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Passover

The name of the festival, Pesach in Hebrew, passing over or protection, is derived from the instructions given to Moses by God (Ex. 6:6-8). Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God commanded Moses to tell the children of Israel:

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD (Ex. 6:6-8).

Passover is the time of beginnings for Israel. This festival ushers in the coming of spring on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated on the fourteenth1 day of Abib (the first month of the Jewish religious calendar, later called Nisan). Each of the three pilgrimage festivals Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles has an agricultural basis as well as an historical significance. Many different things are celebrated during Passover. A few of these include: the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the growing season; the new lambing time, and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt during Passover.

It cannot be overemphasized as to how foundational Passover is in God's eternal redemption plan. Only Nisan can be the first month in God's calendar. Though other cycles and other aspects of life in the LORD are important, it is the sacrifice of the Lamb that gives it all meaning. Except for the sacrifice of the Passover and the blood on the doorposts, Israel would have suffered the same fate as the Egyptians.

The promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have then become void. With no Passover sacrifice and with no blood on the doorposts, then no Torah could have been given and no other celebrations could have followed. Apart from the sacrifice of the Passover and the blood on the door posts, there would have been no basis for Messiah, our Passover, to be sacrificed on the anniversary of that momentous occasion. We would have no hope and remain dead in our sins; however, the command was obeyed and deliverance was accomplished. Indeed, for us, this is most certainly the first of all the months, the first month of the year, truly the real beginning of all spiritual life (Michael 1996).

God directs parents, this special night of the year, to take on the role of teacher, and pass down His story of the exodus from Egypt to future generations. This ceremony not only looks back to the miraculous story of God delivering His people, but it also presents the promise of Messiah's death and resurrection. It is an exciting experience centering on a mixture of ritual foods. The matzah, bitter herbs, wine, and the rest, provide a lasting link through the march of history.

Israel's Redemption from Egypt (Exodus 1:1-18:27)

The Old Testament story of Passover has more light, more splendor, more vividness, and a richer application to life than any other story in the book of Exodus. Moses and his brother Aaron went to Pharaoh and told him that the Lord said to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites, even for a brief visit to the desert to worship their God. In fact, he made life for the Israelite slaves even worse. Moses had warned Pharaoh that God would send a series of plagues upon Egypt unless the people were freed.

God sent the plagues to show the people that He is the one true God. He confronted the things that the Egyptians called gods. The ten plagues were righteous plagues, and justly inflicted upon the Egyptians because each plague had something to do with the false gods that the Egyptians worshipped. God makes those false things that we worship a burden to us.

The word plague is from the Hebrew word oth, which means "sign". The Egyptians believed in magic. They were always trying to override the laws of nature to perform their "tricks" God used the laws of nature to bring about His signs and wonders.

The entire episode of the plagues is supposed to have happened within eight to ten months. Each of the plagues spoke as a sign to the Egyptians, showing them that He is greater than their so-called gods. The first three plagues affected all the people, even the Hebrews. The next three plagues were much more intense and only happened to the Egyptians (I will put a division between my people and thy people v. 23). Before each plague, God commanded Moses and Aaron to warn Pharaoh, Let My people go or I [God] will bring a plague upon you. Before each plague, for three weeks, Moses warned Pharaoh. The actual plague lasted one week.

Seder

During the Passover celebration, Jews and Christians remember this great event by eating special foods associated with the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom. The entire meal, called the seder, is eaten as the story of Israel's freedom is told. Everything in the Seder is directed toward the prime command from the Bible: And thou shall shew thy son in that day saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt (Exod. 13:8). See a Messianic Seder Process in the next chapter.

Redemption

The great miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea is the climax of the departure from Egypt and the inspiring wonder that forged a group of slaves into a nation. The redemption from Egypt is not only that of Israel but also a salvation by faith in general. The celebration of redemption from Egypt will be a pattern for salvation from all other evil.

