30 March 2010 (Shleshi/Bikkurim)|
Day #15, 5934 AM
Passover Made Simple for Evangelicals
Passover (Ex.12-13) is a festival about death. The death of a lamb. I know that sounds morbid but it's not what it may at first appear to be. This particular death leads to life because it is the price paid for freedom. Consequently Passover is a celebration of freedom in consequence of that death.
When Yahweh orginally instituted this festival it was designed with various symbols to teach us how to be saved or delivered from a satanic slave system. This festival is not, however, just for us - it is also for Yahweh. So important is it that should you, for no fault of your own, be unable to observe it at the appointed time (usually in late March or early April), He makes provision for you to observe it one month late (Num.9:10-11). This is the one-and-only 'second chance' festival:
The First Passover began with the "blood of the lamb" that freed the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. How did it do that? When each family slaughtered an unblemished lamb, perfect in every way, the father of the family applied its blood to the doorposts of his home which protected it against Yahweh's destroying angel as he passed through Egypt slaughtering the firstborn sons of Every Egyptian household in the last of the Ten Plagues to force Pharaoh to liberate the Israelite captives. No firstborn Israelite son perished that night. The lamb was then roasted and eaten in a state of readiness as the whole Israelite nation waited for the word to make a sudden departure out of the land of bondage and into the freedom of the desert.
"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep Yahweh's Passover. On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs" (Num.9:10-11, NKJV).
The elements of this Passover were not accidental but commanded by Yahweh Himself. It was to serve as an eternal reminder that what would save Israel would be the Messiah depicted as an innocent lamb. Moreover, this Messiah would have to die to save His people, His blood, applied to the doorposts of every heart choosing to accept Him, protecting them from the enemy. Additionally, the people would have to 'eat' Him in some way (Jn.6:52-58), depicting a very close association between Believer and Redeemer, because you are what you eat. Passover is a picture of what Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would do for us centuries later:
One thing we need to remember is that though Torah principles were known to the ancient Israelites while they were in captivity, the Torah was not coded in written form - that would take place later at the first Shavu'ot (Pentecost) four festivals down the line when they were in the wilderness - therefore the people were not saved from Pharaoh because they were particularly righteous but because they were (eventually) prepared to trust Yahweh through His prophet-spokesman, Moses. If they hadn't, they would not have been saved. Similarly, we in our day are not saved because we are particularly good (we're not) but only because we are willing to trust in Yah'shua and as a result obey His Torah (Law), just as Israel was later on when they were initiated into a covenant at Shavu'ot. Salvation therefore begins with trusting. Trusting who or what? Trusting the person of Yah'shua (Jesus) and trusting in the redeeming value of His shed blood at Calvary. Paul said of Him:
"Yahweh treats us much better that we deserve, and becausre of Messiah Yah'shua, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. Yahweh sent Messiah to be our sacrifice, Messiah offered His life's blood, so that by faith in Him we could come to Yahweh. And Yahweh did this to show that in the past He was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that Yahweh is right when he accepts people who have faith (are trusting) in Yah'shua. Now what is left for us to brag about? Not a thing! Is it because we obeyed some law? No! It is because of faith (trusting). We see that people are acceptable to Yahweh because they have faith (trust), and not because they obey the Torah (Law)" (Rom.3:24-28, CEV).
What does "justification" mean? It means to be judged and found not guilty! In other words, those who are trusting in Yah'shua are declared 'not guilty'. Our sins are washed away and Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, remembers them no more. The result is that we start life afresh with a cleared debt account with access to the Father through Yah'shua.
"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom.4:25, NIV).
Those Israelites did not deserve to be set free - they had by no means earned it. And we in our turn have not deserved freedom from sin and guilt, This is the First Principle of the Gospel and what Pesach teaches us all about. We have not earned our salvation, not the tiniest particle of it. Paul explained:
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith (trusting), we have peace with Elohim (God) through our master Yah'shua the messiah (Lord Jesus Christ), through whom we have gained access by faith (trusting) into this grace (undeserved loving-kindness) in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of Elohim. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because Elohim has poured out His love into our hearts by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), whom He has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Messiah died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But Elohim demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Messiah died for us. Since we have now been justified by His (Yah'shua's) blood, how much more shall we be saved from Elohim's wrath through him!" (Rom.5:1-9, NIV).
The Message of Passover is the Gospel preached for the most part by evangelical Christians. It is salvation not by our deeds or works but by our trusting - wholly relying upon - the merits of our Messiah Yah'shua. Obedience to Torah comes after salvation, at Shavu'ot. And there are two more festivals to come still! So we are declared 'not guilty'...for the time being. Our job is to stay saved and the only way we can do that is by putting on a 'new person' to ensure our continuing freedom.
"...[we] know... that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith (trusting) in Yah'shua the Messiah, even we have believed in Messiah Yah'shua, that we might be justified by faith (trusting) in Messiah and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Messiah therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!" (Gal 2:16-17, NKJV).
Passover is the oldest religious holiday observed by mankind, extending all the way back to the first family where it is first made mention of when Abel made an offering of the firstlings of his flock of sheep:
We know that the New Testament believers kept the Passover Feast as well as the Feast of Unleavened Bread because Paul tells us so. Moreover, they kept it in a new way:
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to Yahweh. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Yahweh looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then Yahweh said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it'" (Gen.4:3-7, NIV).
