Sunday, April 10, 2016

Passover, Jesus' death, and Resurrection Sunday


Recently I was listening to a sermon about the Passover.  In the sermon, the pastor talked about the first Passover, the one where God had been sending plagues to the Egyptians because for 400 years they had enslaved the the Israelite's, God's people, and refused to release them at His command. The last of these plagues was one where all the firstborn in the land, man or beast would die. But God provided a protection from His wrath for the Israelite's. He told them to take a spotless lamb, kill it, take a hyssop branch and, using it, apply the blood of the lamb to their doorpost. They were to roast and eat the lamb, at the same time being prepared for traveling because God knew and had warned them that the Egyptian Pharaoh would set them free after this plague and they needed to be ready.  

When the angel of death passed through the land, the angel would see the blood that had been applied to the doorpost of each Jewish house and those under the roof of that house would be spared. This, the Israelites did, and were spared the effects of the plague. At midnight, the angel of death swept through the land killing all the firstborn of every male, man and beast. When Pharaoh discovered that his firstborn son was dead, he called Moses and Aaron, the ambassadors of the Israelite's, and commanded them to take the children of Israel and leave. 

It was with great rejoicing that the Israelite's left Egypt and their slavery behind, and thus began their great journey.  God commanded that the Passover was to be kept every year in remembrance of how He had passed over them, spared them from the plague of death. The way they were to celebrate this event was by taking a lamb, killing it, and eating it as they did that night--without breaking any of it's bones, God commands in Exodus 12:46, which interestingly reminds me of the prophecy in Psalm 34:20 and the fulfillment of that prophecy in John 19:33 and :36. (These events are found in Exodus 11-12)

Anyway, fast forward about 2000 years and you come to the death of Christ. As you probably know, Jesus Christ died at the time of celebrating the Passover. In the sermon I was listening to, the pastor was talking about what Jesus must have been feeling during that time. He said that at that time, around 2.5-3 million people would be gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. According to Bible regulations, there was to be one spotless lamb sacrificed for every 10 people. You're talking some 250,000 lambs being slaughtered. Each lamb probably contained more than a gallon of blood. The way it would happen is the lamb would be sacrificed, and the blood would be taken and poured at the base of the altar. Now, with more than a gallon of blood per lamb, and 250,000 lambs or more being slaughtered, where would all that blood go? Well, there was a little conduit from the base of the altar that led down to the brook Kidron. The blood drained through this, flowing into the water.

This brook lay in the Kidron valley which separated the Temple mount, from the Mount of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane was at the base of the Mount of Olives. So as our Lord passed through on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane in the night that He was betrayed, He passed over a river of blood made from the blood of over 100,000 sacrificial lambs (they celebrated the Passover on two days--one day for the Judeans, and one day for the Galileans, so half the lambs were sacrificed on each day). What a picture that must have been to Him to have been probably at the temple, watching all these lambs being sacrificed and then passing over this river of blood, knowing that they all were a picture of what He was about to do; how He was to, very soon, become the ultimate sacrificial Lamb and His own blood was to be spilled at the cross of Calvary. 

The Bible tells us that in the Garden of Gethsemane He was so emotional that He began to sweat blood (Luke 22:44). He suffered such emotional strain at what was about to happen to Him, that He began to sweat blood. He then was arrested and taken through six trials-three Jewish, three Roman (John 18:12-14, Matt. 26:57, Matt. 27:1, Matt. 27:2, Luke 23:6-12, Matt. 27:15-26). Imagine the stress! All His disciples having abandoned Him, being interrogated by these leaders, having false witnesses being brought in to try to accuse Him of something, anything that He did wrong, being mocked, spit upon and hit, and very likely not being able to sleep at all. He then is taken and scourged, brought to a hall, a purple robe being placed upon Him, a reed in His hand and a crown of thorns upon His head, and He is mocked, spit upon and hit some more (John 18:19-23, Matt. 26:59-68, Luke 23:6-12, Matt. 27:24-31).

