January 10: Jesus in Leviticus

Read Leviticus 23:5 and Exodus 12:21-27

If you think about the holiday season what comes to your mind?  I have memories of Christmases from my childhood that include presents and family.

I grew up in my grandparent’s house and my grandmother always worked very hard to make the holidays special.  Presents, food, family…tradition.  Naturally, one thing I wanted for my children was to have those memories just like I had because those traditions create fond memories.  Traditions also create a sense of expectation.

It is my belief that as we look at the Jewish feasts of the Old Testament, God wanted his children to celebrate, He wanted them to remember what He had done for them, BUT He also wanted them to look forward with a sense of expectation…expectation for the Messiah.

The feast of Passover usually occurs in March or April (in 2015 it begins Friday, April 3).  The feast commemorates the night God directed the Children of Israel to kill a lamb and place its blood on the doorpost of their house.  The Lord went throughout Egypt  killing all of the first born in, but when the Lord saw the blood on the door frame of the Israelite homes he spared the first born in that house.

Jewish historians record that in the time of Jesus the lambs were brought from the fields of Bethlehem in the south up to Jerusalem and through the Northeast gate of the city by the pool of Bethesda, called the “Sheep Gate”.

Sheep Gate in Jerusalem

Sheep Gate in Jerusalem

In order that the families could comply with the instructions in Exodus 12, the lambs were chosen the afternoon of the 9th day of the first month, so that they would be with the family from the 10th (which began at sundown) through the 14th. One reason for this, it is thought, was so that the lamb would spend time with the family, so that when it fulfilled its purpose, it would take the sins of the family with it.

The year of Jesus’ death, He and his disciples began the trip into Jerusalem on a donkey at Bethphage.  Bethphage is to the east of Jerusalem, and the road travels over the Mount of Olives down to the Sheep Gate. There they were met by a crowd of people waving palm branches.  The palm branch was a symbol which some scholars believe was not allowed within the city of Jerusalem, because it was associated with the zealots who wanted to overthrow Rome. The war cry of the zealots was “(God) Save Us!” chanted over and over again. In Hebrew, this would be pronounced “Ho-sha-NAH”, which we pronounce today Hosanna.

Therefore, Jesus entered Jerusalem on lamb selection day as the Lamb of God.  The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches and hailed Him as King, they were not looking for a spiritual Savior, but a political one.  Jesus’ reaction was to weep, since He realized that they did not understand the Messiah’s purpose in coming.

Good Friday was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar (ram’s horn) at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel.

On Good Friday at 3:00, when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished” at the same moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from the Temple. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God was fulfilled at the hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice took place.  At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that separated the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom – representing a removal of the separation between God and man.

The feast of Passover was not just for God’s people to remember their deliverance in Egypt.  God wanted them to look forward with expectation to the coming Messiah who would be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.


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