The Lord's Day Morning
August 7, 2011
“Prepare the Passover”
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 22. We have reached the crescendo of the gospel of Luke. From Luke 22 to the end of this book, we will consider the sufferings and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the material that Luke gives us, we will enter into the very holy of holies, the heart of the Christian faith.
And in the passage before us today in Luke 22:1-13, we find ourselves on Thursday, the fourteenth of Nisan, the Thursday of the Passion Week, and it's the day of the preparation for the Passover lamb. And Jesus is giving Peter and John instructions on getting the Passover meal itself and all of its details in order so that on that night, He and all His disciples will celebrate what is the last Passover, not just the last Passover of His life and earthly ministry but the last Passover, because the sign of Passover is going to be completely fulfilled in Him. There are still Passovers observed today, but they are not the Passover of God's Word, because that has been fulfilled now in the Lord Jesus Christ. And one of the things that Luke wants to press upon us here is the connection between Jesus, the Passover Lamb, and His work on the cross. Very often, early Christian preachers would preach on Christ's death and resurrection from Exodus 12. Now Exodus 12 is the story of the Passover lamb and the institution of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt. Now why in the world would early Christian do that? Because they’d listened to Luke and they’d listened to Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 and they’d listened to the rest of the New Testament that connected Jesus with the Passover and saw Jesus as the true Passover Lamb to whom all the other Passover lambs had pointed. And whereas, just like we saw in Hebrews 9 this morning, whereas there was an old covenant that was superseded by a new and better covenant, and whereas there was an earthly tabernacle that was commanded in the law of Moses, which Jesus entered into the heavenly tabernacle, so also Jesus is the true Passover Lamb. And that will be the focus of our message today, but there is much rich material in this great passage for our own edification, so let's pray and ask for God's blessing on the reading of His Word.
Heavenly Father, this is Your Word and we need it like we need food because we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So feed us Your Word and grant that we would taste is by faith, that we would trust that it is Your Word and we would put our trust in Jesus Christ and we would be sanctified and built up and drawn by Your grace to Yourself and conformed into the image of Your Son. These things we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is the Word of God in Luke 22, beginning in verse 1. Hear it:
“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death, for they feared the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.’ They said to Him, ‘Where will You have us prepare it?’ He said to them, ‘Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.’ And they went and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.”
Amen and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Fourteen hundred and seventy years or so before this night, Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and they had been literally saved by the Passover lamb. You remember the story? The lamb was prepared, slaughtered, and its blood was spread on the doorpost, the lentils of the houses in which the children of Israel resided, and when the death angel came to take the lives of the firstborn of Egypt, Israel was spared, spared by the blood of the Passover lamb. The exodus, the miraculous escape from Egypt and crossing of the Red Sea was made possible by the blood of the Passover lamb, because when the angel of death saw the Passover lamb's blood on the door of the house he passed over that house and spared it judgment. And here Jesus is, on a night on which for almost fifteen hundred years the children of Israel had gathered to remember the great redemption that God had wrought for them in Egypt, and He's getting ready to sit down and eat this Passover meal with His disciples.
This will be the night that He institutes the Lord's Supper for the first time. The first Lord's Supper will happen this night. This will be the night when He, in greater detail and emphasis, explains to His disciples the meaning and significance of His death. He will tell them things about the meaning and significance of His death this night that He's never ever told them in such great detail and emphasis. This will be the night that He is betrayed, not just by the most highly respected religious leaders of His day, but by one of His own disciples. And He already knows who it is, though none of His other disciples suspect. This is a very, very significant moment. This is the night where Jesus will say the things to His disciples recorded in John 13 to 16 that Jeremy is preaching through on Sunday evenings, that glorious set of messages, the Upper Room discourses recorded in the gospel of John. This is the night that He will do that, and tomorrow He will die for the sins of the world. We are only holy ground when we are in this passage.
The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death
Now really today it's a one-point message. I want to focus on Christ as our Passover, but getting there, there are many lessons for us and I want you to see three or four things on the way to the great emphasis that Jesus is our Passover. And the first thing I want you to see, you’ll see right away in verse 2. “The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death for they feared the people.” It's hard to imagine, isn't it? The most respected religious leaders of Jesus’ day are plotting murder. Could you imagine someone writing on the front page of the paper that Billy Graham and R.C. Sproul and John Piper were caught plotting somebody's murder? You can't conceive of something like that! That's exactly what's happening here. It makes you shake your head. What in the world is going on when the chief religious leaders of Jesus’ day are plotting murder, and not only are they plotting murder, they’re plotting to murder the Messiah?
