We read in Exodus that the people of Israel were to bring the Passover Lamb into town on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. They were to wait until the 14th day of the month and then at sundown (the Hebrew day changed at sundown) they were to slaughter the lambs and eat the Passover. (Exodus 12:3-7)
Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on the 10th day of the month (Palm Sunday). On the 14th (Maundy Thursday) the disciples prepared to eat the Passover. That evening after sundown (the 15th by Jewish figuring) Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover. As the next day came Jesus went to the cross. Both the eating on Thursday evening and the events of Good Friday would be the 15th of the month, the day of Passover. So Jesus is our Passover Lamb. And like the Passover Lamb in Exodus His blood marks our door and protects us from death and hell.
HE WASHED THEIR FEET (John 13:2-15)
We read how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. He took the place of a servant, and cared for them. He said, “I am among you as one who serves.”(Luke 22:27) In the same way He serves us, meeting every spiritual need and hearing every prayer. As we commune together we come to a meal where Jesus serves. He invites us to His table, and comes to serve us. Then Jesus calls us to serve one another and care for each other.
THE SOP (John 13:21-26)
Jesus showed care and love even for the disciple who would betray Him. It is a custom that the host of the Passover meal makes, dips, and gives a special morsel to one of the guests that he wants to show special favor and friendship to. When Jesus gave “the sop” to Judas He was telling Judas of the love of God.
The rabbis were very particular about the bread to be used for the Passover. It was to be unleavened, made without yeast. It was also supposed to be pierced – having holes through it. And it was to be baked in such a way that it was to have brown stripes from the baking. They based this on Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed.”
To a Christian this verse obviously refers to Jesus. The Rabbis insisted on this because of the prophecy – without knowing why.
The Afikomen became a part of the Passover celebration before New Testament times. What happened was that three pieces of the Passover Bread (Matzahs) were placed in a fabric container before the meal. During the meal the middle one was taken out, wrapped in a special cloth and hidden somewhere. Later in the meal the children were to search for the hidden bread, the Afikomen. When they found it they brought it out and everyone celebrated. Then it was broken and shared with everyone there.
The practice looks an awful lot like a picture, acting out how Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, was hidden in the tomb for three days, wrapped in the burial cloth, was searched for by the disciples, and when they saw Him risen on Easter they celebrated.
THE FOUR CUPS
In the Passover there were traditionally four cups of wine:
1. The cup of Sanctification
(or separation because that is part of the meaning of the Hebrew word)
2. The cup of Praise
3. The cup of Blessing
4. The cup of Elijah
Paul identifies the cup of Blessing as the one Jesus used to institute the Lord’s Supper. We could say that we are still at that point in the Passover, and the meal continues on. It is a part of Jewish tradition at the time of the 4th cup to have a child look outside to see if Elijah is coming. The coming of Elijah is an end of the world event. He will be coming back with Jesus. So the Supper points to the end of the world and will continue on until the end.
Jesus said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”(Matthew 26:29) We wait for the fulfilling of the promises and the completion of the meal, when Jesus returns.
In the TLH P. 15 service and in LSB Divine Service Setting Three (P. 184 ff), after communion has been distributed and received the Pastor says, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good” and the congregation responds, “and His mercy endureth forever.”
This is a verse taken from the ends of two sections of the Psalms known as the Greater Hallel (Psalms 119-136) and Lesser Hallel (Psalms 113-118). Those were psalms used for the Passover meal and were to be sung. So when Matthew and Mark report “When they had sung a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives” this is what they were doing. The last thing Jesus and the disciples did before going out was to finish the singing of the Hallel. Psalm 118 begins and ends with the verse, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; and His mercy endureth forever.” Psalm 136 begins with that verse and continues with each verse ending “His mercy endureth forever.” When we sing this verse, we are remembering how Jesus went from the Lord’s Supper to Gethsemane and then to the cross.
CONVERSATION (John 13:31-17:26)
Part of the Passover meal went on after the eating was all done. Those gathered would share the words and promises of God from the Old Testament. The Gospel of John records long discussions between Jesus and the disciples. John 13:31-14:31 was part of that discussion – apparently this part happened in the Upper Room. It ends with Jesus saying that it was time to leave the room where they had eaten the Passover.
As Jesus went out with His disciples they continued to talk about the Words and promises of God. Read John 15-17 to discover what they may have discussed as they walked along. And then read Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer for us in John 17.
UNTIL THE LAST PERSON FALLS ASLEEP
It is a part of the Passover tradition that the meal is not finished until the last person falls asleep. Talking about God and about faith can continue all night and into the next day. It is still counted as being part of the supper.
When Jesus and His disciples went out to the Garden of Gethsemane and the disciples fell asleep, but it was still part of the Passover because Jesus had not. So the Passover continued on into the next day, all the way through Jesus’ arrest; through the trials before the Sanhedron, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again. It continued through the scourging; through carrying the cross to Calvary; through Jesus suffering on the cross; and on until Jesus said, “It is finished,” and “Father into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit and the Passover was complete.
From the beginning of the meal until the end of the crucifixion it is all one event – the Passover of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.