1. Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.
These two are not the same feast, but since the one led right into the other, they were often called by the same name, and one name was used to refer to both feasts. They were not very technical about this, just like we are not very technical about what we call “Christmas,” and sometimes seem to call the entire month of December after this name. Therefore, we have to carefully consider the context to know what is being spoken of.
According to Exodus 12, on the tenth day of the month, which was the month Abib (sometimes called Nisan), they were to choose a lamb for the Passover. Then on Abib 14th, they were to slay the lamb at twilight (the start of a new day according to their reckoning). This was the day of Passover. Then on Abib 15th through the 21st was the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first and last days of this feast, Abib 15th and 21st, were special feast Sabbaths. We can see this in summary in Leviticus 23:4-8.
4. ‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. 5. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. 6. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. 8. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’”
So this was the order of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Not being familiar with these feasts has caused much confusion in discovering the order of these events, and has even led some to suggest that Christ could not have been eating the real Passover with His disciples. Yet as we will see, the Lord was celebrating the Passover Feast on Passover day.
2. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.
The chief priests and scribes are driven to distraction by the actions and teachings of the Lord. They at last determine that their only recourse is to put Him to death. They must have figured that that was the only way to silence His message once and for all. So they sought how they might do this. It was not that they did not have the authority to put Him to death, for they did. Yet they feared the riot this would cause on the part of the people. They loved the Lord so much that they would not have stood for such a miscarriage of justice. There is no indication here that “Israel rejected their Messiah.” Instead, the rejection is all on the part of these jealous leaders. The people, in contrast, are spoken of as having loved Him.
3. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.
Ultimately, it was not just the jealous religious leaders who wanted the Lord to be put to death. Satan at this time steps into the picture, and he enters one of the twelve, Judas surnamed Iscariot. The actions of Judas, although he was ultimately responsible for them, were also instigated by Satan himself.
We might ask why Satan chose Judas, and not one of the others? This is easily determined. Judas had already been betraying the Lord in a very real way, for he had been made the treasurer for Christ’s band of disciples, and was entrusted with the money bag. Yet we read in John 12:6 that “he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” Therefore Judas was already acting contrary to the Lord, and so he left himself open to Satan’s attack. Satan could not just have decided instead to enter Peter or John or Thomas or one of the others. The reason he entered Judas is that Judas had left himself open to it.
4. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.
Inspired by Satan, Judas makes his way to the Lord’s enemies, the chief priests and captains, and confers with them. He is interested in a way that he may betray Him to them. How sad it is that one of the twelve would stoop to such a thing! Yet this was not a sudden thing. Judas’ attitude throughout his years of being a disciple had always been leading him on to this place.
Judas must have known that he could not continue to embezzle from the Lord’s funds forever. Eventually he would be discovered, and his thievery exposed. The only way out of this was for him to see to it that the band of the disciples be broken up and come to an end before that could happen. Apparently he comes to the conclusion that now is the time. He has stolen enough money, and things are heating up between the Lord and his enemies. If he waits, the showdown between the Lord and the religious leaders might come, and Judas himself might be swept away with it. Therefore, he must act, and bring about the end in a way so that he can not only escape from it, but also benefit from it.
Of course, Judas did not know that his wicked actions were already well-known to the Lord. He did not realize that his self-serving choice to betray Him was inspired by Satan. Nor did he realize that all this was taking place under the over-ruling will of God.
The “captains” mentioned here were the officers of the Levitical temple guards. These were the only troops Judah was allowed under Rome, and they were under the direct control of the religious leaders in Israel, particularly the chief priests. Now these officers, instituted by the LORD through David, become the chief priests’ own, private thugs in seeking to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ.
5. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.
This circumstance is exactly what the chief priests were looking for. The knowledge of Judas would be helpful to them, giving them a chance to take Him when the eyes of the people were elsewhere. We do not know how public the Lord’s movements after His daily teaching in the temple were, or how much their spies had been able to figure out. Judas was aware of how the Lord operated, and so was able to tell them exactly where He would be and when. So they offer Judas just what he was looking for, which was money. In Judas we see the proverb, “The love of money is the root of all evil” acted out for us.
Yet also this provided them with a traitor, someone who had been with Christ throughout His years of ministry, and who after all that time with Him could speak against Him. This is one they could point to and say, “See, Judas was with Him all that time, and He knew He wasn’t anyone special.” Whether or not Judas’ knowledge was something they didn’t have before, just this was enough to make them feel that an investment of money in a traitor like Judas would be well worth it.
6. So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
Judas accepted their agreement, and promised to seek an opportunity to betray Him to them when the multitude was absent. This is what the Lord’s enemies wanted. They knew how popular He was, and was afraid their agents would be torn to pieces by the people if they attempted to arrest Him in public. What they wanted was some quiet, out-of-the-way place where they could waylay the Lord and arrest Him without His devoted followers being aware of it. Again, we see no picture here of the Lord being rejected by the common people. The fact that they were on His side was the biggest obstacle His enemies had to overcome!
7. Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.
Notice again how the words “Passover” and “Unleavened Bread” are not used always in their technical sense. In verse 1, we had “Passover” used to describe the entire feast of Unleavened Bread. Now, we have “Passover” used to describe the lamb or the kid that would be killed as the Passover sacrifice. The “Day of Unleavened Bread” here actually describes the day of Passover, even though technically the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed Passover. Therefore we can clearly see from this that the word “Passover” and the phrase “Unleavened Bread” are not always used in their technical sense.
Now I described the Passover as a lamb or a kid. This might bother some who are used to the familiar phrase “Passover lamb,” and who thus have assumed that it always was a young sheep that was to be killed on Passover. Yet these have not read their Scriptures carefully enough. For Exodus 12:5 declares:
5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
This statement might seem strange to us, for we do not think of lambs among goats. Yet what we are failing to realize is that the Hebrew word for “lamb,” seh, can mean either a young sheep or a young goat. In this case, the Lord makes it clear for us that either may be used. Thus “Passover kid” is just as accurate as “Passover lamb.”
Some have stated that the Passover lamb or Passover kid was killed on the day before the actual Passover feast in the yearly festival, even though in the first Passover it was actually killed on the same day it was eaten. The truth of this I have been unable to discover, but I have found no Biblical reason to think it was so. The argument is that there would not have been enough priests to kill everyone’s Passover in the hour or so before they would sit down to the Passover meal. Yet those who argue this do not realize that it never was the priests’ job to kill the Passover. According to Exodus 12, “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” This made it the job of all the people to kill the Passover, and not the job of the priests. In fact, the Passover was instituted before either the Levites or the family of Aaron were chosen. At this time, every firstborn male was the priest for his family, and thus had the right to kill a sacrifice to the Lord.
Yet one might wonder if this changed once the Aaronic and Levitical priests were instituted? We can see that this is not so actually from an exception to it. This we find in II Chronicles 30:15-17, where the great Passover of Josiah is described.
15. Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought the burnt offerings to the house of the LORD. 16. They stood in their place according to their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites. 17. For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the LORD.
Here we see that the Passover is sacrificed by the Levites for those among the assembly who had not sanctified themselves, and so could not sacrifice the Passover for themselves. This tells us first of all that those who DID sanctify themselves WERE able to sacrifice the Passover for themselves, and indeed that this was the USUAL procedure. It was not the job of the Levites or Aaronic priests to sacrifice the Passover for them. All the Passover animals could be sacrificed in a very short time for all the households in Israel because every leader of every household could sacrifice the Passover for his own family, as long as he had cleansed himself properly in the days leading up to the Passover.
By the way, this leads us to the very interesting conclusion that Christ Himself, as the leader among His disciples, doubtless was the One Who sacrificed the Passover for Himself and His disciples on the very evening before He Himself would become the Passover sacrifice by dying on the cross. And remember that the Jewish day started at sundown. Thus, although they ate the Passover that evening and Christ died the next day, according to the Jewish reckoning method this was all the same day. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, for in this verse it is still the day before the Passover when the lamb was to be killed for the yearly sacrifice.
8. And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
The Lord intends to celebrate the Passover, so He sends Peter and John to make preparations for the meal. They are to find a place for them to celebrate the meal, see to it that the necessary unleavened bread and bitters are provided, see to it that there are preparations for slaying the Passover lamb or kid, and so forth. No doubt Christ often entrusted His disciples with commissions such as this.
The word “sent” here is a form of the Greek word apostello, which we have seen has to do with commissioning with authority. The Lord had authority over Peter and John as His disciples, and so He could send them like this with His authority to make preparations on His behalf.
9. So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”
Like good servants they seek to understand His wishes more fully. They want to know where He wants them to prepare for them to have the supper? Does He have a place in mind, or are they just to enquire around for available space?
10. And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters.
When they enter the city, they will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. In our society, we might think that this would not have been unusual, but we should realize that this would have been very unusual at that time. Fetching and carrying the water was traditionally a woman’s job. If a man’s wife was dead, his sister or daughter would be likely to carry it. A niece or a cousin or any other female relation would do. Yet for a man to do it himself would be most unusual, and practically an admission that the man was completely alone, and had no woman who would carry the water for him. Therefore, to see a man carrying a pitcher of water would be a strange sight indeed at that time.
Moreover, to carry water in the middle of the day would have been foolish in the hot climate of Israel, as with the sun beating down evaporating the water, you would lose half of it before you got it back to your house. This is why water was almost always fetched in the cool of the early morning or evening. Therefore Peter and John must have had no trouble in spotting this man doing this unusual thing. Once they see this man, they are to follow him into the house which he enters.
11. “Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’
They are to speak to the master of this house, who apparently is a different man from the one they will meet carrying the pitcher of water. They are to speak to this master of the house in the name of their Teacher. It appears that this man knew the Lord Jesus, and so would willingly give a room in answer to His request. Therefore, they are to ask where the guest room is where the Lord may eat the Passover with His disciples. Again, notice that the Lord will be the One presiding over this Passover, which leads us to believe that He would have been the One to slay the sacrifice.
12. “Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”
The master of the house will then show them a large upper room, already furnished for what they need. There they are to make ready.
How was Christ able to inform His disciples of all these things? Christ may have already known this man and his room, yet certainly He could not have known about the man carrying the pitcher in any natural way. Yet we know that the Lord Jesus was far more than a man. He was utilizing Divine power to have this knowledge. This is available to Him, for He is God in human form. There is no knowledge hid from His eyes.
13. So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
The disciples go into the city, and Christ’s words come to pass exactly as He spoke them, as they always do. Thus they find this upper room, and make everything ready so that all is prepared for the Passover.
14. When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.
Now the hour comes. From the Old Testament, we know that the hour for celebrating the Passover was after sunset at the beginning of Abib 14th. Once the lamb or kid was slain and its meat prepared, they had all night before sunrise to eat the Passover. Yet it did not take them all that long to get ready, with everything all prepared. So when they were ready, the Lord Jesus sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. This does not necessarily mean that only Christ and His twelve apostles were present at this event, though it does seem to be implied. Later in the evening there were others with them, however, so it is hard to say if these were really the only ones present at this time.
The twelve are called “apostles” here rather than “disciples.” Of course, this is the noun form of the verb apostello, and means these were men whom Christ had commissioned with His authority. Here, they are not exercising that authority, but merely sitting down to the Passover celebration with Him.
15. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
Notice again that this is the Passover they were eating. We have had that made plain to us, for the Passover was mentioned in verse 1, verse 7, verse 8, verse 11, verse 13, and here in verse 15. Thus six times we have it emphasized to us that what the Lord and His disciples were doing was keeping the ancient feast God gave Israel called the Passover. Those who try to claim that this was not the Passover have to outright deny Christ’s words in this verse.
Notice how fervently Christ desired to eat that Passover with them before His suffering. If we ever might tend to think that this Passover was a “mere ritual” that God gave to Israel, we should rethink it when we read this passage. To God, these commemorations were not just an empty thing to be practiced by rote, but something that was dear to His heart. We can see that by His attitude towards eating it with His disciples here.
16. “For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Not only was this feast meaningful to Christ, but He tells them here that this is the last time He will eat of it until it finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God. Thus Christ WILL eat of the Passover again in the Kingdom. Even though it might be fulfilled then, this does not mean that it will come to an end. Nor did things like the Passover end at the cross or with the “Christian era,” as many tend to think. The cross did not bring the Divine religion God gave to Israel to an end, and though it is not being practiced now, it will one day be restored. In fact, this will be Israel’s place in the Kingdom…to be the religious center of the world.
When I say that the Passover is not being practiced now, some tend to imagine that I am wrong, and that it is being practiced by those whose religion is “Judaism.” However, the Jews do not and cannot practice the religion God gave Israel today, for that religion cannot function without a working temple and priesthood. The religion called Judaism today was apparently developed by the rabbis after the destruction of the temple in order to keep the Jews together and to help them remember their traditions even when they could not practice their religion. It involves many things that are commemorations of the religion that God gave Israel, but that actual religion cannot and is not being practiced today. That certainly includes the keeping of Passover, which can only be kept in Jerusalem and with a lamb or kid as a sacrifice. The ritual the Jews do today that we might call “Passover” is in fact called “Seder,” and is actually a remembrance of the Passover, not the Passover itself. The Seder has many human traditions and rituals added to it until it little resembles the simple observance outlined in the Scriptures.