The end is near. The words our Savior speaks are clear, “I wanted much to eat this Passover with you [, my disciples,] before I suffer.” “The Son of Man is going to his death according to God’s plan.”
The path of death is now before Him. For He tells His disciples, now Apostles: This will be the last food He takes in before He dies. “The Son of Man must endure much suffering and be rejected by the elders, the high priests, and the scribes” (Luke 9:22).
The Prophet Isaiah foretold of His death. The Messiah will be “despised and rejected,” “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” Yes, He will endure “our sufferings and [carry] our sorrows” “for of our rebellion, crushed because of our sins.” “In his wounds, we” will find healing (Isaiah 53:3-5).
The Scriptures tell as much about the Son of Man. Unable to put up with His teachings, the Jewish leadership rejects Him. By now, they clench their jaws, set on killing Him. The miracles over disease, demons, and death do not sway them. No, those signs and wonders only motivate them to kill the Lord of life all the more.
“Despised and rejected,” our Savior will suffer much. Such grief is sad enough, but if He is as He claims, His death will give us eternal life. No one else but this God in human flesh can offer the ransom to set us free. Only Jesus brings what forgives the people of all their failings. The New Covenant He will inaugurate will be part of this, superseding and fulfilling the Old, of what came before.
In the final Passover for God’s people, we learn our Deliverer from death is who He claims to be. In the Old Covenant, the Almighty commanded His people to take part in the Passover. The messenger of death passed over their houses, but the blood of a slaughtered lamb kept death far away. Each year after, the people of Israel remembered their liberation from Pharaoh in Egypt and God as the One who rescues.
In the Passover or Seder in Jesus’ day, the people drink four portions of wine, remembering the four “I will” promises of God. The first is, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians.” The second, “I will deliver you from their slavery.” The third, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment.” Here is the fourth, “I will take you as my people” (Exodus 6:6-7). All four pledges recall God’s words to rescue His people.
With the commanded meal about to begin, the youngest child goes outside to check for the Messiah. For Jewish tradition expects the promised Messiah to come on the evening of the Seder. Once returning, the father questions the youngest, “Why is this night different from all others?” The child recounts the history of Yahweh saving His people through the animal slain to give them life.
The first cup goes around the table, and all sip, from the youngest to the oldest. Next, the people eat the unleavened bread, which lacks the yeast. The second serving of wine follows, with the people eating the lamb. The “cup of blessing,” the third drink of wine, is next. After this, the people sing some hymns, followed by the fourth swallow from the cup.
Now, St. Luke only tells us of the first and third portions of wine. On the Holy Thursday so long ago, the world’s Redeemer changes the ritual. From the table, He picks up the unleavened loaf, breaking and giving some for all to eat—with the third sip of the wine, at the wrong time. “In the same way, He also took the cup after supper.”
So, the prophesied Messiah raises the third cup of blessing. The Father attaches this “I will” promise in the cup, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment.” The benefit of the drinking is still the same today, connected to God’s redemption of His people, but is also now different. “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
The Fulfiller of the Old is doing something new, calling what He puts into place, “The New Covenant.” For He now connects the sacred wine to His soon-to-be-sacrificed blood on the cross. The new Passover Lamb is before His people, giving them His blood to save them. So, also with the bread, revealed by Jesus changing when His Apostles ate, with the third drink of blessing. The time for slaughtered animals is over, for redemption now comes in Christ Jesus.
“On the night of His betrayal, the Lord Jesus took the loaf, spoke a prayer of thanks, and broke the bread” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). The broken bread is our Savior’s last prediction of His sacrifice for us. The meaning is clear. The Defeater of Death will become broken for our eternal deliverance. What He provides will free us from sin, give us eternal life, and place us in fellowship with His Father.
At Israel’s rescue from Egypt, the animal’s blood saves the lives of an enslaved people. For the next 1,500 years, this sacred, commanded ritual commemorates their rescue from Egypt. Now, the Rescuer Himself is here, offering His life and, by His blood, delivering His people from sin and death.
What will our Lord do now? The lamb’s meat can serve as a potent symbol for His body offered in sacrifice to save us. Still, He decides not to do this. No, He chooses to use the yeast-free bread and the wine. Why?
The Scripture uses yeast to represent sin. Did the Incarnate One not come as a man without sin for our salvation? Yes. The wine points to His spilled blood, as the people of old also poured out wine at various points during the Seder meal.
The sinless One will pour out His blood for the life of all. For He now takes the place of the Passover sacrifice, becoming the sacrificial Lamb Himself, who will take away the sins of the world. For He will offer His life on the beam of wood to bring forth the new exodus, whose blood will pour out for our divine rescue. Yes, Jesus does do something new, giving us His New Covenant.
No more are His people to celebrate Passover, also called the Seder. Those celebrations served their purpose. The old is gone, the new is here. The new Passover Lamb, Jesus, gives us a new meal—and what He offers, brings us the benefits of His saving death.
The night before our Redeemer’s death, the meal of old remained uncompleted. For Jesus and His Apostles never drank the fourth and final allotment of wine. After singing the psalms, they went to Gethsemane instead. For our Deliverer from death changed the meal to focus on His body and blood, not the flesh of the slaughtered animal. Here’s how.
The fourth drink is what Jesus will swallow in His death. In the garden, He prays, “If you are willing, Father, take this cup away from me—yet, carry out your will, not mine” (Luke 22:42). The fourth draft our Savior drinks is His death for us by spear, nail, and splintered wood, where He takes us as His people.
Now these words of our Lord make sense, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” The kingdom of God comes by His sacrificial death, His drinking of the final draft.
“Do this,” celebrate the New Covenant, the incarnate One commands of His Apostles. “Do this in remembrance of me.” What does “Remember” mean? In our minds, we recall something, which is no longer present now. Not so for God’s people.
The word for remembering in both the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible does recall something in the past—but the effects are still present, in the here and now! So, when someone remembers his Savior in the Supper, he does more than to evoke some event of long ago. In his remembering, he receives salvation today because of what took place on the cross. The past and present become one.
“Do this in remembrance of me” means what Christ did in His death by whip, nail, and wood, gulping down everything from the fourth cup, redeems us today. So, what comes to us in the Supper can’t be mere symbols, for symbols don’t save, reality does.
Today, our Savior comes to us. “Take and eat. Take and drink. For this is my body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
In times of fright, fear, and anguish, we need more than symbols. So our Savior gives us Himself, in His body and blood. Each time you eat and drink the Sacrament, these words come your way: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
With past and present now connected, we become one with Christ. For His body and blood deliver to us the blessings of the third and the fourth cup, here and now. In His Supper, Jesus redeems us, the rescue within the third cup, and He takes us to be His people, the salvation in the fourth. Yes, He IS the Passover Lamb who sets us free.
The Supper brings us back to the cross of Christ, giving us His body and blood, with His forgiveness in them. The Holy Meal calls us back to Christ’s saving death each time we come to His Table.
So, be rid of the old yeast, the sin, and be the Lord’s new unleavened people—as indeed you are. For our Passover Lamb died for your life and salvation (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Receive now, for you, the blessings of Jesus Himself. Amen.