But you know that tune has been played many times, because ministerial titles neither guarantee orthodoxy, nor do they prevent great blindness and sin. That is a story that we have seen all down through the ages. You know, sometimes you look out today and you hear stories of ministers with great reputation who have denied various aspects of the Christian truth. If a minister wants to make headlines, all he has to do is deny some part of the Apostle's Creed and he can have his fifteen minutes of fame. I don't know whether you follow the religious news but the BBC has been reporting this week about a Dutch Calvinist minister named Klaas Hendrikse who is known as “The Atheist Minister.” He does not believe in the existence of God, he does not believe in an afterlife, he does not believe that Jesus actually ever existed, but he is the pastor of a Dutch Calvinist congregation in the mainline Dutch Reformed Church, a church in which there are evangelical ministers and people — not in his local congregation but in the larger church. And of course he's gotten a lot of attention for this. And there was a church trial held, as you might imagine, because he denied every point of the Apostle's Creed that the choir just sang. He was found not guilty because almost all of his congregation — surprise, surprise — also denies all of the things that he denies. And so he was deemed as suitable pastor for them.
And we hear things like that and we shake our heads and oftentimes we think, “What is the world coming to?” But my friends, that is an old, old story. There's nothing surprising about that. Ministerial titles do not guarantee a minister's orthodoxy nor do they prevent great blindness and sin. Surely we learned that in Luke 22 verse 2. If the chief priests and scribes can be not only just in theological error, if they can not only be blind to their sin and have murder not only in their hearts but actually be planning murder of Jesus the Messiah, it shouldn't surprise us when people who ought to be living according to the Book and preaching the Word go astray. For all of us, as we listen to religious figures, the question needs to be not, “Who is this saying this?” but “What is being said and is it according to God's Word?” We should be like the Bereans, who, after hearing Paul, went back and they got their Bibles out and they made sure that Paul was preaching what the Scriptures said. We need to be asking the question, whenever we hear someone claiming to be a minster of God, “Is this person preaching what the Scripture says?” Surely that's one of the things that we learn from this passage.
Satan entered into Judas
There's another thing too. Look at what the passage says about Judas in verses 3 to 6. “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of a crowd.” Here is one of Jesus’ own disciples falling away from his profession, and surely one of the things we learn here is that ministers may fall from their profession. Even ministers may fall from their profession. This passage does not call into question the secure salvation of true believers, but it does indicate this to us: there is such a thing as a false profession, and it can come not only from members; it can come from ministers.
When I was a new professor at RTS back in 1990 I think it was, I was invited to speak at a conference here in Mississippi and there was a very well-known pastor who was the headliner speaker at that conference and I was on the sort of the “B-panel.” And he was an excellent preacher. I got to sit in his sessions and listen to him preach the Word. Many years later, he fell into immorality, he left his wife, he refused the disciple of his presbytery, he refused to repent, he went out of the ministry and out of the church. It was a really heart-breaking thing for many people. Many people were deeply discouraged by this because they knew what a faithful man he had been and how gifted he was as a preacher and speaker and how he had been used in the lives of people – very disconcerting and upsetting.
A couple of years after that, I was in the Choctaw bookstore down in Belhaven Heights on North Street and I was wandering – I love the smell of old books falling apart in there, looking in the history section. They have a religion section in the back, usually it wasn't very good, but every once in a while you’d go in there and a good ministerial library would have been released and you could get some really good books cheap. And I was wandering around in the back and sure enough, there was a set of commentaries that I had wanted to own, a twenty-one volume set of commentaries that I couldn't afford. It would have cost me hundreds of dollars to buy new, and there it was on sale for ten dollars. I knew that the bookstore owner did not know what he had on his hands. And so I immediately opened the volume up and I looked inside and there was the name of this minister who I've just told you about. His library had obviously been sold. Even at that price, I just couldn't bear to have those books on my shelf. And so I folded it back up and I put it back on the shelf and I walked out of the library.
Ministers may fall from a profession. Do not be surprised when you see infamous examples of apostasy, even amongst ministers. Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples who heard Jesus preach, who saw Jesus’ miracles, who walked with Him for three years, fell from his profession. I love what J. C. Ryle says. “You know at best, we have but a faint conception of the deceitfulness of our heart.” And Judas was deceived. He didn't look deceived to the people around him, but he was deceived. He was a hypocrite. He made a false profession even though he walked with Jesus for three years. This should call us to humility, shouldn't it? And to prayerfulness and to self-examination and to dependence upon God.
