Passover 2016

April 22–30, 2016

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Luk 24:5b–6a
On Friday evening, April 22, the Jewish Passover begins. The Feast of Unleavened Bread will run through Sunday morning, April 30. The world of consumerism has pretty much destroyed Christmas and Easter (I prefer Resurrection Sunday), but it has not affected the Jewish celebration. Perhaps the reason for this is Satan’s hatred for the message of the risen Savior, while the Passover celebration looks to One yet to come. This makes the question of the angel all the more poignant (from the Latin, meaning “to pierce”).
The angel’s question to the women who came early to the tomb is potent with both anticipation and rebuke. The Lord had often promised that He would rise on the third day. Upon the fulfillment of this essential prophecy hung all the promises of the Word of God.
The rebuke was that they had heard, but had not believed. By coming to the tomb to embalm the body, they were living in denial of His Word. He had already become a religious figurehead, which they would worship in absentia, rather than a living, risen Savior.
Probably the only one who waited in eager expectation on that Sunday morning was Mary of Bethany, who—believing what He had said—had already anticipated His death, burial, and resurrection (Joh 12:1–8).
The Passover Message
Jesus and the disciples had celebrated the Passover in the Upper Room. Here, Jesus—as the prophetic subject of the feast—being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Joh 1:29), officially transformed the feast from one of Old Testament expectation to New Testament fulfillment. It was the transition from Old to New Covenant.
As originally instituted (Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 16), the Feast pictured redemption and deliverance from bondage by the application of the blood of the lamb. The Passover sacrifice was followed by seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, demonstrating that salvation produces sanctification and fellowship with God.
Being the fulfillment of the prophetic picture, the Lord Jesus transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Table (Mat 26:26–30). Now, the Feast takes on both the celebration of His death for the forgiveness of sins, and of His resurrection for sanctifying power. The significance of this new meaning, as taught to the Apostle Paul (1Co 11:23–26), looks back to His finished work and forward to the guarantee of His promised coming again.
It is worth noting that in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17), we have the seed–form of all New Testament revelation. In addition, this is the seventh discourse of Jesus in the Gospel of John, in which we find the seventh and final “I Am” statement (Joh 15:1). A good study on this is The Life of Jesus the Messiah, by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
This phrase, which is a declaration of His deity (Exo 3:14), will be confirmed by His eighth sign—His resurrection (Joh 2:18–19). These signs are recorded by John so that we will believe in Him and enter into eternal life (Joh 20:30–31). John’s point throughout this Gospel is that He is the source of eternal and abundant life (Joh 10:10).
Searching for Life in All the Wrong Places
When the women came looking for the body of Jesus, they were doing what we, as believers, too often fall into. We look for life in the place of death. We do this by attempting to find fulfillment in the things of this world (1Jo 2:15–17). The problem is that this world is just like the tomb—it is empty of life and has no place for the Prince of Life.
This is not to say that, even in this fallen condition, many of the original gifts of God in creation no longer have value. God’s gift of marriage, family, and extended family continues to be a great blessing. The natural world is a place of beauty and wonder. But in all areas, the sin of Adam has brought suffering, sorrow, and death.
We can appreciate and treasure our families, but even there—in the happiest of homes—there will be no lasting fulfillment. Trials, sinful natures, and ultimately age and death will rob us of lasting joy. We can only find life in the Source of life.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Joh 14:6
Resurrection Life means Resurrection Power
The transition which Jesus “consecrated for us” (Heb 10:20), from the Passover to the Lord’s Supper, has great present and personal significance. The implication is that we live in the light of His resurrection, and await His return. Though we live on this earthly plane, we share His resurrection life and power.
Not only this, but He represents us in Heaven before the Father, as our Advocate and Intercessor (1Jo 2:1; Rom 8:34). Spiritually and positionally, we are “seated with Him” in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:5–7; Col 3:1–4). As we “abide in Him” by faith (Joh 15:4–5), His power and resurrection life flow in and through us, as we are being conformed into His image (Rom 8:29; Rom 12:2).
He is Risen!
The women who came to the tomb on that resurrection morning had no joy within and no witness to the world. They did not yet understand the power available to them. If you find yourself convicted that—like them—you are seeking the living among the dead, I encourage you to take heart. You do not need, as Thomas did, to see His wounded hands and side. Rather, heed and believe what He said to Thomas (Joh 20:29):
“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do not make the mistake of trying to purge your life of the world in order to strengthen your faith. This backward tactic only leads to frustration and failure.
Rather, strengthen your faith through the saturation of your soul with His Word. Don’t just read it, or hear it, but believe it. It is simple, child-like faith that takes God’s Word and hands it over to the indwelling Spirit who, alone, makes it come alive. We do not do it—we trust Him to do it.
Remember that the “great faith” of the centurion (Mat 8:5–10) was not in anything he did, but rather in what he knew Jesus Christ was able to do. It was “great” precisely because it was child-like—the quality of the great ones in the “kingdom of heaven” (Mat 18:1–2).
Faith opens the door to all the promises of God, and all the promises of God hinge on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In these dark and perilous times, and with so many errant teachings stressing that “it all depends on me,” I urge you to “live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Or, as Paul put it in his own child-like way:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Col 2:6
It is only the power of faith in a risen Savior that transforms lives and provides evidence to a doubting world that “He is risen!”
He is risen, indeed!
Gene and Nan