Well, I trust that your heart has been encouraged as we’ve worshiped the Lord in song and prayer, and now as we come to the time of worship in which we look at His Word. And this passage in front of us today is one that indeed should elicit from our hearts worship and adoration and praise of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. It is a rich, rewarding, fascinating passage to study. And I confess that I am pressed in my spirit because of all the things that can be said just about the brief passage we’ll look at this morning, and am somewhat confined by time, and by our ability to grasp things that are somewhat complex. So, what I want to encourage you to do is really stay alert, and think with me, have your mind in gear, your hand on the Word of God, and listen carefully because of what I believe is going to be a thrilling and wonderful, wonderful insight into the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, let me remind you of something that’s very basic. And we have to start with this: the purpose, the goal, the objective, the climax of the life of Jesus Christ was His sacrificial death. He came into the world for the purpose of dying. In Mark 10:45 it says, “He came to give His life a ransom for many.” That was not an alteration in the plan. That was the plan. That was not an accident. That was not a bad ending to a good beginning, that is the reason Jesus came: to die for the sins of the world. The sacrifice of Christ is the focal point of all of Scripture. As one writer puts it, “The death of Jesus Christ is not the end of the story, it is the theme of the story, beginning to end.” And if you go back, for example, into the Old Testament, you will find that things are beginning to be laid down in the Old Testament to help us understand the meaning of the death of Christ, which is yet to come.
For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, we first learn that sacrifice is necessary to cover sin. And then, in the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, we learn that it is not only sacrifice but a certain sacrifice. And that is a sacrifice of death. And as we move on a little further, we come to the story of Abraham. And from Abraham, we learn that God Himself will provide that sacrifice, as God provided an animal in the place of Isaac. So, early on we learn the necessity of sacrifice. And then, the definition of sacrifice as blood sacrifice. And then, the idea that the sacrifice will be a substitute given by God in the place of men. And as we come to the Passover, in the Old Testament, we are reminded that the one who is sacrificed will be without spot and without blemish. And all of this is preparing us for Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, the substitute, the gift of God, the unblemished lamb.
We come into the New Testament, and everything in the New Testament focuses on the cross. In the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the cross is the theme. In each gospel, it occupies somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the whole text of the gospel. About that much of the gospel centers around the final week of the Lord’s life. When you go into the Book of Acts, for example, the Book of Acts is the record of the world’s reaction to the death and resurrection of Christ. Then, you go to the epistles and the epistles are written to those who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ to instruct them as to the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ. And when you come to the Book of Revelation, you meet the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world who will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. So, everything in the Old Testament moves up to the cross, the gospels focus on the cross, and the rest of the New Testament deals with the implications and results of the cross. The death of Jesus Christ, then, is the focal point of the whole of redemptive history, and is not an accident, but rather the apex of the plan of God. So, from the slain animals of Genesis whose skins were used to clothe Adam and Eve to the slain lamb of Revelation, who is worshiped in glory and majesty, the cross is everything.
Consequently, as we come to Matthew 26, 27 and 28, the last three chapters of Matthew’s gospel, we come to the great apex of this book of the Bible. Here is the major message of Matthew. Now, remember this, that Matthew’s attempt all through this gospel and wonderfully successful he has been by the power of the Spirit in accomplishing it, is to present Jesus as king, as regal, as sovereign, as majestic, as dignified, as glorious. And Matthew faces, at this point, something that would be a human impossibility; that is, how to maintain the majesty, dignity, glory of Jesus Christ in the midst of His betrayal and His execution. How can He remain the majestic Son of God while being demeaned and degraded in a betrayal and a death such as He died?
And that is just the issue that we’ll be seeing in our lesson this morning. It is marvelous, it is thrilling to see in the midst of this how there is not any diminishing in the glory of Christ, not any diminishing in His majesty or His dignity; but quite the contrary. He appears here to be more majestic, and more glorious, and more in control, and more the sovereign Lord than He has at any other time in the gospel of Matthew. And so, the table is fully turned in what men had attempted to degrade Him, He is all the more exalted.
So, as we approach chapter 26, Matthew begins, then, to unfold for us this glorious event of the death and resurrection of Christ. And he begins in chapter 26 with a discussion of the elements of preparation. You remember last week, don’t you? We saw the preparation of God in verse 2 of chapter 26. How that God had set the time table and everything was moving till two days away from the Wednesday in which our Lord is speaking in that part of the chapter. And on Friday, the plan of God comes to its culmination. So, the preparation of God was implied in verse 2. Then, we saw the preparation of the leaders of Israel who hated Jesus Christ, in verses 3 through 5. And how they were plotting His death and looking for a way, a time, and a place to eliminate Him. Afraid to do it during the eight days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread because of Jesus’ great popularity, because of the crowds that were attracted to Him, they were afraid of a riot, so they felt they should wait eight days until the feast was over. But they were already preparing to execute Jesus Christ. So, that element of preparation is presented by Matthew.
