Robert Jeffress - In Remembrance Of Me
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". For 1.300 years, the feast of unleavened bread was the most significant feast in the Jewish tradition. It was an annual reminder of a time when God proved himself faithful and led the Israelites out of slavery. And today we're going to look back at how Jesus gave the Passover meal, a whole new meaning. My message is titled "In Remembrance of Me" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In his book, "The God Delusion," Oxford scientist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, explained the reason that he has rejected Christianity and believes it's merely a myth. Dawkins writes, "I don't see Jesus coming down and dying on a cross as worthy of that grandeur. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything, any theologian or religion has ever proposed". Of course, Richard Dawkins is actually making the case for Christianity. If Christianity were simply a manufactured myth, it would be a lot more grandiose than God coming in human form, dying on a wooden cross in some remote part of the earth. Wouldn't you have come up with a better story than that? But the fact is that is the Gospel.
And Paul says, "Although that Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, it's the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes". And it's that simple message of the Gospel that Jesus articulates both in his words and illustrates through the ritual we're going to look at today in Luke 22. If you have your Bibles I want you to turn to Luke 22. Remember where we are, we're in the final weeks of Jesus' life. We're in that final week in Jerusalem where Jesus had traveled with his disciples to observe the passover. And of course the real reason he is there is for his crucifixion.
Now, remember he entered into the city on, we call it Palm Sunday, but it was really Monday, to the hosannas of the people, and then on Tuesday he chased the money changers out of the temple. The religious leaders were intent on destroying Jesus. They tried to trap him either into committing blasphemy, which the Jews would have killed him for, or treason against Rome, which Rome would have put him to death for, and they were unsuccessful in trapping Jesus. They were constantly looking for an opportunity to kill him and that's where we pick up the story in Luke 22. We're probably in Wednesday of that passion week. Look at verse 1. "Now the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the passover, was approaching".
As we'll see in a moment, there were hundreds of thousands, perhaps several million Jews, who had traveled from all over the world to Jerusalem to celebrate the most important day of the Jewish calendar as far as feasts goes and that was passover. Now, passover is a catch-all term for actually two celebrations. One is the meal, the passover meal, which was observed on the Jewish calendar between the 14th and 15th day of Nissan, not Nissan like the car, it's Nissan. And they celebrated that meal to commemorate what had happened 1.300 years earlier in Israel's history.
Remember the Israelites had been held bondage in Egypt for 400 years, and finally God raised up a leader named Moses who would lead the people out of Egypt. But first of all, there had to be a change in the heart of Pharaoh and God sent those 10 plagues, those 10 judgments on Egypt. The first nine were unsuccessful in melting Pharaoh's heart, but the final plague, the final judgment, would be God sending his angel of death to kill the first born in every household, both Egyptian and Israelite. But God offered a way out. He said, "If you will take the blood of an innocent lamb and sprinkle it on the doorpost of your house, when I see the blood, I will pass over you in judgment". And that is where the meal of passover came from, to celebrate that 10th plague that escaped those who had the faith to put the blood on their doorposts and led to the Exodus.
Now, the passover meal was followed by a week-long celebration, the feast of unleavened bread. Because that original night in Egypt, God had told the Israelites, "Don't only put the blood on the doorpost of the house, but you've got to be ready to go at a moment's notice. When Pharaoh gives the word 'go,' you've gotta be ready to go, and so you're going to need some bread for the journey". "But don't leaven the bread, you don't have time for the leaven to cause the bread to rise, you've gotta be ready to go". And so they would not only eat the roasted lamb at the passover meal, they would eat the unleavened bread. And that celebration lasted for an entire week. So Jesus and his disciples, like hundreds of thousands of Jews, had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover. It's probably Thursday, April 2nd, a.D. 30, when Jesus would celebrate this meal.
Now, verses 1 - 6 in Luke 22, Mark 14 says, took place a couple of days before the passover. Before the passover could occur, there was a bit of business that had to take place and that is the betrayal of Jesus Christ. And you see the seeds for that betrayal that preceded the passover taking place in these first six verses. Look at verse 2 of Luke 22. "And the chief priest and the scribes were seeking how they might put him to death: for they were afraid of the people". The public opinion had not yet shifted against Jesus, where they could have arrested Jesus in broad daylight and crucified him.
So they were looking for a way to secretly arrest Jesus and do away with him. They were sittin' there thinking, "How can we do this," when on that Wednesday opportunity came knocking at their door: and that opportunity was named Judas. Look at verse 3, "And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the 12". Remember that name Iscariot comes from Ish , the Hebrew word for man: kerioth the village where Judas came from. Judas, the man of kerioth. We saw months ago in our study of Luke 6 how Jesus prayed earnestly for wisdom before he selected the 12 apostles, and after a long time in prayer, he made his choice and one of his choices was Judas.
