Celebrate His Death?

So, today we are looking into both the preparation and the first half of what is typically called the Lord’s Last Passover from Matthew’s Gospel, 16:17-25. It isn’t quite the First Lord’s Supper, that’s the next passage starting in vv. 26ff. This passage is just the Lord’s Last Passover.

Now there are plenty of things we could talk about concerning Passover, the history, the Jewish traditions and customs surrounding the special, the moment that this dinner commemorates (i.e. The Passover during the Jewish Exodus from Egypt), and we could even talk about how wonderful this celebratory party was to the Jewish people (which it was, it was a big deal). There is a lot we could look at.

But what I would like to consider about is the irony of this Passover, and particularly for Jesus. Remember back in v. 2 when Jesus said, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Jesus knew this Passover Celebration wouldn’t just be special, or even memorable; it was going to be a killer, literally, for Him. He was going to die.

Moreover, this Passover meal wasn’t going to be like the rest, that is, retrospective, i.e. looking back to the Exodus from Egypt; it was going be prospective, i.e. it was looking forward to what He was going to do! How more than the blood of some little lamb painted upon the doorposts of some house would cause the death angel to passover, but much more so, how the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, applied to human hearts would cause the Lord and His angels to passover us in visiting us for our sins, and how is blood would mark us out/separate us from all others as God’s people! This meal was going to point to His death and the salvation accomplished through it! There was a greater Passover coming through His crucifixion!

And yet the irony of it all, was that Passover was a celebration. It was a holy assembly/convocation, yes, but a party no less. It was a time of great joy, and yet this Passover would mean something very bad for Jesus personally; He was going to die, be murdered! Put that way we have a little trouble with this notion of celebrating, don’t we? But how much more for Jesus? Jesus was going to celebrate (or in the words of the NASB “keeping”), to assemble and take part in the very meal that pointed to His death! How in the world could Jesus celebrate something that pointed to His own death? He isn’t someone who takes pleasure in pain, not in the least! How then could He celebrate His own Death?

Well, I think that is the way this passage helps us because it unpacks in what ways Jesus could look forward to celebrating this passover. I think there are three reasons why He did.

#1. TO SHOW US WHO THE KING IS

Here we are looking at this entire passage and what we are noticing is two fascinating facts. The first is Jesus Is In-Command. He’s at the helm and again driving the train. He’s the one who not only initiated the Jewish leaders pursuit of Him by His announcement in v. 2 (remembering from last week how the transitional word “then” from v. 3 links His announcement to their action), but also how now in vv. 17-19, Jesus is directing the whole Passover celebration. His disciples came to Him and asked of Him, v. 17, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He gives the command like some general, “Go…”, a command, “Go into the city…”, where He has already made/secured a reservation, “to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ ” He is in charge! Further more, notice how the disciples in v. 19 obey Him, “The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.” Jesus is in charge, orchestrating and in command, yes in life, but even of this celebration that will lead to His death! Jesus is In-Command!

The second fascinating fact is that Jesus seems to know everything here. This is to look at vv. 20-25 from the perspective that Jesus knows that one of His own 12 will betray Him to kill Him. He isn’t unaware, oblivious, naive about what is about to happen. No, He knows and knows who! v. 21, “As they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.’ ” And then after they all wonderful if it’s them, He says in v. 24, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.” Judas may of thought he slipped behind Jesus’ back without Him seeing, but Jesus knew the who thing! Jesus knows! He isn’t some Julius Caesar who didn’t see his own death coming, no! Jesus knows everything, and was leading into it with full-knowledge of everything!

But why all this? Why tell us these facets of the story about how Jesus is in-command and knows everything about His death and how it’s going to happen? On one hand, it’s to show us that this wasn’t an accident, the death of Jesus. No, it wasn’t some mishap, some sudden disappointing turn of events that Jesus couldn’t anticipate, like some people have said, NO! No Jesus was supposed to die, He came to the earth to die! This was the plan all along! That’s at least what this is saying! But even more this is showing us who Jesus really is—He’s the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, who is even sovereign over His own death! Jesus isn’t just willingly going to the grave, He is marching there to conquer it! This is the King and the fact that He is celebrating His own death proves that!

Just to apply this point briefly, beloved, this may come across as an aside, but this is what we need. We need a sovereign king over us. Especially when so much is over our heads and out of our hands and we are stressing ourselves out to regains some control over the chaos in our world and our workplaces, in our homes and our heads! We need a King, one who is in control. This is Jesus, do you know Him? Jesus is celebrating His own death, to prove to all He is The King!

Why else Would Jesus Celebrate His Own Death?

#2 TO MAKE US RIGHTEOUS

We don’t always focus on this part of the Gospel, but here we are afforded a great opportunity. To see it, we need to go back to v. 18 to the last part of Jesus’ command. Jesus directs His disciples, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’ ” And it has to do with that last sentence, “I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” The Greek literally says, “at yours [implied ‘house’] I do the Passover with my disciples.” Now, “doing” the Passover is Hebrew phrase where one would not only participate but keep the Passover. That’s why our NASB says “keep”. But remember to keep the Passover was obligatory for the Jew. As we will come to see in our Evening Sermon series through Exodus, God commanded for His people to celebrate/keep the feast of Unleavened Bread/the Passover Meal. If they didn’t they were to be cut off from Israel. They had to keep it.

And yet, with Jesus keeping this meal it meant something more than Jesus just being a good Jew. Jesus was more than a good Jew, He was a perfect Jew, who fully met all of the standards of the Law, even this commandment. Jesus was perfect, all 614 commandments in the Law Jesus never broke once, in His own life-time, He kept them all! Even the one the law about the Passover Meal that pointed to His death, He kept! Why? Because He wanted to make you righteous!