They agreed to give him money
Third, if you ask yourself the question, “How could this have happened? How could one of Jesus’ own twelve disciples fallen away?” and the answer that Luke gives us is — here's how it happens: an affection, a desire, takes over your heart that you long for more, you love more, than you love God, than you love Jesus, than you love grace, than you love the Gospel. That's what happens. An affection, a desire, takes hold of your heart that is more important to you than God is. And Luke tells us what it was for Judas. What does he say? Verse 5 — “They agreed to give him money.” Luke is telling you that in Judas’ case, what got him was the love of money. There was an inordinate desire in his heart for money. Now, you say, “You’re reading a whole lot into that sentence.” If you will check the parallel passage in Mark 14:10, Mark will tell you the same thing, that Judas was given money to do this. And then if you go to Matthew chapter 26 verse 15, Matthew will tell you that when Judas first went to the chief priests, do you know what he asked them? “What will you give me if I do this? What will you give me for it?” And then John, in John chapter 12 verse 4, will tell you something that you don't find anywhere else in the gospels. Guess what Judas had been doing. For three years, as the holder of the purse, as the treasurer of the disciples, he had been stealing. Now it's very interesting, the gospels don't go into a lot of explanation about why Judas did what he did, except to say this man's heart had been taken hold of by money. Now that ought to make us tremble.
You know with men it's usually sex or money or power that gets them or some combination or all three, but it's an inordinate desire, it's an affection, it's a yearning that becomes stronger in us than our yearning for God. That's what leads to apostasy, the falling away from a profession. “A man can walk with Christ,” you say, “for all those years, and then chose money over Him?” You know, I bet you if we had had a conversation with Judas and said, “Judas, do you think you have a problem with a love of money?” I bet you he would have said, “No, are you kidding me? I am walking around with a guy who doesn't even own a house. I've spent three years wandering around with Him all over Palestine. No, I don't have an inordinate love of money.” But he did. His heart cared about money more than he loved and trusted in Jesus. No wonder Paul said that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
And you don't just have to have money to fall prey to this sin. I love what J.C. Ryle says. “It is possible to love money without having it and to have money without loving it.” And that is so true. And I've seen both kinds of people in my life. I've known people with just huge amounts of money that did not love it. They were generous, they were modest. And I've known people that didn't have any money at all and that's all they could think about. Well there's a warning here. The affection, the desire that got imbedded into Judas’ heart, was a love of money and it was the thing that led him down the road to perdition. May God make us all aware of what the affections are of this world that have gotten into our hearts that are trying to pull us away from Him.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER
Well all of that leads up to where Luke is going in this passage and you see it especially in verses 7 and following, don't you? Luke wants to show you the connection between Jesus and the Passover, and especially he wants to show you how the Passover has been prepared not so much by the disciples but for the disciples, in two ways. First he wants to show you how all the details of the actual Passover feast that Jesus is going to enjoy with the disciples have been taken care of and was provided for them without their own involvement or effort. And then he wants you to see how God in His providence is preparing Jesus to be their Passover Lamb. Let's look at the first thing first and then we’ll look at the second thing.
He calls Peter and John to Him. Now think of this friends – this is the biggest holiday of the year in Jerusalem. The hotels have been sold out for months. Okay, you’re not getting into the Hampton Inn; you’re certainly not getting into a five-star hotel. Homes would be crammed with people. If fire marshals went into the houses of Jerusalem in these days, they would have been in big trouble because people were crammed into houses. As Jerusalem swelled with pilgrims coming to observe the Passover and then the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed it. Okay, so it's Thursday, it's the day that the lamb is sacrificed, and now Jesus is telling Peter and John to go make arrangements. And naturally they say, “Well exactly where is it that we're supposed to make these preparations, Jesus?” And He tells them something really interesting. He says, “Go into Jerusalem and you’re going to see a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him back to the house that he goes to and then tell the master of the house, ‘Where's the guest room for Me and My disciples?’” Now you think to yourself, “Okay look, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Jerusalem, so we're just going to walk into Jerusalem and there's going to be someone carrying a jar?” Well here's the interesting thing. In those days, typically women carried jars, men carried wine skins. So it was a little bit unusual that a man would be carrying a jar of water. And sure enough, Peter and John go into Jerusalem and it's just like Jesus said. There's a man carrying a jar of water and they follow him back to the house and they say to the owner of the house, “The Master needs a room to celebrate the Passover tonight. Is your guest room ready?” And the man says, “Why, yes it is. Let me lead you upstairs.” And everything is furnished and ready for the Passover. All they have to do is go over to the temple, get the lamb that has been prepared by the priests, and bring it back and set it out on the table. Everything has been prepared for them just like Jesus said so. And notice how Luke draws attention to that in verse 13. “They went and found it just as He had told them.” In other words, the emphasis is — the table has been spread for them. Everything that they have needed has been prepared for them ahead of time. Really, even though they have to go get the Passover lamb and set it out for that night, everything has already been done for them.
