that Peter and John set off on this curious mission trusting in what the Lord had told them. They obviously had one of the gates to the city in mind, the nearest gate I presume. They were to walk to that gate and as they passed through it immediately they would meet a man walking along carrying a pot of water. He would also be there at that same time. There would be no hanging around, no anxious looking up and down the street for some man. He would be there and on his way at that very moment as they arrived. They were simply to dog his footsteps all the way to his master’s home. The Lord gave this unconditional assurance out of the depths of his absolute and infallible foreknowledge that they would meet this man as they walked into the city. What a marvelous comforting truth. That there is no such thing as luck or chance or fate. God works all things after the counsel of his own will.
You consider what was happening in Jerusalem at that moment, the number of details involved in all of this. There was a complex amalgam of different kinds of circumstances. There were the deep hidden factors of apparently unpredictable human choice, and yet the Lord knew what would take place, and he knew exactly what the outcome was going to be. There was going to be a coming together of two parties resulting in Peter and John meeting the owner of the Upper Room where the Last Supper would be held, because our Lord is the one who foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. He works all things after the counsel of his own will. If I can change the language; our Lord knew that this would happen because he is governing every creature, and he is governing every action of every creature. He is the one who is actually in control of a man going on an errand into town to fulfil a household chore, doing what his master had told him to do, but above and beyond his master’s order is the mind of God. Jehovah was regulating the whole development and movement of all these hundreds of thousands of men and women in the crowded streets of Jerusalem that day. He appoints the conclusion of this whole affair because he is the one giving to the disciples this order, “Arrange the Passover feast” because he is the Governor of every creature and our every action.
Think of what was involved that morning; there was the decision of the master in sending this servant to get water – not a woman. There was actual time he sent him. The route the servant took. The other errands he had to run at the same time. The people he met. The conversations he had on the way, and then at the well. The same things happening on his journey back. The Lord was in charge of all this, and of the speed and route Peter and John were to take on their way to Jerusalem. The Lord coordinated these two parties so that exactly as the disciples entered the city on their mission they met this man fulfilling his own mission he joined them together and they followed him to the Upper Room.
We can see the complexity of this just for one person, God moving in the trivia of our human experience. You brush your hair one day and one particular hair comes out, and it is not by bad luck but by a good Lord. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. You see a little dead baby sparrow in your back yard. It has fallen to its death out of a nest up in the roof. No sparrow can fall to the ground without the decree of God.
Or there is a flood in which cars and caravans are swept away, houses damaged, businesses are closed and an enthusiastic town effort takes place to raise money for the people affected. You remember Noah’s experience, or Jonah’s experience of the storm and the tempest, or Jesus in the boat.
He to the storm says, ‘Peace be still! The raging billows cease:
The mighty winds obey His will, and all are hushed to peace.
Dorothy Thrupp, 1779-1847.
Or you think of the apostle Paul in the boat taking him as a prisoner of Caesar to Rome to stand trial before him and the storm called the Euroclydon almost send them all to Davey Jones’ Locker. Or you think of the significance of storms in the lives of Martin Luther and John Newton. John Wesley was terrified on board a boat in mid-Atlantic in a mighty storm, and was humbled to see the Moravian Christians gathering together and praying and singing. Wesley wrote in his diary that night, “Alas I have a fair weather Christianity.” It is one of the most comforting of Christian principles that we never have even one single day but the Lord has made it. We never have anything but the will of God each day. We only have the cup he gives us to drink, no matter how stormy and tempestuous are some of our days. Every day is his workmanship. I can preach these words but I can’t always appropriate the comfort their truth should bring to me, but I am certain that believing this is the bedrock of Christian comfort. To know in my heart though things are upside down and terribly uncertain, nevertheless, “This is the day that the Lord has made.”
We see here God ruling over the free actions of man, that is, over those decisions that are rooted in indeterminate human choice, such as which of the servants should a master send on an errand. Unconstrained and uncompelled human choice, or when men freely make up their minds to act in a certain way – even then God is ruling sovereignly over such decisions. There is no constraint as to the speed a servant walks or the people he meets and the decision he takes to stop and chat to this one and not to that one. But the divine government is active there – the divine foreordination. You remember how king Ahab died? An archer drew back his bow and pointed it upwards and let off the arrow. Twang! And through the air the missile flew and its whole trajectory was planned by God and King Ahab was standing in his armour in his chariot, but there was an opening where one piece of armour touched another, and into that gap the arrow flew and it killed Ahab. The archer was busy picking up his arrows from where he had stuck them into the ground in front of him, one by one, picking them up and shooting them in the general direction of the enemy troops, but a prophecy of God was fulfilled in one of his shots. I am saying that that sovereignty of God extends to the trivia, and to the spectacular providences and to man’s free actions.