During this God-ordained night we celebrate the doctrines of our salvation. Thus, like ancient Israel, we are sovereignty brought to the edge of the "sea" with no hope except to trust His deliverance and to follow Him. We marvel at His overwhelming sufficiency. Like ancient Israel, when we trust Him for deliverance and walk through the "sea" with Him, we end up singing and dancing on the other side. That's Pesach! (Berkowitz 1996)

Note: A day on the Jewish calendar begins at sunset. When a date is given for a Jewish holiday, the holiday actually begins at sundown on the preceding day.

Messiah in Passover

Several symbolic clues during Passover are fulfilled in Christ. John the Baptist introduced Jesus by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29). The Jews had been celebrating Passover for 1,500 years. They understood the significance of John's statements.

Isaiah 53, written hundreds of years before Christ, records the suffering the human lamb would experience.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:7-10).

Triumphal Entry of the Lambs

In the first century, a lamb was chosen by the high priest outside of Jerusalem on the tenth of Nisan. Then the priest would lead this lamb into the city while crowds of worshippers lined the streets waving palm branches and singing Psalm 118, "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."

Jesus our Messiah entered Jerusalem this same day, on a donkey (usually ridden by a king), probably right behind the High Priest's procession. The crowds that had just heralded the entrance of the sacrificial lamb heralded the entrance of the Lamb of God. Accordingly, Jesus identified himself with the Passover sacrifice (John 12:9-19). The next day, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, His entry fulfilled prophecy.

Enthusiasm filled the air. All Israel knew that it would be in Jerusalem where Messiah would be enthroned as their King. Edersheim writes,

Everyone in Israel was thinking about the Feast, Everyone was going to Jerusalem, or had those near and dear to them there, or at least watched the festive processions to the Metropolis of Judaism. It was a gathering of universal Israel, that of the memorial of the birth-night of the nation, and of its Exodus, when friends from afar would meet, and new friends be made; when offerings long due would be brought, and purification long needed be obtained and all worship in that grand and glorious Temple, with its gorgeous ritual. National and religious feelings were alike stirred in what reached far back to the first, and pointed far forward to the final Deliverance.

The High Priest would then take the lamb to the Temple, where it would be tied in public view so that it could be inspected for blemish. In the same way, Yeshua sat and taught in the Temple courtyard for four days. He was inspected and questioned as the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the teachers of the law sought to trip him up in His words and entrap Him. They could not, because He was perfect and without blemish (Lancaster1996).

Passover pronounces redemption. To believers in Messiah, the Passover feast has a special meaning. Though we are not slaves, as God's people in Egypt, we were slaves to our sin, our own wants and desires. Sin was our master until Jesus, the Passover Lamb, delivered us from our Egypt. The lamb slain during Passover is a foreshadow of the redemption we find in Jesus, the Messiah, our Passover lamb. The principle of redemption is the concept of bondage to the slavery of sin and freedom from its domination (John 8:31-36). To be "redeemed" means to be purchased from slavery. Jesus Christ purchased our freedom with His blood as the payment for the redemption (Ps. 34:22; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7).

Jesus ate the Passover meal with eleven of His disciples (see Passover in Bible Times). Just as the priest was to teach, pray, and offer sacrifice, Christ, the High Priest, taught, prayed, and then offered Himself as our sacrifice.

After the Meal

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. (John 18:1).

Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden has many ancient olive trees today, some of which may have grown from the roots of the trees that were present in Jesus' time. (All trees in and around Jerusalem were cut down when the Romans conquered the city in 70 a.d. Olive trees can regenerate from their roots and live for thousands of years.) The name Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew Gat Shmanim, meaning "oil press" (Kollek). Since oil is used in the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, it may be said that the garden is where "the Spirit of God was crushed" (Missler 1995).

It was here that Jesus agonized in prayer over what was to occur. It is significant that this is the only place in the King James Version where the word agony is mentioned (Strong's concordance). The Greek word for agony means to be "engaged in combat" (Pink). Jesus agonized over what He was to go through, feeling that He was at the point of death (Mark 14:34). Yet He prayed, "Not my will, but thine be done" (Terasaka 1996).

