The Plan for Passover

Posted: August 11, 2014 in Mark

Mark 14:12-26, “The Plan for Passover”

Good suspense movies are often those that show a plan at work.  The lead character has a master strategy, and everything that has been going on has been happening by design.  It’s not until the very end that the plan is revealed, and everyone is amazed.

God had a master plan for Passover.

To the Hebrews, Passover was a national feast and holiday.  No doubt for many, it was full of wonder and meaning as they thanked God for the freedom He had provided out of Egyptian slavery.  For others, it had surely shrunk into “just another” holiday – along the same lines of how so many people today celebrate Christmas and Easter.  The meaning had been lost, and it just became ritual.

Yet even for those who truly worshipped God has He intended them to do at Passover, the ultimate plan for the feast was greater than they could have ever imagined.  The plan God had in mind did not provide temporary freedom from an earthly slavemaster, but eternal freedom from sin and death.  It was not given only to the Hebrews, but for all people who placed their faith in the Hebrew Messiah.  It is a plan that touches all of us, even to this very day.

Of course no one realized that at the time.  In our text, the twelve were celebrating Passover just like they had every other year…at least to some extent.  There were several things that would be drastically different, from the preparations to the meal itself.  Yet all of this was according to plan.  Jesus made His plan known as He sent His disciples to prepare the Passover.  He would make the rest of God’s plan known as He reached out to all who were present…including the one who would betray Him.

God’s plan for Passover is to save the world.  Will we partake in what God offers?

Mark 14:12–26
12 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?”

  1. First things first: what IS the feast of “Unleavened Bread/Passover”?  The original historical account can be found in Exodus 11-12.  The Hebrews had been enslaved to Egypt for 400 years, and God had raised up a deliverer in Moses.  Repeatedly, Moses went to Pharaoh telling him God’s command to let His people go, and Pharaoh steadfastly refused.  There had been nine terrible plagues up to that point, each one growing in intensity and demonstrating the infinite power of God overwhelming Pharaoh and the false gods of the Egyptians.  Finally, God announced to Moses a final plague: the death of the firstborn in every household.  On the appointed evening, God Himself (likely in the form of the Angel of the Lord: the pre-incarnate Jesus) would pass through the land of Egypt, and every firstborn child would die.  The only way to escape death would be to slaughter an acceptable lamb, cover the doorposts of the house with the blood, and when God saw the blood on the door, He would “pass over” them.  Anyone (Hebrew or Egyptian) could be saved, but they HAD to be in a house covered with the blood of the Passover lamb.  Otherwise, there would be no escape from death.  “Unleavened Bread” was the feast that followed Passover.  Because God commanded such a quick departure from the land of Egypt, no leaven (yeast) was to be used in their bread making for their meal that night.  In memorial, God commanded a week-long feast during which every Hebrew was to abstain from all leaven.
  2. With all of that in mind, when is “the first day of Unleavened Bread”?  Normally, the first day would be considered Nisan 15 (according to the Hebrew calendar), as the feast did not technically begin until after the Passover was done on the 14th at twilight.  Yet from Mark’s context, the date is plainly the 14th, because he was writing of the day “when they killed the Passover lamb.”  Apparently the phrase was used in a bit broader sense among the people, rather than the technical theological sense in the Scriptures.  In any case, Mark is referring to Thursday afternoon.  The meal would take place Thursday evening after sunset (the Hebrews counted their days from sunset, rather than from midnight as we do) – later on Thursday night they would go to the Mount of Olives to pray, and at some point during the night Judas would come with soldiers.  Jesus would go through several illegal trials in the after midnight had passed in the wee hours of Friday, finally going before Pilate.  By 9:00AM, Jesus would be crucified – by 3:00PM He would die – and He would be buried prior to sunset (thus Friday is the first day of His death, with 6:00PM/sunset beginning the 2nd day).  Quite a lot would be taking place over the next 24+ hours!
    1. With all that in mind, think for a moment the contrast between Jesus and the disciples.  There’s no doubt that all of this was heavily upon Jesus’ mind, but the disciples don’t seem to have a clue.  Surely they understood that there was heightened tension, and they’re having to do some things in secret (as we’ll see), but otherwise, this seems to them to be a relatively normal event.  It’s a Passover, just like any Passover…but it wasn’t.  This was going to be unlike any Passover that ever took place in Hebrew history – this was the true Passover of God.
  3. The disciples knew this much: Jesus had a plan for Passover.  After all, they had come to the city precisely for this purpose, but it seems strange that none of the 12 knew where Jesus wanted to eat the feast.  They would be guests in someone’s home, by necessity – after all, none of them lived in Jerusalem.  It seems unusual that none of this would have been planned out prior to Thursday afternoon.  That’s the thing.  It WAS planned out; it just wasn’t planned out by the disciples.  Jesus had a plan all along, which is the reason the disciples asked Him about it.
    1. Why didn’t the disciples know?  Why didn’t Jesus delegate the task to the disciples for them to take care of these minor details?  Scripture doesn’t say.  It seems likely that Jesus purposefully kept some of these things secret, in order that none of the disciples (especially Judas) would know where they would be.  Jesus needed to have the meal with His disciples in peace, and only afterwards be arrested.  Keeping the secret from Judas accomplished exactly that.
    2. The disciples may not have known what the plan for Passover was at first, but they knew Who to ask.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it can be difficult for us to do the same.  Of course the disciples would ask Jesus about the Passover plans – that was a meal taking place in just a few hours.  That seems obvious to ask Him.  But are the things in our lives any less obvious to take to Jesus?  Jesus is spiritually with us (even to the end of the age) – why wouldn’t we do the same as the disciples?  There are many things we might not have answers to, but we worship the God who has ALL the answers.  Ask!

