Friday, March 30, 2018

From Passover to Resurrection | The Last Week of the Lamb

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Chag Matzot Sameach!

From Passover to Resurrection
  • The Passover Week~ A Shared Celebration
  • Resurrection Redux
  • Putting it All Together~Timeline of Yeshua’s Last Days

Pesach 1  
Torah Portion: Exodus 12:21-51

Maftir: Numbers 28:16-25
Haftarah: Joshua 3:5-7; 5:2-6:1; 6:27

PASSOVER is observed at twilight, Friday March 30 
through twilight, Saturday April 7, 2018
פסח EREV PESACH 14 Nisan 5778
begins twilight, Saturday, April 1, 
through twilight, Friday,  April 7,
Nisan 15 through Nisan 22

This week’s Torah portion departs from the traditional rotation to revisit the Exodus narrative as Passover is celebrated this Monday, April 10, at sunset.

Against the rubric of Scripture, we will examine this very meaningful holiday, as well as revisit Yeshua’s Resurrection—celebrated this year on Sunday, April 1. 

Please pardon the ashes ... those are just some sacred cows burning on the brazen altar...

This week is a time of immense significance for both Christians and Jews. 

For the Jewish PeoplePesach, or Passover, celebrates the colossal event of Divine deliverance that defines them as a People, and sets in motion the grand redemption plan, confirmed at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Christians call this the Passion Week, commemorating the dramatic events surrounding the death, burial, and Resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus). This is central to the faith as it is the core of the redemption story going forth beyond Israel to the nations. 

If we could slip back in time two thousand years, however, we would not find these events severed from one another. 

The early church—followers of Yeshua, both Jewish and non-Jewish—largely continued celebrating the mo’edim, the appointed times found in Leviticus 23 with great joy in their shared faith.

Messiah had come, fulfilling the long-awaited promise—halle-lu-Yah!

Passover would not have have been particularly meaningful, with its core theme of the
Passover Lamb (without which Christianity would not exist).

Yeshua is the Passover Lamb

The Scriptures record John declaring Yeshua to be, “the Lamb of God.” John 1:29, 36

Revelation 5:6, 6:9, 7:17, 14:10, 19:9, 21:23, 22:1, and 22:3 also speak of Yeshua as, “the Lamb.”

Passover celebrates and declares the faithfulness of Adonai throughout all generations—to Israel, and all who trust in the Name of the LORD. Through Yeshua, the sacrificed Lamb, it is a shared celebration.

There exists a peculiar disconnect which sees the church divorcing itself from its God-given heritage once the promised Messiah has come. 

Why would the prophetic images promising God's glorious redemption not become even more precious once realized? Some may refer to Colossians 2:17, "...things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." 

However, the English rendering of this verse from the original Greek reflects the bias of the translators rather than the literal, word for word translation.

For instance, there is no word or modifier to justify adding "mere" before shadow in order to diminish its significance. There may also be a contrast not intended by the text. The word "but" is the Greek word δέde', which means: but, and, now, then, etc. It is often not used as a comparison. Paul more likely may have been saying, "These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah." (Holman Christian Standard Bible)  There are other translations as well that do not put a negative bias on this verse. 
If, for a moment, you can put yourself in the shoes of the first century believer, consider, central to the traditional observances of your faith has been the promises of the long-awaited Messiah of Israel ... for thousands of years. He may seem somewhat mythological for He has tarried so long. And NOW HE HAS COME! Your faith, beliefs, traditional observances have been proven TRUE! Yeshua IS the embodiment of the WORD! How can that possibly result in the diminishing of its value? 
As a Jewish believer, I can tell you that while the yearly festivals are beautiful testimonies of God’s miracles, love, and faithfulness in themselves; once the reality of Messiah is revealed in one’s heart, rather than diminish in value, they explode with astonishing significance! My first Passover Seder as believer in Yeshua, I wept all the way through, seeing the awesome reality and plan of God. I was obliterated by God’s love and faithfulness!