Then, in verses 6 to 13, we saw the preparation of Mary, who as a loving, beloved disciple and friend, anointed Jesus with a costly perfume, pouring out profusely on Him her love and affection, and wanting, in a sense, to prepare Him for the death that was coming. And she, in a way, represents all of those who look forward to the cross as a means of their salvation and saw in it something glorious, something wonderful, something blessed. And so, we saw the preparation of Mary. And then, in verses 14 to 16, the preparation of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, who for money covenanted with the leaders to betray Jesus Christ at a clandestine moment in a secret place when the crowd wasn’t around. He would inform them where Jesus could be taken prisoner and he would be their betrayer, their traitor, as it were, hired for the purpose of turning over Jesus to them for execution.
So, the preparation of God, the preparation of the leaders, the preparation Mary offered, the preparation of Judas. All of this moves toward the reality of the cross. Now, those four elements of preparation involved others other than Christ. As you come to verse 17, you begin the section where Christ Himself prepares for His death. It is His own preparation here.
And we see Him in several different ways preparing for His death. First, in experiencing the final Passover through verse 25; then, in establishing the Lord’s Supper; then, in helping the feeble disciples; and finally, praying to the Father. All four of those are His own preparation. So, we have four elements of preparation by others, and four elements of preparation by the Lord Himself. Now, we’re going to begin this morning by looking at verses 17 and following and see the initial element of preparation, the Passover, as He prepares to enjoy that meal with His disciples. That is definitely part of the preparation for His death, and you’ll see it as you move along.
Now, the record begins in verses 17 to 19, and we’re not going to get past that this morning, we’ll go past it next time. But there’s so much here that I want you to get that I don’t want to try to push too hard. The record begins in verses 17 to 19 with what we can call “setting the time” Setting the time. Next week we’ll talk about “sharing the table,” “shocking the 12,” and “signifying the traitor.” We’ll move through to verse 25 and even beyond, I trust. But for now, “setting the time.” Very, very important. It might not seem like much but it is absolutely essential.
Now, let’s begin by just looking at the text of verses 17 to 19. “Now, on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus saying unto Him, ‘Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to such a man and say unto him, the master saith my time is at hand, I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples.’ And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them and they made ready the Passover.” Now, when you read that, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of profound stuff. But inherent in that text is a richness that really has escaped me for many, many years until recently, until I began to dig a little more deeply into the events around this marvelous occasion. And I think you’ll have the same response as well. Those three verses tell us that Jesus wanted to have the Passover, and that His disciples were ready to prepare it and that He had made some plans so that it could, in fact, be prepared. And in verse 21 it says, “And they did eat.” So, here we come to the final Passover that our Lord has with His disciples.
Now, keep in mind that the Lord was committed to keeping the Passover. In fact, it tells us in Matthew 3:15 that He came to fulfill all righteousness, righteousness having to do with the law of God. And one element of the law of God was to keep the Passover. So, Christ was wanting to be obedient in keeping the Passover. Also, Luke 22:15, by the way, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all describe this scene in one way or another from one angle or another. So, in Luke 22 verse 15, it tells us that Jesus had, and the word is kind of like this in the Greek, He had a great and intense desire to keep the Passover with His disciples. So, it’s very important to Him. And we’ll see why it’s important as we look a little further into it. So, preparation had to be made for the Passover Jesus wanted to keep.
Now, let me give you a little bit of background. The Jews had a year filled with special feasts, not unlike our own day. We have customs, too, as Christians. There’s Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and Good Friday, and Easter, and some other churches even celebrate other things during the year that are special holidays, special holy days, special emphasis days through the year. And the Jews were no different. They had their commemorative celebrations, their festivals, their times of remembering the work of God in the past.
Now, let me just remind you of what their basic feast calendar was like. There was, for example, the Feast of Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, as it’s known. And that particular feast was to celebrate God’s provision in the harvest. They would celebrate the fact that God had given them everything they had through their crops. So, every year on Pentecost, they would have this wonderful time of celebration remembering God’s provision. There was also the Feast of Tabernacles. And the Feast of Tabernacles, or Tents, was a feast to commemorate their wandering in the wilderness when they lived in tents and how God provided for them there, and gave them food and water, and led them through those days in the wilderness. They remembered that with the Feast of Tabernacles. And then, there was another feast called The Day of Atonement. A festival really highlighted by a sacrifice in the Holy of Holies, the sacrifice made, the blood taken in the Holy of Holies sprinkled on the altar, and once a year the high priest did that in order to atone for the sins of the nation for the year. That was another very high and sacred and holy event.
And then, there was the feast, and still is, the Feast of Dedication, we know it as Hanukkah. And the Feast of Dedication commemorated the deliverance of Israel under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus in the time between the Old and New Testament. So, it’s only been celebrated since that time, since about 167 BC when it happened. And then, there’s the Feast of Trumpets which is the new year.
So, that’s the major elements of the Jewish commemorative calendar that they’re busy celebrating. But above and beyond all of those, the greatest of all their celebrations in many ways is the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread; both are mentioned in verse 17. First, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the end of the verse, the word “Passover.” Now, this was an eight-day festival. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were combined. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted one week, from the 15th of Nisan until the 21st, as prescribed by the Old Testament. That was a seven-day feast. The day before was the Passover. So, the combination was and eight-day festival. In fact, they were connected in the minds of the people so much so that the Feast of Unleavened Bread could be a term describing the whole eight days, or the Passover could be a term describing the whole eight days.
