Tag: resurrection

Passover and Jesus

What does the Passover have to do with Jesus?

What does the Passover have to do with Jesus? The Eucharist or Holy Communion is a celebration of the Passover.  About 10 years ago, I attended a celebration of Passover with Messianic Christians while in Arizona during medical school.  The celebration of Passover with the group Tikvah Ba Midbar (Hope in the Desert) changed my life.  For the first time, I saw the connection of our Jewish roots as Christians.  I always wondered how eggs and bunnies made it into the celebration of Easter.  What do eggs and bunnies have to do with Jesus raising from the dead?  Really, not much.  It turns out that our word “Easter” comes from the pagan goddess Ishtar.  Ishtar is a fertility goddess.  She was a goddess of love, war, and sexuality and known as the “courtesan of the gods.”  The celebration of Easter as the resurrection of Jesus Christ should not be discounted however.  Since nearly the second or third century, Christians have been celebrating Easter as the resurrection of Christ.  However, is it surprising that the Enemy would weave in eggs and bunnies to pollute the meaning of this time?

There is still much debate about Easter and when it should be celebrated. Western and Eastern Christianity set the date using different calendars.  Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism and most Protestantism) set the date using the Gregorian calendar and Eastern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) set the date using the Julian calendars.  Easter is a moveable holiday and occurs in the spring between March 22nd and May 8th.  It is dependent on the equinox of the sun and which calendar one is using.  Passover, however, is always celebrated on 14 Nisan (in the Jewish calendar). It begins at sunset on 14 Nisan and goes until sunset on 15 Nisan.  Passover is technically only a one-day celebration.  However, it is usually observed together with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which goes until the 21st of Nisan.  Within the Feast of Unleavened Bread is another feast, the Feast of First Fruits on 16 Nisan.  Why so much time discussing dates? Because, these feasts are prophetic of Christ’s resurrection.  They were implemented more than 3000 years before Christ came on the scene of history.  They were and are celebrated by God’s chosen people, Israel.

Let us get back to the Passover story now.  I had heard the story of the Exodus before but until going to the Passover Seder (say-der) in Arizona, I had not realized that the entire story of redemption by Christ was packed into the Passover.  Each year, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in their homes.  The Passover is the really the story of the exodus of the Israelites.  However, after the Israelites escaped from captivity and were delivered into freedom, God proclaimed the remembrance of that deliverance by celebrating the Passover feast.

The Story of the Passover:

The Israelites were in bondage in Egypt.  They were enslaved and treated cruelly by Pharaoh.  They were forced to make bricks from clay and straw in hard labor.  God promises the Israelites with four “I will’s.” He says, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with might acts of judgment. I will take you as my people and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:6-7)

God had already chosen his people and told them that he would deliver them and make them free and take them as their God.  Moses then went by God’s command to speak to Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites freedom.  God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and made him resistant to Moses’ request.  So, God sent ten plagues on the people.  God first made the water of the Nile into blood, then sent frogs, gnats, flies, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, and covered the land with darkness.  Finally, God sent the death of the firstborn.  However, before God sent the tenth plague, God instituted the Passover. On the tenth day of the month, the Israelites were to bring a 1-year-old unblemished lamb into the household.  They were to care for it for 4 days and then on the 14th day, cut its throat, take the blood and put it over the doorpost.  They were to roast it over fire and eat it in haste with their sandals on their feet and staff in hand. They were to be careful not to break a bone in its body and any uneaten portions were to be burned in the fire.  (Exodus 12:1-15) God also commanded that they put away yeast from their households and to eat bread that was baked without yeast (unleavened bread, i.e. matzo) for 7 days.

The blood of the lamb was placed over the door and the death angel literally “passed over” the house and the firstborn of the house was spared.  This is where the term “Passover” comes from.  Finally Pharaoh released the people.  God delivered them through the Red Sea through the wilderness and eventually after 40 years to the Promised Land.

