Thursday, 30 AD dawned in Jerusalem with an spring chill in the air. Later that day, it was probably still quite cool as the long afternoon shadows gave way to the setting sun. The city however, was buzzing with activity. Final preparations were being made for the Passover Seder that evening.
Jesus awakened early on His last day as a beloved and misunderstood Rabbi. I believe that He spent His first hours in prayer, preparing Himself for the world changing events about to unfold. The apostles were commissioned to find the room designated for the feast, and make sure everything was ready. The rest of the day was spent deflecting the verbal onslaught of Pharisees and other religious leaders. They sought to entrap Jesus with His words in an effort to delegitimize His message and influence. The leadership, threatened by the crowds, also sought to separate the teacher from His followers making it easier for an arrest. The fact that this strategy ended in dismal failure only increased their desire to act against Him.
That evening, Peter would probably be bringing the freshly slain lamb from the Temple, and with John, meet up with Jesus and the other apostles in the upper room. It was then that Jesus made a remarkable statement. He said, “I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you.” What a statement of faith! This would be His final Passover meal before being tortured, mocked and painfully put to death, yet He yearned for this moment. He would now take the opportunity of Passover to institute a new covenant with His disciples.
Even at this last moment of relative peace, Jesus was thinking not of Himself, but of us. He desired to eat this Passover more than any of the others of His earthly life because it was at this one that He would fulfill the Word of God. This would be the fulcrum upon which both the Old and New Covenants of God would turn. This meal would forever link the lambs of past sacrifice with the Lamb of eternal salvation.
During the seder, the order of Passover service, Jesus digressed from the Hagggadah, the telling of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and He brought a revelation of His personal involvement. He explained how the unleavened bread represented His body. Being born in Bethlehem, or the House of Bread, this made complete scriptural sense. Leaven represents sin, so unleavened bread would represent a sinless man. Wine was a representation of His blood. The grape, tended and cultivated, once harvested, was beaten and crushed for it’s blood, or juice. The lamb whose blood covered the doorways in Egypt, now represents our Savior, whose blood covers our hearts removing our sin.
Following this astounding meal, Jesus went out to a familiar place to pray. Gat Shemen, the olive press, has come down though time to be called the Garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus knelt on the side of the Mount of Olives, praying for strength to meet the coming storm. As an olive is crushed and squeezed to release it’s wealth of oil, so too would Jesus submit Himself to the press. The Holy Spirit, the Anointing Oil of God, would flow freely once Jesus was crushed by the weight of our sin and squeezed by the will of God. His sacrifice would allow a free flow of His Spirit to all who believe.
It was here in the garden that the pleasant, family traditions of Passover would end in betrayal. The kiss was made, the arrest effected. Fear entered the apostles who fled the scene. What followed was a mockery of justice and the exposure of hypocritical religious ambition. Jesus allowed it all to happen because He loved…no, loves us. The power of life released by His love still arrests us into a protective custody.
Is there a place for you at His table?