Summary: Jesus will take the occasion of this significant meal to demonstrate how God has prepared his body for the sacrifice he will soon make.
We come to another meal, this one in which Jesus participates in the planning. It is the Passover meal. Mary took the occasion of the previous meal to honor her Lord, and, as Jesus interpreted her act, to prepare his body for burial. Now he will take the occasion of this significant meal to demonstrate how God has prepared his body for the sacrifice he will soon make.
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
Mark, by the way, is combining the two feasts – Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread – as though one continuous feast, which they in reality formed. He speaks of the day to sacrifice the Passover lamb. Let’s review what that entailed.
Passover is the feast which commemorates the exodus from Egypt. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become oppressed slaves in Egypt. After generations of slavery, God raised up a deliverer, Moses, who led the Hebrews out after performing mighty miracles known as the ten plagues. He turned all the waters of Egypt into blood; sent a plague of frogs, then of gnats, and then of flies. He sent a plagued that killed all the livestock and a plague of boils. The plagues of hail and of locusts destroyed the crops. The ninth plague was that of darkness for three days. But it was the tenth, the last plague, which was the most grievous of all for the Egyptians and resulted in the release of the Hebrews – the death of every firstborn son.
On the evening of the final plague Moses gave the people these directions from God:
Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped (Exodus 12:21-27).
You see then where the name “Passover” comes from. Exodus 12:29-30 tells us that at midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to even of the livestock. There was not a house without someone dead. The exceptions were the homes of the Hebrews who had the marking of blood over their doorposts. The Lord “passed over” those homes. That same night Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew people to leave.
The Passover celebrates deliverance from slavery. But it is a deliverance that came through death. You might say that the firstborn of the Hebrews’ enemies died to set them free. Another way of representing death is the phrase “the shedding of blood.” By the shedding of blood of the lambs, the firstborn of the Hebrews were saved. Without that blood they would have died. By their blood they redeemed (purchased) the lives of the firstborn.
Indeed, to impress this upon the people God had Moses institute another custom for the Jews to follow. “After the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your forefathers, 12 you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.
14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand” (Exodus 12:11-16).