So, they would celebrate the Passover meal on the 14th of Nisan and then for seven days, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And, of course, we remember what it was for. The Passover celebrated God’s delivering Israel out of bondage in Egypt where they’d been for over 400 years. And you remember, God began to send plagues on the Egyptians, and the last plague was the death of all the firstborn in every family in Egypt. And God said to them, “If you will kill a lamb and a spotless lamb, and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts and the crosspiece, when the angel of death comes to slay all the firstborn of Egypt, if he sees the blood on your door, he will pass over.” And that’s the Passover. He will pass over your house, pass beyond your house and spare your life. And as a result of that, Pharaoh said, “Get out, I’ve had it. That’s all I can take.” And he sent the Jews out and God ultimately delivered them.
So, the Passover was commemorating the sacrificial lamb whose blood caused them to escape the judgment of God. And it was a symbol of God’s ultimate Passover Lamb, whose blood would cause them eternally to escape the judgment of God. And so, God instituted in Exodus 12 the continual feast of the Passover. It was a meal, and it was held the night before the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Ancient times, it came in the first month of the year called Abib. But after the exile it was celebrated in the month of Nisan and Passover was the 14th day of Nisan and on the 15th day, they began the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
By the way, you might be interested to note that the lamb, according to Exodus chapter 12, was to be selected on the tenth of Nisan. And I have been telling you as we’ve been studying the book of Matthew that I believe Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on Monday. His triumphal entry was Monday. There’s several reasons for that. One, it fits the chronology of events better than a Sunday entrance. Two, it eliminates the problem of what has been called through the years “a silent Wednesday.” If you have Christ entering on Sunday, then there’s nothing happening on Wednesday of the Passion Week; it’s a vacuum that’s hard to fill. But thirdly, and perhaps very significantly, Monday was the tenth of Nisan in the year 33 AD in which our Lord died. And that means that the Monday on the tenth was the day in which everyone in the city of Jerusalem was selecting their Passover lamb.
The lamb had to be selected on the tenth, taken in and live with the family until it was slaughtered so that when that lamb was slaughtered, it was slaughtered as a friend, if you will, almost as a pet, so they understood the price of sin. And it’s significant because if Jesus entered the city on that Monday, He entered into the hearts of those people as their Passover lamb on the proper day. And He fulfills the symbolism of the Passover lamb in every wit. Arriving into the city on the tenth of Nisan to offer Himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, dying on the 14th of Nisan, rather, as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the world.
So, the Jews already had selected their lamb as we approach this text. They had done that on Monday. Now, the Passover we understand. They sacrificed the lamb to commemorate the lamb of old. The sacrificed a lamb to remind them of the price of their sin. And you remember, don’t you, that Josephus tells us that there were over a quarter of a million lambs slain at one Passover time? It’s just amazing to believe that. The impact of that would be profound. Two and a half million people, at least, in the city of Jerusalem, the massacre of a quarter of a million lambs, lambs which had lived in the home of those people. They had to be in the house so that the people grew to have affection for them so that they saw the price of their sin and the terrible result of it in the death of that lamb.
And then, the slaughter was absolutely remarkable as all of those lambs were being slaughtered. And as we shall see in a moment, they were slaughtered within a two-hour period, which makes the massacre almost mind boggling. And a river of blood ran out the back of the temple and down the slope of the hill into the Kidron Valley that filled up the brook, and it ran red with blood right down toward Bethlehem. So, it was a very dramatic time of the year for them, a time when they were face to face with sin, and the sacrifice that was demanded by sin and so forth. And the Lord had instituted all of this in Exodus 12 and it was repeated many, many times in the Pentateuch that they should follow through and keep the Passover.
So, it was a glorious time of sacrifice to depict the necessity of death and sacrifice of the innocent for the atoning of sin for the guilty. Now, we know that none of those lambs could take away sin, could they? And what a profound example it was. Here were all these thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lambs being slaughtered for millions of people, and all of them combined couldn’t take away one sin. And that’s the message of Hebrews, isn’t it? That all that the lambs and the goats and the bulls could never do, Jesus Christ in one sacrifice of Himself did forever. He did forever. So, it’s that time of year. And the reason Jesus and His disciples are even at Jerusalem is because it’s Passover, and He wants to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Now, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is significant. Unleavened bread is bread that doesn’t rise because there’s no yeast in it. The Hebrew women would make bread, and they would pull off a piece of the dough before they baked it, and they would let it ferment, or sour, and they would use it as a starter in the next piece of dough that would cause that to rise. If they didn’t bring that starter over, the bread wouldn’t rise and it would be unleavened bread. When they came out of Egypt, God said, “You don’t have any leavened bread; you take no leavened bread,” because leavened represented influence. And He’s saying, in effect, I don’t want you taking a piece of your Egyptian life and implanting it into your new life. You’re being delivered from that, and I want to start a new people in a new land. You don’t need any of that past life.
