This sermon was preached at the IGH Family Service, Sunday 24 November 2013
Matthew 24, 25 are books of prophecy. In these chapters we are given, in great detail, the events that precede the second coming of Christ.
Matthew 26 is also hugely significant. You will observe that this chapter is also prophetic in nature, but these things have already came to pass. It was future prophecy for the disciples.
Matt 26:2 Jesus foretold He would be crucified at the Passover celebration
Matt 26:5, We see the prophecy of the planning of the priests who are trying to avoid killing Jesus on the Passover feast.
Matt 26:12, Jesus announced that He was going to be buried
Matt 26:18, Jesus tells the disciples that His time is at hand. He had revealed His true purpose for his final entry into Jerusalem.
Matt 26:21, He prophesied that one of the disciples would betray Him
Matt 26:25, Jesus identifies Judas as the betrayer
Matt 26:26-29, Jesus talks of His death in symbolic form
Matt 26:31, Jesus predicts that all of the disciples will stumble in the garden and that He will raise again from the dead
Matt 26:34, Jesus predicts Peters fall
Matt 26:45, Jesus tells of His imminent betrayal in the garden
We know that these prophesies took place to the letter in very great detail! Because we know that these things took place we know that Matt Ch 24 and Ch 25 are true. If Matt 24 and 25 are true this confirms that we need to be prepared for the second coming of Christ, as this also confirms that He is deity; as Moses said 'God will raise up a prophet' (Deut 18:15). The words of Christ are the words of God incarnate.
This passage takes place during the the first day of the Passover, also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread because nothing with yeast could be eaten or even left in the homes of faithful Jews. The Passover was an annual Jewish festival commemorating their deliverance from Egypt (Ex 12:1-28). On the first Passover the Lord God commanded the Israelites on 10 Nisan to take a lamb without blemish into their houses and sacrifice it at twilight (between 3 and 5 pm) on the 14 Nisan. The blood of the lamb was to be put on the two doorposts and the lintel so that the destroyer would pass over the marked houses. That night of the first Passover in Egypt, God struck down the firstborn of the king to the lowest slave in every family (Ex 12:29).
The last Passover of Jesus is the last divinely instituted meal. From this point on a new ordinance is appointed. Rather than the Israelites sheltering under the blood of the lamb to whilst in bondage in Egypt - from this point on men and women, boys and girls of Jew and Gentile alike will shelter under the blood of Christ.
This is a period of transition from the old to the new, so it is very symbolic.
And so to Matthew 26:17. Mark and Luke add detail to the context in Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:8. Imagine yourself in Jerusalem at the time. It would have literally been bursting at the seams with pilgrims, God fearers, etc. To find a room at this late hour would've been very difficult especially a room big enough for 13 men.
The assignment given to Peter and John was not easy. They had to find wine, the unleavened bread, buy or make the charohseth. They had to ensure the lamb was roasted. This was quite a task given the busyness of Jerusalem at the time.
The 'certain man' with the jar of water (Matt 26:18) was very unusual, as this task was usually assigned to ladies. Christ knew that the man would be there by his foreknowledge. We cannot be dogmatic about this but it is believed that the master of the house (Mark 14:14) was a believer in Christ.
What the master of the house did at a human level was so insignificant. He had no concept of what was going to happen or the enormity of the events or the symbolism of what was going to take place in his upper room. Take heart that God sees the little things in our lives can use them in a remarkable way beyond what we can possibly comprehend.
Jesus was aware of the deal between Judas and the leaders so He was keeping the location of the Passover hidden from Judas; this was to delay his arrest. The Lord had to ensure that He had this final opportunity to teach his disciples, and we can read of this in teaching in John 13, 14, 15. Jesus also had to prepare the disciples for the imminent activities and for the time of transition.
The Symbolism of the Passover
In Matt 26:20 the Lord and His disciples are in the upper room and they start the Passover. This was a very elaborate and specific memorial feast centred around six elements:
The most significant was the Passover lamb, which had to be roasted over a fire. All the lamb had to be eaten that night. Nothing could be saved. The lamb of course reminded the participants of the first Passover.
The unleavened bread reminded them of the swiftness of God’s deliverance (the people of Israel did not have time to bake bread) and the severance from Egypt and its corrupt influence.
The bowl of salt water reminded them of the tears shed in their captivity and the crossing of the Red Sea.
The bitter herbs recalled the bitterness of their slavery.
A fruit puree called Charosheth reminded them of the clay which they used to make bricks in their captivity in Egypt.
Finally, there were four cups of wine, mixed three parts water to one part wine, which reminded them of the divine promises of Ex 6:6-7:
- Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,
- and I will deliver you from slavery to them,
- and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
- I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God
The Last Passover
The first cup was called the cup of sanctification. At this point the participants would ceremonially cleanse the hands.
Luke 22:24 also tells us that the disciples were clambering over themselves for the glory of Christ. Perhaps it was at this point that Jesus girded himself and washed the feet of the disciples as described in John 13:3-5.
One half of the unleavened bread was dipped into the paste and bitter herbs.
Followed by drinking of second cup, which was known as the cup of plagues because of the second promise in Ex 6:6. During this time someone was designated to ask the question “Why is this night different from other nights?” At this point the host would retell the story of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt and the meaning of the various elements of the meal. As the host of the Last Passover, Jesus would have been the one who retold the story. We don't know what Christ said recounting the passover story but likely He would've pointed to Himself in recounting the Old Testament passages.
After this the lamb was consumed. At this point Jesus told the disciples that one of them was going to betray Him (Matt 26:21). Psalm 41:9 also foretold this event.
We can hardly conceive of Judas, how he chose to betray Christ after all the years in His presence, why he could betray as opposed to bow the knee given his unique privaledge.
After Judas departed (John 13:27-30), the remaining half of unleavened bread was taken back to the table and distributed to the disciples. At this point Jesus institutes the Lords Supper.
There is no moral defect at all in Christ, so the unleavened bread He broke in Matt 26:26 speaks of His character. Up to this point the bread had ties with the symbolism of Israel in bondage, now it symbolizes the character, being, works, and words of Christ: pure, holy, sinless and without sinful influence (Matt 26:26). Paul states in 1 Cor 11:24 "this is My body which is for you".
Can you conceive that the One who was with the Father in eternity was willing to enter time as a man and give Himself for you upon a cross? Let no-one dare tell you that God is not a God of love, when read hear Christ say "My body which is for you".
Third cup is called the cup of redemption (Matt 26:27-28). This is very appropriate as Christ is the redeemer (Gal 3:13, 1 Tim 2:5). The incarnation of Christ is a mystery. He came to this earth to die on a cross for your sins. The cup speaks specifically of his crucifixion.
Isaiah 53:4 was well known to the Lord Jesus. He was willing to take it all, all our griefs and all our sorrows so that we might live in the presence of God. 2 Cor 5:21, Heb 9:26.
Yes we are soon to celebrate the birth of Christ. Let us be aware that He came to this earth for a specific purpose and that was to die for our sins.
Attending the Lords Supper (or Breaking of Bread service) is a duty of all Christians and it is a privilege that all Christians should relish. It is important that we acknowledge and remember who the Lord Jesus is and what He has done for us. We read not the words of man but God incarnate. As the priest would put his hands on the sacrificial lamb on the Day of Atonement, we should put our hands on the Lord Jesus.
We are secure and safe because some of us have accepted who Christ is, and we shelter under the blood of the Lamb of God. It is a privilege to remember Him at the breaking of bread service every Sunday.