God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 1

When the word or name “Jew” is mentioned, many people would associate it with a race of people who are distinguished for their observance of the seventh-day Sabbath and the Feasts listed in Leviticus 23. Besides these, the Jews are also known for their traditional national holidays (most notably Purim and Hanukkah) and their strict adherence to the dietary law in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 — even going beyond that by observing more rigorous kosher laws —  and many, many other traditions. Of course, Jews are very much in the news today because of the worsening fight between “Israelis” and neighboring Arabs. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel. It will explain why the Jews’ claiming their nation to be Israel is a Biblical error.]

People who have looked into the various details of Jewry and Judaism have heard about such holy days as Pesach (Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Feast of the Firstfruits, or Day of Pentecost), Rosh Hashanah (literally, “head [or beginning] of the year” — their civil year, but is otherwise the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), featuring the blowing or ram’s horns or shofar [plural shofarim]), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Feast of Booths, Feast of Ingathering, or Feast of Tabernacles), and Shmini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly or “Last Great Day”). [For more on Jewish traditions, you may click on this link: www.aish.com.  You may also search Google on “Judaica.”]

Have the Jews kept the Feasts faithfully?

The Old Testament nation Israel (comprised of the 12 tribes named after the 12 sons of Jacob, who was later renamed Israel) originally began as one, undivided kingdom under their first three kings: Saul, David and Solomon. 1 Samuel 8 through 1 Kings 11 (with a parallel account in 1 Chronicles 8 through 2 Chronicles 9) narrates about this period. During the reign of those kings, the children of Israel observed the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths or holy days and feasts of God, as listed in Leviticus 23.

King David kept the statutes of God (Psalm 18:21-22), which certainly included the statutes about God’s feasts. He, especially, organized the Levites for the various ministries and services of the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 6:31-48) in the worship of the LORD by the children of Israel.  Asaph, one of those whom David  “appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD” (Verses 31, 39), exhorted the people to “Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:3-4).

Before he died, David exhorted his successor-son Solomon to walk in ways of the LORD, “to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses…” (1 Kings 2:1-3). With the glorious temple built in Jerusalem during Solomon’s reign, the true worship of God flourished to such heights that the kings and rulers of other nations came to drink in of the wisdom that God had placed in Solomon (1 Kings 4:29-34; 10:24). Sadly, however, Solomon fell into apostasy and idolatry later in his reign (1 Kings 11:1-15, etc.).

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king over all of Israel. However, acting on bad advice by his peers, Rehoboam drove his military chief Jeroboam to rebel against him and eventually to lead the ten other tribes of Israel in the north in breaking away from Rehoboam. Thus Israel became divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah (which included the tribe of Levi and a part of the tribe of Benjamin). The story is found in 1 Kings 12 through 14 and 2 Chronicles 10 through 12.

Fearing that his subjects would be driven back to worship in Jerusalem during God’s commanded feasts and holy days and eventually revert to being ruled by King Rehoboam, Jeroboam set up a different religious system to entice the people to remain within his kingdom. 1 Kings 12:28-34 describes this sad and tragic turn of events:

Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.

Jeroboam made sure that the feasts which “he had devised in his own heart” would not coincide with the “high” feasts of God, which were held a month earlier, in the seventh month!

Meanwhile, the southern Kingdom of Judah continued to observe God’s Sabbath and feasts, as well as the other laws of God. But as one unrighteous king after another sat on that kingdom’s throne, the Jews [short for Judah] took up with idols and soon forgot about the Sabbath,  the feasts and other commandments of God. The rest of the account in 1 and 2 Kings and in 2 Chronicles record the episodes of the reign of kings in both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.

It took a few righteous kings to restore the true worship of God which the Jews had abandoned.