Being fulfilled by the coming of Messiah, the feasts are now extravagantly “filled full”* with sublime significance, and infused with the joy of revelation. They are enriched by the Holy Spirit, glorifying the faithfulness of the Father through His Son, and illustrating the great redemption story.
*Most Christians have been taught that the word “fulfilled” in the New Covenant means “ended.” However, the most common meaning of the Greek word, plēroō, πληρόω, is: to make full, to fill up, to fill to the full, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment. (Strong's Greek Lexicon G4237) 
Passover remains one of the most meaningful feasts for sharing the Messiah due to the richness of symbolism and redemptive theme. It is also one of Adonai’s covenantal “forever” feasts, given “throughout all generations.” Leviticus 23:14
“Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers’.” Jeremiah 33:20-22

We even see Paul using the rich symbolism of the Passover feast to admonish the church in Corinth while confirming their yearly observance of this joyous celebration:

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” I Corinthians 5:6-8
When you think about it, why wouldn’t the church greatly value this rich celebration? After all, it was during the Passover Feast, and using the traditional Seder elements, that Yeshua revealed His impending sacrifice, and ratified the “New Covenant” promised in Jeremiah 31:31.
“When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” Luke 22:15-20
Yeshua took the unleavened bread, known as matzah, the Bread of Affliction, broke it, gave thanks, and shared it among His Talmidim—His Disciples. This is a part of the Passover Seder, the traditional dinner. 

When He shared the unleavened bread as symbolic of His body, Yeshua was careful NOT to say, “This is my body BROKEN for you. Rather, He said, “This is my body which is GIVEN for you.” Luke 22:19  

The Passover Lamb must not have any broken bones. (Exodus 12:46) To fulfill this requirement, Yeshua breathed His last before the Roman guard had to break his legs to hasten His death. Thus, the Messiah was taken down from the cross with not a bone in His body broken. 
This is an important sign of fulfilled Messianic prophecy. Many people don’t understand this, and misspeak when serving communion.
Yeshua then took the cup of wine “after they had eaten,” (Luke 22:20) which is called “the Cup of Redemption” in the Passover Seder. It corresponds with the promise of God: “I WILL redeem you with an outstretched arm...” (Exodus 6:6) He declared, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

The Jewish men gathered with Him at the table fully understood this dramatic claim. Yeshua was announcing a tremendous paradigm shift. The NEW Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah in verse 31:31, was being ratified by His blood!

The familiar Leonardo da Vinci painting of the Last Supper communicates anything but a historically or scripturally accurate picture of a first century Israeli Passover season supper. The Renaissance style architecture and dress is obvious. More to the point, however, the appearance of bread made with yeast rather than matza—unleavened bread—and the fact that the meal is taken in the daytime, rather than after sundown are glaring disconnects from the Bible. Sitting at a table in a grand room is also inauthentic. Reclining around low tables arranged in a “u” configuration, known as a triclinium, with the rabbi seated at the center, in a simple room was characteristic, such as portrayed in this classical painting by Nicholas Poussin.

The First PassoverA Celebration for All Generations
Exodus 12:21-51

vv. 21-24 “Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.” 

This colossal epic event in Jewish history is the dramatic deliverance of the sons of Israel from Egypt. Heroic and legendary, the exodus story is indelibly etched on the history of the world for Gentiles as well. 

By Adonai’s mercy and grace, the Hebrew slaves were to be freed from physical bondage in Egypt—redeemed by the mighty arm of God. Once redeemed, they will begin their long, arduous journey of learning how to live as a redeemed people—free spiritually from all heathen influences—and consecrated to their God. 

In this we see Adonai is forming for Himself a People. This is a new epoch. It will be commemorated forever in many different ways, beginning with the reckoning of time. Exodus 12:2

Forever Israel will remember her Day of Deliverance, and her God with the rhythm of
the seasons. Israel will keep a unique calendar, given to her by her God, thus breaking her ties with Egypt, and the rest of the world, as He begins His work of sanctification—imprinting His Name into her character. She will be set apart from the Nations for God’s glory and purposes.
It’s extraordinary that the first ordinance instituted by God takes place within the family, at home. (Exodus 16) It is the family that forms the first congregation, the first place of worshiping and sanctifying Adonai. It is a theme that will keep the Jewish People connected to their God, their faith, and their distinctiveness as a witness to the Nations throughout time. The weekly Sabbath celebration at the family table is a continuum, passing the Scriptures and blessings, from generation to generation.
Passover also, is a family festival, celebrated in the home. Whereas the traditional Shabbat, or Sabbath celebration has been a point of contention among many Christians, Passover was clearly observed by the early church, as recorded in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Containing rich symbolism and meaning, Passover is a vital commemoration for Jews and Christians alike, now one in Messiah. Galatians 3:28

