He is risen!! Resurrection Sunday has to be my favorite holiday (on a Sunday) of the year! I love to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!!” at the top of my lungs…I usually don’t get very far into it before that lump in my throat cracks my voice and I have to swallow my joy to continue singing. What a glorious day!! The interesting thing is that the Jews were celebrating Resurrection Sunday long before Jesus was even born. In fact, they celebrated this past Sunday right along with us, but for very different reasons.
As I explained on my last post (March 25th) what Christians call “Passion Week” is almost always the same week as the Jewish feast of Passover. When Jesus shared his last supper with the disciples, it was a Passover Seder, which makes the bread and the cup he took anything but table scraps! Today is the last day of Passover; at sundown this evening, the Feast of Unleavened bread ends for another year.
In my last post, I shared a few of the interesting parallels between the Old Testament and New Testament Passovers, particularly the dates. As promised, today I want to share a little bit about the Passover lamb and Resurrection Sunday.
Most of us have heard about the over 300 Messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled. And John the Baptist announced that Jesus was the Lamb of God. In fact, many of the New Testament writers refer to Jesus as the Passover Lamb. I already shared that Jesus rode into Jerusalem and straight to the Temple on the same day Jewish families brought their Passover lambs for inspection and the religious leaders presented the national lamb. As the priest examined Passover lambs for blemish, Jesus presented himself for inspection. Several agreed he was without fault: Pilate, King Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, the centurion, and even the thief hanging on the cross next to him.
In addition to being blemish-free, the Passover lamb was chosen from a specific flock, tied to the altar at a specific time, and sacrificed at a specific time. The lamb was tied to the altar at 9am and six hours later, at 3pm, was sacrificed. These times are specified in the crucifixion accounts…the third hour and the ninth hour. Crucifixions were designed to last for days, yet Jesus only hung on the cross for six hours before he “gave up his spirit.” He literally gave his life at the exact time set aside for the national sacrifice. It is interesting to note that according to Jewish historians, our Christmas shepherds—the ones who were treated to the host of angels—were probably tending Passover flocks.
Probably my favorite parallel between the feast and Christ’s resurrection is the day Jesus rose. The women came to the tomb early on Sunday morning. But it wasn’t just any Sunday morning; it was the Sunday following the first Sabbath following Passover…a day set aside in the Old Testament as the Feast of First Fruits. Just as Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated salvation from the Angel of Death and the pharaoh freeing the people from slavery, First Fruits commemorated another part of the exodus story. On the Sunday following that first Passover, the Israelites found themselves trapped between the pharaoh’s men and the Red Sea. We all know how Moses lifted his staff and parted the water to make a way of escape. On the 17th of Nisan, the Israelites walked into the sea as slaves, and came out free on the other side.
If you go back into Genesis to the story of Noah, you will see that this wasn’t the first time the 17th of Nisan was a day of deliverance. It is the date that the ark came to rest on dry land for the first time (Gen 8:4—the seventh month was later designated as the first month in Ex.12:2). Also on the 17th of Nisan: after wandering in the desert, Israel entered into the Promised Land and ate the first fruits (Joshua 5:10-12), the walls of Jericho came down (Joshua 5:13), and Queen Esther saved the Hebrew people from elimination (Esther 3:12; 5:1).
God made us in His image, and we LOVE to celebrate anniversaries. Apparently, we get that from Him! There are a lot of these anniversaries throughout the Bible, but because most of us are not familiar with the Hebrew calendar, we miss them. I’d love to share them all…I’ll come back later today and post a few more in the comments section.