Notable among these kings was Hezekiah, who led the Jews (and some invited from the remnant of the northern Kingdom of Israel who came) in observing the Passover (including the Days of Unleavened Bread) in the second month, as God mercifully provides for those who are unable to observe the Passover in the first month (2 Chronicles 30; Numbers 9:10-11). The people kept that feast “with great gladness” (2 Chronicles 30:21) — so much so that “the whole assembly agreed to keep the feast another seven days, and they kept it another seven days with gladness” (Verse 23).

So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His [God’s] holy dwelling place, to heaven (Verses 26-27).

Another righteous king of Judah later led another revival of true worship among the Jews — which means that the Jews had again abandoned that worship after Hezekiah died! This time it was the young King Josiah. Josiah led the Jews in observing the Passover (2 Chronicles 35).

And the children of Israel [Jews were indeed a part of the children of Israel; the rest of Israel, by this time, had been taken away captive by the Assyrians; see the account in 2 Kings 17, and God’s Kingdom and Israel] who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet [that must have been a really special celebration, surpassing that by Solomon!] and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel  who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (2 Kings 17:17-18).

“Israel” here included some from the tribe of Benjamin, Levi, and others from the northern kingdom who may have defected to the Kingdom of Judah before the bulk of the people of the Kingdom of Israel were carried away captive into Assyria.

The Jews carried away captive to Babylon

Some 200 years earlier, because of the people’s gross idolatry, the northern 10-tribed Kingdom of Israel had been carried away by the Assyrians to their land and elsewhere (2 Kings 17), ca. 722 B.C. Although, at first,  the Jews had not done as badly as the Israelites in the northern kingdom and therefore God had spared them from the Assyrian invaders (Hosea 1:6-7), the Jews eventually sinned more than did the people in the northern kingdom.

Notice God’s prophecy against the Kingdom of Judah, which the prophet Ezekiel compared to Sodom: “Samaria [symbolic of the northern Kingdom of Israel] did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done” (Ezekiel 16:51). The Jews sinned more than the people of the Kingdom of Israel — even more, indeed, than the wicked people of the original Sodom themselves (Genesis 19; Ezekiel 16:47-48; 23:1-35)!

Is it any wonder that Jesus would comment to the Jews who rejected Him as their Messiah:

And You, Capernaum [one of the chief Jewish cities in Galilee], who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades [the grave]; for if the mighty works [by Me — Jesus] which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the [Day of Judgment] than for you.  (Matthew 11:23-24)

In Matthew 10:11-15; Luke 10:8-12 and Mark 6:10-11 we find Jesus sending out His 12 disciples and another 70 disciples to places where He Himself would go [that is, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Matthew 15:24]. He said to those disciples: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him [the Father] who sent Me” (Luke 10:16). And about those cities which rejected His disciples, Jesus said:

Assuredly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the [Day of Judgment] than for that city! (Matthew 10:15)

2 Kings 23:26 through 25:30 and 2 Chronicles 36 record the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, and the Jews being carried away captive to Babylon, in ca. 586 B.C. Confessing on behalf of his fellow Jews, the prophet Jeremiah wrote about why God allowed them to go into captivity:

The LORD is righteous, for I rebelled against Your commandment…See, O LORD, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious. (Lamentations 1:18, 20)

In His anger, God allowed His temple in Jerusalem to be sacked, and He caused “the appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion [Jerusalem]” (Lamentations 2:6). God had told King Solomon about what would happen to that temple which he built in Jerusalem if he forsook God’s commandments:

“…and this house [temple] which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all people. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them'” (2 Chronicles 7:20-22).

The books of Daniel and Esther tell about life among some of the Jewish captives in Babylon and, later, in Persia.

Another revival

Some seventy years into the Jews’ Babylonian captivity God gave favor, in the eyes of ruling kings in their day, to His chosen servants Ezra and Zerubbabel and, later, Nehemiah. Thus these servants of God returned to Jerusalem, in ca. 538 to 445 B.C. Ezra and Zerubbabel rebuilt the ruined temple in Jerusalem (see the account in the book of Ezra). Nehemiah followed and, with the help of dedicated Jews, rebuilt the torn-down walls of Jerusalem (see the account in the book of Nehemiah).

