When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
“When the hour came…” The hour for what? The hour for eating dinner together. But how was the timing for dinner actually chosen? Was it simply a matter of trying to find an evening that suited everyone? Of course not! This dinner was not just any dinner: it was Passover. The timing was set in the nation’s history, ultimately by God himself.
Luke goes out of his way to remind us of the timing of these climactic events with Passover. At least five times in a few short sentences he references it. He clearly intends us to understand what now follows against the background of Passover.
Passover was the first and arguably the greatest of the annual feasts in Judaism. It started the New Year for it was a celebration of Israel’s liberation and her new birth as a nation. But it was more than a memorial: it was a promise and a picture in advance of a much greater liberation.
The original Passover was not just about freedom from slavery in Egypt: it was about salvation from God’s righteous wrath against sin. Exodus 12 sets out the graphic symbolic details of the first Passover, when each household was to sacrifice a blemish-free lamb, take the blood and paint it on the door posts of each house so that God’s judgement would ‘pass over’ those sheltering there.
Lambs, of course, are not moral beings and know nothing about sin. In fact, the Bible is very clear that no amount of animal sacrifices could ever deal with the problem of human guilt. But the Passover lamb served a vital symbolic and prophetic function. It was a symbolic picture of the true sacrifice that God promised to provide one day that would deal once and for all with the problem of human sin and guilt. When John the Baptist introduced Jesus and his mission to the world, he described him as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” God’s lamb had come.
Luke wants us to see that Jesus was the true Passover lamb, foreordained, as Peter would later state, before the foundation of the world. He was born to die, to give his life for the sin of the world. And this was the moment planned in eternity. The hour had come.
How amazing, then, Jesus’ words to his disciples: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…”. He knew exactly what this Passover would mean for him personally. It would be his last, as he explained to his disciples. No more Passovers would be needed because Passover was about to be fulfilled in his own suffering. “Eagerly desired… this Passover… with you… before I suffer.” This is our King.