“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV)
It is the Passover and Good Friday. This year, an unprecedented number of people around the world are observing these holy days at home, forbidden to congregate. Though millions have lost either loved ones or livelihood due to the pandemic, God has given to us a High Priest who will bring restoration to many.
On one memorable Passover night many years ago, Jesus “disclosed” he was about to be betrayed by one of the Twelve present (John 6:64, 13:11). Then, Jesus did something He had not done before:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29)
The evening grew quite sorrowful with the talk about betrayal, and blood shed, and that He would be leaving them for a while. As the Passover Lamb, He was about to experience great suffering and death to fulfill what Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years earlier (Ch. 53). The disciples felt saddened by the news. Jesus eagerly desired to share this “Last Supper” with His friends to prepare them for what was to come, and He promised them joy would come again.
What is the Passover? In a nutshell, the first Passover took place over 3,000 years ago while the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt. A stubborn Pharaoh had denied them freedom and defied God through nine plagues. So, as God had instructed through Moses, each Hebrew family packed up their belongings, they marked the lintels and doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb, then they roasted and ate the lamb with unleavened bread. That night, the tenth and final plague (death of the first-born) “passed over” the homes of the children of Israel because of the blood, but struck the Egyptians. What a terrible night it was! There was a great cry throughout the land because in every Egyptian home, someone had died. A defeated Pharaoh relented and released the Hebrew slaves (Exodus 11-12).
After Israel’s miraculous exodus from Egypt, God instituted the Passover (also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread) to be an annual seven-day feast beginning on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (either March or April each year) in remembrance of that night. God had demonstrated His ability to preserve His people even in the face of death. He was also preparing them for the time in the future that He would provide the Passover Lamb.
Under the Old Covenant, God designated Aaron and his sons and their descendants (from the tribe of Levi) to minister before God as priests in the tabernacle (an earthly temple designed after one in heaven) (Exodus 28:1). Various unblemished animals were sacrificed and meals offered under strict specifications, (and the blood was poured at the base of the altar), for the atonement of the people’s sin (including the priests). Essentially, the sin was transferred from the people to the animals. Once a year, the high priest would carefully and fearfully approach God’s Holy Presence in the most inner chamber of the tabernacle to place blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant to atone for the whole nation. Only the High Priest, and certain people in Scriptures who God allowed such as the likes of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses (to name a few), could even come near to His Presence.
These bloody animal sacrifices continued year after year because of a perpetual plague called “sin.” The holiest portions of the offerings were given to God and consumed by His fire, other holy portions were eaten by the priests and still other portions by the people.
Let us return to the Upper Room. When Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine that night, He was offering His own body and blood as the sacrifice. He did not partake of the sacrifice because He was the Sacrifice, the spotless Lamb. He had come for this very purpose, not to cause death, but to defeat death forever!
That same night, before He went to the Cross, we see the loving heart of this Savior as He prays not only for his disciples, but for everyone who would come to know Him in the future (John 17:20-23). Jesus knew of all the fearsome troubles that we would face in this world, but He promised we would never be alone, our lives will never end, and He would give us a supernatural joy that can never be overcome (Deuteronomy 31:6; John 11:25-26; 14:18-20; 16:20-22, Nehemiah 8:10).
God takes no pleasure in human suffering, even though He is often falsely accused of causing it. In times of loss and grief, it is almost impalpable to think of joy. Yet, Jesus is uniquely qualified to handle every kind of sorrow, having experienced all in His own life. We can be assured that every promise of hope and restoration by God can be ours through Jesus.
After His Resurrection from the grave, Jesus, as our sinless High Priest, placed His own blood on the mercy seat of the Ark in the Tabernacle in Heaven. The purpose of this “New” Covenant, long prophesied by Jeremiah, was to fulfill the Old Covenant and eradicate sin (and death) once and for all, forever (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Timothy 1:10).
Jesus was not a Levitical priest. He was from the higher order of the mysterious Melchizedek (a priest of the Most High God and a king from Jerusalem with an unknown genealogy, to whom Abraham, the great grandfather of Levi paid tithes). (See Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 7). Melchizedek recognized the priestly role of Abraham as a worshipper of God, blessed him and gave him bread and wine as a reward (Genesis 14:18-19). These elements pointed to the Salvation that Jesus would work for mankind through the Cross, some 2000 years later.
The Scriptures intentionally do not tell us much about Melchizedek (whether he was a man, an angel, or a Theophany), because our focus is Lord Jesus Christ. It was not unheard of for men to have encounters with supernatural beings in the Bible and those encounters are still common today. Melchizedek is mentioned to establish that Jesus’ priesthood was not under the Levitical law He came to fulfill, but an eternal one (Psalm 110:4).
In giving the holy elements, the bread and wine to His disciples in the Upper Room that night, Jesus established his disciples (and all believers after them) as Priests in His Father’s Kingdom under the New Covenant, with the right to approach a Holy God through Him, without fear. When we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and partake the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Holy Communion), we become part of this Priesthood, and Jesus is our High Priest. Apostle Peter explains as follows:
“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5,9 NKJV)
As the Royal Priesthood of God on this earth, commissioned by Lord Jesus, let us offer acceptable spiritual sacrifices and offerings to God with lips of praise and thanksgiving, our love, service, and generosity, our intercession for others (Joel 2:17), and our ministry of the gospel to bring healing and restoration, to destroy works of darkness and to stop plagues (Numbers 16:47-48).
May you experience Communion with the Lamb this Pesach, Good Friday and on Resurrection Day!