The Blood of the Lamb was a Sign

We have to look at the significance of the amazing symbolism of the Passover Lamb in light of the fact that this was not an animal sacrifice for sin. Exodus 12:13 tells us the blood of the lamb is a “sign.” 

What a peculiar thing—surely Adonai already knew which were the homes of the sons of Israel—He had kept previous plagues from touching their homes in Goshen. So, who was the sign for? Verse 13 says, “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live...”
The Lamb at the Center 
The first Passover Seder (traditional Passover dinner) I experienced after coming to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as a new Believer, was quite a revelation. I wept through nearly the entire service! Besides seeing, for the first time, the glorious truths in the Scriptures, the prayers, and the praises that comprise the traditional liturgy, I saw Yeshua, the Lamb of God at the center!

From that first simple Passover, “eaten in haste” in Egypt, to our contemporary Passover Seder, this feast is rich with prophetic Messianic signs and symbolism:
  • Deliverance
  • Faithfulness
  • Sovereignty
  • Redemption
  • Mercy and Grace
  • Lovingkindness
  • Righteousness
  • Salvation
No wonder Passover is to be a memorial to be kept throughout all generations! “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. vs. 11,14
The Passover Feast has proclaimed through the ages and continues to proclaim the great Redemption Story! ("... to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.") Romans 1:16 

Even before the Exodus from Egypt, YHVH used a lamb to illustrate the paramount role it will play in in His Redemption panorama.

“And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” Genesis 22:7-8

Before the time of Yeshua, there were two descriptions of Messiah recognized by the Jewish teachers in the Scriptures: Messiah, Son of Joseph and Messiah, Son of David. The "Son of Joseph" (in Hebrew, Mashiach ben Yosef) was known as the Suffering Servant, derived from Isaiah 52-53, where we find a LAMB once again figured, and can see clearly Yeshua's fulfillment of this prophecy:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, 
Yet He did not open His mouth; 
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, 
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, 
So He did not open His mouth. 
Isaiah 53:7

By Divine revelation, John who was immersing for repentance to prepare the way for His coming, proclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God..." when he encountered Yeshua.John 1:29,36

It was at the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb that Yeshua laid down His own life as "a ransom for many." Luke 22:7, Mark 10:45

Revelation 13:8 reveals Him as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the cosmos." 

Why the Song of Moses and the Song of Lamb?

Throughout the book of Revelation, Yeshua (who is now returned as the conquering Messiah, Messiah, Son of David!) is also called the Lamb. (Rev. 5:6,8,12,13 6:1,7,9,16 7:9,10,14,17 8:1 12:11 13:8,11 14:1,10 15:3 17:14 19:7,9 21:9,14,22,23 22:1,3)

At the culmination of all war, evil and suffering, a marvelous sight was seen, a "sign in heaven."  Standing on the sea of glass, the victorious in YHVH:  “...sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb..." Revelation 15:1-3

Moses, the first deliverer, through whom Adonai instituted the prophetic Passover, an everlasting ordinance...

What is the Song of Moses?

For most of traditional Christianity, there is little interest in the first five books of the Bible, dismissed as "the law." This narrow view causes us to miss so much treasure given us by our magnificent King!

Consider just the first line of the Song of Moses...

"The LORD (YHVH) is my strength and song, 
And He has become my salvation
This is my God, and I will praise Him; 
My father’s God, and I will extol Him."
Exodus 15:2

The word salvation is יְשׁוּעָה in Hebrew, yesh·ü'·äh, Yeshua meaningsalvation, deliverance (by God.) 

The end declared from the beginning! (Isaiah 46:9-11) And again, a testimony to the Jew first, and also the Gentile.

