As we begin this Passion Week, it’s important to keep in mind the significance of Passover for the Christian’s celebration of the empty tomb. Passover, after all, is about a perspective on God’s covenant love. Without a Passover comprehension, we lose the heart of the week.
It all began with the Triumphal Entry. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem aboard a lowly donkey, He knew the adoring crowds were, for the most part, looking for deliverance from something. They craved freedom from the despotism and tyranny that marked their lives. And they saw Jesus as the means to their end. The Hosannas that went up that day were misplaced. They sang to exalt the agenda they believed Jesus was inaugurating. What they missed was that Jesus was coming to deliver them TO something as much as He was coming to deliver them FROM something.
A little background is in order. Jesus often had crowds that travelled with him. But do you wonder why such a large crowd assembled at the Triumphal Entry, seemingly out of nowhere? Where’d they all come from? Answer: It was Passover week. Don’t miss that. This annual feast was one of the “Pre-exilic” celebrations that belonged to the Jews, because it was established to remind them of the great Exodus out of Egypt.
On the night the exodus began, the Lord instituted this sacred moment of Passover. “Tell all the congregation of Israel that every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household…and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, when the whole assembly of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” (Exodus 12:3, 6). The blood of the sacrificed lamb was then to be spread upon the doorposts of the homes of God’s people. Those ‘under the blood’ (so to speak) would be passed over when the Lord came that night to slay the wicked. On that night, Passover was established, and central to it was the Passover lamb to be slain.
Soon, there became two related feasts: the Passover followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a weeklong celebration. The two are so closely related, in fact, that they are often cited as the same thing (Luke 22:1, for example). This is why the crowds were so large the day Jesus came to Jerusalem. They were there to have Passover and take part in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. If they had only known that the One riding on the young colt was the Lamb their fathers had looked for.
Back to the crowds, then. Actually, I want to go back to another crowd, back to that first Passover night. That crowd of Hebrews left its Egyptian captors by the hand of a loving God. They left with haste, sure. But the bigger point is, they left. It was deliverance from bondage. But soon they died. They died spiritually because they failed to lay hold of a greater joy in what they were delivered to. They celebrated their freedom from bondage. Over time, they missed the blessing of God’s redemptive love for them. That’s what they were delivered to. A life bound up in the redemptive love of God.
True also of the crowds at the beginning of Passion Week. They celebrated their soon-to-be-realized hopes of being delivered from bondage. By week’s end, they betray their heartless religion, and they died. They died because they were unwilling to inherit the thing they were delivered to. The missed the Kingdom of God, because they missed the Passover Lamb. It was Jesus who was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is His blood spread over our hearts that delivers us FROM captivity to sin and judgment, and delivers us TO fellowship with God.
This Passover Week, amidst all the noise, will you miss the inheritance to which you’ve been delivered? If you feel yourself fading under the shadow of heartless religion, then remember that the very blood that was shed for you forgives even that, and calls you back into fellowship with God. More than that, the blood of the Great Passover Lamb invites you back into the loving arms of the God who keeps His covenant.
Let the beginning of Passion Week be for you a bridge. One that is built on the eternal magnificence of Christ and reaches from Him to you. Passover is the week that reminds the elect of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. Will you take your place in the fellowship to which you have been delivered? Will you come this week to bless the King of glory?
Hymn for Monday: At The Lamb’s High Feast We Sing
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from His piercèd Side;
Praise we Him, whose love divine,
Gives His sacred Blood for wine,
Gives His Body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.
Where the Paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dark angel sheathes his sword
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, Whose Blood was shed,
Paschal Victim, Paschal Bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we manna from above.
Mighty Victim from the sky!
Hell’s fierce powers beneath Thee lie;
Thou hast conquer’d in the fight,
Thou hast brought us life and light:
Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall;
Thou hast opened Paradise,
And in Thee Thy saints shall rise.
Easter triumph, Easter joy,
Sin alone can this destroy;
From sin’s power do Thou set free
Souls new-born, O Lord, in Thee.
Hymns of glory and of praise,
Risen Lord, to Thee we raise;
Holy Father, praise to Thee,
With the Spirit, ever be.