Today is… A Passover Narrative

Today is 10 Nisan

We traditionally call it Palm Sunday and think of Jesus riding in on a colt as the most significant event on this day, just 5 days before Jesus was crucified.

But it isn’t. The most significant thing that happened is accounted in Mark 11:11 when Jesus went into the temple, looked around and then left. Why did he do that? Because like 10 Nisan before God freed the Jews from Egypt, the Lamb must be brought into the home and kept there until dusk at the beginning of 15 Nisan when it is sacrificed.

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Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, our sacrifice is in the House of God, his Temple.

Mark 11
7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.
8 And many nspread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.
9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of sour father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.
13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
15 And they came to Jerusalem…

Today is 11 Nisan

The afternoon before, Jesus walked into the Holy Temple where he stood alone, looked around, and departed. And so the sacrifician lamb is in the house.

This time his comes to clean that house. He had walked from Bethany the day before and walked back, a distance oef under 2 miles. Walking that distance was not against the traditional Jewish law which was important because 10 Nisan is Sabbath. No work can be done on that day, and that included walking too far. That’ why the crowd was there with the palms…they weren’t working.

Today he is again walking from Bethany where he slept. He is hungry and figs are a staple of Jewish life with most people having trees in and around their house.

On his way back to the temple, he walks past a barren fig tree. Even though it is not the time of year for figs, he commands that the tree die. The significance here is at first hidden. What does a fig tree have to do with this Passover in particular so that Jesus would even take notice of it?

Just like the temple which he expects to be clean, he expects the chosen people of God to bear fruit continually. But there is no fruit. And there is no place for fruitless trees that take up space where others can grow and bear.

But God never closes a door that at least one other doesn’t open…while they will always be His chosen people, the death of the fig tree means the demise of Israel’s active witness to the world. But what then?

Already Israel has been scattered in the Diaspora beginning as early as the 8th to 6th century B.C. from the time that the ten northern tribes rebelled against the House of David (1 Kings 12:21).

After that Jerusalem had been ransacked and devastated. Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls. Ironically it was during that rebuilding (Ezra and Nehemiah) that the sect of the Pharisees was born.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees make up the Sanhedrin, the legal, moral, and civil heart of Israel’s government. It was the Sanhedrin and those using the temple for profit that Jesus was to face on this 11 Nisan. They and everything they stood for were like that frutiless fig tree.

But the Son of Man did not come to curse Israel. He came to make a better way, because the law and the laws of Halakha could never do that. He would plant something much, much better. He would give us the tree of mercy and grace once and for all. Forever his law would be written not on paper but in the hearts of those who believed in Him.

One door is closing. Just three more days and another door will be thrown wide open. A new fig tree will spring up and this one will bear fruit continually.

Today is 12 Nisan

Remember that on 11 Nisan just the day before, Jesus had driven out the moneychangers and those selling doves and such for sacrifice. Because we don’t really know the context of this per se, it might seem logical that they are providing a useful, and even necessary service to those coming to bring offerings to sacrifice at Temple.

What this meant was sacrificial worship was reduced to a convenient one-stop, shop, offer, and go experience requiring little thought and much less sincerity.

But it was more than that. No doubt the Sanhedrin was getting a cut of the profits from these moneychangers and merchants. After all, they could only be in that temple area with the Sanhedrin’s permission.

When Jesus’ drove the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple the day before, they and the Sanhedrin were simply speechless that day because they feared the people.

But Today is a new day.  The Sanhedrin chief priests and scribes, their profits and power in jeopardy, challenged Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”

Speaking with authority Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”

They answered him, “We do not know.”

Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Why did they refuse to respond? They could have. But they didn’t because any way they answered would be an admission that Jesus indeed had authority in the Temple and they did not. Jesus was recognized by most and loved by many. The Sanhedrin was not.

To the chief priests it is now clear that there is only one way to deal with Jesus. They must kill him. And they must do it as inconspicuously as possible for fear that the people would rage and rise up against them.

Their plans begin to formulate…and they think they have a very good plan!

Today is 13 Nisan

Just one more day…until everything changes forever! There are two very important things that happen this day.

While tomorrow, 14 Nisan, is called the Day of Preparation for Passover, it also is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Remember days in the Jewish calendar start at 6PM so it is easy to get confused. This scripture in Matthew seems to indicate that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the day before Preparation for Passover.

Matthew 26:17 ESV 

Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

Some Jewish groups do celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread for eight days instead of seven and that could account for this apparent discrepancy. A closer look at the word “day” here reveals that there is no Greek word in the original text which is translated as “day.” It is implied from the original Greek for the word “first” which means “first in time, order, significance or importance.” So it is transliterated as first day to give us the best sense and meaning of the word “first.” In reality it is like thinking about what you’re going to need to be thinking about for the upcoming feast.

On the Day of Preparation for Passover, like the Passover itself, there is also to be no leaven in the house for fear that some might show up in the food at Passover. So 13 Nisan here is the first day of significance for the Feast of Unleavened Bread because plans have to be made.