So, He didn’t want them bringing anything across. And He gave them a symbol of that: unleavened bread. You must eat only unleavened bread. That is, not influenced by any of your former life. That became a symbol, then, for cutting themselves off from worldly things.
So, then we come to verse 17. And it is the day, the first day, when this whole eight-day feast of unleavened bread begins, and the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Where are we going to prepare to eat the Passover?” It is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And Mark adds in chapter 14 verse 12, “When they sacrificed the Passover.” So, he tells us very explicitly that it was on this first of eight days that the Passover was sacrificed. And then, the unleavened bread began the next day, which was the 15th of Nisan. It tells us in Leviticus 23:6 it had to begin on the 15th.
Now, in Exodus chapter 12 verses 18 to 20, it says that the father of every house had to go all through the house and remove all leavened bread. He would start that before anything else happened and get all the leavened bread out. It had to be out for a duration of eight days. Everything commenced then with getting rid of all the leavened bread, and then the first event was the Passover meal. That was the first event.
Now, listen carefully. In the year our Lord died, Passover came on Friday. We know that because the text tells us that. Passover was on a date, 14th of Nisan. From year to year, it would fall on a different day, just as Christmas or, I should say, yes, Christmas or New Years falls on a different day. When you have a date, then the day will vary. And in this case, it fell on different days. It happened that in the year our Lord was crucified, the Passover fell on a Friday. It fell on a Friday.
You say, “How do we know that?” Because in Mark 15:42 it says, “It was the day of preparation,” comma, “the day before the Sabbath.” The day before the Sabbath was called by the Jews the day of preparation. Why? They were preparing for what? For Sabbath. And since they couldn’t work on the Sabbath, and they couldn’t prepare meals on the Sabbath, the day before was a day of extra preparation. In fact, you might be interested to know that the term “the day of preparation” became their word for Friday. Friday was the day of preparation. It really had no other designation. And when Mark says in chapter 15 verse 42, “It was the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath,” when all the events of Christ’s death were taking place, we know, therefore, the Passover fell on a Friday in that year.
Look for just a moment at John 19 and don’t bail out. This is all going to come together to be very exciting. In John 19 verse 14, again the text says, and here, you remember, Jesus is before Pilate, and He’s being tried, and what day is it? It is the preparation; it is the preparation day of the Passover. What that means is it is at the Passover time and it is the preparation day. It doesn’t mean they’re preparing the Passover; it means it is the time during the Passover that is called preparation which means Friday.
Now, go to verse 31. “The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation.” In other words, they’ve just crucified Him and because it’s Friday, or the preparation, they want His body off the cross because they don’t want Him up there on the Sabbath day because the Sabbath is a special day. So, again they’re referring to Friday. You look down at verse 42, “So, they laid Jesus in the tomb because of the Jews’ preparation.” Because the Jews insisted that it happen on Friday. There’s no question, beloved, but that Jesus was crucified on Friday. It has to be Friday. In the year 30 and the year 33, those two years Friday was the right day, the 15th of Nisan. So, the 14th and 15th of Nisan, and we’ll see in a minute it depends on how you count the day. But those two years, 30 and 33, were the right years for it to happen on a Friday. Because it says in the text it was Friday, we have to look then for a year in which the feast fell on Friday. We find that in the year 30 and the year 33, and I lean toward the year 33 as the proper year for Christ’s death because of the chronology of other events. It couldn’t have been on Thursday because that is not called a preparation; Friday is a preparation. It couldn’t have been on Wednesday because that is not called the preparation either. It was on a Friday. And so, we’ll see more about that as we move along. The Passover day then fell on the 14th before the Friday of the, the Saturday of the 15th, rather, that begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Now, let’s go back to our text. Having said all of that, don’t get confused but as we come to verse 17 it’s still Thursday, all right? It’s still Thursday. Wednesday, we know about. Chapter 21 to 25 took us about, took us through Wednesday. But we spent Wednesday night in the first part of chapter 26, Jesus still talking to His disciples. So, now Wednesday has finally come to an end and a long, long Wednesday it has been. Now, it’s Thursday morning and it’s time to prepare the Passover meal. They already have their lamb. No doubt they got it on Monday when they arrived in the city. They already have that. But there are many things to prepare for Passover. Do you know what they had to prepare? They had to prepare by the slaying of the lamb which could only be done in the temple court, nowhere else. And could only be done at a two-hour period of time, from three in the afternoon to five, no other time. They had to prepare their unleavened bread. They had to get a bowl of saltwater because at the Passover they set a bowl of saltwater on the table to remind them of their tears shed in slavery, and to remind them of the Red Sea which parted when the Lord delivered them. They had to get bitter herbs like horseradish, and chicory, and horehound, and endive, and other things that they put together in a mix with hyssop to remind them of the bitterness of Egypt and the hyssop with which they spread blood on their doors.