Passover and the Lord’s Supper

As we have previously discussed, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist or Holy Communion IS the Passover celebration revealed.  In Matthew 26, we find Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples.  In the Passover meal, we find 4 cups that are taken during feast. The first two are taken before the meal.  These are the Cup of Sanctification/Freedom and the Cup of Deliverance.  There is then a meal and a breaking of bread together.  After the meal, there are two more cups taken together. These are the Cup of Redemption and the Cup of Thanksgiving.  Before the third cup, half of a matzo called the “Afikomen” which was previously hidden by the father of the house is found.  The Afikomen is the portion of matzo that Christ took after/during the meal and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.”   After the bread, He took the third cup, the Cup of Redemption stating to His disciples, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:27-29).

What is interesting is how perfectly Christ fits the prophesy of the Passover. We refer to Christ as the Passover Lamb. (1 Cor 5:7, 1 Pe 1:19) If one looks at matzo, we find that it has holes (piercings) that are in lines (stripes).  Isaiah 53:5 states that “He was wounded (pierced) for transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (NKJV).

Now let us clarify the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah.  The Jews look back at their deliverance in the past that God promised. But they also look towards a future deliverer, a Messiah.  Jesus, who is God incarnate, steps in as the perfect sacrifice to cleanse the people of their sins.  Hebrews (4:14-16) clarifies Jesus’ status as a high priest.  Each day required that the priests offered animals for their sins and the sins of themselves.  But even the priests were imperfect and the animals were a stand-in for a coming perfect sacrifice.  Jesus, living a completely obedient life, offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the people.  He celebrates the prophesy with His disciples that HE is the redeemer.  The Cup of Redemption is a celebration of His blood spilled to cover the sins of all.  The bread, which was broken, is a representation of Him who was pierced for our transgressions.  The Jews were required to take the blood of the lamb and offer it at the temple each year during the Passover.  However, after the temple was destroyed, Orthodox Judaism finds that the bread stands in AS the lamb because there is no place to offer the sacrifice for Passover.  Again, let me emphasize, Jesus takes the “Afikomen” (αφικομην) which is a Greek word meaning, “Coming one” or “I am come” and he says, “Take, eat, this is my body.”  This is the lamb that made the Israelites strong and ready to be delivered.  It is the lamb that healed them.  It is the blood that kept them from death.

Let us get back to the dates and connect what Passover should mean to the Christian.  Passover has been celebrated for nearly 5000 years.  It is always on the 14th of Nisan.  It is based on the lunar calendar and it is unchanged.  It is not based on a solar calendar or in an Eastern or Western church.  Passover was implemented before Christ came.  For the Christian, Passover is a prophetic sign of Christ’s coming and resurrection.  For the Christian, Passover is also a historical remembrance of Christ’s coming and resurrection.  Christ is our Passover Lamb. The Eucharist, the “Thanksgiving,” the “Communion” is what Passover entails. We truly are celebrating the death angel’s “passing over” us when we place Christ’s blood on the doorpost of our hearts. We commemorate His intercession for us as we participate in the Eucharist, which is truly the Passover.

Grander Rounds

Death: A Gateway to…

An aneurysm ruptures as an 85 y/o woman talks on the phone with her only relative, a niece, 150 miles away. She dies hours later in my Emergency Room. A 40 y/o woman and her 6 y/o child have their passenger side destroyed by a driver running a stoplight. They never make it from the scene.

At times, it seems as though I am (we are) surrounded by death. I joke with my staff and residents to ease the tension, “All of us are dying. Some of us just get moved to the front of the line.” Death is experienced by all of us. Sometimes we look in. Sometimes we endure the loss. Sometimes, we are up. All of us deal with it differently. We all fear the unknown.

My wife worries about something happening to me. Finishing my will seems morbid and is difficult to complete. Though important, I know that when the will is “executed” I will be dead. It is a plan for what I hope won’t happen, at least not any time soon. My parents are essentially my oldest relatives. One by one, my grandparents departed.