After that, He is made to carry His cross-piece along a road and the fact that along the way a man named Simon was recruited to help Him carry it, shows that He was probably very weak at that point (Matt. 27:32). He is taken a place called Calvary, or Golgotha which means the place of the Skull, nailed to the cross and tortured. Death by crucifixion was supposed to be a shameful, slow and painful death, and the victim usually died from exposure or exhaustion. Sometimes it even took up to a week for a victim to die. The Romans were experts at this. So there Jesus hung, with the accusation title of 'King of the Jews' hung above His head (Matt. 27:37).

The people came to mock Him and happily watch His suffering (Matt. 27:39-43)--and remember that this was the Passover. In the middle of the celebration of this feast, these people are coming to joyfully watch and take part in the sufferings of another person. This shows the pure wickedness and evil in the hearts of man. The Bible says that even the robbers whom He was crucified with mocked Him (Matt. 27: 44). Now, in crucifixion, breathing was hard and painful. Yet these robbers are using their breath, to mock Jesus Christ. Again, what wickedness and evil in the hearts of man! 

After Jesus suffers this painful agony, mentally, emotionally, physically, even experiencing the desertion of God the Father, He cries, "It is finished!" (I love those words) and takes His last breath (John 19:30)

In the sermon  I was listening to, the pastor only went to the part of what Jesus might have been thinking as He passed the brook Kidron, but as I was sitting there listening, I thought, what a depressing story! Imagine the darkness, pain, loneliness, agony, stress and grief! Imagine how He must have dreaded the coming events--So bad that He even sweat blood. And it struck me, why is this holiday that is coming up so joyous? I honestly, in that split second, forgot about the ending of story. Why is this upcoming holiday such a joyous thing?  

And then I remembered. Because He didn't stay dead. He didn't stop there. He rose again. He rose from the grave. The grave could not keep it's prey, death could not keep it's grip upon Him, He rose again. This wasn't just a spiritual rising. It was physical, but in a new way. He could go through doors and walls, but He ate, and talked and His disciples could feel Him--He was not just an apparition (Luke 24:36-43).
Christ is risen indeed. This is why we can have true peace. Because death has been conquered. Sin has been defeated. So no matter what happens in this life, it doesn't matter--Jesus Christ is risen! If we are a believer, we have forgiveness of sins, we are cloaked in Christ's righteousness, and we will live forever with Him in Heaven--if life brings troubles and things don't go our way, what matter? We have been forgiven. We are made new. We will be with Jesus. It is finished. This is why we celebrate Resurrection Sunday with such rejoicing.  

And the glory of it is, when a sinner, by God's grace, sees that he is guilty of sin, sees that he is in rebellion towards a just God, has broken God's law, the punishment of which is death (Rom 6:23) and falls on his knees--physically or not--in repentance, God looks on him, sees His only Son, Jesus Christ, suffering in agony on the cross of Calvary, bearing the weight of the sin of the world--past, present and future--upon His shoulders, the blood of the ultimate sacrificial Lamb pouring from His hands, His feet, His side, and He is satisfied.  It is enough. The demands for forgiveness, cleansing of sin have been met, and He is satisfied (Isaiah 53). Amazing, isn't it? 

Notice also, the parallel in the observing of the Passover that I wrote about in the beginning of this post.   The wrath of God has been announced, He is coming to bring judgement in the land of Egypt. But He makes a provision so that the Hebrews wouldn't have to suffer and experience His wrath, that is the blood of a lamb. Translated to now, the wrath of God has been announced. He is coming to bring judgement on the world. But He has made a provision for us, so that if, by faith, we accept His provision, we won't have to suffer and experience His wrath; that is the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Those who applied the blood of a lamb to the doorpost of their homes, were spared the wrath of God. In the same way, those who apply the blood of the Lamb to the doorpost of their hearts, are spared the wrath of God. I sincerely hope that you have already accepted His provision and applied to your heart the blood of the spotless, blameless, ultimate sacrificial Lamb that was sacrificed for you.

"He has made Him who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him. "~2 Corinthians 5:21

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." ~1 Peter1:3

"Greater love has no than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends." ~John 15:13

Julia <3
*Pictures one, two and four from the top are mine; please do not use without permission.*

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