OT Reading: Ex.12:1-13
NT Reading: Luke 22:1-13
Sunday mornings we’ve been working our way through Luke’s gospel and now we are well into Luke’s account of the dramatic last week of Jesus’ life which led up to his crucifixion.
Opposition had confronted Jesus right from the earliest days of his public ministry but now it had hardened. Judas, one of the twelve, had just taken the momentous decision to betray his Lord and had gone to the Jewish leadership to talk it through with them. They were delighted and agreed to reward him financially for his efforts.
All Judas had to do now was to find a suitable opportunity when he might hand Jesus over to the authorities. Such a move was still a risky business and nobody wanted to promote a riot. Jesus had to be taken when there were no crowds about and so Judas set himself to come up with a plan.
The events which followed however showed that it was not Judas who was in control. Nor was it in the hands of the Jewish authorities to determine what happened next – it was Jesus! And his plans involved celebrating the Passover with his disciples.
During the Passover festival Jerusalem was overflowing with visitors and pilgrims. The regular population of the city would be greatly inflated with maybe as many as half a million present: spare rooms would be at a premium. People would crowd the streets and the Temple courts with a great buzz of religious excitement – it was all rather rather like the frantic last days leading up to Christmas with its rush of last minute shopping.
The actual celebration of the Passover was not a public affair however. The temple courts would be silent and the streets of Jerusalem empty of traffic. The Passover meal was a meal shared in homes and in family groups. Once again it was much like our Christmas Day when people don’t go out but gather together in families.
The Passover was a special day, a holy day.
And all that made it a wonderful opportunity for those who wanted to make a quiet arrest. After all everyone would be off the streets and the temple guard would be able to swoop unhindered to grab that troublesome prophet from Nazareth and carry him away. There would be no-one around to get in the way or to try to intervene. Yes, the Passover was a great opportunity – but only if they knew where to find him.
And Jesus took careful steps to make sure that they didn’t!
If Judas imagined it would be an easy thing for him to pass on word of Jesus’ planned whereabouts for that meal he had another think coming. Jesus wanted to celebrate the Passover with his disciples and he wasn’t about to allow anything to stop him doing so.
Jesus knew that his time was nearly up but there were still a number of things he wanted to do. And so he acted in such a way as to ensure that he would have sufficient undisturbed time to finish everything off. There was unfinished business he still had to attend to and he was determined that it would all be attended to in just the way he wanted.
Throughout his entire life Jesus had been conscious of working to a predetermined timetable and the last 24 hours of his life would be no different. God had a plan for Jesus’ life and Jesus was intent of following it.
Do you remember how at the age of 12 he went with his parents to Jerusalem. He got separated from his parents who even began their home journey without him before they realised his absence. When they returned to the city they tracked him down to the Temple. When they quizzed him he simply replied that he had to be about his Father’s business? He wasn’t talking about carpentry either he was talking about spiritual matters.
During the three years of his public ministry Jesus continued to operate according to the careful timing of a divine plan – the apostle John in particular brings this out in his gospel as again and again he referred to the fact that Jesus’ hour "had not yet come".
Now as the end came, as that hour drew ever closer, Jesus still had plans to pack every available moment full of activity and it would be activity that was fully under his sovereign control.
What did Jesus have in mind?
Jesus had plans for his last 24 hours and it was for this reason that he would take care to make sure that his betrayal and arrest did not intervene too soon and so prevent him from doing everything that he wanted to.
He wanted to celebrate this last Passover with his disciples – in fact he had a really strong desire to do so and had looked forward to the occasion with them
During the time he would spend together with his disciples at table he would establish what has become known as the Lord’s Supper, a memorial meal which would serve as both a sign and a seal of the new covenant he was about to inaugurate by his death. This supper has been celebrated regularly down through the centuries to the great spiritual help and encouragement of his followers. Indeed we will, Lord willing, be celebrating it this evening at the end of our afternoon service.
He still had some very significant teaching that he wanted to pass on to his disciples.
* Part of that teaching would take the form of a worked example. Arriving in the Upper room no-one made a move to see to the necessary but lowly task of washing feet. Jesus, the King of Kings and Great David’s greater Son, had not come into the world to lord it over men and women and to be served by them but instead he had come to serve. And now he would do so as he humbly washed their feet - it was a precursor of how he would humbly lay down his life as a ransom to pay the debt of grubby sinners.
* For the rest he would complete his teaching with the well-known truths that are recorded for us in chapters 13-16 of John’s gospel. Those chapters contain the "new commandment" to love one another; two more of the famous "I am" declarations; and a careful description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit who would soon be given and poured out upon the Christian church.
Jesus also had an important appointment to keep with his Heavenly Father and it was an appointment which he would keep. It was a prayer meeting and during it Jesus would pray earnestly. He was sorely tried as he was confronted with the enormity of the experience through which he was about to pass and he entrusted himself into his Father’s hands, submitting to his will in trusting obedience. It would prove to be the last appointment he would keep before Judas and his band of soldiers arrived in the small hours in that same Garden to arrest him.
How glad we should be that Jesus took such care to ensure that all these things should take place before his arrest! How much poorer we would be without them!
