Bill Cloud, Exodus 12, God's calendar, God's Holidays, Hallel, It is Finished, Jesus and Passover, Mark Biltz, Matthew 21, Passover, Passover prophecies, Perry Stone, Psalm 118, The Lamb of God, The Seven Feasts of Israel
We are in the most amazing season of the year, for it is both the soberest and the most incredibly exuberant time. It is the soberest because it is the season wherein Jesus, the eternal King of Glory, was arrested, tried illegally, falsely accused, beaten mercilessly, drug before a jeering crowd, unjustly condemned to die the death of a criminal, namely the death of a thief, was cruelly crucified, and then was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. It is the most incredibly exuberant time of the year because Jesus released the captives in Paradise (Ephesians 4:8-10), preached to the fallen angels in the deepest, darkest prison of Hell (1 Peter 3:19), took back the keys of Death, Hell and the Grave (Revelation 1:18), openly shamed principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15), and defied death by rising bodily from the dead.
We know that this time of year Jesus came and died for our sins and to then rose again. But, have you ever thought about why He died this time of year? Why didn’t he die in June or January, August or November? Why did He rise again on the third day and not the fourth or seventh day?
Why? Because Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets and within the law and prophets is a calendar. God’s calendar. And His calendar is filled with appointments otherwise known as festivals that He has kept and will keep.
God’s schedule is exact. It is as exact as a mathematical, algebraic equation.
I took 2 years of high school Algebra and then 2 years of Algebra in college. Number one, when it comes to me and math, I always make simple problems extremely complex. On top of that, when I would think that I had gotten an answer correct, I would realize that I had the formula wrong, and thus, I would not get credit for the answer. You see, in Algebra, it’s not the conclusion that matters most, but rather, it is the process, the steps, the details that matter most.
It is the same with God’s schedule. He is precise in every minute detail. Every detail, not just the answer. It therefore, was not enough that Jesus die on a certain holiday, but that Jesus would fulfill ALL the other details in the formula first.
On God’s calendar there are seven specific appointments of God, also referred to as holidays. We learned about the three Fall holidays back in September, namely: The Day of Blowing, The Day of Atonement, and the Day of Tabernacles. We learned that these are not Jewish holidays but are God’s holidays (Leviticus 23:1).
There are also four Spring holidays: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and the Feast of Weeks. These were four appointments of God on His own calendar. Each one was initially lived out in the Exodus of the Jews out of Egypt, but that was only a foreshadow, a dress rehearsal of better things to come. Unbeknownst to the Jews, each of these Spring feast days not only pointed back to their awe-inspiring, miraculous Exodus, but pointed to the ultimate fulfillment in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Today, we’re going to take of look at God’s first appointment on His calendar. The Passover. In so doing, we will barely begin to scratch the surface of God’s incredible accuracy and precision.
The First Passover
Four days before the first Passover, each household picked out a perfect yearling lamb. This lamb they took into their house in order to inspect it thoroughly to make sure it truly was without blemish. For four days the lamb became a part of the family, even a family pet while the children of the house would play with it and probably even name it.
Then, on the fourth day, the little perfect and very beloved lamb would be led by the father of the household to the threshold of the front door under which was a trench (to keep water from getting into the house), and there he would kill the lamb specifically between the evenings, that is between the times of 3 and 6 o’clock pm.
“It was a night unlike any other night,” the saying goes when speaking of the very first Passover in Egypt. Everyone was huddled in their homes, approximately ten people per house. The silence of the evening was probably deafening as they hastily ate their roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, perhaps the children even cried over their pet lamb, and they all tensely waited.
Then, they would begin to hear it. Blood curdling screams. Frightened shouts. Gut wrenching wailing. Until fear filled the air as up and down the streets the death angel walked taking with him the first born out of every household that had not been anointed with the blood of a lamb.
Breathlessly, they waited until everyone’s door was suddenly pounded upon and word spread that they were to leave Egypt immediately. The Egyptians themselves approached the Jewish slaves, frantically begging them to leave and leave now. The Egyptians even gave them gold, silver, precious stones and beautiful clothing just to get them to go.
It was a night of both darkness and deliverance, death and redemption.