In time, true worship in Jerusalem was restored. Even with just a rebuilt altar, the Jews “kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the manner required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offerings, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD…” (Ezra 3:4-5).

Eventually, after some setbacks, Ezra and Zerubbabel and their helpers finished rebuilding the temple and dedicated it with joy (Ezra 3-5).  Then, as the time came, “they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel” (Ezra 6:22). [By then the kings of Persia had included Assyria in their empire, thus the alternative title “king of Assyria” for “king of Persia” (Ezra 7:1), as also asserts Adam Clarke in his Commentary on the Holy Bible regarding this scripture.]

After Nehemiah had finished rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in what would have been some record time — 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15)! — the Jews kept the Feast of Trumpets [which God commanded to be observed on the first day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:23-25)] (Nehemiah 8:2). The priest Ezra had so inspired the close study of the Law of God that the Jews looked into the specifics of God’s commandments in observing His feasts.

They discovered that, during the Feast of Tabernacles, they were to dwell in booths made from the boughs of four different kinds of trees (Nehemiah 8:13-18). “…for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness” (Verse 17).

Nehemiah also forbade those who were “treading wine presses” and buying “fish and all kinds of goods” brought in and sold by the men of Tyre on the Sabbath. He reminded them: “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city?  Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath” (Nehemiah 13:15-18).

The Jews in Jesus’ day

The gap between Nehemiah’s time (about 445-432 B.C.) and the birth of Jesus (4 B.C.) was some 430 years. Bible scholars have called this the “intertestamental period” — the period between the Old and the New Testaments. Within that time — given the Jews’ past proclivity to depart from God’s law — many things had changed in the way the Jews worshiped God.

Jesus — the God of the Old Testament who took on a human form to become our Savior from sin [see: The True Christ and Peter Knew “The Holy One] — summed up the spiritual state of the Jews in His day: “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men‘” (Matthew 15:6-9).

Jesus told the Jews: “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law” (John 7:19)? [See: Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries?] When we examine the traditions of the Jews in observing God’s Sabbath and God’s feasts, we will see how differently Jesus kept them Himself, and how we are to follow Him in observing God’s feasts according to God’s commandments.

Since, as the Bible and history prove, Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, He, His Word and His examples are our reliable and true basis for understanding how God’s feasts are to be observed — and what meaning they carry, what steps in God’s plan of salvation they symbolize. We are to hear and obey Jesus (Matthew 17:5; Acts 3:22-23; Revelation 3:20) as our Lord. [See: Is Jesus your Lord — Really?]

As we shall see, by the way they have observed — or not observed — God’s commandments regarding the weekly Sabbath and the feasts of God, the Jews have, wittingly or unwittingly, fulfilled some steps in God’s plan of salvation! Their way has also shown how the Jews have missed out on some of those steps and the benefits these would have brought to them!

The weekly Sabbath and the Jews

By listing the weekly Sabbath among “The feasts of the LORD,” Leviticus 23:1-3 considers the Sabbath a “feast” as well. So let’s see how the Jews have done with the Sabbath as shown in their history.

It seems that Nehemiah, the charismatic leader that he was, had drilled profoundly into the post-captivity Jews the truth that one of the great reasons for their punishment by God was their profaning of His Sabbath. This probably explains why, thereafter, the Jews developed many rules and regulations about the Sabbath, with a view to protecting this holy day from being profaned as they had profaned it before.

However, typical of most human beings, the Jews carried this to an extreme! The Jews ended up making more room for their traditions than for the Sabbath itself. They thus edged out and missed the spirit and intent which God had purposed for the holy day from the start. That is why Jesus had a few run-ins with the Jews when it came to the Sabbath day. But who was to be the better authority on the matter: Jewish tradition — or Jesus, who was the Creator and Maker of Israel, who gave Israel the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath), and who claimed to be the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5)? [See: Peter Knew “The Holy One,” The True Christ, and Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries?]