They had a paste, a gooey paste made out of apples and dates and pomegranates and nuts all crushed and smashed together into a thick sauce called the charoset. And it was into that thick sauce that they dipped their unleavened bread as a part of the meal. That, by the way, is best seen as a symbol of the brick making in Egypt, the clay and the mud that they used to mix the bricks. And they also would put into the charoset, sticks of cinnamon to remind them of the straw they used in the making of the bricks as well. So, everything had symbolism. And then, there were four cups of wine. And the four cups of wine were to remind them of the covenant of God in Exodus chapter 6 where it says God said, “One, I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Two, I will rid you of their bondage. Three, I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. And four, I will be your God.”
All of this was symbolized in the elements of the Passover which they had to collect and have prepared. And as I said earlier, the lamb had to be slain at a two-hour interval. If you go back to Exodus 12:6, it says it had to be slain in the evening, but the actual Hebrew says “between the two evenings,” very precise. The Jews had an early evening, 3:00; a late evening around 5:00. The lamb had to be slain, Josephus says then, between the 9th and the 11th hour. That is, 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. The 12th hour being 6:00, or sunset. So, between 3:00 and 5:00, the lamb had to be slain. It had to be slain in the temple court by the priests. So, all those people had to bring all their animals to be slain in a two-hour period. Absolutely mind boggling to imagine what went on, incredible scene, blood everywhere. People going in with live lambs, coming out with dead ones, making sure they got the right lamb on the altar, got the right lamb off the altar to take home to eat. Had to be roasted after that.
Then, following sunset, or later in the evening, it’s unprescribed as to what time they do it, they had to eat the Passover meal, Exodus 12:8. They had to have ten men at least to eat it ‘cause they had to eat every bit of the lamb and leave none for morning. And so, they ate the meal that night. Now, the disciples know they have to get all this stuff done. So, they say to Jesus, “Where we going to hold it? We’ve got the things ready and we’ll be glad to prepare it if you’ll just tell us where. Where are we going to hold it?” You say, “Why is that a problem? Why don’t they hold it in Bethany right where they are?” You can’t. The law said it had to be in the city of Jerusalem. So, everybody who was staying around the periphery of Jerusalem had to crowd into the city and find a place where they could have a Passover with a group of at least ten men, and as high as 20. And that meant that every available room in the city was filled up. And the question was: where we going to do it? We don’t own any property, we don’t have any building, we don’t have any facility. What are we going to do?
And the answer is absolutely fascinating to me. Verse 18, “Jesus said, ‘Go into the city to such a man.’” Now, let me tell you about the word “such a man.” It’s hapax legomena, we call it, it’s the only time it’s ever used in the Scripture. It’s the word deina. He says, “Go into the city and find a deina.” The best way to translate it would be “Mr. So-and-so.” It’s a non-descript term that is used when you want to be indefinite. Go into the city and find a man, a certain man, such a man, Mr. So-and-so.
Now, you’ve got two million people milling around this place and you’re telling us to go find Mr. So-and-so? Mr. So-and-so is not a substitute for someone they know; it’s a purposely used word to be indefinite. It’s as if He would say - Go into the city and find a man that I’m not going to tell you who he is. And that is precisely what he does. We only have two options: either Jesus said Mr. So-and-so because He didn’t know who he was, or because He didn’t want them to know who he was. And I can’t vote for the first one. He knew, so He must not have wanted them to know.
Now, how they going to find Mr. So-and-so? Well, fortunately, Mark fills in the gap for us in Matthew here, and Mark says you are to look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. And we would say, oh, that’s a big help. It’s bad enough to find Mr. So-and-so, but now all we have to do is find a guy with a pitcher of water.
How common is that? The answer is not common at all. Who carried the water? The women did. So, you’ll find a man doing an unusual thing: carrying water. And when you find that man, according to Mark chapter 14 verses 13 and 14, Jesus said, “Follow that man to the house he goes to, follow him right in the house and that’s Mr. So-and-so. That’s the man.” We also know from the other accounts that the Lord when He said “go into the city,” he only said go to two people: Peter and John. He only sent Peter and John, not the rest. The ten other disciples stayed with Him, He only sent Peter and John. There were several reasons for that. One of the reasons was that only two people were allowed to accompany a lamb to sacrifice. You can understand why, can’t you? If you’ve got two hours to kill all the lambs and everybody wants to come and see it, you can’t get it done. So, only two could accompany a lamb. And Peter and John are chosen because they are the intimates of Christ, because they are so trusted, they are His dear friends. And so, He sends Peter and John, tells them: go find a guy with a pitcher of water, follow him into a house of Mr. So-and-so.
Now, you say, “What in the world is all the secrecy about? Why the clandestine approach? Why doesn’t He just say, you remember so-and-so, our friend, and follower and disciple? You know where his house is over there on such-and-such a street? That’s where we’re going to do it.” No, He doesn’t say that. Why the secrecy? I’ll tell you one very simple reason: Judas Iscariot. Look at verse 16, “From that time he sought opportunity to do,” what? Well, the Greek word is “to deliver Him over.” Judas was looking for a quiet place, a secluded place, a private place away from the mob where he could turn Jesus over to the religious authorities to be executed. And Jesus knew that if Judas knew where the meal was going to be, that would be the perfect place, and so He wouldn’t say.