In the time of Jesus, the Jews continued to celebrate the Passover. After all, God said they would celebrate it forever. And when God says forever He means forever. Thus, every year they would pick out a lamb for their family, and every year they would sacrifice it, sing certain songs, and continue to rehearse the details of Passover.
In Jesus’ day, around 3 million Jews would ascend every year up to Jerusalem for the Passover, and they would sing certain songs, just like we have certain hymns we sing for certain occasions, like “Up From the Grave He Arose” every Resurrection Sunday and “Silent Night” each Christmas. Even so, they sang certain Psalms, namely Psalm 113-118 (referred to as the Hallel).
Jerusalem had four gates: north, south, east and west. Four days before Passover, the High Priest would enter Jerusalem through the north gate leading national lamb, along with all the other lambs. Each family picked out their own lamb for their family, and then there was the one lamb that would die for all the people. While the High Priest led the little lamb, a crowd would follow behind and the High Priest would sing Psalm 118.
Some of the lyrics/verses of Psalm 118 read (25-26), “Save now (the word here is Hosanna), I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD.” These are the words that the High Priest would be singing as he entered town with the national lamb that was to be inspected for four days
Even so, four days before Passover, Jesus in Matthew 21:1-11 entered Jerusalem. It reads, “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
As the High Priest with a crowd and a lamb was entering the northern gate singing from Psalm 118, saying “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD…” Jesus entered the eastern gate with a crowd to the tune of the shouts of the people who said, “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And even as the lamb was inspected for four days in the Temple, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was inspected in the Temple with questions and found to be without blemish time after time after time. As it says in Matthew 26:59-60, “Now the chief priests and the elders and all the council sought false witness against Jesus to put him to death, but found none…” Even Pontius Pilate said in Matthew 27:24, “…I am innocent of the blood of this just person…” Thus, Jesus was declared to be spotless, and therefore, worthy to be the Passover Lamb.
It Is Finished
Each Synoptic Gospel specifically notes that at 3pm, Jesus drank of the vinegar, commended His spirit to God, and then breathed His last. To begin with, 3pm is exactly the “between the evenings” mentioned in Exodus 12.
John 19, unlike the other three Gospels, quotes Jesus as saying something very important. “It is finished.”
As Jesus was dying on the cross at 3pm, between the evenings, the High Priest back in the Temple was preparing to slay the national Passover lamb. When he had completed the task, he would stretch out his arms from side to side and say, “It is finished.” And thus, Jesus as our sacrificial Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world and as our Great High Priest, with his arms stretched out said from the cross the very same words, “It is finished.” And because of God’s exactness, the High Priest and Jesus said the words at the exact same time.
These are only a few ways in which Jesus fulfilled the Passover. There are so many other ways in which Jesus in minute detail fulfilled the law and the prophets, but to cover them all would take us an indeterminate amount of time.
God is a God of order and details. As it says in Matthew 5:18, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” A jot is both the smallest Greek and Hebrew letter (the iota and the yod), and a tittle is kind of like the dot on our “i”. In other words, a tittle is smaller than the smallest letter. God did not say every word will be fulfilled. No. Notice it is every smallest letter and smallest stroke of a pen that will be fulfilled. Now that is detail! Some say that the devil is in the details. But, really, it is God who is in the details!
Just think, God planned it all in every microscopic facet, marked it on His calendar, and brought it to pass on the exact day and at the precise time it was to happen. God inspired the exact songs that would be sung as Jesus entered Jerusalem; He chose the very day and even the very second that Jesus would die; even Jesus’ words said from the cross were a script from the Father and in fulfillment of the minutest detail of the law.
For years, the Jews had rehearsed the very steps, and somehow, just as we all do, got so lost in those details of the day that they missed the awe inspiring, miraculous handiwork of God. So, this holiday season, I encourage us all to not just go through the motions of the incredible holidays of God. Let’s think on each intricate part of the Biblical story that is read because even the smallest detail is significant; let’s reflect on our own great need for a Savior and how He fulfilled the smallest details in God’s salvation plan for us; let’s stand in awe of the Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world, and let’s not miss God’s perfect, meticulous fulfillment of Passover through Jesus.
Mark Biltz DVD series, “The Feasts of the Lord.”