No longer do we offer a blood sacrifice (because Yah'shua was the last Blood Sacrifice) but we still eat unleavened bread and roast lamb as Yahweh originally commanded at the time appointed. It is a mandatory (compulsory) annual observance for all Christians / Messianics. And whilst the core of the festival is a right heart, it still has an outward, temporal component, just like baptism.
"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast [of Passover], not with old leaven (chametz), nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread (matzah) of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor.5:7-8, NKJV).
The coming of the Messiah was chiefly for the purpose of becoming the Final Passover Sacrifice, which was why John the Baptist announced Him as "the Lamb of Elohim (God)" (Jn.1:29,36). This event was announced as early as Genesis 3:15 to Adam and was expected by ancients such as Job:
The death of Yah'shua exactly fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah's and Daniel's Suffering Servant (Is.53; Dan.9:26). For us, as believers, it shows us that Yah'shua fulfilled the Torah laws of Redemption, making an end to the need for animal sacrifices and the Levitical Priesthood that administered them, and making available the hope of eternal life for all humanity:
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see Elohim" (Job 19:25-26, NKJV).
John's announcement was fulfilled on this very day nearly 2,000 years ago. Today was the day when everything changed for man if he would simply say 'Yes' to Yah'shua.
"The next day John [the Baptist] saw Yah'shua coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of Elohim who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29, NKJV).
At Passover we hold an Annual Memorial like He commanded in memory of the Crucified. But we also hold it to celebrate the freedom He has brought to those who trust and obey Him as well as to be filled with hope for the future. This Holy Day teaches us that we are to once again assemble for a future heavenly wedding ceremony of the faithful messianic community to the Messiah. This takes place at a festival called Sukkot or Tabernacles which we are also to celebrate every year to enable us to prepare for that day. Not only that, but he also commands us to attend five other festivals inbetween so that we know what that preparation entails.
What exactly do we do at the annual Passover Meal? Well, it is a bit like the Lord's Supper (inasmuch as it is only for believers and involves eating and drinking) only its a full meal and contains specific elements given by Yahweh that we are to observe. There are only three mandatory elements in this meal - roast lamb (representing redemption), unleavened bread or matzah (which pictures sanctification) and bitter herbs (reminding us of the bitterness of slavery to sin). Non-Messianic Jews (and unfortunately many Messianic Jews too, who imitate the rabbis) have gone and added all sorts other things like eggs, karpas (a vegetable, usually parsley dipped in salt water) forming what they call the seder, and a complicated ritual - some set a place at table for the Prophet Elijah. The meal is held in the evening at twilight on the day of the Full Moon in the first month of Aviv.
In his book, Mystical Rites of our Creator, Errol Müller describes the Last Passover in this fashion:
I do not have time to go into this very beautiful picture other than to say this: that this was the first of a three-part allegorical marriage and was what was known as the Dedication stage, a bit like your modern 'getting engaged'. The second part is called Betrothal and takes place at the fourth annual festival, called Shavu'ot (marriage without consummation - Torah is the marriage contract), with the third phase being Full Marriage which takes place at the last or seventh festival called Sukkot, which is a picture of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb after Yah'shua returns.
"He loved His disciples - His church - and their last formal meeting was sensitive and sentimental. In a way it was a romantic goodbye. It did not make them feel any better when He told them that His mission was completed and He was to be leaving soon. To symbolize hope, He added a small simple proposal ceremony toward the end of the Passover meal. In Christianity today, it is called the Communion service or the Eucharist. The disciples understood what He was doing, but the real symbolic meaning of the ceremony has been ignored or lost by most of the Christian world. It is the proposal phase of a Jewish wedding custom of the time" (Whitestone Communications, Lake Worth, FL: 1999, p.175).
The 'extra bit' that Yah'shua added on to the main Passover Meal is the Lord's Supper which we celebrate every week on the evening of the Sabbath day after sunset, as the first believers did. The Roman Church transferred this to the 'Sunday' in their own calendar, the day of their pagan sun-god, along with the sabbath, and this has been inherited by Protestant Christianity for the most part. Therefore the Passover Meal and the Lord's Supper are two separate things (most Messianics, unfortunately, do not observe the Lord's Supper but integrate it into Passover and observe it only annually like the Jehovah's Witnesses. The first believers partook of the Bread and Wine (unfermented red grape juice or "new wine") frequently, as is our practice at MLT. It was only for baptised and confirmed believers in good standing (1 Cor.11:23-34) and not for their small children as Passover was. The difference between the two is that Passover points to Yah'shua whereas the Lord's Supper is Yah'shua invisibly present (what Martin Luther called 'consubstantiation' - for a detailed study, see Pesach 2008 and the Eucharist of Messiah).
This, then, is the Passover Meal. It is the Festival of Yah'shua's Atoning Death for the Sins of the World portrayed in symbols centuries before He came to earth to actually put it into effect. What follows in the other festivals is just as interesting and supplies the missing pieces in the puzzle which is the whole Gospel which Evangelical Christianity has missed. Please join with us over the coming week for the next two!