Our first thought is, "Jesus, maybe you should have prayed a little longer. That was a real mistake to bomb out on such an important choice"! No, this was all part of God's plan to affect Jesus' purpose for coming, the salvation of the world. The Bible says that, "Satan entered into Judas heart". Look at verse 4, "And he went away and discussed with the chief priest and officers how he might betray him to them and they were glad and agreed to give him money. And he consented and began seeking a good opportunity to betray him to them apart from the multitude". That's what they wanted a way to betray Jesus apart from the crowd so that they wouldn't suffer their wrath.
Now many people ask the question, "Was Judas a Christian"? And the answer is absolutely not. He is what the Bible terms, a tare, T-A-R-E. A tare was a plant, a seed that looked like wheat. It grew alongside wheat. It even began to bloom and flourish like wheat. But only for a season, eventually it strangled out the wheat. Jesus talked about spiritual wheat and spiritual tares. Believers and unbelievers that exist side-by-side perhaps in a church. They both appear alike. One is real and one is fake. That was Judas, he was a fake follower of Jesus Christ. Yes, he was in the community of believers, he heard the teaching of Jesus. He probably embraced some of the teachings of Jesus, but he was not a believer. And the Bible says that Satan entered into Judas. He looked for a weak point in the life of Judas to use for his own purpose. And that point of vulnerability was greed, his obsession with money. And Satan used that obsession with money as the entry point into Judas' life, and so he sold him out for 30 pieces of silver.
Now I want you to write down Zechariah 11:12. This Old Testament book was written 700 years before Christ, and in Zechariah 11:12, Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. One of the most amazing prophecies you find in scripture anywhere. Let me stop here, just say a word of a personal application. You know, Jesus could have been consumed with bitterness toward Judas. Think about it, he had invested three years of his life with Judas. He had shared with him his innermost thoughts, and yet Judas ended up betraying Jesus. Jesus had every reason to be bitter, but he wasn't because he realized that Judas was simply a tool that God was using to accomplish his purpose in Jesus' life.
Perhaps you've had somebody in your life who has betrayed you, who has abandoned you. It's easy to become so focused on their offense that we forget God is bigger than they are. God can use people's worst actions toward you for your good and for his glory. You know, Joseph was a type of Jesus in the Old Testament. Joseph, being betrayed by his brothers, said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God used it for good". Never forget, you serve a God who is bigger than your offender. He can take the worst things that are done to you and use them for your good and for his glory. That was true of Judas.
Now, all of this in verses 1 - 6 are setting the stage for the passover meal. Let's look, beginning in verse 7, with the observance that Jesus celebrated at the passover. "Then came the first day of unleavened bread on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed". We're now at Thursday. "And Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'go and prepare the passover for us so that we may eat it'. And they said to him, 'where do you want us to prepare it'"? Now, according to Josephus, the Jewish historian, there could have been as many as 2.6 million Jews in Jerusalem. Remember, they came from all over the world to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem. If there were 2.6 million Jews and every family was to have their own lamb that had to be sacrificed in the temple area from 2:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon before passover, that would have meant there were 256.000 lambs that had to be sacrificed in the temple area.
Now many of us have been to that temple area, it's big, but you wonder how could you kill that many lambs in that short of a time in such a small place? Well, that leads to a discussion of what many people allege is a contradiction in the Bible. It's really not a contradiction at all, but perhaps you've wondered about it or you've heard people raise this contradiction in the Bible. It's very clear that the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that Jesus and his disciples celebrated the passover on Thursday evening. That is without dispute. They say it was on Thursday evening before his betrayal, before his trials, and before his crucifixion. Yet John's Gospel, John 18, makes it clear that the Jewish leaders celebrated passover after the trials of Jesus, after the crucifixion, they celebrated it on Friday evening.
So how do you reconcile those two different dates for passover? Thursday evening and Friday evening? Why did Jesus celebrate the passover on Thursday evening if the Jewish leaders were celebrating it on Friday evening? Did Jesus get his dates mixed up? Was his calendar off a day? What was going on? And the easy solution to that is to understand that there were, in fact, two Passovers. You see, the Jews reckoned time in two different ways according to where they lived in Israel. The Jews from the northern area of Israel, Galilee, and that's where Jesus and his disciples came from, they counted days like we do, from sunrise to sunrise. That was a 24 hour period. However, the Jews that lived in the south, and that would have included the Jewish leaders, they used the old fashioned method of reckoning time, and that is from sunset to sunset, the evening and the morning were the first day.
