“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. 10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” Luke 22.7-13
How Jesus did it I have no idea. He set up a whole meal, in a furnished room for the Passover without his disciples knowing a thing. Did Jesus send out messengers? Did he have money to make it happen or out fit the room just perfectly? Or is this indeed a miracle that is unsurprising from a prophet who raises dead people to life?
The day had come, one of the most holy days in the life of the Jews (although Yom Kippur is the most holy day for the Jews). Passover was a seven day celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from captivity in Egypt. The Jews celebrate with a Seder meal and careful attention to the order of the meal, food prepared, and seating placement. Jesus was a faithful Jew and therefore was planning for his disciples to celebrate Passover with him. Yet for Jesus, this celebration of remembrance would be like none he or his followers had ever encountered before. For the lamb to be sacrificed that week was Jesus himself.
It’s challenging to talk about his death so briefly after we celebrated his birth (Christmas and Advent) and now are moving into the New Year. It’s not exactly a cheerful topic as we in America prepare to watch football games, gather with family and friends, and eat lots of food and drink to commemorate the New Year. Talking about the start of the Passover just doesn’t seem to fit.
But on the other hand, it’s a perfect shift from birth to death, from new beginnings to next steps. Jesus was always planning on redeeming humanity. If he had been received and welcomed by the people, would he have needed to die? His rejection ensures his sacrifice. Sin separates people from God and no other representative holiday, including Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement,” as mentioned above, can cleanse a blackened soul. Only the blood of the lamb, as in the Passover and painted above Jewish doorposts, would keep death at bay.
But it’s a New Year, the old has past, the new is coming just as Jesus is preparing for a lifetime of new beginnings for each of us by substituting his life for ours. The formality of sending his disciples into Jerusalem, to meet a stranger who has a furnished room ready to go, is God’s way of saying “I’ve got this covered.” Our plans have failed since the beginning of time, but his gift of salvation, atonement and grace has only just begun.
New beginnings suggest we might begin a preparation of our own. Though we are sinners, bathed in disobedience and if left to our own devices would ultimately die. Yet with Christ’s sacrifice, we don’t just have a chance of life, we have the One who made substitution (propitiation) for our sins. So as I write this on New Years Eve, I’m putting to death the past, my own selfish behavior, and confessing my sins to the God who came down as a baby but who died the perfect death for the salvation of us all.
Have you received this gift of grace? Have you decided to follow Jesus? Have you surrendered your heart to the only One who can make you whole? Won’t you do that right now? Begin the new year with the gift of freedom from sin and mercy from God.
”O Lord God, another year has come and gone. A year fraught with disaster, disease, disobedience and difficulty. But you are God and you provide for your people. You give each of us hope to live, to move and to have our being. Your promise at that week of Passover many years ago remains today. Help us receive it. Help us cling to it. Help us capture the love you offered on the cross for new beginnings and eternal promises fulfilled. I love you Lord and praise your name. Send your Holy Spirit upon our land. Bring renewal and revival to all who will receive you as Lord. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen