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"The Day of Unleavened Bread came, the day the Passover lamb was butchered. Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying, 'Go prepare the Passover for us so we can eat it together.'
"They said, 'Where do you want us to do this?'
"He said, 'Keep your eyes open as you enter the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him home. Then speak with the owner of the house: The Teacher wants to know, 'Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?' He will show you a spacious second-storey room, swept and ready. Prepare the meal there.'
"They left, found everything just as He told them, and prepared the Passover meal." Luke 22:7-15 (The Message).
Luke's story has an air of anticipation about it. Jesus was expecting something to happen and His disciples were caught up in the atmosphere. Other Passover celebrations had come and gone but this one was going to be different.
Did Jesus make a secret arrangement with a friend for a venue for His last meal with His disciples? Was He giving instructions to His disciples because of His divine foreknowledge or was He, once again, simply following His Father's instructions as He said He always did?
Eating together had significance but there was special meaning in the Passover meal. The children of Israel were on the threshold of their great redemption. They were packed and ready to go, waiting only for the signal to make their escape from Pharaoh and his powerful army. Moses issued one more challenge, this time hitting at the heart of every Egyptian family, from Pharaoh down to the least slave - their firstborn sons! This one made its mark and Pharaoh finally consented to let Israel go.
But why stop to eat a meal before they left? There was a great deal of meaning and symbolism in the Passover meal: blood on their doorposts was an expression of faith in God's promise of protection; they trusted in the blood of a sacrificial lamb to save them; they ate unleavened bread because there was no time to allow their dough to rise; bread without yeast symbolised eradication of sin from their lives, and so on.
Perhaps a part of the meaning of Passover is not understood, especially by non-Jews who do not know the cultural background of Jewish practices. Middle-eastern people are very hospitable. Eating together has great significance for them. The Hebrew word for "meal" is shul and a table - shulkan. But shulkan also means "reconciliation" and "lamb skin". Combine these ideas and you have a beautiful picture of the significance of Passover.
If you do not have a table - shulkan - you use a lamb skin - shulkan - as a picnic blanket, but you could not eat a meal together if you had issues with each other. Hence the table - shulkan - which was a lamb skin - shulkan - became the symbol of reconciliation - shulkan. As families embarking on a very long journey, they could not travel unless they were reconciled - no issues to cause division on the way - and reconciliation were only possible because of the sacrifice of a lamb.
Put Jesus and His disciples into that picture and the Last Supper begins to tell its own story. Perhaps the most poignant message on that occasion was a tender invitation from Jesus, 'Judas, I know what you have done but I have forgiven you. I do not hold it against you. You have to bear the responsibility of your treachery but there is a way back if you repent.'
To Peter and the other disciples who would all fail Him, Jesus was saying, 'Come and eat with me. I have no issues with you.' In Revelation 3:20 He says to everyone who has wandered away from Him, "'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.'"
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