The Passover’s Three Days

The remaining festival that is celebrated at Jehovah’s command [Exodus 12:14], that does not show up in the birth sequence for Jesus, now makes its appearance 33 years later.  Jesus’ death occurs at the Passover by design, because it has a number of significant elements that also describe the purpose why Jesus has come.

Passover refers to the final plague in Egypt that culminates in the Israel’s release from slavery.  Throughout the land the firstborn of man and animal would die.  The reason for the firstborn is because Jehovah states to Pharaoh that “Israel is My son, My firstborn” [Ex 4:22].  When Pharaoh had commanded that the male Israelite babies were to be killed, he had ordered the destruction of God’s firstborn.  In Covenant, since the first plague’s message of the Blood (the water was turned to Blood) is ignored, and there is no real repentance, the “Redeemer” in this last plague moves to balance this loss of His People’s Blood.

Only those protected by a lamb do not fall victim to this recompense by the Angel of Death.  It is important to note that such protection from this plague does not occur simply because of one’s Covenant heritage (as had happened with the previous plagues), but only those who follow God’s command will be saved.  On the tenth day of the month, a lamb without blemish is chosen and is kept safe probably at the family house, where the children would play with it and probably grow attached to it.

On the fourteenth day, the lamb is hoisted on a rope that is passed through a ventilation opening above the front door.  Drained onto the threshold, its Blood is smeared on the sides and the lintel of the door, thereby making it literally a doorway of Blood.  Since there is no backdoor, the only way one could enter the house and be saved is through the Blood: just a step inside means life, just a step outside means death. The lamb is roasted whole – Justin Martyr (c. 165) states that this requires the lamb to be stretched out  on two spits that form a cross.

Jesus’ death occurs on Friday, April 3, 33 AD.  This is the only year in the neighborhood years where the Passover occurs on the Sabbath.  Why this is essential is that usually the lambs are slaughtered during the two hours before sunset, but on the Sabbath (which begins at sunset) no cooking is allowed.  Therefore to fulfill the roasting of the lamb, the Babylonian Talmud moves the beginning of the slaughter to 12:30 PM – half past the “sixth” hour.   “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” [Matthew 27:45] – as Jesus is dying, so are the lambs – “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].
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The next day is a double Sabbath, the Passover is itself a Sabbath, but Saturday is also the Sabbath which is “an ‘OTH [SIGN] between Me and you … that I, Jehovah, sanctify you” [Exodus 31:13; also Ezekiel 20:12, 20].  It is a day in which no work is to be done – imagine the sense of helplessness, especially on the part of the disciples and followers of Jesus, where they can do nothing – not even on Jesus’ behalf.  This again is the bell of grace ringing in the background, the reminder that God’s salvation comes only through His action, not ours [Ephesians 2:8-9].

Although the Torah links a “First-Fruits” festival (at the end of the grain harvest) to Pentecost, the day after Passover has another “First-Fruits” ceremony where the People of God can now eat of the grain as it is just beginning to be harvested.  This is the day when Jesus rises from the dead, and there is an interesting connection as He journeys home with the two disciples who come from Emmaus, there to be known “in the Breaking of Bread” [Luke 23:30-31, 35] – which becomes the early disciples name for Holy Communion  [Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; I Corinthians 10:16].  This also likely gives the frame of reference for Paul when he speaks of Jesus as “the First-Fruits” of the resurrection from the dead [I Corinthians 15:20, 23].

What is fascinating about the date of Passover in 33 AD is what happens 40 (Hebrew) years later – to the day after Jesus’ death.  The number 40 often appears in the Bible as a time of testing and purification.  God’s challenge of Jesus’ birth, life and death is given to the Jews for 40 years, but not even the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (37 years later) wakes them from their rebellion.  Their rebellion against God and also against man (Rome) culminates in the destruction of Israel as a nation (not as a People) in the fall of the Masada Fortress on Passover, 73 AD, precisely 40 years after the death of Jesus on the cross.

With the Passover, the festival year is completed – the different feasts have been attached to the birth and death of the most significant Person this universe has ever experienced.

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