Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper and The Passover Lamb

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On this Thursday before Easter, on what has come to be known as Maundy Thursday, we prepare our hearts for an incredible weekend of remembrance and celebration.  Today we remember the Lord’s Supper.  And I want to use traditions surrounding that night which Christ shared with his disciples to appreciate anew the sacrifice to which it points.  More than anything I pray the Word of God pricks your heart and draws you to worship the One Who is highly exalted for His humility.  Although it is a holiday representative of the celebration we enjoy everyday as believers in a risen Savior, Easter is set-apart annually to clearly rejoice in the cosmic epicenter of our faith and the history of the world: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper or what we have come to know as “communion”, he was celebrating the Passover with His disciples.  My family is Jewish by heritage, not religiously, but we have found some of the Jewish traditions and celebrations to be incredibly encouraging to our faith in Christ.  Just last week we celebrated the Passover in our home with friends from our church.  I’m sure that a practicing Jew would find our version highly offensive because our whole purpose was to show how Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover that was begun in the time of Moses.  We follow much of the Jewish traditional Seder (order of elements), but we obviously deviate from their explanations of the traditions and instead choose to see the beauty in the picture it was intended to paint: the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Listen to Christ’s words as recorded in the gospel of Luke:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
(Luke 22:19-20 ESV)

At this point in our Passover Seder we take a broken piece of the Afikomen and eat it in deep faith and appreciation for the sacrifice that was made for our sin.  The Afikomen was a piece of matzah (unleavened bread) that had been broken earlier in the night.  I have an Afikomen cover which has three compartments with three pieces of matzah in each.  At a certain point in the Seder the middle piece of matzah is removed and broken and part of it hidden away somewhere in the house to be found by the children and brought back as the dessert.  Although Rabbinical tradition has a terribly tough time attempting to explain these actions and their significance, they are at once recognizable to us who worship the Triune God and the Son who was sent to be broken, killed, buried and who rose from the grave.  Especially interesting is that the word Afikomen is the only Greek word in the Hebrew Seder.  It is from the Greek word aphikomenos, which in the aorist tense is translated: “he has come”.  Amen and praise God He has come!  The Afikomen is the symbol of affliction.  Isaiah spoke of the suffering Messiah in chapter 53:

[4] Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
[5] But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
[6] All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Exactly how Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples I’m not sure, but it is abundantly clear in the Scripture that as He broke the bread and shared the cup He was declaring Himself to be the Passover Lamb.  There was no longer any need to slit the throat and spill the blood of an animal sacrifice.  The Sacrifice was here.

My professor, Dr. Andy Davis shared these three lessons that the sacrificial system was supposed to teach us:

1. All sin deserves the death penalty (Romans 6:23)

2. The death penalty can be paid by a substitute (Leviticus 16:21-22)

3. The substitute cannot be the animal, it was to point us to Christ (Hebrews 9:11-15)

So rejoice this Maundy Thursday in the Lamb of God.  With His wounds we are healed, washed in the cleansing fountain of His blood.

Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7-8)

Abraham answered: “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”

Isaiah prophesied: “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…” (Isaiah 53:7)

John the Baptist announced: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

And the angels sing: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)

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