The Jews wrongly judged Jesus according to their human traditions concerning the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders, for example, censured — or were poised to censure — Jesus on several occasions for healing the sick on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6). He told the Jews: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man [like the man with the withered hand whom He healed that Sabbath] than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11-12).

On another occasion, Jesus and His disciples were on a journey on a Sabbath. As the hungry disciples passed through some grain fields, they plucked some ears of grain to eat. Based on their human traditions, the Pharisees who saw the disciples doing this told Jesus: “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-2).  Jesus answered them by invoking the higher law of mercy:  “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Verse 7, quoting Hosea 6:6).

It was a merciful — and good — thing for God to allow the hungry disciples to satisfy their hunger where they found themselves rather than to sacrifice by going hungry, because at that point they apparently had no other source of food! Therefore it was not unlawful for the disciples to do what they did on that Sabbath.

As for plucking ears of grain  in a standing field that may not be one’s own property, the law of God does allow this merciful act — if merely to satisfy one’s momentary hunger (Deuteronomy 23:25). The principle is to not “harvest” grain or grapevine to put into a container (Verse 24) in order to sell the produce or in some other way profit from it. That would be something else — more in the nature of stealing, which is forbidden by God’s commandments. The disciples were not guilty in this matter.

The Jews have many other traditions concerning the Sabbath that, in effect, make Sabbath-keeping more of a day of burden and dread than a day of rest and delight. Jesus said of the scribes and the Pharisees: “…they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). [See: Barking up the Wrong Tree, and Just What Do you Mean — Legalism?] God wants His people to delight in His Sabbaths and will reward them handsomely for it (Isaiah 58:13-14). [See: What If the Sabbath Is Still Holy?]

Because the Jews have believed in their traditions instead of in Jesus, many of them have missed out on the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul [see: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?] declared to them: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest [that is, coming into God’s kingdom as compared to the Israelites’ coming into the Promised Land], let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them [yes, Israel of old had the gospel preached to them! — as see, for example, the apostle Peter’s references in Acts 2, to Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ;  see also Galatians 3:8]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest’ [quoted from Psalm 95:11], although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from His works’ [Genesis 2:2], and again in this place: ‘They shall not enter My rest’ [Psalm 95:7, 8]” (Hebrews 4:1-5).

Paul explains that there is another “rest” apart from the rest that Joshua had given the children of Israel when they finally came into their allotted places in the Promised Land (Verse 8). This is that “rest” which remains for the people of God (Verse 9) — the “rest” [from sin and the suffering and death it brings] which God’s people enjoy now in Christ, and which many others will enjoy when Christ [the “Prince of Peace,” Isaiah 9:6] comes to reign on earth.

Some Bible students have understood, from Jewish tradition — correctly, I believe  — that the seven-day weekly cycle pictures God’s seven-thousand year plan for mankind. [This is based on Peter’s declaration (quoting Psalm 90:4) that “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).]

As God finished His work of creation in six days, so God is allowing all of mankind to do their own “works” [of disobedience to God] these past almost 6,000 years of human history. God rested from all His works on the seventh day of the creation week; so also mankind will find “rest” from all of man’s sinful works when the seventh millennium (meaning “a thousand years”) of human history kicks in, and Christ reigns on earth then.

Unless the Jews acknowledge their unbelief and accept Jesus as their Messiah and “Lord of the Sabbath,” they will miss out on this “rest.” Our prayer, and hope,  is that they will change in time!

The Passover and the Jews

Two major issues here concern how the Jews in Jesus’ time observed the Passover or Pesach, and how Jews have since observed the Passover. One: the exact “evening” God’s command refers to, in  which the Passover lamb was to be slain. Two (and more important): how the Jews view the significance of the Passover lamb.