God has revealed His mercy, grace, deliverance, and salvation through the LAMB from the beginning. And at the conclusion of this age, we find the LAMB, Yeshua, at the center: the object of all devotion, the source of all light, and forming the heavenly Temple with YHVH.

"...the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17

"I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Revelation 21:22

"And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb." Revelation 21:23

"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb." Revelation 22:1
How did the Church miss this? If we can celebrate other events not found in the Scriptures, how much more can we benefit from celebrating this rich biblical feast, so vital to the great redemption story? How can we begin to understand the profound meaning behind the terminology and symbolism Adonai uses throughout the New Testament without understanding the foundational Scriptures?

The Traditional Observance of the Passover Celebration and Meaning

The Lamb 

Each of the families of Israel took a lamb without “blemish.” (v. 5) Blemish in Hebrew is tamiym תמים, meaning innocent, wholesome, unimpaired, idiomatically without sin.

We know that Yeshua was without sin, and He is declared the Lamb [of God] in John 1:29 and 1:36, and Revelation 6:9, 7:10, 7:17, 14:4, 14:10, 15:3, 19:9, 21:22, 21:23, and 22:1 among many others.

The lamb was to be sacrificed at twilight (v. 6), Hebrew erev ערב, evening, late afternoon, before night. 

Yeshua, “breathed his last” (Mark 15:37) in the ninth hourbetween three and four in the afternoon. 
This was likely the same time as the Passover lambs were also being slaughtered in the Temple as it was the evening of the “Preparation Day” (Greek, paraskeuē παρασκευή). John tells us that this was for the Sabbath of Passover (a “high Sabbath.”) John 19:31

Exodus 12:10: “You shall let none of it remain until morning...”

Just as the Passover lamb was not to remain until morning, Yeshua had to be taken down from the executioner’s stake before nightfall. This was due to the onset of the High Sabbath of the Passover (Leviticus 23:7) as well as the Seven Day Feast of Unleavened Bread. John 19:31

The Blood of the Lamb

The blood of the Passover lamb was to be gathered into a container and then applied to the doorposts: “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.” (v. 22)

This is a very interesting picture. John 19:29 records hyssop being used to put sour wine in Yeshua’s mouth: “A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.”

Adonai promised Israel that when He saw the blood on the lintel and doorposts, He would not allow death to strike them. “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.” v. 23 
Powerful Symbolism! To the Jewish People, having kept this feast year after year, Yeshua characterized Himself as the door: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep ... I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved...” John 10:7, 9

Finally, at His last meal with His Talmidim, or Disciples, Yeshua revealed the profound symbolism contained in two of the common elements of the Passover Seder—the matza, the unleavened bread (Exodus 12:19-20), and the wine, the Cup of Redemption.

The Bread of Affliction

“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. So you shall observe [the Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether [he is] a stranger or a native of the land.” vs. 15,17,19

Luke tells us, “And when He [Yeshua] had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19
The Greek word for “bread” is artos ἄρτος, which is matzo, or unleavened bread—flat bread made with just flour and water, and containing no yeast or leavening agents. 

In the Bible, leaven is symbolic of sin, pride, and corruption.
Matzo is also called the “bread of affliction,” as it hearkens back to the harsh conditions in Egypt. As the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, Yeshua is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” How apt a picture He chose!
The Cup of the New Covenant—A New Paradigm!

The traditional Passover Seder includes four cups of wine (or grape juice). The cup after the meal is called the “Cup of Redemption.” Try to imagine how stunned these Jewish Disciples must have been as Yeshua lifted that cup and announced, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20

This had tremendous significance! Imagine, the Jewish People are in the midst of the Passover season—commemorating the greatest event in their history—where God redeemed them out of Egypt and made them His People ... the only thing greater will be when Messiah comes—a deliverer like Moses. And now, once again they are under bondage. Wouldn't it be a grand time for that deliverance to happen all over again?