Of medical significance is that Luke mentions Him as having sweat like blood. The medical term for this, hemohidrosis, or hematidrosis, has been seen in patients who have experienced extreme stress or shock to their systems (Edwards). The capillaries around the sweat pores become fragile, and leak blood into the sweat. A case history is recorded in which a young girl who had a fear of air raids in World War I developed the condition after a gas explosion occurred in the house next door (Scott). Another report mentions a nun who, as she was threatened with death by the swords of the enemy soldiers, "was so terrified that she bled from every part of her body and died of hemorrhage in the sight of her assailants." (Grafenberg) As a memorial to Jesus' ordeal, a church which now stands in Gethsemane is known as the Church of the Agony (ibid).

Immediately thereafter, He was betrayed by Judas (Mark 14:43), and captured by the high priest and taken for trial before Caiaphas (Luke 22:54). Consequently, Jesus was crucified between two thieves, fulfilling His own prediction that "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14). Most of His disciples fled at His arrest; only a group of women and one disciple, called "the disciple whom He loved,' were present at the cross when He died (John 19:25-27; compare Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40; and Luke 23:49).

Jesus' Trial, Death, and Resurrection

Many of us have a hard time grasping the pain and suffering Christ went through on the crucifixion day. Television today has de-sensitized our feelings pertaining to the horrifying violence of the torture and slow death of Jesus.

The following is just a portion of an article by Dr. C. Truman Davis, M.D., M.S., titled: "The Crucifixion Of Jesus: The Passion Of Christ From A Medical Point Of View," which explains some of the agony of Christ:

In the early morning, Jesus, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, is taken across Jerusalem to Pontius Pilate. The prisoner is stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. A short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each is brought down with full force again and again across Jesusÿ shoulders, back and legs.

The condemned man was forced to carry the patibulum [cross bar], apparently weighing about 110 pounds, from the prison to the place of execution. Without any historical or Biblical proof, medieval and Renaissance painters have given us our picture of Christ carrying the entire cross. Many of these painters and most of the sculptors of crucifixes today show the nails through the palm. Roman historical accounts and experimental work have shown that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when they support the weight of the human body. The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesusÿ words to Thomas, ÿObserve my hands.ÿ Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrists as a part of the hand. A titilus, or small sign, stating the victimÿs crime was usually carried at the front of the procession and later nailed to the cross above the head. A small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. The heavy patibulum [crossbar]of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession headed by a centurion, begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross.

The crucifixion begins. The legionnaire drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, ÿJesus of Nazareth, King of the Jewsÿ is nailed in place.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber; then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

The body of Jesus is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out possibly little more than a tortured whisper, ÿIt is finished.ÿ

His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally He can allow His body to die.

With one last surge of strength, He once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, ÿFather, into thy hands I commit my spiritÿ (Truman 1965).

Jesus died as the lambs for the Passover meal were being slain. Not a bone was to be broken in these sacrificial lambs (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12). Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 Cor. 5:7).

During the Passover time, a sign hung on each lambÿs neck, bearing the name of the owner of the lamb. Jesus was crucified with a sign hung over His head with the name of His Father. Studies have shown the Tetragrammaton probably appeared over Jesus when He hung on the cross. During Bible times, messages were commonly written with the first letter of each word. An example in English: UPS, stands for United Parcel Service. The phrase ÿJesus of Nazareth and King of the Jewsÿ was written in three languages on a sign above Jesus as He hung on the cross (John 19:19). The Hebrew initials for ÿJesus of Nazareth and King of the Jewsÿ was YHWH. That is why the priest asked Pilate to change the writing. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written (John 19: 21-22).

The story does not end with the death of Jesus. His body was placed in a new tomb that belonged to a man named Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). The greatest event that separates Jesus from all others is the fact that He overcame death. In three days He rose again and lives today. He arose from the grave on the Feasts of Firstfruits!

On Nisan 17, when Israel emerged from the Red Sea, this emergence was a shadow of the fulfillment of the day of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-14). This was the first of Godÿs people to emerge from sin (Egypt). It was fulfilled 1,478 years later on Nisan 17, 30 a.d. when Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven as our high priest, the Firstfruit of the resurrected (John 20:17).

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