And Peter and John never came back. They went early in the day, did all of that, and the rest of the disciples never met them again till that night when they came with Jesus to the place. And by that time, Judas was in it and it was too late to make a deal with the leaders. Jesus closed out the option of Judas betraying Him before the Passover. Why? Because it was essential that Jesus celebrate the Passover with His disciples. You say, “Why was it essential?” Because He wanted to use that as an example of His own death, because He wanted to transform that into the last supper of Jesus and the table of Communion which we come to know and love as the memorial to His death, because He had so much yet to teach the disciples, because He wanted to give them the promise of His Holy Spirit, and because it wasn’t God’s time yet for Him to die.
And so, He would not allow Judas to do what Judas would have done if he had been given the opportunity. The first time Judas had the opportunity was when Jesus was in the garden with the 12 and you remember what happened. Judas was there with the soldiers and they took Jesus. And he would have done it here, but Jesus never let him know where it was going to be. So, He kept it from all of them so that Judas would not know. And then, the Lord says, “When you go into the house,” and we pick it up in Matthew again, “and you meet the man that owns the house, say to him,” verse 18, “The master saith,” say to him, didaskalos, the teacher, the rabbi, and he’ll know who you mean. He must have been one of His followers, one of His disciples. Maybe Jesus had even prearranged this with him, I don’t know. We don’t have any information to that effect. But just tell him the master says, he’ll know, he’ll know. He was a follower of Christ, a lover of Christ, a believer in Christ. And we don’t know who he is. Some people have speculated this and that but we just don’t know. And just tell him this, “My time is near.” Time, not chronos, not chronological time, not time on the clock; but kairos, epical time, event time, special time, the moment of My death, My special time in God’s plan is here, it’s now, it’s going to happen, and he’ll understand. He’ll understand.
Oh, how many times had Jesus said “Mine hour has not yet come?” How many times had the Scripture said, “His hour was not come,” “His time was not come?” But now He Himself says, “My time is near.” You just tell him that. And tell him this, “I will,” literally, “I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” That’s a prophetic present which puts in it an obligation: I am obligated to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples. He sees Himself on a divine mission with a divine timetable. He’s got to do it. He’s got to do it now. This is the moment. This is the time. And Mark tells us the man had a large second floor, a large room, spacious, furnished and ready to be used. And they were common in large houses. So, Jesus was obligated to keep the Passover. Verse 19 says, “And the disciples did as Jesus had,” and there’s an interesting word there, it says “appointed.” It really is a military term, it has a military flavor, commanded them. “And they made ready the Passover.”
Peter and John went into town. Saw the guy with the pitcher, followed him into the house, asked the man. Said, “We’re going to do it here.” Got all the preparations. Put the whole thing together. Now, at this point, we have to stop for a moment and I want you to listen very carefully to what is a very essential understanding in this passage. Would you notice at verse 17, at the end, it says, the question was: “Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?” And would you notice the end of verse 19, “And they made ready the Passover.” And notice verse 21, “And as they did eat.”
Now, putting those three verses together, what do you assume they were eating? The Passover, all right. And that is abundantly clear, abundantly clear. It is the Passover. If you were to look at Mark 14, you would find in verse 12, 14, and 16 the meal Jesus ate is called the Passover. If you were to look at Luke 22 verse 7, 8, 11, 12, you would find the meal that Jesus ate is called the Passover. And so, you say, “Well, there’s no doubt it was the Passover.” That’s right. There is no doubt it was the Passover. But there is a problem, and I want to let you in on a problem that Bible scholars through the years have fussed and fussed with.
Let me show you what the problem is. Turn in your Bible to John 18. John 18. And I want you to notice verse 28. Here we have again Jesus led from Caiaphas, this is the next day by the way, Thursday they were getting the meal ready, right? Thursday night, they ate the meal which means Thursday afternoon that lamb was killed. We’ve just looked at the Thursday when they came to Jesus, “Where do You want to have it?” He says, go do this, get it ready. Thursday afternoon they had the lamb killed, Thursday evening Jesus came with the other ten, they ate the meal. That whole evening transpired on Thursday evening; by our counting of days it would be Thursday evening.
Then, you remember, Judas went out into the night, betrayed Him. Jesus left the meal in the middle of the night, went to the garden. The soldiers came to the garden, captured Him in the middle of the night. Now, it’s coming on the dawning of Friday morning and they bring Him to trial, and it’s Friday morning. He has already sacrificed the lamb Thursday afternoon. He’s already eaten the Passover. Now, we come to Friday morning, and the Jews then have Jesus. They lead him from Caiaphas into the Hall of Judgment. That’s Pilate’s, that’s the Gentile part of His trial. And it’s still very early in the morning. And they didn’t go in, the Jews didn’t, they didn’t go into the Judgment Hall lest they should be defiled. What does that mean? It was a Gentile place, and they didn’t want to get defiled by Gentiles. Why? Verse 28 says at the end, “But that they might eat the Passover.”
