THE FEAST OF PASSOVER
(Friday, May 15, 2020)
Jesus kept the Passover as a man because God had commanded it as a festival. In this, He set us a perfect example, showing us that we should observe this festival too. So did the early apostles, including John who is the author of five books of the New Testament and the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” All of them kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) just as God commanded in the time of Moses. And so, did some Christians in Scotland even until the 7th century AD.
When should the Passover be kept? This question has caused much contention in the church over the years, but we will avoid those controversies here by examining the question straight from God’s Word. The answer is surprisingly simple. Passover is to be kept on the 14th day of the first of God’s months, called Abib or Nisan (between March – April). Scripture after scripture proves this point beyond every shadow of doubt. We will quickly run through six of them:
- On the 14th day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover. (Leviticus 23:5)
- And they kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did. (Numbers 9:5)
- On the 14th day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD. (Numbers 28:16)
- Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal and kept the Passover on the 14th day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. (Joshua 5:10)
- Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the 14th day of the first month. (II Chronicles 35:1)
- And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month. (Ezra 6:19)
All four gospel writers mention that Jesus was tried, convicted, crucified, and buried on the Passover day. Without any further clarification, one would assume that they meant a Friday, the weekly preparation day before the Sabbath. But can other days be considered preparation days as well? Yes, indeed! God Himself gave the instructions about the use of the preparation day to the Israelites before they reached Mount Sinai (Exodus 16:23). The Jews later considered this to be so important that they made sure each of the holy days, which are also Sabbaths, was preceded by a preparation day. Since the holy days can fall on any day of the week, the preparation day can fall on any day of the week as well. This is very relevant to the Passover. Not only is the Passover a festival in its own right, it also functions as the preparation day for a holy day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to the calculated Hebrew Calendar, Passover can fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sabbath. Clearly, our Saviour was crucified on the Passover day (Matthew 26:2-5). Thus, it was on one of these days of the week that Jesus was killed and buried.
2.0 JESUS’ DATE OF BIRTH IS NOT REVEALED
Jesus was not born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). This could never have occurred in Judea in the month of December [i.e. in Kishlev (3rd Month) or Tevlet (4th Month)]. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15 [i.e. in Cheshvan or Marcheshvan (2nd Month)], to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date. Notice that the Bible itself proves, in Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9 -13, that winter was a rainy season not permitting shepherds to abide in open fields at night. As Christianity was introduced into Rome and it was approved by Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. and became the state religion of the Roman Empire, Christians felt the need to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. However, they could not find the date from the Bible, so people brought up several dates that they estimated as the birthday of Jesus. Until the early 3rd century, nothing was decided about the birthday of Jesus and people celebrated it on any day in March, May or November. Then December 25 came up for the first time by Hippolytus, one of the fathers of the Rome Church. Without any exact foundation, he made a presumption that the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus on March 25 and insisted that it was certain that Jesus was born on December 25. At that time, his insistence did not catch any attention. Meanwhile, the church in Jerusalem in the east appointed one day among early January, as the birthday of Jesus and as the day when Jesus was baptized; and they celebrated each of them in Bethlehem and in the Jordan River. As it was hard for people to travel to the two places, which are separated by more than 30 km [19 miles] away, in a day, they came to complain about it.
The exact date of Jesus’ birth is entirely unknown, as all authorities acknowledge—though there are indications that it was in the early fall—probably September—approximately six months after Passover. If God had wished us to observe and celebrate Christ’s birthday, He would not have so completely hidden the exact date.
3.0 THE FEAST OF PASSOVER- STORY IN A NUTSHELL
The 14th of Nissan (on the Biblical calendar), is when we enter into the glorious season memorializing the Passover in Egypt 3,500 years ago when Israel, Yahveh’s (the LORD’s) chosen people, were spared death because of the lamb’s blood that was placed over the door posts and lintels of their homes (Exodus 12:7). In the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G‑d visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. The ten plagues were:
- Aaron strikes the Nile, the waters turn to blood;
- Swarms of frogs overrun the land;
- Lice infest all men and beasts. Still, Pharaoh remains stubborn;
- Hordes of wild animals invade the cities,
- A pestilence kills the domestic animals,
- Painful boils afflict the Egyptians.
- Fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hail.
- A swarm of locusts devours all the crops and greenery;
- A thick, palpable darkness envelops the land;
- All the firstborn of Egypt was killed at the stroke of midnight.
While doing so, God spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holy day. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G‑d’s chosen people.
The original Passover with Moses was a foreshadowing of our ultimate Passover Lamb and Deliverer, Yahshua the Messiah. (Yahshua’s original Hebrew name means: Yahveh Saves). Yahveh’s name is magnified as the covenant keeping Elohim (God) as proclaimed in Exodus 6:6-7. He sovereignly promised to deliver and redeem His people, to bring them safely into the Promised Land where He will be their Elohim (God) and they will be His people forever. Yahshua (Jesus) is encouraging us all to celebrate, in obedience to His Father’s ordinances, the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The following will be a simple yet adequate instruction to help you participate in these “appointed times of Yahveh.” As we learn about these Biblical “Holy Days”, Yahveh (the LORD) magnifies His holy character and eternal plan of redemption through His Son, our Passover Lamb.