Now you see why the disciples are asking Jesus where they will spend the Day of Preparation of Passover, which is 14 Nisan. The evening of 14 Nisan, Day of Preparation for Passover, is of special importance because is what we celebrate when we take communion. We call it the Lord’s Supper, and this will be the first one. And here too there is no leaven in sight.

The second important event is the arrangement for Jesus’ betrayal.

Matt. 26:14-16 ESV

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Judas and the chief priests of the Sanhedrin have done their preparations too. Everything is set in motion Jesus knows his time is now very short.

Today is 14 Nisan

Many, many things happen today. Today is the most significant in all of history. Today, creation’s creator…dies.

Two disciples were sent to find and follow and man carrying a pitcher of water to the house where he entered. To the master of that house they said, “The Teacher is coming. Where shall he prepare to eat the Passover?” He showed them a large room was already prepared and waiting.

As dusk falls, the evening of 14 Nisan covers up the day of 13 Nisan. This day is the Preparation for Passover. It is also the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. There is no leaven anywhere in the house as the preparations go on.

Jesus and his disciples are at table eating his final meal. This is not the Passover meal. It is the Lord’s Supper. That’s because Jesus IS the Passover lamb and he will not be alive for Passover.

He shares the unleavened bread and the cup of wine with all his disciples, even Judas. Passover meal is not like this meal. Exodus clearly commands only three things at Passover; bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and of course a roast lamb unparted and without any broken bones.

Where is the wine at the first Passover. Wine is not present at the first Passover in Egypt. Just like the blood of the lamb which was full spilled and applied to the door’s frame, there is no wine. Passover looks forward to the cross. The Lord’s Supper looks back. There is wine because the Lord’s blood has not yet been spilled. There is unleavened bread because he is there.

Judas at some point leaves them all. It is the darkness of night but a full moon is rising as it always does at Passover because the Jewish calendar is lunisolar. He is off to the chief priests because he knows that Jesus is going to the Gethsemane, a favorite garden where he has prayed in times past.

Jesus knows everything that is happening. The events of his coming crucifixion are as clear as the very first Passover in his eyes because all times are “now” for God. Nothing is happenstance and every detail between those two events in our history is precise.

It explains why God created time for us. Time is a blessing he gives creation and is equivalent to experience. Only God made man in the person of Jesus Christ does he experience time. And yet he already knows what is about to happen. And he doesn’t run away…he embraces the experience.

Judas and the guards of the chief priests find Jesus in the moonlit night in the garden, and he identifies him to them by a kiss. Darkness is important to them because everyone is asleep…all who love Jesus are unaware of these chain of events until Jesus is already on the cross and dying.

After being taken by the guards, Jesus is shuffled during the night between Roman and Hebrew authority until finally, to keep the peace, Rome condemns him to death. Flogging is such a small word but for Jesus is not a simple whip lashing. The bleeding begins. His blood marks the post and crossbeam even before the nails pierce his hands at the wrist and his feet.

By 9AM he is hanging between criminals on Skull Hill. News that Jesus is being crucified spreads like wildfire through Jerusalem. But it is too late. The plan to kill Jesus without an uprising in the city has worked. He is dying amidst a shocked population who were sleeping while a relative few jeered and scorned Jesus at his fake trial.

At around 3PM, Jesus, the creator of the creation that is now killing him cries out, “It is finished.” The significance of this statement cannot be underscored. You see Jesus had already said that no man could take his life. He alone can issue the command for death. But it isn’t suicide. It is a willing offering.

Why? Why must there be an offering? At the center of God’s perfect nature is his more core characteristic—love. How could a creation gone evil be allowed. It is what makes us cry for justice for our loved ones who have been severely wronged. We want justice. We want blood!

Forgiveness is not a triangle. We cannot be party to the the forgiveness God offers to those who have wronged us, just as they cannot be so when we wrong them. If there is to be forgiveness and justice then there must still be restitution. God cannot simply “let us off.” Its all about holy “fairness” isn’t it.

Were we to be the ones to “pay up” for all our wrongs and evil doings, no one would survive. All would die you see. Only God can die in our place. Abraham said it more significantly than he could have known when he replied to Isaac, “God will provide himself a lamb.” God IS the lamb.

Only God can die and only God can live again. Judgement for us would be final and permanent. He knows that.

Why does Jesus die at 3PM when Passover doesn’t start until 6PM when 15 Nisan starts? Because Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus must take his body off the cross, anoint it with some 75 pounds of spices, wrap it in a burial cloth in just three short hours. Passover is a high Sabbath you see and they cannot be found working. They must be in their homes consuming the roast lamb and bitter herbs according to Mosaic law.

By the time Passover begins at dusk, the burial stone has sealed Jesus’ body in the grave. For three days there will be…nothing more.

Today is 15 Nisan

The Passover moon is full, as it always is on Passover. His grave is quiet. His followers temporarily scattered.

Where is Jesus really though?

Luke 23:43

Today is 16 Nisan

It is our Thursday A.D. 30 and dusk sees the end of Passover of 15 Nisan and the evening that begins 16 Nisan.

