March 28, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”
The Day of Unleavened Bread had come. It was the day of days for the Hebrew people. Millennia before, the Lord had brought His people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. It had come at a price, though. Plagues had been visited upon the Egyptians in the hope that Pharaoh would be convinced to release the Lord’s people from their slavery. But after nine plagues, there was no convincing. Pharaoh had hardened his heart; then the Lord completely hardened it for him. But the Lord has determined that He would free His people. The death of the firstborn of Egypt would be the method. That would be the final act.
So the Lord gives instructions to His people. Prepare for leaving, for quick flight. Make unleavened loaves. Slaughter an unblemished lamb and roast it. Take the lamb’s blood and paint it over the lintels of the homes. Eat with your belt around your waist and your staff in your hand. For the Lord is about to bring His salvation. He will pass over the houses of His people and keep them safe from harm. And after this salvation had been accomplished, the Lord instructs His people that they annually must eat a meal that recalls that night.
And so when that annual day comes in Jerusalem, Jesus instructs His disciples to prepare to make their annual remembrance of the Passover: “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.’” But this Passover is different because of what will happen that night. This was the day on which the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed; another day when the Firstborn would die and the Lord would deliver His people. Jesus was preparing a Passover for His people that would fulfill what was done millennia before in Egypt.
That is what you remember on this night. As Jesus’ people, you have been given something great to remember. Your salvation has been accomplished. It was done with outstretched arm and mighty hand. But the deliverance is not from the Pharaoh’s enslavement. No, it is from a much worse tyrant. There is the blood of a lamb that marks and brings salvation, but not one that is raised in pens and pastures. No, this Passover Lamb is the Firstborn Son of God. There is a meal that you have been given to eat. But this time, the menu is not unleavened bread; it is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
Tonight is set aside to remember what took place on that Day of Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem: “And when the hour came, [Jesus] reclined at table, and the apostles with Him…. And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “’This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” Those words disclose what has been offered for your salvation. Jesus’ body is given for you. Jesus’ blood is poured out for you. That is what brings you freedom and deliverance. That is what has been given to make you His people.
Just as the Lord brought Israel out of slavery, so also He has brought you out of bondage. It is just as you learned it from your catechism study: “He has redeemed me, a lost, and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.” This is the manner of your deliverance: the body of the Son of God given for you; the blood of the Son of God poured out for you. They are given to redeem you.
Remembering these things, you hear again how Jesus made you His own, how He has given you access to the Lord’s holy places. This is what the apostle wants his audience to know: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Through His body given for you and His blood poured out for you, Jesus grants you the ability to stand in the presence of God, to be in His sanctuary. Whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup, confidently believing this Word and promise of Christ, dwells in Christ and Christ in him and has eternal life. So you can “live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”
The meaning and significance of this night is not that Peter and John went into a Jerusalem house and prepared the Passover meal for Jesus. No, the subject and objects need to be reversed. The meaning and significance is that Jesus prepared the Passover Meal for Peter and John and James and the countless number of individuals whom He has made His people. Jesus has prepared the Passover Meal for you—not just a dinner that remembers something that happened long ago, but a banquet that distributes salvation to you right now.
So as you eat and drink this meal of the new covenant, you have the Lord’s words spoken to you: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” That forgiveness which the Lord promises is yours because Jesus has taken all the plagues and death upon Himself. The death of the only-begotten Son of God, the Firstborn of God, brings life to you. He is the Unblemished Passover Lamb who takes all your blemishes upon Himself. He has borne them. He has overcome them. He has put them out of the Lord’s remembrance. And so you have the deliverance that was promised. This releases and frees you. The salvation has come at a price, but it is the price that has been paid for you.
So come and eat without cost. Eat the bread that satisfies. Drink the cup of eternal blessing. Partake of the Passover Meal that is prepared by Jesus for you. Remember what He has done for you. Show how He gave His body into death and poured out His blood. For this Jesus was delivered for your offenses and raised for your justification, so that your sins will be remembered no more.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.