13 And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. 14 Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 15 Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”

  1. The details that Jesus gives are pretty incredible.  Not only did Jesus have a plan, but He had a very specific one!  Whether this proves His supernatural knowledge, or that it indicates that He personally went into the city and pre-arranged all of these things is somewhat beside the point.  The point is the plan itself.  Jesus knew precisely how He wanted to go about doing it, and He gave His disciples very specific instructions to ensure it was done correctly.  Break it down:
    1. Go into the city
    2. A man will meet you
    3. The man will be “carrying a pitcher of water
    4. Follow him” to “wherever.
    5. Talk to the “master of the house.
    6. Identify Jesus only as “the Teacher.
    7. The “guest room” and permission are assumed
    8. The room will be “a large upper room, furnished and prepared.
    9. The disciples needed to “make ready
  2. Extremely detailed!  Jesus left nothing to chance (and of course, there is no “chance” when it comes to Almighty God) – everything had been planned out by Him, either supernaturally or simply by divine wisdom.  The preparations had been made; all the disciples needed to do was walk in obedient faith to see it come to pass.  Think about that for a moment.  The disciples could have decided to go off on their own, and tried to figure out something for themselves.  They could have said, “This is too much work.  Why not just ask the first person we see?”  Or “I think I’ve got a better way of doing it…”  (Or they could have given any number of excuses we typically give when we don’t want to do things God’s way.)  Yet if they had, they would have missed out on seeing Jesus’ words fulfilled, and participating in God’s plan.  Jesus had made the plan – all He commanded the disciples to do was be obedient and walk in faith.
    1. That’s no different with us.  God has made His plan; our part is simply to walk in obedient faith.  …  True faith will show itself by its obedience…
  3. BTW – why did Jesus sent “two” disciples, and not one?  The tasks given by Jesus were not difficult, and one could have handled them just as easily as two were (Peter & John, per Lk 22:8).  One could have done the deed, but two were needed to give testimony.  It wasn’t just a matter of getting a job done; it was a matter of being able to testify to the other 10 disciples that everything Jesus spoke was true.  And it was!  See vs. 16…

16 So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.

  1. When the disciples got to Jerusalem, what did they find?  Everything was “just as He said to them.”  Of course!  Every word of God is always true.  ALWAYS.
  2. Chronologically, this brings us to the end of what we would consider Thursday.  At sunset, the Hebrew day changed, and that’s when the rest of God’s plan is put in motion…