4.0 THE FULFILLMENT OF PASSOVER
In truth and in deed Jesus is the fulfilment of all the holy feasts of Israel. Our Saviour came in order that He would die as our Passover Lamb shedding His sacrificial holy blood for the covering and removal of our sins. God’s word proclaims, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). This is the Heavenly Father’s infinite magnificent love compelling Him to send His “only begotten Son” to die in our place that we might live with Him forever in His eternal glorious kingdom. Jesus’s death was the fulfilment of the holy Feast of Passover. What is commonly known as the “Last Supper” was a Passover Seder, (the biblically prescribed commemorated meal with which Passover begins). Jesus and His twelve Jewish disciples were celebrating the Passover reflecting and remembering the miracle of the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts of their forefather’s homes which caused the angel of death to see the blood, spare their lives, and deliver them from Egyptian bondage. At this most important history changing Passover Jesus was making known to His disciples then, and to future generations of Jews and Gentiles in all nations, that He is the sacrificial Lamb whose blood covers sin in all repentant hearts, sparing them from eternal death. Glory be to the Lamb of God whose blood takes away the sin of the world! Our Saviour in essence was saying, “From now on when you take this unleavened bread and this cup of wine you will do this in remembrance of the original Passover lamb’s body and blood fulfilled by the final sacrifice of My life as your ultimate Passover Lamb. In doing so you will remember the love of My Father to give a sacrifice—My life, that you might be delivered from bondage to your sin nature, the prince of this world Satan, and the wages of sin which is eternal death. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Almighty One of Israel prophesied through the prophet Isaiah more than 700 years prior, of His suffering Son who would be our sacrificial Lamb, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray…But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him… Like a lamb that is led to slaughter…So He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment, He was taken away… He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due…But God was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering…Because He poured out Himself to death…He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:5-6,8,10,12)
5.0 THE NEW COVENANT
Additionally, and equally important at the Passover Seder (the Last Supper) Jesus proclaimed, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). He was revealing to His Jewish disciples that this was the fulfilment of His Father’s promise through the prophet Jeremiah over six hundred years prior. “The days are coming,” declares GOD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt… “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares GOD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33). This was reiterated through the book of Hebrews, with this addition, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (see Hebrews 10:16-17). In addition, and as the LORD said, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” As long as we are holy to GOD, He will protect us as a hen would protect her chicks — guarding them from harm and danger. As the Israelites were warned not to go outside, lest they perish, so too must we stay under the blood of Jesus with our sins repented for as this is the only place of safety.
After Israel received the Commandments LORD asked her to construct the ark to house them. In the last days the prophet Jeremiah prophesied, ‘The ark of the covenant of LORD.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again” (Jeremiah 3:16) because the ark is the throne of LORD in the hearts of His people that house His ark and everything that was housed in it! The redeemed heart is now the dwelling place of Jesus by His spirit as well as the place where He has written His Fathers Commandments “…behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). The Old Covenant was written on tablets of stone, but the New Covenant, through Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice, is written on the hearts and minds of all redeemed so they, by His spirit of truth and empowering grace, will not sin against Him. So, when we take of this privileged, sacred, intimate communion with our Saviour we are remembering that He is the ultimate Passover Lamb whose body hung on the execution stake for all sinners as He died to take our place. We are to rightfully discern the body of Jesus “For as often as [we] eat this bread and drink the cup, [we] proclaim the Master’s death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of Jesus. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly” (1 Corinthians 11:26-29). We are to take communion with wholehearted reverential awe as we behold, honour and uphold our Lamb’s sacrificial holy blood that covers all our repentant sin and delivers us from eternal death.
6.0 PERFECTING HOLINESS
Jesus died after only six hours rather than the usual three days on the stake. He had a limited time in which to be buried, in order to sovereignly fulfil the second spring feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Leviticus 23:6 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts the day after Passover “for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread” (Leviticus 23:6). We have a new beginning through the death of our Passover Lamb. “Therefore, if anyone is in Jesus, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are now to live as new creations as apostle Paul said, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). The reality of being crucified with our Passover Lamb is again magnified in apostle Paul’s words, “I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Master Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
This feast symbolizes our walks as new creations who are wholeheartedly “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) by daily purging out our leaven-sin (symbolized in the seven days of eating unleavened bread). “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). We are to walk like Jesus and as Apostle Paul said, “…I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 refer to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, “Don’t you know that a little bit of sin works through the whole batch (our redeemed life). Get rid of the old yeast (sin), so that you may be a new unleavened batch−as you really are (a born again new creation in the spirit!). For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast…” “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of GOD” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY. For the LORD impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on 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 with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:14-19)
With the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the LORD is pointing out that we have been set free and delivered from bondage as the children of Israel were in order to worship and serve Him in “spirit and in truth”. The Passover Lamb died to deliver and redeem us to be true worshippers and children of the Most High. We are to reflect Him, by His spirit in and through us, in holy conduct, words and deeds to the glory of His Father. As His children, we are making pilgrimage to the Promised Land, which is His Eternal Holy Kingdom, the blessed hope of all the redeemed who are longingly looking up and “waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28).