For centuries there has been a debate on what is known as the “quarto-deciman” question. In historical context, this debate was between the early Church fathers like Polycarp and the developing apostate church, which now proposed Passover [Greek Pascha] to be held on a Sunday [as “Easter”].  The Church fathers maintained that God’s people should rather stick to observing Passover on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan or Abib, of the Hebrew calendar.  Later, this debate spilled over into the apostate church proclaiming the death of Christ on a “Good Friday” and an “Easter Sunday” resurrection of Christ.  [For more on this issue, click on this link: http://www.ccg.org/2/p277.html.]

However, we take up here the early Church father’s position regarding when to observe the Passover, as we compare it with the Jewish tradition. This is the question as to which “evening” of the 14th day of the first month in the Hebrew calendar is meant by God’s command to the children of Israel, in Exodus 12:3-6:

On the tenth day of this month [the first month of the year, Verse 2, which is somewhere between the months of March and April in the Gregorian calendar] every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 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.

Jews as well as Christians have been divided over which “twilight” the Passover lamb was to be killed: the twilight between the 13th day as the sun was setting into the eve of the 14th day — or the twilight between the 14th day as the sun was setting into the eve of the 15th day. Most Jews (after the Rabbinical tradition) had observed the killing of the Passover lamb in the late afternoon hours of the 14th day and preparing it for eating in the evening of the 15th day.

By contrast, the early Christian church fathers did as they believed Jesus kept the Passover the way it should be kept: in the evening of the 14th day — a full day ahead of the Jews’ Passover (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55). This is how many Church of God congregations have observed the Passover even to this day: in the evening of the 14th day (as the 13th day is ending).

Did Jesus eat Passover or merely a common meal?

A number of Bible students — even Christians among them — believe, as most Jews do, that the Passover lamb was to be killed in the afternoon of the 14th day, to be eaten in the evening of the 15th day. Assuming that Jesus followed the Jewish custom then, these students thus believe that Jesus and His disciples ate only a common or ordinary meal — not a Passover lamb — in the evening of the 14th day.

This is putting the cart before the horse! Who should know better when, exactly, the Passover lamb was to be killed? Jesus, who gave the command about the Passover to the Israelites [see: The True Christ] — or the Jews? Of course Jesus would know better!

There is, clearly, no question about what Jesus’ disciples prepared when they asked Jesus, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover” (Matthew 26:17; similar question also in Mark 14:12). In the gospel account of Luke, we have Jesus telling Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat” (Luke 22:8). In all three passages, the word Passover is translated from the Greek Pascha — the Passover supper. This is the same Greek word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

Jesus, undoubtedly, ate a real Passover meal — not just a regular or common dinner — with His disciples that night in which He was betrayed and was turned over to the Jewish religious authorities and, later to the Roman authorities.

Now, here’s where God has “made lemonade” out of the “lemons” the Jews have thrown at Him in doing their own things instead of what God commands concerning His feasts. We shall see this not only with the way the Jews have observed the Passover, but with the other feasts of God as well.

The apostle John records an interesting episode, in John 11:45-52, which demonstrates this. Here the Jewish leaders had been concerned that many Jews were coming to believe in Jesus because of the undeniable miracles He did. These leaders were afraid that their positions and the nation’s standing with the Romans would be threatened should the Roman authorities discover some “subversive” movement among Jewry.

The high priest Caiaphas told his fellow Jews: “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the nation, and not that the whole nation perish” (Verses 49-50). John then adds this comment: “Now this he [Caiaphas] did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (Verses 51-52).

Thus the high priest and the other leaders of the Jews plotted to have Jesus killed by the Roman authorities. The Roman governor at that time, Pontius Pilate, understood the Jews’ motives in turning Jesus over to him to be judged and condemned — “because of envy” (Matthew 27:18). Leaning on a mob of Jews, these leaders prevailed on Pilate to release the criminal Barabbas and to crucify Jesus as an alleged threat to Caesar’s rule (Luke 23:18-24).

Weeks later, Peter told a crowd of Jews in Jerusalem about how they had killed Jesus, whom he called “the Holy One and the Just” and “the Prince of life”: “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:14-18).