And Yeshua proclaims that by His blood, He is instituting the NEW COVENANT promised in Jeremiah 31!
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt...’” Jeremiah 31:31-32
L’Dor V’Dor, Generation to Generation, Passing on the Awe of the Lord’s Passover

“And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. vv. 24, 26, 27

“...when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’”
From this Scripture the central format of the Passover Haggadah (the booklet that contains the liturgy and order of service) derives its theme. The youngest child asks four important questions that spark the “telling”—the Exodus narrative:
  • Why is this night different from all others?
  • Why do we only eat unleavened bread?
  • Why do we eat bitter herbs?
  • Why do we dip our vegetables twice?
It is counted a privilege to impart the majesty of Adonai, recounting His deliverance:
“This is the LORD’s Passover, YHVH Pesach יהוה פסח—the deliverance by the might and mercy of YHVH, Adonai—when He struck the firstborn of Egypt, but passed over the home of our forefathers!”

Just as the sons of Israel spontaneously worshiped the LORD upon this proclamation in Egypt, so too, is that awe to be imparted, year after year, l’dor v’dor, generation to generation.

Israel’s Deliverance—A Solemn Observance Forever

“It is a night of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the LORD, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.” v. 42

On this fateful night, Adonai shielded the sons of Israel from deaththis is the night of Israel’s redemption——and every generation since is indelibly imprinted with the awe of its remembrance.

Who May Share in the Passover?

“And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger dwells with you [and wants] to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. vv. 43,45,47,48

Adonai did not want the yearly Passover sacrifice to be received as merely a cultural or religious tradition. It was meant to be regarded as a precious and unique event between Israel and her God. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between Israel and Adonai—setting her apart from the Nations. Only the sons of Israel—the circumcised could eat the Passover.

There was an exception, however. There were those foreigners who chose to join themselves to Israel and her God, known as ger tzeddek, the righteous proselyte—also in the first century, known as God fearers, such as Cornelius, mentioned in Acts 10. 

Neither Jew nor Gentile

“...and he shall be as a native of the land...” (v. 48) When foreigners consecrated themselves to the God of Israel, He made no distinction between natural born or foreigner.

Deliverance OUT OF EGYPT by God’s Mighty Arm!

“And on that same day the LORD brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt...” v. 51

Coming out of Egypt was a Divine deliverance from physical and spiritual bondage for Israel. Enslaved in a land of pagan idolatry, devoid of compassion, mercy, and Godliness, crushed the body and shattered the soul. But God Almighty heard the groans of His People Israel under the tyranny of their slave masters. In His mercy and by His grace He sent a deliverer on a Passover long ago and redeemed them by His mighty Hand and outstretched arm. Exodus 6:6, Deuteronomy 5:15

But wait, there’s more! This magnificent deliverance wasn’t the end of the redemption story. Egypt, like Babylon continues to plague the human soul. Idolatry, corruption, and sin in many forms enslaves and decays inwardly; separating man from His Creator, leaving him hopeless.

Once more ... once for all, Almighty God sent another deliverer on another PassoverYeshua, the Messiah of Israel, the Lamb of God to set all men free, by His blood. 

Have you been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb?
Then celebrate the Passover this year giving thanks to Almighty God who
“brought Israel out from their midst,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting,
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting!”

(Psalm 136, traditional Passover liturgy)

Resurrection Redux

So here we find ourselves with another "Easter" about to come upon us. It has a whole different meaning for me today than when I was a child. Then, it meant a Good Friday church service to remember Jesus’ death on that day of the week. There were your best clothes to get out and ready for the Sunday service ahead, maybe even a new suit for that special occasion. And of course lots of eggs to color, hide, and then hunt for at the appointed time.

Sunday of course was the big day.
It was church and, maybe even Dad or Grandpa would come on that occasion. After all isn’t it the most highly attended Sunday service of the whole year? And when that was over, it was off to Grandma’s house where the whole family would gather for the traditional Easter ham (something I realize now Jesus would have never eaten). Unfortunately for me then, and multitudes today, Easter Sunday never had any more meaning to it than that... But things are different


As I checked the internet for just the right things to say as introductory material I found, as you might guess, a raft of stuff. My goodness. There’s information on how we calculate the changing date of Easter Sunday. (It couldn’t be simple like Christmas.) There is stuff on how Christianity came to celebrate Easter as a formal holiday. Why, different parts of the world even have traditions unique only to them. There’s been lots of arguing over Easter. And as you might imagine the Jews take it on the chin a time or two. Why, don’t you know, we Gentiles always have it right ... right on down to our Easter eggs. Now that ought to prove something! Well, considering all that I said to myself, “Why not just skip all this and get right to something really interesting?” After all, anyone can check that other stuff out on the internet. So off we go.

