Friday, March 22, 2013

Passover: What's Jesus Got To Do With It?

Since Passover (or Pesach, as it's called in Hebrew) is soon approaching, I thought I would take some time to share some insights on the meaningfulness of this important feast for disciples of Jesus. As I have said in other posts, this is one of seven annual 'dates with God,' or moedim, which are physical examples commemorating both earthly and spiritual events. Remember, God uses the natural, the physical, to convey spiritual truths. When we study the feasts, we must keep in mind that there are a few levels to them. On the surface, they marked annual agricultural celebrations in the days of the Hebrews. Then there is a historical aspect, as they came to commemorate events where God intervened in Israel's history. And finally, there is the prophetic shadow of the redemptive past and future of mankind; each feast represents an act on behalf of God to reconcile man to Himself- from Jesus' death, to His resurrection, to the Holy Spirit being given, and even the Second Coming. I know that was a lot to swallow, but bear with me, and you'll see what I mean.

Why is it important to observe these? When a bride and groom are preparing for their wedding, there is a rehearsal, right? Well, we are, all throughout the Bible, referred to as the Bride of Christ. Each year, these feasts provide a kind of rehearsal for us to remember, to refocus, and to reinforce our faith the God has a plan, He is in control, and He's still working. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and helps prepare us for the day He returns and establishes His kingdom on earth. Through them we can know what He is doing and what is to come next, because we will have been rehearsing these things all along. And above that, when we celebrate these feasts in knowledge of what they symbolize, weare celebrating Him and His plan. And that pleases Him very much.

So with that in mind, let's dig in to Pesach!

Read Exodus 12:1-32 The First Passover
I went to a messianic Passover service with a friend of minelast year. I wanted to learn and was curious about how to celebrate it, if one is undertaking to do so. It was such a powerful experience. The Rabbi spoke aboutthe homes of the Israelites in that time period, explaining the procedure for how the blood would havebeen applied. Oftentimes, he said, the only part of the home that was made ofwood was the door frame. Think about that-right there, in Exodus, there we see an image of blood on wood. Soundfamiliar? (Think Jesus and the cross) It seems as though God repeated this pattern over and over in theBible: 

1. Everything inside the door frame with the blood on it was safe from the angel of death during the exodus; everything that was outside was subject to death.

2. Hundreds of years before that, everything that was insidea wooden ark was safe from the flood (a symbol of God’s judgment). Everythingoutside of it died.

3. Centuries past that and today, everyone that reaches out to the cross, proclaims Jesus asLord, and enters covenant with God through our Messiah, is safe from judgmentand death. Everyone outside of that will perish.

Pretty amazing, huh? Even asfar back as Genesis, God is telling us exactly what he’s doing. And we live inthe time in God’s overall plan that we get to understand nearly the full picture of all ofthe things that He instituted. What a joy that is to me!

What Passover Commemorates:

An Agricultural Event: I mentioned before that each feast was part of an event on the agricultural calendar. Passover took place during the beginning of that agricultural year, the spring planting season. Now just looking at the spiritual implication of that alone is very interesting. Spring brings thoughts of new life blooming and brimming. Was Jesus's life and death not the beginning of what would become a great harvest? He was the seed, planed in the ground (in death), that would sprout up and be the firstfruits of a people of God. The beginning of a new life, of eternal life, begins with Him!
A God Intervention-Israel's Deliverance: In the passage I listed, you read about the circumstances of the very first Passover meal. The Lamb was to be selected, prepared, divided. It was to be eaten hurriedly, with shoes on (prepared to leave at any moment). Later on in Israel's history, after the first passover had taken place, God instructed Israel again to continue to observe it to commemorate the experience of their deliverance of their firstborn from death. (By the way, why the firstborn? Because Israel-that's you and me, too, according to Romans-is God's firstborn. It's another shadow. I'll elaborate in another post sometime). Back to Pesach, they were instructed to eat three foods that evening: the young lamb, signifying innocence, which was roasted by fire, reminding them that through the sacrifice, judgement was withheld from their firstborn. They were to eat matzah, unleavened bread, which was to signify the innocense of the animal that died (leaven is symbolic of sin, unleavened bread symbolizing purity). And finally, they were to eat it with bitter herbs, a symbol of lamb’s suffering. In the first passover experience, the obedience of the Israelites to oberve these instructions allowed their firstborn to be spared from the death that was to pass over Egypt that night. This meal celebrates the opportunity to be exempted from sin and judgement, it is the memorial of their redemption.

A Heavenly Principle-God's Redemptive Plan for Mankind
It is easy to make the connection between Israel's redemption and our own. The connections are uncanny between Israel's passover and Jesus' death. Because of the sacrifice of an innocent lamb, they were saved from death. Just like them, when we proclaim Jesus as our Passover Lamb, His blood covers the doorposts of our hearts, it atones our sinful nature, it brings us into peace with God, and allows us to be exempt from spiritual death. Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover, at the same hour that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. This is not an accident. God is connecting the ideas here. He literally fulfilled the meaning of that feast on that night He gave His life.
 1 Cor 5:7 “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
Let's  talk about the ritual observance of Passover for a moment. Allow yourself to ponder what God was asking these people to do – and what they continued to do until the true Lamb was sacrificed and this feast was fulfilled. In observing the feast, you would choose the best from among all your lambs to represent you. You would have raised that lamb, seen it born,watched it grow up. If you're like me, you would have developed a bond with it and you would undoubtedly love it. It would have been your favorite, the one that wouldprovide the best meal for you and your family. It would ultimately hurt the flock to have to sacrifice it, because those good and perfect genes would be removed from the population of the herd. This idea of sacrificing a lamb helps us understand that it hurts the flock entirely when we sin. Our sin isn't just about us-It has a negative effect on the whole body of believers.

1 Peter 1:17-19 Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stayon earth, knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but withprecious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
When Jesus sat own and enjoyed His last passover meal with His disciples, He said "As often as you do this, think of me." Jesus wasassociating himself with Passover in that moment. And as often as we do thisshould be once a year, as commanded by God, as He modeled it for us. And weshould think of Him, the Lamb, who broke Himself and laid down His life that wemight have access to God. That we might put His blood on our door posts, and besaved from death. And we should rejoice, for nothing is impossible with Him…not even redeeming lost, sinful, hopeless me. Amen, Amen!

Things to Ponder

Don't come empty-handed: The Passover was celebrated in whatever place God chose to dwell. In the wilderness, it was in their tabernacle. In the days of the glorious temple, it was in Jerusalem. Now, our bodies are the temple, and He has established our hearts as His holy of holies. So we can approach Him inwardly to observe this festival very easily. When we celebrate Passover, when we come before Holy God, it should be a time of remembrance. It should be a time of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Passover was and remains a time of sacrifice. What are we sacrificing to Him, what is the best work of our hands, that we can offer Him to thank Him? Our attitude? Our time? Our talents? Our resources? What do we need to put away to live in a manner that reflects gratitude for our freedom? This season should remind us to give Him the best of what we have, and not our leftovers, as He gave it ALL for us. Reflect. Remember. Rejoice!
Curious about seeing how a passover seder should be done? Here's a guide for Christians.

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