Now, therein lies the problem chronologically. How is it that Jesus already has a slain lamb, already has a Passover meal, night falls, morning dawns, the Jews don’t want to get defiled because they haven’t yet eaten the Passover? And some people say, “Well, Jesus had a private Passover.” Can’t happen, you can’t have private Passover, because lambs can only be slain when authorized time for slaying of lambs takes place. So, how is it that they haven’t eaten the Passover? You say, “Well, they’re a little late, they’ve been busy.” Now, they’re very religious. Look at chapter 19 verse 14. In chapter 19 verse 14 it says, “And it was the preparation during the Passover,” that is Friday. And about the sixth hour, and so forth and so on.
Now, it tells us that here we are on Friday, here we are on Friday, and the Jews haven’t yet eaten the Passover. They haven’t done what Jesus already did. Now, how do we resolve this? The question arises: how can the Lord eat a Passover on Thursday night, and the Jews on Friday not haven’t eaten it? Have to have their own Passover. What is going on here?
Well, first of all, let me tell you this. Christ came to die as a Passover lamb, right? Do you remember Matthew 26 and I think it’s verse 47 where it says, “And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” Remember that? And then, He died. Jesus died on Friday between 3:00 and 5:00. The ninth hour would be what time? 3:00. At 3:00, Jesus came to the end of His life. At the very precise moment when the screams of those sheep would come from the temple as the slaughter began. The Jewish, the leaders, who were mostly Sadducees, the Judeans would be slaughtering all those lambs at the very moment Jesus died. He died, 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, as Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us.
I believe Jesus came into the city on the day the lamb was selected. I believe He died on the traditional day in which the lambs were slaughtered at the hours of 3:00 to 5:00, that He might fulfill every prophecy to the very letter and every picture. You say, “Then, what is Jesus doing with the Passover on Thursday night?” The answer is this, and I think it’s an absolutely fascinating answer. Some people say, “Well, it wasn’t the Passover. Jesus was just having dinner, just a meal.” The problem with that is, they keep calling it the Passover. And if you want to get beyond that, let me tell you this. Jesus insisted that it be inside the city of Jerusalem. If it was just another meal, they could have had it in Bethany and saved themselves an awful lot of trouble. Why have it inside the city? Because the tradition said that all the Passover had to be inside the city of Jerusalem.
Furthermore, it was very unusual for Jewish people to have a meal at night. Furthermore, to have reclining at tables was very unusual for anything other than a festival or a feasting time, not just a normal meal. Beyond that, in a normal meal, the breaking of bread was at the beginning of the meal, here it’s in the middle of the meal. Not only that, the use of red wine was very unusual, and it was unusual that they sang a hymn when they were done with it, which was true of the Passover. And furthermore, when Judas left, you remember later on, and the disciples thought that he was going to give money to the poor, because that’s what they did at the Passover, not any other time.
So, everything comes together to say it had to be a Passover. If it was a Passover, why is it on a different day? And here’s the answer, this is marvelous. It all depends on how you count days. How do we count days? From what to what? From midnight to midnight, that’s a day, right? I mean, the next, Monday begins tonight at midnight. We go midnight to midnight. They didn’t either. So, you can see there are lots of options. Their day, for the Jews, went from sunset to sunset, or from sunrise to sunrise. The normal routine of days for the Jews was sunrise to sunrise, sunrise to sunrise, sunrise to sunrise. But festivals and special days and the Sabbath day went from sunset to sunset. And so, it depends on how you look at the day.
And that’s what I want you to understand. It just fascinates me. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, according to Exodus 12:18, had to be celebrated from sunset to sunset, sunset to sunset for those seven days. So, those days were marked as sunset-to-sunset days. The Day of Atonement was a sunset-to- sunset day; the weekly Sabbath, sunset to sunset. And those times, for example, like Leviticus 11:14, 15, 17, Leviticus 22:6 where it talks about a special cleansing or special ceremony, any of those days where there was uncleanness for a single day, a cleansing had to be done before sunset. So, those days were sunset to sunset.
It seems, then, that when there was a special day, a special Sabbath or certain festival days, they had to go sunset to sunset. This may be because the order of creation seems to have gone that way. I was noticing as I looked back in Genesis that it says. “And the evening and the morning were the first day, and the evening and the morning were the second day,” which would be to say that God began by starting from evening to evening. But on the other hand, the Jews also reckoned sunrise to sunrise as the normal calendar day. And we fall into that thing, really in our thinking, though we say midnight to midnight. Our day really begins when we rise in the morning. And so, their day would be morning to morning to morning. For example, in Matthew 28 verse 1, it says this: “Late on the Sabbath,” listen, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Now, there we learn that the writer is saying that the first day of the week comes at dawn. So, they’re back to their normal way of sort of counting.
Now, where does that take us? That just says that there were times when they counted sunset to sunset and times when they refer to a day as sunrise to sunrise. There are others in the Old Testament, check Deuteronomy 16:4, where the day is from morning to morning.
Now, hang on. Therefore, this Passover day, since it’s not necessarily prescribed specifically in the Old Testament, this Passover day could be calculated from sunset to sunset or sunrise to sunrise. And depending on when you start it would be when you ended it. Josephus, the great Jewish historian who was a Pharisee, living in Jesus’ day, explained the law of the Passover. And he said the Paschal lamb has to be eaten during the night and nothing left for morning. The Mishnah says it must be eaten by midnight. So, they both were committed to the fact that whoever ate it, you had to eat it before the dawn of another day, before the morning time. Now, listen very carefully. As you dig into this history a little bit, and this is what I found fascinating, the Galileans, that’s the northern people, and the Pharisees, counted the day from sunrise to sunrise, the day of Passover. Whereas the Judean and Sadducees counted it from sunset to sunset.