Luke, in his orderly account of the life of Jesus, placed Jesus’ death at about the “ninth hour” [the equivalent of our 3:00 o’clock] that afternoon of the 14th day of the first month (Luke 23:44-46). This was about the same time the Jews that day were beginning to kill their Passover lambs!

Isn’t it amazing how God used the Jewish leaders and people, with their observing the Passover on the wrong day, to fulfill the prophecies of Scripture concerning the death of Jesus? Of course, if the Jews had observed Passover at the same time Jesus did, the prophecy about Jesus’ death would have been fulfilled some other way just the same!

For more details about the Biblical night of the Passover, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books and Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days — Which?” If you desire a more scholarly treatment of the subject, stay on that link and instead of “Books & Booklets” select “Reference Material,” then scroll down the index to the articles titled “Passover of Exodus 12” (UCG) and “Passover of Exodus 12 Appendix” (UCG).

Now, let’s come to see how the Jews — at least as reflected by their modern rabbis — look at the significance of the Passover sacrifice. What, to the Jews, does the Passover lamb picture?

Notice this astonishing quote from an article by a Jewish rabbi, published on the Jewish website www.aish.com, titled “Four new Questions for your Seder.” [“Seder” is what the Jews call the first two nights of the Feast of Unleavened Bread — the 15th and the 16th day of the first month.] And on the 4th question on “the theme of slaughtering the Paschal Lamb” here is what this rabbi said about the Passover ritual:

The requirement for Jews being saved in the Passover story was to slaughter a lamb and to smear its blood on the doorpost so God would “pass over” that home and spare its inhabitants.

What was the meaning of this seemingly bizarre ritual? The lamb was the national god of Egypt. It was the object of their worship. And for the Jews to deserve deliverance they had to prove they didn’t share the false gods of the Egyptians….

But that’s exactly what the Jews of Egypt had to do in order to be worthy of the miracle of the first Passover that allowed us to become God’s chosen people. They had to slaughter the lamb of Egyptian idolatry. Our challenge is to replicate their heroism in its contemporary format. [Emphasis added.]

Can you imagine that? The Jews look at the Passover lamb as an idol of Egypt that had to be slain instead of picturing their Messiah — the Lamb of God — whose death and resurrection take away our sin and deliver us from death (John 1:29)! No wonder most Jews cannot accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior! They look on Him as a false god — an “idol” that must be destroyed so they can be delivered. They have failed to accept the truth that the Passover lamb pictures no One else but their Messiah who was “oppressed…and afflicted…led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Future deliverance of the Jews

Right now, the Jewish nation is being besieged left and right, front and back, up and down by its hostile neighbors — and beyond. Although the Jews may rely on their sophisticated weapons of war and their defense networks, a good number of Jews realize that God’s unseen miraculous hands have saved them from their enemies on many occasions.

Indeed, the God of the Old Testament — despite the Jews’ refusal to accept Him as the same Being who later became Jesus Christ, the true Passover [see: Peter Knew “The Holy One] — has been true to His promise, in His Word, to the Jews in these end times. “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness [“trembling,” KJV] to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it….I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2-3, 9).

When the Jews will realize that it is not through their own power, might, intellect or ingenuity  but by God’s Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) that they are surviving all the horrendous odds against them, they will finally accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior.

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem [the Jews] the Spirit of grace and supplication; they they will look on Me [Jesus Christ] whom they pierced [compare with John 19:32-37 and Revelation 1:7]. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn ” (Zechariah 12:10).

When Jesus returns as conquering King, the Jews will finally accept Him as their long-awaited Messiah, and they will mourn and grieve for what they had done to Him in His earthly lifetime, and what they have done, all these centuries, to the faith that Jesus brought. They will come to realize that it is Jesus who will have saved them from their enemies who are out to destroy them.

They will no longer look on Jesus as an “idol of Egypt” that must be destroyed for their deliverance. They will finally accept Jesus as their true Passover, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) — their true Savior! [To be continued.]


Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.

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