OUR LORD’S EATING THE LAST PASSOVER WITH HIS DISCIPLES
Luk_22:14-16. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve Apostles with him. And he 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.
SUPPOSING the Holy Scriptures to have been written by divine inspiration, and Jesus Christ to have been the Son of the Most High God, we should expect that every thing related of him would have the stamp and character of his perfections. There would be a consistency in all that belonged to him: in what belonged to him as God, he would appear as God; and in what belonged to him as man, he would be found altogether pure and spotless. This consistency we do find; nor does he ever for a moment say or do any thing which is not worthy of himself. The time is come for his celebration of the Passover, on the very night previous to his death. He orders his Disciples to go into the city, and make ready for him. But where shall they go? He bids them enter into the city, and inform a person whom they shall meet bearing a pitcher of water, that their Master would eat the Passover at his house; and he assures them that the person will, without hesitation, shew them a large upper room furnished, and affording every accommodation that they can wish. Nor need they send any person to tell him what house they are at, as he will be in no danger of wanting any such information. Here we see him, as the omniscient God, declaring with infallible certainty the most contingent events: and when he comes to his Disciples, behold, he forgets all his own approaching sufferings, and is intent only on promoting their eternal welfare. The last evening was arrived, when he was to conflict with all the powers of darkness, and to be delivered into the hands of sinners. This he well knew; and therefore, one would suppose, should have greatly dreaded the approaching hour: but, instead of dreading it for himself, he earnestly desired it for their good: “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not eat any more thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Here two inquiries arise; and they will afford a profitable subject for our present contemplation?
Why did he so desire to eat the Passover with them at that time?
Many reasons doubtless conspired to make him so desirous of it. It would afford him a valuable opportunity
Of manifesting his love to them—
[Parting friends are usually anxious to give to each other some lasting token of their mutual regard. Our blessed Lord, in particular, was glad to avail himself of the opportunity which the Paschal feast would afford him for this purpose. That feast was attended with repeated washings of the hands of him who presided at it: but our Lord, having his Disciples alone with him, instead of washing his own hands, took a towel, and girded himself, and washed their feet: nor would he suffer any one of them to decline accepting this token of his love: so anxious was he to convince them all, that “having loved them, he loved them to the end [Note: Joh_13:1.].” Nor did he by this action merely express to them his own love, but shewed them what sentiments they should entertain towards each other, and towards all his people to the end of time: they should account no service too humiliating to perform for the lowest member of his mystical body; but every one should make it the summit of his ambition to become the servant of all.]
Of conveying instruction to their minds-
[They had been frequently informed of his approaching sufferings and death; insomuch, that though they did not fully comprehend these predictions, they were much troubled and perplexed in relation to them. They were now, like ground that has been ploughed up, and watered with plenteous rains, prepared to receive into their bosoms the good seed, the word of life, Our Lord therefore now opened to them, more fully than on any other occasion, all the deepest mysteries of his religion. He told them plainly who he was, even one with the Father, insomuch that “whosoever had seen him, had seen the Father.” He told them also, whither, and for what end, he was going; even to his Father’s house, “to prepare places for them.” He told them, that his departure was altogether “expedient for them;” so that if they considered it aright, instead of mourning on account of it, they would rejoice: for that he would send to them the Holy Ghost to be their abiding Comforter and Guide: yea, he himself would hear and answer every petition that they should present to the Father in his name; nay more, though removed from them as to his body, he would come and manifest himself to them, and even dwell in them, by his Spirit. He opened to them also the nature and intent of his death, which was to procure “for them the remission of their sins;” and shewed them, that, notwithstanding his removal from them, they should be united to him as branches to the vine, and, by constant communications of grace and strength from him, be enabled to bring forth the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory. In a word, in his discourses at this feast, he brought forth every subject which their necessities required, and presented it in such a view as should most conduce to their lasting edification and comfort [Note: Read attentively the I3th, 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of St. John.].]
Of commending them to God in prayer—
[Doubtless he had oftentimes prayed with them: but this last prayer was peculiarly tender and impressive. It is the delight of pious friends, when parting to meet no more, to commend each other into the hands of their common Father, in the hope and prospect of seeing each other again in a better world. Thus did our blessed Lord on this occasion. He had taken the charge of his Disciples in this world, and had kept them all in safety, the traitor alone excepted, according to the predictions concerning him: and now he entreats his Father to keep them; that, through their ministrations, his name may be made known to the ends of the earth; and, through their exalted love and piety, the whole world may have an evidence, both of the truth of his mission, and of the sanctifying efficacy of his religion. And, that they might have the fuller assurance of meeting him again in a better world, he prays, or rather, I should say, he declares it to be his unalterable will, that they all should be with him in that kingdom to which he was going, and should behold his glory there for ever and ever [Note: See the 17th chapter of St. John.]. Surely they never could forget that prayer so solemnly offered, so tenderly expressed, so richly fraught with instruction and heavenly consolation.]
