We are entering the Paschal season. I use the old term as the term Easter actually refers to a European fertility goddess ~ hardly honouring to the Creator of the Universe. Paschal is also simply more accurate in that it refers to the Israelite custom of Passover & Passover is the festival Jesus was celebrating on the night he was betrayed. This has always been the high point of the Christian calendar because this is the point in time when God redeemed for Himself a people.
Before we begin I want to make very clear we are NOT Jewish, we are NOT messianic but we need to understand that Christianity is grafted into the root of Judaism [Romans 11:17/18 & we will understand many of the things of Christ better if we understand what he thought, believed & practised.
Now as always when you begin looking at the deep things of God they work at multiple levels, including the prophetic, & as you will see when we celebrate our Seder next Friday the death, burial & resurrection of the messiah is hidden in the Passover. It is full of rich symbolism that points to the fulfilment of the Torah in Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:17
I say it a lot because we tend to look at the bible in our own cultural terms & this creates misunderstandings: Jesus was not a middle class European teacher. He was a Torah observant practising Jewish rabbi. He wore the tallit or prayer shawl but not the skull cap which is a modern addition & would be contrary to the Holy Spirit’s teachings through Paul that men are not to cover their heads during worship. 1 Cor 11:7 And his prayer shawl would have had the obligatory Tzizit [also known as wings]at the corners with at least one blue thread. Remember the woman with the issue of blood? Our bibles say she touched the hem of Jesus garment & was healed. She did not; she touched the Tzizit of his tallit & according to Malachi 4:2 she was healed. He kept the festivals. We read of his attendance at the temple for the festivals of Sukkot[Jn7:37~39] & Passover. [Matthew 26:17]
So Jesus would have known the story of the Passover & celebrated the festival from childhood. He would have known about Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt & how God used that to save his family during a prolonged drought. He would have known all about the Israelites settling in Egypt & growing so numerous Pharaoh took fright & enslaved them. He certainly knew how God raised up a man called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt to prepare them for the receiving of the law. Passover is essentially the remembering of that leaving.
Passover has been celebrated continuously for over 3 500 years since that initial leaving & it is foundational to the other festivals.
Now, the church has done some weird things over the years so I am going to lay out the original structure for you so you can see what a beautiful fit the old is into the new when you stick with what God did rather than what some churches have done.
Firstly we need to remember that the Israelites count a day from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, not from dawn to dawn. The celebration of the Passover begins at sunset. It includes as part of its structure all the things reminiscent of that first Passover.
Secondly ~ & we don’t have time to cover everything in detail; you can read about it for yourselves in Exodus ~ Moses begged Pharaoh to let the Israelites go 9 times & 9 times Pharaoh hardened his heart & refused. The 10th time the first born of every household not marked with the blood of a lamb perished: man & beast. Only then was Moses allowed to lead the people out of Egypt.
Thirdly we think of Easter & count 3 days: death, burial resurrection but this is not all. The day following Passover begins the Festival of unleavened bread, which lasts for a week & is followed immediately by the Festival of the First Fruits. The festivals actually overlap each other so we have some crossover happen. On the feast of first fruits a grain offering was given of the first of the barley. This begins the feast of Shavout, or the Feast of Weeks. From the feast of the first fruits begins what is known as the counting of the Omer. Seven weeks & one day later a wheat offering is given from the first of the wheat harvest.
It’s a lot to take in I know but I want you to see how God designed the old to foreshadow the new. Let’s look at some of the symbols. Before Passover begins every household goes through their homes meticulously & removes anything with leaven in it & burns it. Why? Leaven is a symbol of sin. Its removal & burning are symbolic that God totally removes our sin & remembers it no more. Hebrews 8:12
A lamb without spot or blemish was brought into the family home a month before Passover & carefully looked after before being sacrificed. Think how Jesus became part of the human family before He was sacrificed. Remember too it was the blood of the lamb that saved the Israelites from death just as it is Jesus blood that saves us! We remember too that even after judgement has been passed on an individual or a nation God in His mercy & lovingkindness always makes a way out ~ as he did for the Israelites! Protection & provision! We are not appointed to wrath 1 Thess 5:9
3 Feasts, 3 Truths:
Passover~ Jesus blood saves
Unleavened bread ~ Jesus, the only sinless man, bore our sin/ was buried & death could not hold Him
First Fruits ~ Jesus was resurrected, the first fruits of all who will be raised from the dead
Passover was one of the festivals where it was commanded that the entire nation should go to Jerusalem to celebrate ~ so when Jesus was welcomed into the city it was the whole nation that welcomed Him crying, Hosanna, which means save us now. That’s what He was doing but they failed to understand it.
Finally Passover does not officially end until the counting of the Omer is finished. What do we find 50 days, or seven weeks one day after Jesus resurrection? Pentecost! The story of Jesus death, burial & resurrection does not officially end until the Holy Spirit arrives to seal, comfort, lead, & impart Truth into those who believed in Christ.
I don’t want to complicate things with the math but First Fruits always falls on a Sunday, the day Jesus was resurrected.
Now there are 2 final points I want to make because we must be in no doubt about who Jesus is or what He came to do or what the Passover is referring to.
In Exodus 3:14 God says this to Moses: This is what you are to say to the Israelites, I Am has sent me to you. I Am is one of the names of God. So when Jesus says I am the bread of life jn 6:35, I am the light of the world Jn 8:12, I am the good shepherd Jn10:11, I am the resurrection & the life Jn 11:25, I am the way the truth & the life Jn 14:6 he is making a very clear statement about who He is ~ & he was understood to have made it or the charges of blasphemy against Him would never have been laid. There is no doubt about who Jesus claimed to be.
In the end, when all the shouting & the tumult was done & Jesus was led away to be crucified, Pontius Pilate ordered that a sign be placed above Jesus head in all 3 languages commonly used according to Jn 19:20: Hebrew, Latin & Greek. In translation it reads, Jesus of Nazarath, King of the Jews but in Hebrew it says Yeshua HaNazari VeMeleh HaYudahim. If you simply take the first letter of each word it reads: YHVH ~ the secret name of God!
This is the secret hidden in the Passover. Do you know what the other name for the Passover is? It is called the season of our Freedom. The Jews of course are only thinking of their freedom from slavery in Egypt but for us it is freedom from the bondage of sin & death for it is Jesus himself who said: So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
This is a wonderful season for those of us who believe & trust in Jesus Christ. Passover is the story of freedom, of a story hidden within a story. When the blood of Jesus is applied to us we are saved. We are redeemed. We are freed.