And so because of those two different ways of observing time, you had the Jews from the north who came to Jerusalem, who would have celebrated passover on Thursday evening. And on Friday evening, you would have had the Jewish leaders celebrate the passover. And the fact that you had those two days, gave more opportunity for those lambs to be sacrificed and for the preparations to be made that had to be made. And so I think that's the answer to the two different chronologies of the passover meal. But whichever day it was, Thursday or Friday, make no mistake about it, Jerusalem was very crowded.
And so if you came to Jerusalem as a pilgrim to celebrate passover, the natural question is the one Peter asked, "Where are we going to observe the passover"? Remember there were no rental facilities, there were no motel 6's available. How did you find a place to celebrate passover? Well, it was a custom for people who had extra rooms to rent them out for pilgrims to use in the celebration of the passover. The fee for renting out the room was usually the skin of the lamb that would be sacrificed along with the vessels that would be used in the passover meal. And so Peter said, "What are we to do to find a place"? And notice what he says here, Jesus says in verse 10, "Go look for a man who will be carrying a picture of water on his head. Follow him to wherever he is going and ask him for a room". Of course, all of this was prearranged by God, and so verse 12 tells us that Peter and John found that owner and they took him or took them to a large furnished upper room, verse 12 says, where they would prepare the passover.
Now again, we've been, many of us, to the supposed upper room where this took place. It may not have been that, but it was one like that. An upper room, a second story, would be built in such a way that there was an outdoor stairway where people could access the upper room without disturbing the family below. And so they go and they rent this upper room, they make arrangements ahead of the passover meal on Thursday evening. Now notice, Jesus sent Peter and John to make these arrangements secretly. He didn't ask all of the apostles to go, just Peter and John. Why is that? Because he wanted to keep the location secret from Judas. Had Judas known where they were going to meet, he could have prearranged with the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities to capture Jesus and to take him under arrest in the cloak of darkness when people couldn't see it.
You say, "Well, why would that be a big deal? Jesus knew he was going to die anyway". Jesus wasn't afraid of dying, he didn't want to die prematurely because he had some important business to take care of before his arrest, his trials, and his crucifixion, and the important business was the passover meal. And as we'll see in a moment, Jesus was going to use that meal. He was going to transform its meaning to a brand new meaning. It was also during the passover meal, which went several hours, that Jesus would give one of his most important discourses that is found in John 13-16, his final instructions to his disciples. So was very important to keep this information away from Judas until the last moment. Look at verse 13, "And so they departed and they found everything just as he had told them: and they prepared the passover".
Now let's look at the partaking of the meal itself. Let me say a word about the significance of this entire passover meal. Sometimes we call it the last supper. Well, it wasn't the last supper that Jesus would have with his disciples. In his resurrection body, for the 40 days he was on earth, Jesus ate with his disciples numerous times in that brand new body, which leads us to know that in our new bodies, we're going to be able to eat as well, which is the most thrilling part of heaven for many of you right now, to know that you're going to be able to eat. But Jesus would eat many meals, but he said, "This is going to be the last passover I eat with you until the Kingdom of God comes".
Now, the real importance of this meal was Jesus was going to transform its meaning. For 1.300 years, this meal had pointed back to Israel's physical deliverance from Egypt. But from this point on, Jesus would transform the meaning of this meal to point to the spiritual deliverance from sin he would offer us through his death on the cross. Look at verse 14, "When the hour had come, Jesus reclined at the table and the apostles with him". He reclined at the table. It was normal in a meal like this to have a low setting table, and around the table, in a horseshoe shape, were couches and people reclined to eat, they would recline on their elbow with one hand and eat with the other hand.
We find from John 13 and other accounts that at the head of that horseshoe shape, were two people, the apostle John was to the right of Jesus in the place of honor. Judas was in the second place of honor on the left, as well. Look at verse 15, what Jesus said, "And he said to them, 'i have honestly desired to eat this passover with you'". Literally in Greek, "I have desired with a great desire to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God".
Once again, when Christ comes to earth to set up his millennial kingdom, we will eat the passover meal with him. Not the original passover meal, but the transformed passover meal that we call the Lord's supper that commemorates the Lord's sacrifice for us. Now that evening, Jesus observed the traditional passover meal, we call it the Seder. Some of you have eaten a Jewish Seder passover meal. It's a very complicated meal and it paints a picture of the deliverance Israel experienced from Egypt, and every element of that Seder meal is very important.
For example, the bitter herbs, they are symbolic of the bitter suffering of the people of Israel for 400 years in Egypt. Then there is a little paste made of fruit and nuts mixed together that you dip bread in, and that paste symbolizes the mortar that was used between the bricks that the Israelites use to make the great structures of Egypt. And then of course the lamb represented the sacrifice that had to be made for sins. Now, remember Luke was written to the gentiles, so Luke doesn't go into a detailed explanation of the entire Seder meal. Instead, he focuses on two parts of that meal and Jesus takes two elements from this meal and attaches a brand new meaning to them.