So, you understand that Jesus had to die to fulfill his Purpose. But do you know why it Good Friday and Easter happened during Passover week?
It was no accident.
The story arc of the last week of Jesus’ final week walking among his disciples is a wild ride. On Sunday, he was greeted with celebrations and praise by the masses.
Between then and Thursday, Jesus kicked over the money changers’ tables in the temple, challenged the teachings of the religious leaders, and had one of his own conspire to betray him for money.
On Thursday, he sat down with his disciples for one last meal before his arrest and crucifixion, instituted the Last Supper, and went off to pray. While there, he was betrayed by Judas to be arrested, beaten, given a show trial, and executed by the state in the most painful and humiliating way they had available to them. Between Friday and Sunday, a city bursting at the seams with observant Jews was reeling from the news.
And then the people got one more shock: his grave was found to be empty. Jesus makes it pretty clear that the timing of his death was in divine hands, subject to the FATHER’s timeline, not to the whims of his enemies plotting his death.
So… why THIS week of all weeks?
To borrow a question from Jewish tradition, ‘Why is this day different from all other days’?
Scripture is bursting with clues pointing to what, exactly, was going on. The ties between Passover and Easter are not just interesting, or important. They are absolutely critical to understanding what it was all about.
Passover, as anyone who’s watched The Ten Commandments will remember, tracks the events of God’s people, Israel, starting off as slaves serving the Egyptian Pharoah. God sends a savior, who challenges the Pharoah, and through a series of miraculous events displaying Hand of God, rains judgment on Egypt, thereby freeing Israel from Egypt’s grasp. From there they leave Egypt, encounter God, receive his Word, and are (eventually) led to the land promised to their forefathers.
In Exodus 24, we read:
And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
Oxen were slain as part of the sacrifice where Moses instituted their covenant with Sinai. That was The Law.
But as we saw through the various ups and downs, of backslidings and restorations throughout Israel’s history, something deeper than moral obligation or mere ritual observance was required to solve the human condition. Anticipating that, God had hinted through his prophets about a NEW covenant, one that would not be written in stone, but inwardly, on a transformed heart.
At the Last Supper, Jesus changed the wording ever so slightly…
…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Jesus was explicitly mentioning the NEW covenant in HIS blood… and associating it with his own death (and resurrection).
That should seem more than a little strange. After all… a covenant (blood oath) DOES need blood spilled to inaugurate it, but there are a list of appropriate sacrificial animals. And people, most assuredly are NOT on the list.
(But this was no ordinary blood and no ordinary covenant.)
Remember those cryptic words spoken at Jesus’ baptism? “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away (or ‘takest away’ for the KJV readers among us) the sins of the world.
Lambs being among the appropriate animals for ritual sacrifice, that was an explicit reference to the Sacrificial system. But it was something MORE than that.
It takes us right back to Exodus and the Passover.
The children of Abraham were instructed to take a lamb, and prepare it as a meal. They were to eat it in haste, with a readiness to travel. They were to take the blood from that lamb, and dab it on the vertical and horizontal beams of their door as a sign that the doom falling upon Egypt was to pass their houses by and spare them.
The judgment they were to be spared from was the death of the Firstborn. (Hold that thought… firstborn is of critical importance to seeing what unfolds here.)
From the Burning Bush encounter:
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
Moses declaring Judgment…
So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.
The key role of the blood from the Passover Lamb, ‘without blemish’…
Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.
In each family, a lamb died, so that the judgment on those trusting God could be averted.
But that’s only PART of the story…
It’s easy to think of the Egyptians as the simply the bad guys in the story that deserved judgment, and the children of Israel either the victims that needed rescuing, or at least the good guys.
The book of Numbers, chapter 3, fills in some gaps.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.”
See the Passover tie-in, here? Israel didn’t dodge the bullet simpley because they were the ‘good guys’. There was a cost to the salvation. A lamb was killed, and evidence of that death on those wooden beams and a 90-degree angle (let the reader understand) was a reminder that the death they deserved was already paid in full.
But nobody gets out of this encounter with judgment unchanged.
Those who do not trust the Lord have doom visited upon them, that much is obvious.
But the redeemed are different too — they have their lives forever changed. They are forever HIS.
Instead of taking every firstborn into his service, he took one of the family groups in Israel — the Levites — to be set apart for divine service. And there when the numbers don’t quite add up in a 1:1 replacement at the end of the chapter a set price is given to make up the difference.
Seems a long way to get here, but HOW is Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’?
The Passover in Exodus was God leading his people out of natural slavery to a cruel king.
The Passover that Christ instituted was God leading his people out of spiritual slavery to sin and death, and inviting us beyond the discouraging Law that merely condemns us in our sin and calls us into a life of liberty and love.
Just like Abraham brought Issac up the mountain for a sacrifice, the LORD brought HIS son up the mountain as the unblemished (sinless) lamb bearing the wrath that ALL of us deserve.
The blood on those beams are the proof that divine wrath against real sin and wrongdoing has been truly and finally satisfied. Those who apply it to their own lives by (in faith) applying it, as it were, to their own ‘doorposts and lintels’ are redeemed.
They are ALSO changed. By that same Lamb of God, they are also sanctified… ‘set apart’ for holy service. This doesn’t mean you’ll wear a white priest’s collar the rest of your days.
They are called out of the life they knew before and called into a higher service.
What does that look like?
In the words of the Apostle Paul…
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.