But even more, let's back up in the story. Even more, the real Passover Lamb is being prepared for them and it's being prepared for them in the most striking and surprising way. Think of it. Verse 2 — how is God preparing the Passover Lamb? Through the murderous designs of the chief priests and the scribes. How is the Passover Lamb being prepared for them? Through the betraying words and actions of an unfaithful disciple, Judas. How is the Passover Lamb being prepared for them? Through the malevolent purposes of Satan. Do you realize what's happening here? God is preparing His Son Jesus to be the Passover Lamb for His disciples and for all who trust in Him through the machinations of murderous priests, a betraying disciple, and Satan himself! You tell me God isn't sovereign. The Passover Lamb is being prepared. The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:17, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” It's all being prepared for them by God because this is the only way that they will be spared the judgment of God. This is the only way that they will be spared the angel of death. This is the only way that they will be redeemed out of bondage to sin. This is the only way that they will be brought into forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is the only way that they will experience adoption into the family of God — through the propitiation, through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the true Passover Lamb.
J.I. Packer was asked a few years ago, “Dr. Packer, could you summarize the New Testament in three words?” And he said, “Yes.” You’re not surprised, are you? “Yes,” he said, “Adoption through propitiation.” He said, “We are forgiven and welcomed as children into God's family through the propitiation of Jesus Christ” – through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is our what? Our Passover Lamb. Now I said to you at the beginning of the sermon, early Christians understood that. A few years ago we discovered a sermon that had been preached in Asia Minor in the city of Sardis, somewhere in the middle of the second century — so eighteen hundred and sixty years ago. On or about the time of Easter Sunday, a pastor named Melito of Sardis preached a sermon called “On Pascha.” Now pascha is an interesting Greek word. It can refer to Passover it can refer to the Passover festival, it can refer to the Passover Lamb, it can refer to Easter, or it can refer to Jesus. It's an interesting word. And this is his sermon, and it's based on Exodus 12 and it's an exposition of the Gospel. And here's how he ends this sermon:
“’I am the One,’ says the Christ, ‘I am the One that destroyed death and triumphed over the enemy and tried down hell and found the strong one and carried off man to the heights of heaven. I am the One,’ says the Christ. Come then, all you families of men who are compounded with sins and get forgiveness of sins from Me, for I am your forgiveness. I am the pascha of salvation. I am the lamb slain for you. I am your ransom. I am you life. I am your light. I am your salvation. I am your resurrection. I am your king. I will raise you up by my right hand. I am leading you up to the heights of heaven. There I will show you the Father from ages past. It is He who made the heaven and the earth and fashioned man in the beginning, who is proclaimed through the Law and the prophets, who was enfleshed upon a virgin, who hung upon a tree, who was buried in the earth and raised from the dead and went up to the heights of heaven, who sits at the Father's right hand, who has the power to save every man through whom the Father did His works from beginning to eternity. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end, beginning inexpressible and end incomprehensible. He is the Christ. He is the King. He is Jesus. He is the captain. He is the Lord. He is the One who rose from the dead. He is the One who sits at the Father's right hand. He carries the Father and is carried by the Father. To Him be the glory and power forever. Amen.’”
Now are his words a fanciful application? No, he's listened to Luke. He's listened to Paul. He's listened to the New Testament. Jesus is the true Passover Lamb. Let us believe in Him. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Luke's testimony to Jesus as our hope and Jesus as the only source of our salvation. And we pray that by Your Spirit we would trust in Him. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now just like the feast was spread and prepared for the disciples, let's take our hymnals in hand and turn to number 480 and sing, “Come, for the Feast Is Spread.”
For all of you who need the blood of the one true Passover Lamb, spread for you, shed for you, receive His blessing. Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.