Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13
"As you go into the city," he told them, "you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’" – Matthew 26:18-20 NLT
The timing of Jesus' triumphal entry, betrayal, trial and crucifixion was no fluke. The fact that this all happened during the celebration of Passover was no coincidence. This was the high holy week for all Jews and the city of Jerusalem would have been filled to capacity with pilgrims coming from all over the known world at that time. Luke tells us in Acts that there were "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs" (Acts 2:9-11 NLT). The city would have been a melting pot of different nationalities, consisting of all those who had converted to Judaism. Passover was a seven-day celebration that was followed 50 days later with the celebration of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law on Sinai. The energy level within the city would have been at an all-time high. People were everywhere. It was a festival and celebration, that would have had a holiday feel about it, much like Christmas does for us.
As the day for the celebration of the Passover meal approached, the disciples went to Jesus and asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the meal. This would not have been the first time they had celebrated Passover together. Ever since Jesus chose them as His followers, they would have made their way to Jerusalem each year, and eaten this meal together, much like a family, with Jesus as the head of the household. What the disciples didn't know was that this particular Passover meal was going to be a radical departure from all those they had participated in before – all the way back to their childhoods. The entire last week of Jesus' life, commonly referred to as Passion Week, was filled with significant allusions to the Old Testament celebration of Passover, most of which would have escaped the notice of the disciples. In Jesus' instructions to His disciples, he said, "My time has come…" Jesus fully grasped the significance of what was about to happen and what it had to do with the Passover. He knew He was about to play the part of the innocent lamb, sacrificing His life in order that men might escape the grasp of death – just as in the days of the original Passover in Egypt.
His time had come. The climax of His earthly life was fast approaching. And as He sent the two disciples to make preparations for what would be His last Passover meal, His mind had to be swimming with thoughts regarding what was about to take place in the days ahead. Meanwhile the disciples who had been tasked with the preparations for the meal would have had their hands full. In reading the different accounts of this story in the Gospels, it appears as if all they had to do was procure a room. But there were extensive rituals to be performed. There was an unblemished lamb to purchase, sacrifice and prepare. In fact, these two disciples would have been the ones to actually take the life of the lamb they had chosen. There in the Temple grounds, along with thousands of other pilgrims, they would have watched as the life blood of their lamb was drained into a vessel, and then poured out at the foot of the altar. Then the lamb was "skinned, and cut open, the fat, the kidney's, and liver, set apart for the altar; the rest wrapped in the skin, and carried home from the Temple.… As the new day approached, at sunset, the carcass was trussed for roasting, with two skewers of pomegranate wood, so that they formed a cross in the lamb. It was then put in an earthen oven of a special kind, resting, without bottom, on the ground, and was roasted in the earth" (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ).
Prior to this, they would have had to prepare the house in which they would be taking their meal together. They would have had to have removed all leaven, fermented grain or liquid, and anything that might defile the house. All the vessels to be used in preparation of the meal had to be painstakingly cleansed. This would have been an all-day affair. A blast from the silver trumpets in the Temple would have announced to all Jerusalem that the Passover had arrived. The time had come, just as it had over the years. But this time it was going to be different. This time there would be a new Lamb. This would be the final Passover. Once this week ended, there would never be a need for another lamb to ever be sacrificed again. No more blood would need to be shed. No more sacrifices would need to be made. A new covenant was going to be instituted. And while all of this escaped the notice of the disciples, Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and the eternal significance of the role He was about to play. It was for this moment He had come and the time had come for Him to do what only He could do.
Father, it is difficult to understand what these final days would have been like for Your Son. It is impossible to grasp what was going through His mind and heart as He drew closer to those final moments of His life. What He did, He did willingly. He was not forced or coerced. He was not made to die in our place. He did it gladly and out of love for us – in spite of our unlovableness. Thank You for sending Him to die in my place. Jesus, thank You for being willing to be obedient, even unto death – just for me. I know I didn't deserve. I know I had done nothing to earn it. But You did it anyway. And I am eternally grateful. Amen.