17 In the evening He came with the twelve. 18 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”

  1. Who was there?  “The twelve.”  ALL of Jesus’ disciples, including Judas Iscariot.  All of them celebrated the Passover meal with Jesus, including the one who would turn Jesus over to His death in just a few hours.  The clock is ticking for Judas, and every moment he is with Jesus is another opportunity for him to confess and repent.  His silence is deafening.
  2. Jesus even gives Judas the open door to repent by pointing out the coming sin.  They have all reclined around the table to eat the meal, and that’s when Jesus brings up the subject of betrayal.  (Quite the conversation starter!)  As wonderful a piece of art as Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting is, it has little to no accuracy regarding the actual event.  They were not seated in chairs around the table (nor were they all seated on one side, all facing the “camera”!  PIC).  The custom was to recline on the floor, and they would have all faced one other, placed around the table as the room allowed.  They would have been in close quarters with one another, and they were probably all (literally) rubbing elbows with one another.  Of course that was nothing unusual.  They had spent the last three years in close contact with one another, and spent nearly every single day and night eating meals together and bonded in close friendship.  And that’s when the bomb of betrayal hits.  Jesus had taught earlier that He would be betrayed (Mk 9:31, 10:33), and the simple word means that it would come from a friend.  After all, an enemy cannot betray you; only a friend can.  An enemy simply acts like an enemy, but betrayal happens when a friend stops acting like a true friend, and now acts like an enemy.  But Jesus had many friends.  From His prior teaching, the act of betrayal could have come from anyone.  But from what Jesus said now, the betrayal would come from one of the twelve.  It wasn’t just anyone; it was someone who was currently eating the Passover meal with Jesus that would betray Him.  No doubt His words fell hard upon the disciples and the air in the room got thick with tension.

19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?”

  1. Please note that not a single person guessed Judas.  We have a tendency to imagine Judas as obviously evil.  As if he walked about with a black hat, a look of greed, and just a sinister appearance in general.  Not true!  He looked like the typical Middle Eastern Jew, just like every other disciple among the 12.  He carried himself the same way – he acted according to the same customs – he worshipped in the same manner, etc. … Evil is not always obvious.
  2. Not only did none of them guess Judas, but each of them supposed it could be themselves.
    1. There is a healthy dose of humility here (which is rare for the 12!).  Again, sin isn’t always apparent, especially in ourselves.  Take heed, lest you fall…

20 He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish.

  1. Jesus affirms their worst doubts: yes, “it is one of the twelve.”  They had not misunderstood Him earlier – they were right to ask if the traitor was one of them, because it was.  A traitor was in their midst, even eating at the same table at the present time.
    1. Culturally speaking, the fact that they were sharing a meal made it worse.  Betrayal is never good (of course), but it is a heightened insult to betray someone after sharing a meal with them.  The culture prized hospitality as a virtue, and sharing a meal was to share a time of intimate friendship – especially as people would use the same dishes and plates for their food (served “family style”).  To turn around and betray someone who hosted a meal for you would be an extra disgrace.
    2. Even this aspect of the betrayal was prophesied.  Psalm 41:9, "Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me." []  Originally, David penned these words concerning Ahithophel – a once-trusted advisor to the king, who became a traitor to serve David’s son Absalom when Absalom usurped the throne.  Ultimately, it points to Judas Iscariot – someone who was a trusted friend of Jesus, but made the choice to betray Him unto death.
  2. BTW – was this a generic or a specific answer from Jesus?  When comparing the four gospel accounts, it can be confusing as to whether or not Jesus pointed out Judas as the betrayer to the rest of the disciples who were present.  Each of them asked “Is it I?” and Matthew tells us that Jesus answered affirmatively to Judas (Mt 26:25).  John tells us that Peter asked him to ask Jesus, and Jesus gave the bread with sop (charoset – a mixture of apples, raisins, and dates…delicious!) to Judas (Jn 13:24-26).  Yet both John and Luke affirm that no one questioned Judas, but rather they all questioned themselves (Jn 13:28, Lk 22:23).  So what’s going on?  As Mark points out, Jesus gave a very generic answer to all.  It was one who dipped with Jesus “in the dish.”  Of course, they had ALL dipped in the dish with Jesus – that was just part of the custom.  Jesus had said it to John, who likely didn’t understand at the time, and Jesus said it specifically to Judas right before Judas walked out the door.  The bottom line is that Jesus knew, and that Judas knew.  Judas knew before he even asked, and it was totally hypocritical for him to ask in the first place.  Jesus was giving Judas every opportunity to come clean in confession, but Judas never once took Him up on it.
    1. Mark’s point here isn’t so much that it was Judas, but that it was “one of the twelve.”  He doesn’t distance Judas away as being different from the twelve, but rather continues to include Judas in the number.  This is deep betrayal from a trusted friend.

