“Christ Our Passover”

AND JESUS said unto them: “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”—Luke 22:15,16

Jesus was thoroughly familiar with the prophecies concerning himself. He knew from Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks that he was to be cut off in the midst of the seventieth week of years, or three and one-half years after he became Messiah the Prince at his baptism. He also knew from Leviticus 23 the order of events concerned with his death and resurrection.

Since this Passover was the fulfillment of the type, we believe that Jesus endeavored to keep it exactly as it was kept in the beginning. Therefore, as instructed by Jehovah, on the 14th day of Nisan Jesus told his disciples to make ready the Passover. And keeping to the Jewish custom of starting their days at 6:00 p.m., the lamb was slain on the 14th of Nisan in the evening, or shortly after the start of the 14th day.

While the meal was being prepared, it was the custom, handed down from the beginning, for the head of the house to recount the story and the meaning of the feast. (Exod. 12:26,27) Our Lord, being the unquestioned Head, must have related the story as recorded in Exodus, the 12th chapter. How strange this must have seemed to Jesus as the story unfolded, he recognizing that the reality of the event which took place some 1500 years before was having its fulfillment at that very moment. His disciples were not aware that they were sharing with Jesus the spotlight of God’s revealment of his eternal purpose.

Instead, they looked for the immediate establishment of the kingdom with Jesus, the Messiah, as the Head. They hoped to have places of honor in that kingdom. The discussion that had taken place among them previously became heated as they began to vie with one another as to who would have the chief place in the kingdom. The discussion must have been especially distasteful to Jesus under the circumstances. The occasion revealed the need for a lesson in humility among his disciples, and now in the waning hours of his life he gave them that lesson by washing their feet.—John 13:4-16

Jesus summarized his lesson thus: “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (vss. 12-16) What a marvelous demonstration of love and heartfelt concern for the spiritual welfare of the disciples, and especially so since Jesus was fully aware of the terrible experiences that were so soon to befall him!

Except for the brief interruption caused by Judas as he left the supper to fulfill his mission of betrayal, this final Paschal supper was concluded without further incident.

At the conclusion of the Passover meal, Jesus instituted a new memorial—a remembrance of the fulfillment of the type, or a memorial of Jesus’ death. The account reads: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it [drink all of you out of it—Diaglott]; for this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”—Matt. 26:26-29

The turn of events and the institution of a new ordinance perhaps confused the minds of the disciples, and the Lord felt that an explanation would not be understood; but whatever the reason, no explanation was given. He realized, of course, that the events of the evening would not be fully understood by them until the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.

On one occasion, when the multitude had followed Jesus to Capernaum, he detected that they were more interested in the loaves and fishes than they were in receiving his lessons. But he used the occasion to instruct them as to how they could obtain life. In this lesson he used the same emblems to teach the same lesson that he later meant to convey in the upper room.

In John 6:48-51 we read: “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” The manna that God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness sustained their life. When they ate it their bodies assimilated it, and they had life, but only temporarily, because eventually they died.

Jesus said that the bread he provided was his flesh which he was surrendering in death for the life of the world. We know that all the peoples of earth inherited Adam’s condemnation to death. We know, too, that through God’s provision he made it possible for Jesus, who was perfect as Adam was perfect before he sinned, to take Adam’s place in death. And by satisfying the requirement of justice—a perfect man’s life (Jesus’) for a perfect man’s life (Adam’s)—the condemnation that was inherited because of Adam’s transgression could be erased. The Apostle Paul states the matter thus: “Therefore as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”—Rom. 5:18

The bread that was broken, which Jesus gave to his disciples, represented the merit of the perfect life given as a ransom price for Adam. And although this merit, in God’s arrangement, has as its ultimate purpose to lift condemnation from the human race, it is first given to the footstep followers of the Master to give them justification, in order that they might yield themselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.—Rom. 12:1; Heb. 9:12,24

But how do we partake of this wonderful bread of life? The Israelites were upset because they understood Jesus to mean that they were actually to eat of his flesh. But Jesus explained the matter thus: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) We, then, are enabled to partake of the bread by first having faith in Jesus and the redeeming power of his blood. Then, by faith, we must accept his words and act upon them. Some translations use the expression “believing into Jesus.” By this is meant not only believing on Jesus but assimilating his words and instructions and conforming our lives to his pattern. All of this is made possible by the Lord’s Spirit, which is given to us as an “earnest.”—Eph. 1:13,14

After Jesus gave the disciples the bread to eat, he gave them the cup. We read: “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it [or, all of you drink from it]; for [because] this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”—Matt. 26:27-29

What did the symbol of the cup mean to Jesus and subsequently (after Pentecost) to his disciples and then to the footstep followers of Jesus down through the Gospel Age? In his lesson to the Israelites in the 6th chapter of John, Jesus reveals the true meaning of the cup. After he had identified the Bread of life, some of the Jews “strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”—John 6:52-56

To understand fully the Lord’s words in this text it is necessary to know more of the circumstances that prompted the words. The Jews were a covenanted people. The promises were made to them. To them was given the first opportunity to be partakers of the heavenly calling. Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24) But the time that this exclusive privilege was to be offered was limited, and because of Israel’s continued unfaithfulness and their failure to accept Jesus as their Messiah, they were cast off as a nation with reference to the exclusive privilege of the heavenly calling.—Matt. 23:37,38; Luke 17:25; Gal. 4:28-31

Therefore, when Jesus was speaking to those Jews he emphasized the point that this was their privilege, saying: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (emphasis ours). This was an especially hard saying for the Jews, because under the Law anyone who drank blood was to be condemned to death. (Lev. 7:26,27) Therefore, the Jews’ understanding of what Jesus was saying was that if they ate the bread they would get life, but when they drank the blood they would be condemned to death. Only those whom the Heavenly Father was calling could understand, and, of course, this is what Jesus knew. But the important point is that this was the meaning, or understanding, that Jesus wanted to convey.