“I’m ready to meet my Jesus.” A few nights ago, I prayed with a patient for the first time in a long time. The words proceeded from my mouth jumbled and awkward. It was short and not so eloquent. “Watch over this child of God. Comfort her in her pain. Bring Mrs. H to be with you,” was the gist of it. I had just diagnosed Mrs. H with pancreatic cancer at age 89. She had been trying to get a CT scan for the past several weeks with insurance not approving it because certain tests had not been ordered yet. She showed up in the ED with worsening pain and looking for answers with her daughter. She seemed otherwise content but desiring to know why she continued to have persistent abdominal pain. A CT scan a few hours after her arrival delivered to me the answer, “Pancreatic mass concerning for pancreatic adenocarcinoma with severe dilation of the pancreatic duct.” This diagnosis hits me like a train. As we have been told in medical school and on our surgical rotations, “Don’t mess with the pancreas!” (Using slightly more colorful language typically.) I knew that this was likely a terminal diagnosis. For a 30 or 40 year old, it might be a diagnosis of struggle and a year or two of intense pain before the inevitable death. Or if extra lucky, a longer course with the constant fear of return of the cancer of the “Whipple procedure” (which again is one of the most intense surgeries one can have.) In the face of death, this 89 year old didn’t ask about surgery or how long she had to live or what chemo she could have. She didn’t even ask for more pain medication. After I had explained to her daughters about the mass, she succinctly said, “I’m ready to meet my Jesus.”

I’ve met death many times in my emergency room. Some people fear it fiercely and others, like the 89 y/o woman above, seem relieved. For the Christian, death is a departure. Physical death is the body releasing the soul to be with God. The early church fathers viewed death not as the endpoint but as the beginning. Paul states, “For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.” 2 Tim 4:6-8

Nearly 50 executed in a nightclub. Dozens shot in a theater. Schools seem unsafe. This year freshmen in high school will learn about 9/11 as history. I feel old(er).

For the atheist, death is “the end.” It is nothingness. What does the atheist have to say at your suffering and dying? Is death (and this life) not absurdity and meaningless? “I’m glad it’s you and not me.”

As Christians, do we not have a different outlook? What have we “to fear”? Christ conquered death. For the Christian, spiritual death is put to death by Christ. Spiritual death comes from the fall.   Christ, who knew no sin, took on the likeness of sinful flesh and was sinless. Hosea and Paul exclaim, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Cor 15:55

Our favorite comedians die of overdoses. 5000 abortions happen every day in America. Every day. A prominent and influential Christian writer is diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. A 28 y/o is on hospice, dying of ovarian cancer. A toddler dies of methamphetamine overdose after he puts a filter paper in his mouth in a rat infested basement while his mother gets a pop with her boyfriend at the local gas station. At times, it seems like death is on every corner and takes the most innocent.

In my emergency room, there is no shortage of those suffering and dying. In some senses, we only prolong the inevitable. I think it would be a grim profession if this was all we did. There is hope. The only place I know of this hope is in Jesus. We fell away from God when we transgressed His Law. Only one command existed at the beginning, “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will surely die.” We did. It has been separation ever since.   Spiritual death reigns over us. The consequence is physical death. HOWEVER, God gave His only Son. Christ died that we should LIVE. Death is not the end. Christ resurrected from the dead. Death is a gateway to eternity with God for all who believe in Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6

For the Christian, death is not to be feared. Death is a reunion with God. We will shed off this body of death and live with Him in eternity. This life is only the beginning. As Paul states, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” Phil 1:22-24

The word “depart” is just like a ship leaving harbor. The journey is just beginning. May we have confidence that Christ paid the price that we may be united with Him. Christ is our forerunner. He has conquered death. We have nothing to fear about death. As my 89 y/o sister said, “I’m ready to meet my Jesus.”