Of preparing them fully for his departure—
[His approaching sufferings must of necessity prove a great stumbling-block in their way. But when they should recollect what he had told them previously to his death, their hopes would revive, and they would be encouraged to expect the full accomplishment of all his promises. To produce this effect was a very principal object of this last discourse [Note: See Joh_13:19; Joh_14:25; Joh_16:4; Joh_16:33; Joh_17:13.]: and how completely it was attained, the Apostles themselves inform us: they thought his former discourses had been obscure parables in comparison of this: but this appeared to them simple and intelligible; insomuch that it removed all remaining doubt from their minds respecting his Divine mission [Note: Joh_16:28-30.]. It is true, we find, that, on the apprehension of their Lord, they all forsook him and fled; and for some time they scarcely knew how to believe the joyful tidings respecting his resurrection from the dead: but, from the moment that they were convinced of that fact, we see a steadfastness in them which was evidently the result of these previous instructions; and their whole future lives demonstrated what unspeakable benefit they had received from them.]
Such were the grounds, we conceive, on which our Lord so earnestly desired to eat the Passover with them at that time. We are next to inquire,
Why he determined to eat it with them no more—
If he had pleased, he might have continued upon earth after his resurrection, or come down again from heaven at that season of the year to eat it with them again. But, independent of many other considerations, there were two reasons in particular, why he would not celebrate with them that ordinance any more:
Because it was now about to be fulfilled and abrogated—
[The Passover was instituted only for a time, till the more perfect dispensation of the Messiah should be introduced. For both the occasion of that ordinance, and the ordinance itself, were altogether typical. The occasion of that ordinance was the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, which was typical of the redemption of the world from sin and Satan, death and hell. The Paschal Lamb also, which was to be roasted, and eaten with bitter herbs, and not a bone of which was to be broken, was typical of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was to endure the extremest agonies both of soul and body as a sacrifice for sin, yet was not to have one bone of his body broken. To the completion of this type in the Lord Jesus Christ the Apostle Paul bears witness, saying, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.” This therefore was the deliverance which was henceforth to be celebrated in the Church; and in comparison of it the deliverance from Egypt was no more to be remembered [Note: Jer_23:5-8.] — — — From this time the shadows were to flee away, seeing that the good things which they prefigured were now arrived: the new covenant, with every thing relating to it, was now established; and therefore the old covenant, with all its carnal ordinances, having waxed old, was to vanish away [Note: Heb_8:13.].
Now it was of great importance to the whole Church that this matter should be fully understood: and therefore our blessed Lord informed his Disciples, that, since “the Passover would now be fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” or in the dispensation which he was about to introduce, there would be no more occasion for the Jewish rites and ceremonies, not even for that which was the most solemn and sacred of them all [Note: The word “until” does not import, that our Lord would keep the feast after it had been accomplished in him, but that he never would keep it again. It is an Hebraism, frequent in the Scriptures.].]
Because other memorials of his love were now to be established—
[The Lord’s Supper was now instituted for the purpose of exhibiting to the world the wonders of his love, and of perpetuating in the Church the remembrance of it to the end of time. In the breaking of the bread, was represented the rending of his body on the cross; and in the pouring out of the wine, the effusion of his blood: and the partaking of those sacred elements which nourish the body, represented the nourishing of our souls by a believing application to Christ as our atoning sacrifice. This is the feast which his people are now to keep: of this all are to partake, provided they desire to have redemption through his blood, and can partake of it with the bitter herbs of real humiliation. This feast he will keep with us; not indeed by his bodily presence, but by that which is infinitely more important, his spiritual presence with our souls: “I will come unto you,” says he, “and sup with you, and you with me.” Nor was this the privilege only of his own immediate Disciples, but of all who shall believe in him through their word: “Lo,” says he, “I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”]
How earnestly should we desire communion with Christ!
[Did he forget all his approaching sufferings, that he might instruct and comfort his Disciples? O how should we rise above all considerations, whether of pain or pleasure, to enjoy fellowship with him! How should we seek instruction from him as the first and greatest of all blessings! I am far from saying that we should neglect any earthly duty whatever; but we should consider every thing in this world as altogether worthless in comparison of him: joys should be no joys, any further than they will consist with a sense of his love; nor should sorrows be regarded for a moment, if they be endured for his sake, or can be rendered subservient to his glory. To hear his voice, and learn his will, and taste his love, and follow his steps, and secure a participation of his glory, this should be our one desire, our continued labour, our supreme delight.]
How delighted should we be with the thoughts of death!
[At death, this whole work of redemption will be fully completed. In Christ it is completed now; in us it will not be fully completed, till all the remains of sin are done away. That will take place at the moment of our release from this mortal body: and then we shall keep the feast in a better manner. Our Lord has taught us to expect a renewal of this feast in the realms above: he has told us, that “he will drink of new wine with us in his Father’s kingdom [Note: Mat_26:29.].” O what a feast will that be! We need not envy then the beloved Apostle, who at the Last Supper lay in his Saviour’s bosom: for we ourselves shall, like Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, recline upon the bosom of our blessed Lord. Should we not then look forward to that time with holy desire, “looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of our Lord?” Should not the language of us all be, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly?” Let not death, which is to introduce us to such bliss, be formidable in our eyes: but let us be anxious only to be counted worthy of that honour which he has prepared for us, and be “longing to be dissolved, that we may be with Christ.”]