The last night that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God instituted the Passover, an annual remembrance of how God saved His people.
Around 1400 years later, His Son sat in an upper room and celebrated this very feast. Jerusalem was bustling with as many as a half million guests flooding in to observe the day. People from every corner of Israel had traveled to the city. Jesus sent His disciples ahead to prepare a space for them and on the Passover table in that upper room, His disciples carefully prepared 3 elements: the bread, the wine, and the Lamb.
As they sat down, Jesus passed the unleavened bread that reminded the disciples of how the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave quickly, fearing God’s continued wrath. He called this His body.
Traditionally wine was also served with the meal, with four cups representing sanctification, deliverance, redemption, and restoration. One of these cups, Jesus held up and said, “This is my blood.” He then sets another cup aside, promising not to drink it until He was reunited with his followers in His “Father’s kingdom.” Perhaps the Cup of Redemption He held up as His blood, and set aside the Cup of Restoration until His resurrection ushered in the kingdom.
A fifth cup also sat on the table, reserved for Elijah. No one would drink this cup, but it sat as a reminder that Elijah’s return would signal the imminent arrival of the Messiah. Elijah was always invited to the table, but this year Elijah (John the Baptist) had already arrived and left and the Messiah he announced had come to the Passover feast instead.
The third element of the table, one instructed by God in great detail before the exodus, was the Passover Lamb. Exodus 12:3 specifies that every household was to take a lamb, without defect and slaughter them at twilight. In Egypt, the blood of the lamb was to be put on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat lambs and the Lord would pass over these homes during the plague of the death of the first born sons.
Jesus sat at the table looking at this meal, laid out just as His Father had instructed. He saw this sacrifice that acknowledged without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness of sins, but as Jesus ate this meal with His friends, He knew that the sacrifice on the table would never be enough to save them from their sins.
Jesus participated in the Last Supper knowing that He was the only Passover Lamb who could be slain for the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7, Revelation 5:6). Though God passed over the firstborns of the Israelites as they fled Egypt, but to set the world free from the slavery of sin, the next day He would allow His own firstborn, His only begotten Son, to be put on trial and crucified.
The Passover then is not just a reminder of God’s tremendous power and might as He freed His people from Egypt, but His unfathomable love.
To save our firstborns, God chose to sacrifice His own.