When I was a kid and on into my adult years I always took it for granted that it was on a Sunday that Jesus rolled that huge stone away and walked out of the tomb, the tomb in which He had been laid the previous Friday. However, the facts I have since come across have radically assaulted that childhood view most of us have been taught. 
Traditional Christianity places Jesus' death on Friday and His subsequent resurrection on Sunday. But, doesn't that raise a question? We do understand that He was to be buried for three days and three nights. After all, had He not told His disciples in Matthew 12:39-40 that He would be buried for those three days and three nights just as Jonah had spent the same amount of time in the belly of the sea monster?
“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
The particulars for arriving at the traditional Friday thru Sunday scenario are as follows: The crucifixion it is argued had to be on Friday. This is believed because John 19:31 says the Jews came to Pilate and asked that the bodies should not remain on the crosses. It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was the next day. Since Saturday is always the Sabbath it had to be on Friday  (the day before / it was the day of preparation) that the crucifixion took place. According to Mark 15:25 it was the third hour or 9:00 AM that He was nailed to the cross.  At 3:00 PM or the ninth hour (Matthew 27:46-50) He died on this Friday before the Sabbath, and was placed in the tomb. But before we go further, a moment's digression on Jewish time keeping, if you please....

The reckoning of Jewish time is different from that which we are familiar with. Our whole day starts at 12:00 AM and runs for 24 hours to 12:00 PM. Our “day” is generally thought of as running from 6:00 AM to 6:00PM and our “evening” from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

Jewish time—or more correctly, biblical time—differs in that their whole day starts at sunset or roughly 6:00 PM and runs 24 hours to the next sunset or roughly 6:00 PM. The “evening” starts their calendar day at 6:00 PM and runs twelve hours to 6:00 AM. The remaining 12 hours is considered their “day” and runs generally from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Our day starts with the morning. Their day starts with the evening. Genesis 1:13

Their pattern of evening first, then day was established in Genesis One where God concluded each 24 hour period of creation by stating this formula,  “...and there was evening and there was morning...” then giving the day on which the particular acts of creation were done. This pattern is followed even today in Israel. Each calendar day starts at 6:00 PM with the evening. The latter half of the day concludes with the morning which runs from 6:00 AM. to 6:00 PM.

The traditional church, not in tune with this unique handling of the clock, reasoned that Jesus was placed in the tomb on that Friday day. By Jewish reckoning of time He would have remained there Friday day (3:00 PM to 6:00 PM), Saturday evening (6:00 PM Friday to 6:00 AM Saturday) and Saturday day (6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday) and Sunday evening (6:00 PM Saturday to 6:00 AM Sunday). It is believed that the resurrection happened on Sunday because of Matthew 28:1-6. There we have the account of the two Marys coming to the grave on Sunday morning and finding the grave empty.

If this had been the course of events, then by Jewish timekeeping Jesus would not have been in the tomb three days and three nights. Let’s look at it one more time.

     Friday 3:00 PM to Friday 6:00 PM is one partial day, not a full day.
     Friday 6:00 PM to Saturday 6:00 AM is one full night.
     Saturday 6:00 AM to Saturday 6:00 PM is one full day
     Saturday 6:00 PM to Sunday 6:00 AM is is one full night
     Sunday 6:00 AM to the empty tomb discovery is one partial day, not a full day

Even if a partial day was to be considered as a full day as some suggest, we have at the most, Jesus in the grave three days and two nights, not the three nights Jesus said He would be. You’ll recall that Jesus had said in Matthew 12:39-40 that He would be in the grave as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster, three days and three nights

So before you consider me too much of a contrarian let's consider another possible scenario.