This “Jesus incident” had been so smoothly orchestrated by just a few well-placed men in the Sanhedrin, and right under the noses of most of Jerusalem! With the cover of the nighttime arrest, conviction and early morning crucifixion, it was all done as inconspicuously as possible without time for most of those who followed Jesus to find out, much less, to act.

Passover is just like a Sabbath so that all of Jewry has been for the most part in their houses resting and doing no work. Jesus’ gravesite is alone and unvisited as the fading daylight of 15 Nisan would bring people back out to the streets briefly before the night.

The High Sabbath of Wednesday 15 Nisan and the coming weekly Sabbath at dusk on Friday 17 Nisan meant that most people soon would again be in their homes resting. But what about Friday morning?

Sandwiched between two Sabbaths, Friday morning 16 Nisan would find everyone busier than usual. Even though there would be no more than twelve hours of daytime sunlight before dusk ushered in Friday Sabbath 17 Nisan, the chief priests are aware this might be an opportunity to have their plan thwarted amidst all the busyness of the day.

This is all more than bothersome. What if grave robbers stole Jesus’ body and claimed he had been risen? All their efforts could be in vain. So even before the High Sabbath of Passover 15 Nisan is ended, they are again in front of Pilate asking to have guards posted at his sepulcher….for three days.

Why would they ask specifically for three days? Because they too know that Jesus said he would be raised on the third day—just like all of Jerusalem. There is no ignorant innocence for these chief priests. They are Satan’s henchmen and they know well what they are doing.

Even though Jesus is dead, and unaware of what they have really done. They are…concerned.

Today is 17 Nisan

It is our Friday A.D. 30 and dusk today sees the beginning of 17 Nisan and the weekly Sabbath.

It is this reference to this Sabbath in scripture that led to what we call Good Friday. This day is celebrated in the Christian world as the day Jesus Christ died. It isn’t however…it can’t be really because Jesus has said he must be three days in the bowels of the earth, ie. the grave or Sheol.

Daytime on this Friday the general population of Jerusalem would again be out of their homes until the weekly Sabbath that begins at dusk. These few hours are sandwiched by the High Sabbath of Passover which stated on Wednesday at dusk and ending on Thursday at dusk and this weekly Sabbath.

Because most will be at home resting for both of the High Sabbath of Passover and the weekly Sabbath, these few hours offer little opportunity to visit Jesus’ grave for the preparations necessary for another evening of rest. There is no record anywhere of Jesus’ gravesite that day as far as I know.

Jewry today would also not have visited the grave this early anyway. Shiva is a seven day period starting the day after a person’s death. During this time the family would be in morning. At the end of that period then it is socially appropriate for the family to go to the grave.

It is interesting that this shiva period corresponds with the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is also a seven day period.

But Jesus is still fresh on his follower’s minds and no doubt they are planning to visit the grave before this seven day period is up. For now they wait. And mourn. And they have forgotten what Jesus told them about his resurrection.

Today is 18 Nisan

It is our Saturday A.D. 30 and dusk today sees the end of 17 Nisan and the weekly Sabbath.

It has been three days. Just like Jonah, Jesus has been in the belly of the earth for three days. Traditionally the church celebrates resurrection on Sunday morning. The thinking here is quite natural.

The weekly Sabbath has just ended  Saturday 17 Nisan and nightfall is upon Jerusalem. With the shiva grieving period halfway through and now the darkness of the evening, no one goes to the Jesus grave again.

His followers are disheartened and hiding. They too had some sense that Jesus would end up being crowned and not crucified. But in their minds this is a disaster! What do they do now?

As the morning light pushes back the dark of night, the women are the first to make it to the sepulcher. Their minds are still shocked by all that is happened, but their hearts long for Jesus still.

Upon arriving, they find the stone moved away, and they encounter an angelic messenger. “Do you not know? He has risen!” Hardly can they believe what their senses are telling them. The news they quickly bring back sends several disciples bounding to the tomb to confirm the story.

What they don’t know or say in scripture, is that Jesus didn’t rise again that morning of 18 Nisan…he had to have risen at dusk the evening before at its very beginning. By 6PM at the beginning of Passover 15 Nisan he is in the grave and by 6PM the end of Sabbath 17 Nisan, he is raised from Sheol. Three nights and three days.

Why was Jesus raised from the dead anyway? It wasn’t to show that God could resurrect a dead body. He’d already done that.

Saturday at dusk when Jesus rises also is feast day called the Feast of Firstfruits. This day marks the beginning of seven weeks called the Feast of Weeks.

Why seven weeks? God planted Jesus, and his resurrection is the fruitfruit of the planting’

Pentecost is the first day after Feast of Weeks, and It is fifty days after Jesus rose. The plan of God expresses the work of the trinity better than any. God the Father is justice, God the Son is mercy, God the Holy Spirit is the scribe of our heart and all three work for this harvest.

All this is because God is love.

Jeremiah 31
33.For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”