This is the other half of the Gospel that that gets so much less press. We all know and stress the death of Jesus Christ and have no hope with out it, but if Jesus didn’t keep the law perfectly before He died, it wouldn’t have been enough for us! Truly His death wouldn’t have been that spotless lamb required to atone for us! Nor, would we be considered righteous! All our sin perhaps would have been payed for, God’s wrath would be propitiated, good and wonderful, but we wouldn’t have any claim to new life, why because we wouldn’t be righteous! Beloved, Jesus lived a perfect life to give to you freely as a gift! What we’ve always wanted we have now for free as a gift through faith! God looks at us with the righteous rob of Jesus! Jesus didn’t just die in your place, He gave you all His righteousness! And do you know what this means? You belong in heaven because of the righteousness of Christ!

A couple of weeks ago, after I led a study group on heaven, and how Jesus is going to have joy about you and I being there with Him, a friend shared with me how revolutionary that thought was to him. He said, “I had always thought that Jesus would allow me to come in to heaven, but only because He had to. That is, because He made me righteous. Really because of all the bad things I had done in my life, I just viewed myself as this unwanted guest, who would be told like some child, ‘Glad you are here, but don’t touch anything!’ ” What an honest thought. But what a wrong thought! Do any of us deserve to get to heaven? No, none of us do! Ah, but what about now, having not only your sin paid for, but now that you stand before God Almighty with the righteousness of Christ Jesus! Do you deserve by faith through grace to be in heaven? You better believe it. Heaven belongs to You because of Jesus’ righteousness! And that’s why Jesus lived a perfect life, even keeping the Passover, to make you righteous!
That’s a second reason why Jesus celebrated the Passover! But what’s one more reason?

#3. TO PURGE US OF OUR SIN

So I find it incredible that in vv. 20-25, that at the Passover meal, which is symbolizing His death to come, Jesus calls out His betrayer. He knows He’s going to be betrayed, He knows who His betrayer is, but He also calls Him out! And He calls him out in such a way that forces everyone to question themselves.

Did you notice that in reading the passage? Verse 22, “Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ ” I imagine they believe Jesus knows them better than they know themselves and they would hate to think that they would be capable of doing something so terrible as betraying their friend and master. Jesus is encouraging them all to search their own hearts. That is part of the force of this expression, and for us as the readers, too. Jesus wants us to search out our own hearts to see if we are waiting and looking to betray Him! Is there some sin that you love more than Jesus and are just waiting for a good opportunity to act upon and run from Jesus? We should question ourselves, are we Judas?

But also consider how Jesus in this statement forewarns of a terrible fall to come - to v. 24, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” What Scripture we don’t exactly know, perhaps a ton of Scripture, like Isaiah 53, Psalm 22 or 40, or so many others that point to our Suffering Savior who would be betrayed at the hands of men! But look at what Jesus says next, “Woe…it would have been better for that man not to have been born”. I.e. that man is going to be punished. Now, why would Jesus talk about punishment happening? In order to forewarn Judas!

Can you believe this? Jesus is warning Judas. Yes, a warning is scary and may strike fear in our hearts, but mind you what is the purpose of a warning, and what is the intent? To warn people not to do it! To get them to stop! In that vein, a warning is very, very gracious, is it not? Do you see what Jesus is doing? Jesus is even with His last breath graciously warning Judas not to do what He is about to do! It is a warning that Judas foolishly ignores, smugly asking without proper respect, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” But nonetheless He is graciously warning!

Here is where I see the last reason why Jesus would celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, aka the Passover. I see Jesus celebrating the Passover in order to warn us and for us to be purged of our sin!

There is another amazing connection to see here and with the notion of the Passover. Do you remember along with the Passover the people of God were commanded to do? It was a somewhat strange command, but they were to purge their household of leaven. Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it, get rid of all the yeast in your house? You know, Jews today still have a hide-and-seek party to root out the leaven (or as they call it, chemetz) in their house today! It’s sort of fun, but they have to do it; Exodus 13:7 is one such passage that talks about it. They were told to do it to symbolize how they are ready wholeheartedly for the Exodus, God’s deliverance and salvation, and how they long for it more than anything else! And yet I find it remarkable that Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7ff likens chemetz or leaven to sin, and says in essence, if you are in Christ, then cut out the chemetz or sin in your life! “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Do you see it? What Paul is saying here, is exactly what Jesus was seeking to do even with Judas and all His disciples at Feast of Unleavened Bread—He was seeking to cut out the chemetz of sin in our life even unto His dying breath on the cross! And He did do that ultimately upon that cross! Jesus celebrated His own death meal to purge us of our sin!

And Yet some of us are like Judas. We will not be turned from our sin. Beloved, what else must Christ do? What more can He do? He has done it all and even actually delivered us from our sin and still we are looking for a good time to off-load Jesus for our sin. Be done with your sin!

APPLY

What does that look like? Three closing applications:

  1. Stop Covering Your Sin - like Judas, or perhaps like Achan the troubler of Israel who loved and long more for riches in this world than what God commands! Give glory to God and uncover your sin before God uncovers you! Stop covering Your Sin
  2. Confess Your Sin - Do you know what Jesus does with confessed sin? Does He ridicule you and embarrass you? No, He covers it with His own blood and it is no more! Why cover your own sins, when you can’t and only He can!
  3. Get Help - It is enough for you to confess, but the one that confesses doesn’t stop there. That one also gets help and does with the Holy Spirit says to do, get help. From your brothers and sisters, from the church. Get help!
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