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Passover approaches

 All four of the Gospels report that Passover was approaching as their stories lead us to the eventful days preceding Jesus’ crucifixion. The feast of Passover was and is significant to the entire account.

 We associate Passover with the Israelites’ departure from Egyptian slavery found in Exodus 12.  The Lord appointed this time to be the beginning of a new year for His people.  On the tenth day of this month, they were to take a lamb, separate it from the flock, and designate it as their Passover lamb.  From the 10th day until the 14th day, the lamb would be examined for any blemish or defect, because the lamb to be slain had to be perfect.

On the 14th day, guided by very specific instructions, the people prepared a meal on the night they would be granted their freedom. The Pascal (Passover) lamb was a central element in that meal, and its blood was put on the door frame and lintel of each Jewish dwelling so that the death angel would “pass over” them.

Passover continued to be a major feast throughout the Old Testament and was very much a part of Jesus’ heritage.

As this particular Passover approached, Jesus life was about to climax.  We know from Scripture that Jesus “earnestly desired to eat this Passover” with his disciples (Luke 12:15).

As the days led up to this celebration, Jesus told His disciples that he would suffer and die. He tried to prepare them, but they would hear none of it. They protested the very thought. Jesus knew this Passover would be His last one on earth. He knew He would complete this festival through his death. The shadow of things from the Old Testament was about to be fulfilled in Him.

There were other thoughts about this Passover, thoughts from those who sought to arrest Jesus. They wanted Him off the streets and out of their hair. They were making plans how they could take Him, but they said, “It must not be during the Feast” of Passover for fear the people might riot (Mark 14:2 emphasis mine).

But the One who overrules all other thoughts and plans had a destiny for this Passover. God the Father was about to provide the Lamb that Abraham spoke about as he journeyed to Mt. Moriah to offer up as a sacrifice his only son. Isaac asked his father “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham spoke prophetically and replied, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering,” (Genesis 22:8 KJV)

To fully comprehend the significance of the Passover holiday as it relates to our season of Easter’s resurrection, we must see in it the picture of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

While we don’t know the exact date of Jesus birth, we can know with certainty that His death was during Passover as the gospel writers give us the detail of the time and the season. 

We will celebrate Palm Sunday tomorrow, April 17, commemorating the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and proclaimed “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

That sacred journey almost 2000 years ago would have been the 10th day of the first month of the Jewish new year, the day each family picked out a lamb for their Passover supper.  On that day, Jesus allowed Himself to be proclaimed as the Messiah that was to come.  He essentially was “picked out” to be the Passover Lamb.

He would be examined, accused, and tried.  But Pilate’s voice still echos the truth, “I find no fault in Him.”    

Christ, our Passover, a Lamb without blemish, would be sacrificed in just a few days, a sacrific that woud ultimately “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” (Isaiah 61) 

This is the first in a series on the Passover.  I hope you will come again.  I would love to hear your comments.

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Anticipation

My sweet William and I attended a Hanging of the Greens service recently.  It was traditional, solemn, and beautiful with readings and songs related to the symbols with which we surround ourselves at Christmas time.  The Hanging of the Greens is typically done about a month before Christmas, an admonition through Scripture and song to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Advent, the first coming of Jesus to earth as the incarnate God.

For me the service was a debut to the Christmas season.   You see I’m one who likes to enjoy Thanksgiving all by itself with the colors of fall, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.  Christmas comes afterwards.

Those of us who call ourselves Christian know Christmas is not about Black Friday, or when the tree gets decorated or which house on the block has the most holiday lights.  It’s not about getting the best deal at the store or how much money we spend on the kids.  It’s not about the beautifully wrapped packages nor the perfectly decorated home. 

I can so easily get caught up in the paraphernalia of Christmas – the decorating, the baking, the buying, the attending of events, and on and on.  Before I know it, I’m stressed to the max just anticipating the holidays.  Where’s the “joy to the world” in that?

That special service created an anticipation in my heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the One and Only Reason there even is Christmas.  I look forward to reconnecting with the eternal truth of God’s wonderful plan for saving the world through the gift of a baby.

Pondering my own anticipation, I wonder about those in another time and place and what were their concerns a month before Jesus came into this world over 2000 years ago.

Mary, being 8 months pregnant surely felt like I did at 8 months pregnant – huge!  She probably wasn’t sleeping well and was cumbersome when she tried to move about doing her daily tasks.  She was anticipating delivering this child soon and praying for all to go well.  Little did she know that the birth would be far from home in an animal-crowded cave.

Joseph, perhaps, was anticipating a trip to Bethlehem, the land of his lineage, possibly scrounging for coins to pay the tax that was suddenly thrust upon him and all of Judea.  Was he wondering how in the world he could take Mary on such a trip?  But could he leave her in Nazareth with the wagging tongues of the townspeople who already had their opinion of this unusual pregnancy?

In Jerusalem, there was one named Simeon who was looking for a Messiah, “the consolation of Israel,” Luke 2 tells us.  But he was aged by now, and the promise had not yet come.  Was his faith strong as he waited in hope?  Or did he waiver sometimes, like I do when I try so hard to hold onto the promises of God?  He  was told he would not taste death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Perhaps there was something stirring in his soul, something akin to anticipation.

Then there was Anna, a prophetess.  She also was old but still a faithful worshipper at the temple at Jerusalem.  She had done it for many years since her widowhood.  Her simple servant heart must have been looking for ways to serve, a moment where she could help someone in the busy activity surrounding temple worship.  Her anticipation of daily worship would soon bring her face to face with the I AM!

Dear Father, I pray that my heart will anticipate this Christmas Day with remembrance of the miraculous moment You revealed Yourself in flesh and blood to the earthlings You longed to love.  May I anticipate Your presence every morning as I arise.  May I anticipate ways to serve others and ways to give from my heart.  May I anticipate moments of worship, whether I’m all alone, with two or three, or with the congregation of believers.

And may I anticipate that You will come again and gather your bride to be with you for ever and ever.  Amen.