Passover and Palm Sunday

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34).

John the Baptist had been preaching about the coming Messiah, identifying himself as the forerunner Isaiah had promised over 700 years earlier.  Quoting from Isaiah 40:3 John said, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord ‘ “ (John 1:23).

Introducing Jesus to Israel as the Lamb of God was no doubt meant to prompt a comparison between Jesus and the Passover lamb in their minds. Reading about the first Passover (Exodus 12:1-20) from a Christian perspective makes the similarity so clear we wonder how they could have missed it. In fact, several hundred Old Testament Prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus and many of these came in the last week of His earthly life during the two events we’ll be celebrating in the next few days, Palm Sunday for the Church and Passover for Israel.

For Christ, Our Passover Lamb, Has Been Sacrificed … 1 Cor. 5:7

By now the Passover story should be familiar to us.  God had sent Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and bring them into the Promised Land.  But Pharaoh had refused to let them go.  Right from the beginning he had said;

“Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh considered himself to be a god, and therefore equal to any other god.

And so God had brought a series of plagues against Egypt.  He turned their water to blood.  He caused an infestation of frogs, then one of gnats, and after that, one of flies.  He made their livestock drop dead.  He caused an outbreak of painful boils, a great hailstorm that destroyed their crops, a plague of locusts that ate what was left, and another of darkness.  Through these 9 plagues, Pharoah had remained just as obstinate as God had predicted, and refused to let the Israelites go. Now the final showdown between God and Pharaoh was coming.

Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold” (Exodus 11:1-2).

The 10th plague, the death of all the firstborn, would break Pharoah’s will and free the Israelites from their bondage, but first they had to be protected from it

On the 10th day of the 1st month, God had them select a male lamb for each household and inspect it for 3 days to be sure it had no blemish or defect. Then it was slaughtered, and its blood was applied to the doorposts of their homes. Sunset brought the 14th of the month, and after cooking the lamb, each family gathered behind closed doors in their own house, and ate it quickly with some bitter herbs and unleavened bread, not venturing outside.  At midnight the destroying angel came through Egypt and took the life of the first born of every family, except for those who had covered their doorposts with lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:1-13, 21-23, 28-30).

The next morning the Israelites were released from their bondage.  As instructed, they all asked their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold and were given the wealth of Egypt.  (Later, this silver and gold would be used to build the tabernacle.)  Then they began their journey to the Promised Land with God in their midst.  They weren’t spared because they were Jewish, or because they had lamb for dinner the previous night, but because they applied the lamb’s blood to their doorposts, believing that it would protect them. They were saved through faith by the blood of the lamb.

Here’s something I’d like you to think about for a moment.  Two years after the exodus from Egypt the Lord had Moses take a census of all the people, listing by name every male 20 years old or older who could serve in the army. The number of those who met the requirements totaled 603,550 (Numbers 1:1-46).  When you consider the elderly, all those males under 20, and the females of all ages, most scholars agree that the total Israelite population would have been about 1.5 million at the time.

Now what do you think the chances are that in a group of that size some would be unable to travel on any given day due to age, illness, injury, or some other infirmity.  And yet not a single Israelite was left behind.  I believe one of the greatest Passover miracles goes largely unmentioned.  I believe the Lord miraculously healed everyone who needed it on that day, so all would be able to travel.

Just as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, we are slaves in this world, held in bondage to sin. On that first Palm Sunday, the 10th day of the 1st month, our Passover Lamb was selected by allowing people to hail Him as Israel’s King for the first and only time in His life.  When the Pharisees told him to rebuke His disciples for doing so, He said if they kept silent the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:39-40).  This was the day ordained in history for His official appearance as their Messiah.

For the next three days, He was subjected to the most intense questioning of His entire ministry lest there be any defects found in His words or deeds. Then on the 14th He was crucified, releasing us from our bondage to sin, and qualifying us to receive the wealth of His Kingdom.  We are saved through faith by the blood of the Lamb.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Son of Man Wept, The Son of God Warned

As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in from every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone upon another because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).

The prophet Daniel had laid out the schedule for them over 500 years earlier. From the time the Jews were given permission to rebuild Jerusalem following its destruction by the Babylonians, to the coming of the Messiah, there would be 69 periods of 7 years each, or 483 years (Daniel 9:25). History tells us that this permission was given to Nehemiah by the Persian ruler Artaxerxes Longimonus in March of 445 BC (Nehemiah 2:1-9). That Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the shouts of  “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38, Psalm 118:26) it was exactly 483 years later. By then most of the Jewish leadership no longer took their Scriptures literally and the validity of predictive prophecy was being denied.  As a consequence, they failed to recognize Him and the prophecy of Luke 19:41-44 was fulfilled in graphic detail 38 years later.

Their rejection of predictive prophecy notwithstanding, the Lord held them accountable for knowing when He would officially present Himself as their King, riding into the city on a donkey just as the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 foretold.  Given that He had already fulfilled hundreds of additional prophecies of His coming, we can see His point.  Remember, these prophecies were all fulfilled in the span of one lifetime, the one in which He came. There are hundreds more prophecies relating to His Second Coming, and again all will be fulfilled within the span of one lifetime, the one in which He comes (Matt 24:34).  And just as it was then, our leaders no longer take the Bible literally and the validity of predictive prophecy is again being denied.  But even so, the Lord will hold the people of our day accountable to “recognize the time of God’s coming” just like He did back then.

Who Was That Man?

I’ve received a number of emails over the years from people I assume to be Jewish claiming that Jesus didn’t meet a single requirement to be Israel’s Messiah.  I’ve come to realize they think this way because Israel was looking for a Messiah to fulfill what we know as second coming prophecies.  They wanted the Lion of Judah, a powerful warrior king like David, who could throw off the Roman yoke and restore Israel’s kingdom.  They didn’t think they needed a Savior because they were convinced that keeping the Law would save them.  Therefore, when they got the Lamb of God who came to take away their sins they rejected Him.

Today, because of a similar denial of the validity of prophecy, much of the world is looking for some version of the Lamb of God.  They want a gentle teacher who will accept us all just as we are and promise to show us the way to peace and plenty.  They won’t think they deserve a conqueror, so when the Lion of Judah comes to utterly destroy His enemies and establish God’s Kingdom, they won’t recognize Him until it’s too late (Matt. 24:30).  Like the man said, “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 03-28-15