You say, “How do you know that?” The Mishnah, which is the codification of Jewish law, tells us that. It says, for example, that the Galileans would not work at all on the day of Passover. Why? Because the day began for them at the beginning. It says that the Judeans would work until the midday, because the day didn’t begin for them until the sunset.
Now, listen very carefully. Thursday then, Thursday, the Galileans and the Pharisees begin to calculate the beginning of Passover. In the morning to the next morning which is Friday morning. The Judeans and the Sadducees don’t begin until Thursday evening at sunset, and it runs till Friday evening at sunset. So, the Galileans and the Pharisees, then, begin early in the day, such as Matthew points out in chapter 26, with the disciples saying, “Lord, well how do we get the meal ready for tonight?” Because their day goes from morning to morning, and has to be eaten before that day is over, so they have to eat it that night. The other day for the other folks doesn’t begin until evening, and so they’re not prepared to slay their lamb until the next evening, and then eat their meal as Sabbath comes on Friday night. And this is supported, as I said, by the codification of Jewish law which tells us the Galileans work not at all on the day of the Passover and the others work through half a day because for them it didn’t begin until evening.
Now, you say, “Well, what does all this mean?” Listen very carefully. First thing it does is it harmonizes John 18 and 19 because it tells us that Galileans, which would be Jesus and His disciples and the Pharisees, could have their Passover on the evening of Thursday because they already began to count the day from morning to morning and it would end on Friday morning. And the others who were from Judea and who were Sadducees, which made up the rulers, wouldn’t start their day festivities until late on Thursday and wouldn’t kill their lamb until the end of the day on Friday.
Now, you say, “Why is that important?” Listen to me. It’s odd that it would be like that. It’s very odd. And we really can’t identify specifically as to how that came to pass. But what fascinates me is this, listen very carefully. Jesus had to die on Friday. He had to be crucified on Friday because that’s when the traditional Judean Jerusalem Passover lambs would be killed, from 3:00 to 5:00 on Friday. He had to die then. That’s why it says, “In the ninth hour.” He also had to keep the Passover because He had to transform it into the Lord’s Table. So, how could Jesus keep the Passover and still be the Passover lamb? There would be absolutely no way that that could be possible unless God allowed this kind of thing to take place in history so that when it came to the very moment that Jesus was going to die, in that very year, there was no problem in having a Galilean Passover on Thursday night and dying in the Judean Passover on Friday afternoon perfectly on schedule, and violating no Jewish law at all.
And what is supportive about this is the Jews were happy to have this occur, the priests were, because there would be almost an impossibility if they had to kill all the lambs in the same two-hour period. If the Galileans came on Thursday and the Judeans came on Friday, at least it would divide the work into two days and they would be able to accomplish their goal. So, they were happy with that accommodation.
Furthermore, if it was difficult to find a room in Jerusalem to have your Passover meal, how fitting would it be to double the capacity of Jerusalem by having two separate time periods. Listen, when you come to the Word of God and you think Jesus is a victim of human ingenuity, you’ve got the wrong approach, folks. God literally rules history, and tradition, and customs, and every detail of human existence to bring about the fulfillment of His own perfect plan. And Jesus had to keep the Passover to fulfill all righteousness, to instruct His disciples, to show them the new memorial feast that would come out of the Passover. And yet He had to die as the Passover. And He did both because God had so moved in history that both would be possible by His sovereign providence and control.
So, when we look at the story of Jesus Christ, we see anything but a victim, don’t we? And Matthew is able to present to us in these three brief verses majesty that’s absolutely beyond our ability to understand. It isn’t something Jesus could have arranged on the weekend. It had to have been built in for centuries that this could even happen. And so, our Lord in perfect harmony with the divine unfolding plan of God controls every single thing in His own sequence of events leading to the cross. This is the majestic, glorious, dignified, living Son of God, our Savior. And He loses nothing in the midst of His betrayal, in the midst of His murderers. He loses no dignity. He maintains the majesty of His person by being in control of every single thing that takes place.
Well, that’s just the beginning. Next Sunday we’ll look at that Passover and see how the Lord transformed it into His table. And next Sunday, by the way, we’ll also have the Lord’s Table, it’s Communion Sunday so I know you’ll want to be here. Let’s bow in prayer.
Our Father, we thank You for the great truths that we’ve seen in Your Word. For how we thrill again to know that You’re in control of everything. O, we bless Your name. We thank You, O God. Father, we know, too, there may be some here who don’t know Jesus Christ, the sovereign Christ, the majestic glorious dignified Christ, the one who came to die for the sins of the world, who controlled every element of His own death to bring that about. O, God, may this be the day that they come to know Jesus Christ, to receive His forgiveness. Blessed Father, we pray that this day will not pass into tomorrow until all have come to You for forgiveness.