The Perpetual Passover
by Ray Haynes
This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday (first known as Pasha), which originated in the Jerusalem Church around the late third or early fourth century. Christians would sing and pray as they visited the many holy sites in the city. The last site was on top of the Mount of Olives (the last place Jesus stood before He ascended into heaven) and where His feet will touch when He returns.
Jesus will walk down the hill and through the Eastern Gate where His Triumphal Entry was celebrated the week of His crucifixion and resurrection. Third Century Christians would walk down that same path to the city singing and praying, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord”. Palm Branches were added to the festivities around the sixth century, and by the eighth century it became known as “Palm Sunday.”
But that’s not where the story begins. Around 1500 B.C.. in Egypt, God first set the day aside as holy. It wasn’t exclusively to be celebrated on a Sunday and the very words sung by the priests to celebrate that day for centuries prophesied of what Jesus would accomplish.
“On the tenth of this month [Nisan] every man shall take for himself a lamb…Your lamb shall be without blemish…Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” Exodus 12
The tenth of Nisan was obviously important to God. He set apart the date in Egypt, and then used prophets and psalmists to describe events the Messiah would accomplish. Forty years after Moses led them across the Red Sea, the Israelites came out of the wilderness, and crossed into the Promised Land on the tenth of Nisan, and celebrated Passover four days later. “Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.” Joshua 4:19
At the time of the Exodus, about 1,500 years before the coming of Christ, the tenth day of the first month was on the Sabbath, so Jews commemorate this day each year on the Sabbath before Passover, even if it isn’t the tenth of Nisan! It’s called Shabbat HaGadol or The Great Sabbath. Of course Christians also love traditions, so it’s hardly ironic that we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem every year on the Sunday before Easter and call it Palm Sunday. This year, the tenth of Nisan falls on a Monday (March 26th) and the fourteenth of Nisan (Passover) occurs on Good Friday, March 30th. But let’s push all the traditions aside for a moment and see how the Biblical Calendar helps us understand the true significance of the times and events.
For Jesus It Really Was Palm Sunday
Since the time of Moses, each spring the Passover Lamb was chosen and set apart on the tenth of Nisan as preparations began for its slaughter on Passover, the fourteenth of Nisan. It was for this very reason, Jesus, as the Messiah and Passover Lamb, had to enter Jerusalem on that very day, when the perfect lamb was to be selected and set apart. And in 30 A.D., it was indeed on a Sunday when Jesus the Messiah rode into town, and four days later on Thursday when Jesus the Passover Lamb was slaughtered on the cross for our sins.
So, were the throngs of shouting people on the streets of Jerusalem really aware of who Jesus was? When He entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, “the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Why did they choose these words? The word “Hosanna” in Hebrew is “Hoshia Na” or literally “save, please” and is part of Psalm 118, one of six psalms of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). These were the songs of praise and thanksgiving always used during this Feast. Psalm 118 was recited on the way to the Temple, and also in the Temple at the time of the slaughtering of the Passover sacrifice.
The Gate Called Beautiful
The Jews in the First Century were waiting for the Messiah, and they expected Him to pass through the Eastern Gate when He came to rule. So, shouting “Hoshia Na” to Jesus as He entered the Eastern Gate was a clear declaration of who they thought He was. In Ezekiel, the prophet watched as the glory of the Lord left the Temple through “the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house” and over to the Mount of Olives. Later, Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the Temple through “the gate facing east”. Still later Ezekiel described a time when that Eastern gate would be shut up, “The Lord said to me, ‘This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it…When the Prince provides a freewill offering to the LORD …the gate facing east is to be opened for Him.
The words of Psalm 118 not only greeted Him at His arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus Himself would recite those very prophetic words during the Last Supper the night of His betrayal and arrest, and He would no doubt hear those same words echoing over and over while He hung upon the cross, chanted by the priests as they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of lambs. Consider the last nine verses of Psalm 118: “This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my Salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed You from the house of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Jesus the Perpetual Sacrifice
In all, Jesus fulfilled over 350 prophecies. He not only was led like a lamb to slaughter and was crucified while the Passover Lambs were slain, the death of Jesus occurred as another sacrifice, the Tamid, was made in the Temple; Exodus 29 tells us, “And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering [bread and wine], as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you.”
The Perpetual Sacrifice, known as the Tamid was sacrificed every morning and evening. Jesus wasn’t just a Passover Lamb, for those alive at His death; He was the Perpetual Sacrifice, dying once for all. And Mark 15 adds, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Like the Tamid of old, the death of Jesus removed the barrier so God could meet and speak to man again.
The Eighteen Benedictions
Not only would Jesus be serenaded with Psalm 118 as He hung upon the cross, according to the Mishnah and Talmud, prayers, known as the “Eighteen Benedictions,” were being said in union with the daily Tamid. This was the prayer spoken of in Acts 3, “Now Peter and John went up to the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” These are the exact and very prophetic words the Jews in the Temple would have been praying while Jesus, the Messiah they rejected, the willing Passover Lamb, and the Perpetual Sacrifice for all mankind, hung on the cross. As Jesus interceded for His killers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” as the sky grew black, the earth quaked, the Veil was torn, and Jesus breathed His last on the Cross, they were reciting these prayers:
“Forgive us, O our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, O our King, for we have transgressed; for You pardon and forgive. Blessed are You, O Lord, who is merciful and always ready to forgive.” (6th Benediction)
“Look upon our affliction and plead our cause, and redeem us speedily for Your name’s sake, for You are a mighty redeemer. Blessed are You, O Lord, the redeemer of Israel.” (7th Benediction)
“Speedily cause the offspring of Your servant David to flourish [they were speaking of the Messiah], and let Him be exalted by Your saving power, for we wait all day long for Your salvation. Blessed are You, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.” (15th Benediction)
“You, O Lord, are mighty forever, You revive the dead, You have the power to save. You sustain the living with lovingkindness, You revive the dead with great mercy, You support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust… Who resembles You, a King who puts to death and restores to life, and causes salvation to flourish? And You are certain to revive the dead. Blessed are You, O Lord, who revives the dead.” (2nd Benediction)
And Jesus wept…
Jesus was well aware of the religious hearts of those He died for. In Luke 19 Jesus prayed over Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
In the New Testament, Jesus weeps only twice – once over Jerusalem, and once over Lazarus. Both occasions are on the Mount of Olives, occurred relatively close time wise and location wise, but these two tearful scenes only make sense when you look at them together. Why did Jesus intentionally allow Lazarus to go through the suffering and torment of death, and then weep over him, if He was just going to raise him back to life. Perhaps the suffering of Lazarus was a perfect shadow of the suffering coming upon Israel, and perhaps the tears of Jesus were more significant than tears for the death of a friend. He was weeping for us all…dead in sin…with only one remedy.
Join me live on Rise & Stein Thursday & Friday March 29th & 30th at 7:00am, to discover the life-changing truths of Passover and the Resurrection.