What Jesus was saying was in essence that God had extended to the Jews who were living then and at that time an invitation to repent (Acts 3:19,26) and accept Jesus as their Messiah, and as a result they would be freed from adamic condemnation and be just in the Heavenly Father’s sight. But this privilege was to be granted only if they agreed to lay down their justified humanity as a living sacrifice; if they were faithful in this, they would be granted immortal life. In addition, they would have the privilege of having a share in the mediatorial work under the New Covenant during the Millennial Age.—Matt. 16:24-27; 19:28,29; 10:16-28,37-39

And so, as we have read in Matthew 26:27-29, Jesus gave the disciples the cup to drink from. The instructions were, “All of you drink from it.” The cup itself pictured the providences of God with respect to their Christian walk; and if they were to have any part with Jesus in the kingdom, it was necessary for them to acknowledge in this way their willingness to share, or be partners, in these experiences. In Mark 10:35-40 there is an account of James and John requesting Jesus to give them special consideration in the kingdom. “Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They answered that they could. Then Jesus indicated that if they would share his glory it was also necessary that they share his suffering and death.

The content of the cup, the fruit of the vine, symbolized Christ’s blood. Blood in Bible usage pictures a life poured out. This includes, of course, suffering along with death. As the disciples drank the fruit of the vine, they symbolized their willingness and desire to be partners with our Lord in his sufferings and death.—Rom. 6:3-5; 8:17; II Tim. 2:12

All who embark on this narrow way, endeavoring to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, anticipate with joy the prospects of the reward, that is, being the instruments God will use in the Millennial Age under the terms of the New Covenant to bring blessings to all the families of the earth. This was true with Jesus, who, the Apostle Paul says, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2

So Jesus, at this solemn occasion, wanted to be certain that the disciples associated the symbols used with the reality of the promises that were held out to them. He said, “For [because] this is My blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28) As the Law Covenant, which was given to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, was sealed with the blood of bulls and goats, so the antitype, the New Covenant, must be sealed with the blood of Jesus, the antitype of the bulls and goats.

And since the disciples and all the footstep followers of the Master down through the Gospel Age have partaken of the literal cup, they become partners with our Lord in his blood, which seals the New Covenant. Not that these add anything to the merit of our Lord’s sacrifice, but rather that they are simply privileged to have a share in it.—Isa. 42:1-6; 49:8; II Cor. 5:18-21; 6:1,2

The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 10:16,17, shows clearly our part in this arrangement. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” The key word for us in this text is communion, which has as its meaning common union, participation, or partnership. This, of course, means that when we have partaken of the bread, we have a common union, or partnership, with our Lord and become a part of the body of Christ. The apostle elaborates on this in I Corinthians 12:12,13: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

This text elaborates further on the matter and informs us that the Heavenly Father has given us his Spirit; and, having the same Spirit, we are members of one another and therefore are brethren.

The apostle also states that when we partake of the cup it illustrates our common union, or partnership, in the blood of Christ, that is, our partnership in his suffering and death.—Rom. 8:17; Phil. 1:29; II Thess. 1:4,5; II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4

Baptism is a figure illustrating the complete surrender of the Christian’s will and his accepting instead the will of the Heavenly Father. The Revelator uses another figure to describe the same transaction. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.” (Rev. 20:4) Beheaded in the sense that these have no head or will of their own but have instead accepted the headship of the Heavenly Father, or his will.

But the Apostle Paul’s definition of the real baptism describes in more detail what it means to drink of the cup. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”—Rom. 6:3-5

Being planted in the likeness of his death means that we must follow in his steps, spending our strength, talents, and means in serving the Lord, the truth, and the brethren. It means that we will be misunderstood and that our good deeds will bring the opposition of sinners. But if we are faithful, our Lord has promised, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21

After the meal was concluded, perhaps about midnight on the 14th of Nisan, they sang a hymn and then went out of the upper room together. The statement in John 18:1 seems to indicate that sometime after leaving the upper room and before crossing over the brook Cedron our Lord uttered the wonderful prayer recorded in the 17th chapter of John.

Our remembrance of him includes his ordeal in the garden, which was spoken of by the Apostle Paul in these words: Who [Christ] in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death [out from death—Diaglott], and was heard in that he feared.” (Heb. 5:7) Jesus was not afraid to die, for this is why he came into the world to be a ransom for Adam. But he was concerned lest in some small thing he had fallen short and the Heavenly Father would not be able to bring him out from the condition of death. He had been on trial for life during the three and one-half years of his ministry, and now was the time for judgment. It is only because he was resurrected that the divine plan of salvation is guaranteed to come into full fruition.—Rom. 14:9; 4:25; 8:34

He was betrayed in the garden, perhaps about 3:00 a.m., and brought before the high priest Caiaphas and then to the Roman court and subsequently was crucified at the third hour (about 9:00 a.m. the 14th of Nisan). (Mark 15:25) He died on the cross at the 9th hour (about 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Nisan).—Mark 15:34-37*

As we retain these vivid memories of our wonderful Savior in our minds and with hearts overflowing in gratitude to our Heavenly Father for his great love manifested in this unspeakable gift, let us keep the feast, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”—I Cor. 5:7

*Our Lord ate the Passover some hours before the Jews ate it. The Jews, according to their perversion of the original instructions, ate theirs at the end of the 14th day between the evenings, or about 3:00 p.m. But Christ partook of the Passover on the same day, though in the previous evening, which was the beginning of the 14th day and which was according to the original instructions by God.—Exod. 12:6; Deut. 16:6; John 18:28

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