21 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”

  1. The “Son of Man” was indeed prophesied to be betrayed, per Psalm 41:9.  And of course, that wasn’t the only place in the Scripture that it was proclaimed.  Many psalms write of the betrayal of David, ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.  Although Mark never mentions the price Judas was paid by the priests and what he did with the money, even that level of detail had been prophesied in the Scriptures (Zech 11:12-13). It had been “written” long ago, and this was the eternal plan of God.
  2. Yet although it was written in the word of God, none of that provides an excuse for Judas.  The Lord Jesus still proclaims “woe” upon Judas Iscariot because Judas still bore his sin.  This may have been the plan of God, but this was still a willing choice made by Judas.  God cannot be blamed for Judas’ sin.
    1. God’s sovereignty does not nullify man’s responsibility.
  3. Q: Would it be better never to live than to commit this kind of sin and treachery?  According to Jesus, yes.  Without repentance and faith (something which is never indicated by Judas), Judas would spend an eternity in hell with the knowledge that he was the one who personally betrayed the Son of God to the cross, and that he had been given every opportunity not to do so.  Hell by itself is bad enough, but it must be unimaginably worse for Judas.  From Judas’ perspective, surely it would have been better never to be born.
    1. Is God to blame for giving him life?  Not at all.  That is really just another way of trying to shift blame from Judas to God.  Again, God’s plan was for Jesus to be betrayed, but Judas made the choice to do it.  When God gave Judas life, that life itself was a gift.  Every life is a gift of God.  It was Judas’ choice to waste it.

22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

  1. By this point, Judas left the group (Jn 13:30) and the rest of them continued on with the Passover meal.  No doubt even with the tension, and the unusual events of the day leading up to it (the strange preparation – the foot-washing), the familiar ritual of the Passover haggadah (the script) gave a bit of comfort to the disciples.  This was something that they had celebrated every year for all their lives.  They were well-acquainted with how the meal was supposed to go, and what words were supposed to be spoken at what time.  Yet no sooner do they settle into the Passover haggadah did Jesus change it up.  The normal ritual spoke of the past deliverance that God gave the Hebrews on their exodus from Egyptian slavery.  Yet Jesus no longer spoke of the past; He spoke of the present.  Jesus no longer spoke of simple food; He spoke of something profoundly personal – His own body.
  2. Why bread?  The Passover meal centers around a lamb which is slain, and Jesus obviously is the Passover Lamb.  Why didn’t Jesus wait to hand out the lamb as a representation of His sacrifice?  Why the bread?  The sacrifice itself is symbolized in the cup, which Jesus will get to next.  The bread had a different purpose.  In the original Passover meal, the bread was made quickly.  No leaven was added because there wouldn’t be time for the bread to rise prior to the Hebrew’s departure from Egypt.  God specifically told the Hebrews not to put leaven in their bread, and even to remove all traces of leaven from their entire household.  The idea for the bread isn’t so much sacrifice, but purity.  Leaven (yeast) is often a picture of sin in the Bible, in that it spreads quickly as it grows.  To remove the leaven was to remove all traces of sin.  God’s people were to be pure, and the bread symbolized that kind of purity.  It was also akin to the manna given by God for the Hebrews to eat in the wilderness.  It was gift provided by the Lord, something pure & nourishing.  It was a symbol of His presence among them and His provision for them. 
    1. That is what Jesus said His body was like.  He is without sin – He is given for us – He is the true bread of life and the manna from heaven – His presence is with us.  All of this is the bread.  There is also sacrifice with this, as His body was “broken” for us (1 Cor 11:24), but the emphasis in Mark is provision and fellowship.  God provides for our salvation through the gift of Jesus.  We have eternal life because Jesus gave His physical life for us.  We have freedom from sin because Jesus gave His sinless body for us.
  3. They were to “take” it – receive it.  They were to “eat” it – impart it.  The whole idea is one of participation.  Jesus gave them a piece of bread for them to DO something with it.  Each of them could have looked at the nice piece of matzo in Jesus’ hand and sat there listening to His teaching.  They could have debated the finer theological points of what He was saying.  But until they had the bread in their mouths, chewing it up, then they weren’t partaking of what Jesus was making available to them.  …

23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.

