On Holy or Pesaha Thursday we commemorate with Jesus, the old and new Passovers. In the original Passover, Israel recalls her liberation from Egyptian slavery by sacrificing an unblemished lamb. In the new Passover, we commemorate Jesus’ action of saving all humanity from Satan’s clutches by offering himself as the sacrificial lamb. The rite of circumcision that involved the drawing of a little human blood was a sign of the covenant with Abraham. God confirmed that covenant by asking Moses to sprinkle animal blood on the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Jesus sealed a new covenant in his blood and asks us to partake of it by drinking it. To prepare for this, we also join in Jesus’ washing of the feet of his disciples as a pledge of our humble service and the cleanliness of our souls. The celebration of the Pesaha Thursday is a combination of several remembrances: (1) Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and teaching the importance of servant leadership in the church, (2) Institution of the Holy Eucharist as the new covenantal relationship whereby we receive the precious body and blood of Jesus, (3) Establishment of priesthood by asking the apostles to continue the Holy Eucharist in Jesus’ remembrance, (4) Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer in distress. Let us learn from these examples and teachings of Jesus.
BIBLE TEXT (LUKE 22:7-13)
The Preparation for the Passover
(Lk 22:7) Then came the feast of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. (8) So Jesus sent Peter and John saying, “Go and get everything ready for us to eat the Passover meal.” (9) They asked him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” (10) And he said, “When you enter the city, a man will come to you carrying a jar of water. Follow him to the house he enters and (11) say to the owner: ‘The master asks: where is the room where I may eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ (12) He will show you a large, furnished room upstairs, and there you will prepare for us.” (13) Peter and John went off and having found everything just as Jesus had told them, they prepared the Passover meal.
Jesus spent the last week of his life in Jerusalem teaching in the temple area and staying during the night at the Mount of Olives. Early each morning, people used to come to the temple area to listen to him (Lk 21:37-38). Though the chief priests and the scribes attempted to arrest Jesus, they could not do so because of the surrounding admirers. The Jewish leaders bribed Judas Iscariot to help them arrest Jesus when he was free from the crowd (Lk 22:1-6). Prompted by Satan, Judas agreed to that deal. In the meantime, Jesus prepared for this last Passover celebration with his apostles.
The Preparation for the Passover
(Lk 22:7) Then came the feast of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
the feast of the Unleavened Bread
When God delivered the Israelites under the leadership of Moses, God asked them to celebrate Passover. Since they had to leave Egypt immediately after that in a hurry, they could not wait to leaven the bread. So, God asked the Israelites to celebrate annually the feast of the Unleavened Bread for one week to remember gratefully this historical event. “The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’s feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread” (Lev 23:6).
Israel had to give up all their sinful ways in Egypt and follow the Lord to the promised land. Since leaven was a symbol of sin, part of Passover preparation was the scrupulous removal of all leaven from the house before the celebration.
on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
Since Luke wrote for non-Jewish readers, he clarified the main content of the Passover celebration, which is the sacrifice of a Passover lamb. According to Paul, Christ is the paschal lamb sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7).
(8) So Jesus sent Peter and John saying, “Go and get everything ready for us to eat the Passover meal.”
Jesus sent Peter and John saying
Jesus took the initiative to set up for his last Passover meal. He had sent two disciples to get the colt for his solemn entry into Jerusalem. Later, he sent probably the same disciples to prepare the Passover meal.
Peter and John
Jesus had 72 disciples like the elders of the Old Testament or the Sanhedrin, 12 apostles representing the 12 tribes of Israel, and the apostles Peter, James, and John as an inner circle. However, Jesus selected Peter and James for preparing the last Passover. That might have caused them to develop a good companionship. The following are the combined activities of Peter and John recorded in the Bible:
“Go and get everything ready for us to eat the Passover meal.”
There were several items to be prepared for the Passover meal. The step-by-step preparations, along with how they apply for the sacrifice of Jesus as the Pascal lamb, are:
(9) They asked him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?”