You might have seen the free evangelistic newspaper that Welshpool Evangelical Church has printed for its current outreach. There is a photo of a couple whom I know. Iola and I attend a conference with them each November. There were years when they never went to any church, and then the death of the parents of the woman who is named Christine made them start asking big questions, whether life was only the span of time and experiences we have in this world. At that time of thoughtfulness a tract was pushed through the letter box, and Christine read it. She and a neighbour decided to go to church for the first time. Six months later Dave decided he would go with her and furthermore he began to listen to what was being said. His life was changed as he also believed the gospel that he heard, that we deserve eternal death because we are sinners but the Lamb of God came and he died as our substitute and obtained forgiveness for us. This change of life started with a Christian pushing a tract through the door, and a restlessness in Christine’s heart that surely there was more to life that materialism. There were decisions that Christine made; “I will read this tract; I will go along and listen to what the preacher is saying. I will keep going though my friend has been stopped by her husband. I will urge my husband to come with me.” What momentous consequences have come from those decisions! She might well say, “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.” It was God at work in changing her in every detail.
But God’s sovereign control of our lives particularly extends to men’s evil actions. It is before us at the beginning of this chapter in the decision of Judas to betray Jesus and the chief priests to try him and find him guilty and crucify him. What a tremendous coalescence of the forces of evil, how the temple guard, and the Sanhedrin, and one of the twelve apostles and Pilate, all the world’s forces, Jew and Gentile, combined together to kill Jesus of Nazareth. Yet they could do it only by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. What God determines in his eternal counsels men will always choose in time. There must be atonement; without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness. God determines that his Son shall become the sacrificial lamb, and the chief priests and Pharisees all determine that Jesus shall die. Pontius Pilate becomes God’s servant in passing the death penalty upon our Lord. The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord. So God foreordains the trivia and the free actions of men and their evil actions.
But it is the salvation actions that thrill us the most, that these are accomplished by God. The Lord determines that a group of women should meet together for prayer by a river side in Philippi and that Paul should get to know of their existence as he visits the city. There, as he speaks to them, is one woman called Lydia, and as she heeds the message the Lord opens her heart and she becomes a follower of Christ. The Lord can break the heart in contrition and sorrow for sin as he did for a teenager called Martin whom I talked with two weeks ago. He is now a preacher and he related how one night as he entered his bedroom he was suddenly overwhelmed with the presence of God and his heart broke and the tears flowed. When men are in the depths of penitence is that not again because God has given them repentance? When men turn, that is when they are converted, is it not because as the Lord said to Peter, “When you are converted . . . when you are turned around by God . . . then strengthen your brothers.” When we pray, “Thy kingdom come” then we are praying that God will mightily act and save and sanctify and protect us all.
JESUS TELLS HIS SERVANTS THE WORDS TO SAY.
When they get to the house in which the servant carrying the water has entered they too are to enter, and they are to say to the owner exactly what Jesus says, “The Teacher asks: ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”” (v.11). That is all they said. They couldn’t begin to explain who they were and how they’d come to enter his house. They simply quoted their rabbi – “the Teacher.” How can we turn this?
i] How faithfully, directly and with what authority did these disciples speak. Let’s learn from them. In the last verse in Matthew’s gospel in his great commission Jesus tells us to teach people to obey everything he has commanded us. Well, let’s make sure that we are obeying them ourselves first of all, everything he has taught us, and then let us teach others the same. Jesus is the truth; what he said is right. Jesus had said to them, “Say these words,” and they said those very words. “The Teacher asks . . .” are you listening to him? Are you doing his will? Let’s be faithful, and direct as we speak for Jesus Christ.
ii] How briefly they spoke. Some of the remarks Christian people made to us we will never forget. We can easily forget entire sermons, but one sentence spoken by a Christian can be like an arrow striking our hearts. Professor Michael Clarkson of Liverpool University went to a Christian meeting and doesn’t remember much of the message but at the end the speaker held up a booklet and offered it to them saying a dozen or so words like this, “Anyone who reads this with an open mind will come to know the truth.” That intrigued him. The book was John’s gospel and in a few weeks he began to read it, and he believed in Jesus. God will not let your few words spoken from your heart fall to the ground.
iii] How humbly Jesus met for the Last Supper, not in Herod’s palace, or in an ante-room of the Temple, or as a special guest of Pilate. It was an anonymous house and a borrowed room. He was the Creator of the Universe but he made himself of no reputation and came in the form of a servant and humbled himself to death as the anti-type of the Passover Lamb. The place of his greatest message was commensurate with his humility. Let’s be content with where God has put us and what he has done with our lives. We deserve nothing and he is the author of all we have. The numbers we speak to will be large enough to give account of in that Great Day. Let’s be content to serve the great Servant, and to serve just like our Master. Seek great things for thyself? Seek them not!
iv] How affectionately he spoke of his disciples. “I want to eat the Passover with my disciples.” He had chosen them to be with him. He had grown particularly close to three of them and one he particularly loved. Our Lord was not a loner. Though he had chosen men who argued about who was the greatest among them and who would have the throne nearest to him in heaven, and who did not understand his teaching, and one of those at the Last Supper was in the process of betraying him, and another was soon to deny him with curses, yet still he called them “my disciples” and he wanted to eat a loving meal with them. Then we can be patient and loving with one another in this fellowship and we will be present at the means of grace and so encourage one another.
1st July 2012 GEOFF THOMAS