  1. If the change in script wasn’t unusual enough with the bread, Jesus did it again with one of the several cups of wine they were to drink.  They all drank from the cup, and Jesus changed up the script, saying that the wine was His “blood.”  The cup of wine did represent blood, but it typically represented the blood of the lamb who had been slain.  All of a sudden, now the type of sacrifice for the Passover becomes crystal clear.  It was not a lamb whose blood would be poured out; it would be Jesus’.
  2. What was the purpose of Jesus’ blood?  There are two – one of which is recorded by Mark, but both recorded by Matthew: Matthew 26:28, "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." []  (1) Jesus’ blood institutes the new covenant.  (2) Jesus’ blood was shed for the remission of sins.
    1. We need our sins remitted/cancelled!  That only happens through the blood of a sufficient sacrifice.  (Heb 9:22)
    2. We need a new covenant!  Actually, as Gentiles, we need a FIRST covenant.  We have no covenant with God – no relationship with Him at all apart from Jesus.  It was the Hebrews who had a covenant relationship with the Living God, first promised through Abraham, and later confirmed through Moses.  Yet the Hebrews had failed at the Mosaic covenant.  They were not able to keep the law, just as God knew they would not.  (Of course, that was part of the purpose of the law: to show them their insufficiency and to cause them to rely upon the grace of God.)  But because they failed at the covenant of the law, God had promised a new covenant to come – a new covenant, one based totally upon grace (hearkening back to the original Abrahamic covenant).  Jeremiah 31:31–33, "(31) “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—(32) not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." []  THIS is the new covenant, instituted by Jesus’ blood! 
    3. Promised to Israel, and proclaimed even to the Gentiles.  When Jesus gave His blood, this blood of the New Covenant was not just poured out for the Jews, but “for many.
  3. BTW – please note that Jesus handed out real bread and real wine.  The whole feast is a memorial.  When Jesus gave the bread as His body, He did not tell them to chew upon His arm.  When He gave the cup, He did not open an artery or vein.  That would have been abhorrent to the Jews (and to us!), and the Hebrew people had been specifically prohibited from eating blood.  In fact, all humans were prohibited from eating blood dating back to Noah (Genesis 9:4). To take Jesus’ words as some kind of proclamation that the bread and wine mystically turning into Jesus’ actual body and blood is to miss the point of what Jesus was saying.  Jesus used simple symbolism to show the parallel of His coming sacrifice to the Passover meal…that’s all.  As when Jesus taught that He is the gate, He was not literally calling Himself a piece of wood hanging upon hinges – when He taught “this is My body…this is My blood,” He was using symbolism to make a point.
    1. The meal is memorial, but it’s not meaningless.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is nothing special about the Lord’s Supper, and that it’s just some ritual we do in mindless obedience.  Not so.  We do it in meaningful worship, partaking in exactly what the Lord gave to us, knowing how He gave us His body and blood for our salvation.

25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

  1. This was another change.  Typically, there would have been a final cup of wine for Jesus to drink in the Passover, but He didn’t take it.  He looked forward to a different one in ultimate fulfillment.
  2. When we partake of Communion today, we do it in memory, but that’s not how it will always be.  One day we will partake WITH Jesus in heaven!  Just like the disciples did this with Him around the table, one day there will be a giant feast with all the Church throughout all history, and we will do this with the Lord Jesus there.  Right now, we spiritually partake every time we remember, but one day Jesus will physically partake with us in the fulfillment of His kingdom (to which the new covenant looks forward).

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

  1. What was the song they sang?  Typically a Passover meal would end with Psalms 115-118.  Psalm 118 had been on the lips of many people throughout the previous days of the week.  The cry of “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” rang out on Palm Sunday and comes from Psalm 118:25.  Surely the words took on new meaning as they went out to the Mount of Olives.  [Psalm 118:22-29]

Conclusion:
God IS good – and His mercy does indeed endure forever.  His mercy is seen in the plan He had to send Jesus as the Passover Lamb.  Jesus was always meant to die for our sins.  He had known full well that He would be deeply betrayed, that His body would be given as provision for our salvation, and that His blood would be poured out to institute a new covenant.  He Himself came as the needed sacrifice for our sin – that was the plan of God all along.  When the disciples participated in Jesus’ plan for the Passover meal that night, they were really participating in the eternal plan of God for the ultimate Passover for the entire world.

Have *you* partaken of Passover?

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