Jesus had used different houses or locations for his stay during his visit to Jerusalem. So, the implied question of Peter and James to Jesus was in whose house they had to prepare the Passover meal. The preparation procedure for the Passover lamb was: People brought the Passover lambs at the Temple Mount, and they killed their animals in the courtyard of the Temple. The priests collected the blood of the sacrifice in silver and gold basins and tossed the blood on the altar. After the sacrifice, the owners flayed the animals and took them home and roasted (https://jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/passover-lamb-sacrifice-procedure.html).
“No bones might be broken either during the cooking or during the eating. The lamb was set on the table at the evening banquet, and was eaten by the assembled company after all had satisfied their appetites with the ḥagigah or other food. The sacrifice had to be consumed entirely that same evening, nothing being allowed to remain overnight. While eating it, the entire company of those who partook was obliged to remain together, and every participant had to take a piece of the lamb at least as large as an olive” (https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11934-passover-sacrifice).
Did Peter and John offer a Passover Lamb for Jesus and the apostles is not clear. Most probably, they had offered a lamb and brought it as part of the Passover meal because it was essential for Passover observance. However, later, Jesus substituted himself as the lamb for the new Passover for Christians.
(10) And he said, “When you enter the city, a man will come to you carrying a jar of water. Follow him to the house he enters and …”
When you enter the city
Jesus stayed at Bethany with the other ten disciples while Peter and John went to prepare the Passover meal. It must be in Jerusalem because the Passover sacrifice could not take place anywhere else. “You shall offer the Passover sacrifice from your flock and your herd to the LORD, your God, in the place the LORD will choose as the dwelling place of his name” (Deut 16:2). So, the city Jesus referred to was Jerusalem, where the lamb has to be sacrificed and eaten with a Passover meal.
A man will come to you carrying a jar of water.
With his divine vision, Jesus could foresee what would happen when the disciples enter the city. There was no running water in the houses. Usually, ladies went to fetch water from the nearby well or fountain. So, a man carrying a jar of water was an unusual sight. However, according to the Jewish custom, the master of the house had to draw the water on the 13th of Nisan before the stars appeared in the heavens, to knead the unleavened bread for the Passover. Most probably, the Passover was held in the upper room of Mark’s house (Acts 12:12) whose mother Mary was a follower of Jesus. The man who carried the water might be Mark, who is believed to be one of the 70 (72) disciples of Jesus. Hence, the master of the house was his father, Aristopolos.
Follow him to the house he enters
Since the man who carried the water was not the house owner, Peter and John must follow him to the house he entered and meet the owner. It was like Jesus sent two disciples to get the donkey (Lk 19:29-31). They believed and obeyed what Jesus told them to do.
(11) say to the owner: ‘The master asks: where is the room where I may eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’
Many people in Palestine used to have an upper room allotted for prayer, gatherings, or for guests. Jesus might have used such a room of the owner during his previous visits to Jerusalem. “Say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ (Mk 14:14). Jesus had previously arranged that room with the owner for his last Passover meal. Since Mark’s parents were rich, their upper room could accommodate those 13 people to recline and eat the food. Jesus’ team also had enough people to eat one Passover lamb (Ex 12:3-4).
(12) He will show you a large, furnished room upstairs, and there you will prepare for us.
Jesus was sure that the house owner would accept his request to allow the upper room for his use. Jesus might have asked the house owner beforehand to set up the room for his Passover observance with the disciples. So, he was sure that the room was already furnished, and the disciples had only to prepare the Passover meal there.
The house should belong to a wealthy admirer of Jesus, like Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus. Many believe that it belonged to the parents of Mark. His family was wealthy, with at least one maidservant, Rhoda (Acts 12:13). Besides using for the Last Supper, the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples happened in this room. The early Christian community had used this upper room for prayer (Acts 1:13). The Holy Spirit came on the disciples in this upper room on the day of Pentecost. Peter preached to the people gathered on the day of Pentecost from here and converted 3,000 people (Acts 2:14-41). So, this became the first Christian house.
(13) Peter and John went off and having found everything just as Jesus had told them, they prepared the Passover meal.
Everything took place, as Jesus told Peter and John. When they reached the city, they saw the man who came towards them carrying a jar of water. They followed him to the house and found the owner. The house-owner showed them the upper room already furnished for the Passover meal. The apostles prepared the Passover meal there, including the cooked Paschal lamb.