The Precautions Taken
Jesus was very keen to celebrate the Passover with his disciples and so careful preparations had to be made. We’re not surprised to learn that Jesus called a couple of his disciples, Peter and John, and then sent them away to do what was necessary.
Nor is it surprising to hear Peter and John ask their very reasonable question: "Where will you have us prepare it?"
What is surprising though, is Jesus’ reply and the time Luke takes to describe the details of Jesus’ reply.
Did Judas’ prick up his ears when he heard Peter and John’s question? Was he expecting now to learn the address which he would then be able to pass on to the Jewish authorities so that they could come and arrest Jesus during the Passover meal?
Jesus wasn’t about to allow any sensitive information slip out – the location must be kept a secret so that the meal will not be compromised. He doesn’t mention an address nor does he mention the name of the owner of the house instead he gave some rather cryptic instructions. And yet those instructions show us his sovereign understanding and control over even the smallest details of life.
If this was simply some prearranged plan there would be no point in Luke spending time described the details of some prearranged meeting. But Luke has recorded these details and at some length because this was special. There is not the slightest indication that any previous arrangements had been made: Jesus simply spoke knowing what was going to happen and where and how and at what precise moment.
He didn’t tell his disciples by which gate they were to enter the city but he knew that when they did enter they see a man carrying a water jar
Men usually carried water in skins, it was women who used jars, but he knew Peter and John would meet just such a man carrying a jar.
The streets would be thronged with people busy about their business and remember the city was crammed with visitors during the passover – they’ll be able to recognise the man and they will be able to follow him.
Imagine all the variables involved and yet Jesus knew or rather co-ordinated them all so that at just the right time, in just the right place just the right people should meet up!
As soon as Peter and John see this man they are to follow him – there is no hint of a discussion taking place between them, nor even that the man with the jar knew that he was being followed.
The servant had finished his errands and was on his way back home and so he unwittingly led Jesus’ disciples back to his master’s home. Quite naturally he went in and Jesus had told Peter and John that they were to go in too.
Peter and John are to pass on a message to the owner of the house – it is simple and straightforward and Peter and John do just what they’ve been told to do:
v.11"‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’"
I wonder if those disciples wondered whether there really anywhere in Jerusalem that wasn’t already fully booked? The disciples might have wondered but they were learning to trust Jesus.
Not only did Jesus expect there to be a room – he expected the room to be a large furnished room on the first floor!
And it all turned out exactly as Jesus had said!
The Bible regularly teaches us that God is fully in control: it tells us that sparrows don’t fall to the ground without him being involved, and it even tells us that the hairs on our head are all numbered. What is more, this God works all things according to the purpose of his will; he is in heaven and he does whatsoever he pleases; and he even causes all things to work together for the good of his ownpeople whom he has called to himself.
And Jesus is this God: he speaks and the winds and waves obey him; he sends Peter to pay his taxes with a coin he knew would be in a fish’s mouth. And now he sends Peter and John on a mission knowing that at the precise moment they enter the city they’ll see a man they are to follow and following him they’ll come to a home where there just happens to be a large, suitably furnished and unoccupied dining-room, and what’s more the owner is well-disposed and will let them use it. The disciples have found a safe and secure meeting place where Jesus will be able to celebrate with them their Passover meal.
And what an appropriate meal it was for him to celebrate with his disciples at this time. With God’s help, we’ll come back to this next week in more detail, but the Passover was the feast that celebrated how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. In order to force Pharaoh to let his people go free the Lord God sent a series of plagues which culminated in a serious judgment, the death of every first-born throughout the land. But to Israel God provided protection, if only they did what he said they would be completely safe. They had to take a lamb, kill it, and then paint the blood on the doorframe of their houses. When the angel of destruction saw the blood he did not stop to take another life but "passed on".
Jesus had come to be the real, final Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His blood was in a very short space of time going to be shed and all those who would take shelter under that blood would be safe.
My friends, this is Jesus. This is who he is and what he is like. He acts with wisdom, authority, knowledge, control and wonderful loving compassion. His power is that of God himself for he is God become man and his power is such that he even uses the free and responsible decisions of individuals to further his own plans and purposes.
He is an extraordinary man and worthy of your attention, worthy of your faith and trust. He died and shed his blood so that sinners might be set free!
And now I must tell you that you can have this Jesus as your friend and you can sing with confidence songs like "What a friend we have in Jesus!" for he is a friend to all those who will receive him and trust him.
If you have even the faintest inkling of who Jesus is you will surely want to trust him and to sing as some of us sang in the prayer meeting during the week:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
Swedish sources attribute the original song to a certain Prince Oscar. He wasn’t dreaming up a few nice, syrupy words to sing because he knew from experience what he was writing about. In 1888 he relinquished his royal title and right to succession in order to marry a commoner who had influenced his religious beliefs. After the marriage he and his wife were actively involved in Christian service working with both the YMCA and the S.A. In addition Oscar became a lay preacher.
And you, what do you have, or who do you have, that is more valuable than Jesus? He is outstanding among 10,000, the pearl of greatest price, and his name is exalted above every other name. And he can be yours today.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!