We know that in the Jewish culture every Saturday (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) is the Sabbath. Its foundation is found as far back as creation when God rested on the seventh day. Historical precedence for its ongoing practice is most strongly suggested in Exodus 16:23 where the Sabbath was kept prior to the Ten Commandments being given. God seals the deal on Mt. Sinai when in the fourth of ten commandments He instructs His people to keep the Sabbath holy. Most of the Jewish people kept this day sacred right up to the time of Jesus, and were practicing it religiously at the time of His death. 
The question to be raised is, was there only one Sabbath day the week Jesus went to the cross? Because if there were two such days the question of three full days and three full nights would be easily resolved.
Matthew 28:1 says, “Now after the Sabbath (singular in the English), as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.”

A number of English Bibles translate “Sabbath” from the original language as a singular (only one Sabbath day that week). Our NASB does this. However, some translations such as Young’s Literal Translation translate Sabbath in the plural. This would mean that in the week Jesus died there were two or more Sabbaths.

This word is rendered in the plural in Alfred Marshall's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Green's Literal Translation, and Ferrar Fenton's Translation. Indeed, even my trusty Nestle Greek Text renders Sabbath in the plural form. We must therefore conclude that there were at least two Sabbaths, not just the one on Saturday following the traditionally believed Friday crucifixion.

What might the second Sabbath be?

The Hebrew Bible delineates TWO DIFFERENT TYPES of SABBATHS:
  • One is the seventh day of the week, the day God “rested” in the creation account. It always ran and still does from sunset (the beginning of the Jewish day) on Friday night to sunset (the end of the Jewish day) on Saturday night. Remember, the evening time after sunset was and is the beginning of the next Jewish day.
  • The only other type of Sabbath was called a “high day.” These seven Sabbaths are listed in Leviticus 23. They are to be treated as the regular weekly Sabbaths were, but each celebrates a particular event different from the regular weekly Sabbath. The presence of this type of Sabbath, “a high day,” is confirmed in John 19:31. It reads, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” Only two possibilities exist as to the timing of these two different Sabbaths. Either they both fell on the same day, Saturday—as the Friday thru Sunday entombment folks hold—or they fell on separate days in the crucifixion week.

Mark 14 sheds light on this point. The Passover was at hand. During this last week Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem and going to partake of the Last Supper. In verses 12 through 16 we have the account of the preparation of that meal. How fitting that the final sacrifice for sin, the death of the Messiah, was to be offered just a day later.

This is where the first of the two Sabbaths or the “high Sabbath” would have come in. This particular high Sabbath is spoken of in Leviticus 23:4-8, discussing the Passover celebration. There were two “high Sabbaths” to celebrate here. Verses 7-8 say,  “On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. 

Here are two Sabbaths, one at the beginning of the seven day period of celebration and one at the end. This would mean that a Sabbath rest would take place on one of the weekdays of the crucifixion week. Then the regular weekly Sabbath would take place on the upcoming Friday evening. And following that, the second high Sabbath for the week of celebration would take place.

Having seen the difficulty of the Friday crucifixion theory not fulfilling the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:39-40 and now seeing that two Sabbaths did occur in the crucifixion week lets consider another format for the events of the week.

Remember what Jesus had said in Matthew 12:39-40, “But he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seek after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’” (Emphasis added)

I believe Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday afternoon, and resurrected on Saturday afternoon—three days and three nights later—exactly as our Messiah said.

The week’s events would look like this:
  • Tuesday evening: Jesus and the disciples eat the Passover meal together and He is arrested during the night.
  • Wednesday: This is the preparation day spoken of in John 19:31, the day before the  “high day” Sabbath, which comes as a result of Passover. Jesus is crucified, dies at the ninth hour and is placed in the tomb.
  • Thursday: This is the high Sabbath day, the first day of Unleavened Bread, Matthew 27:62.
  • Friday: Spices are purchased by Jesus‘ female followers.
  • Saturday: This was the regular weekly Sabbath, not associated with the two belonging to the Passover celebration. Everyone rested as was prescribed. Jesus is resurrected in the afternoon after the ninth hour, but before sunset—the start of the next day. 
  • Sunday: The women go to the tomb and find it empty.

Does this make the full three days and full three nights in the grave?
Yes, and only this way:
       Wednesday 3:00 PM to Thursday 3:00 PM
            (one night / one day)
       Thursday 3:00 PM to Friday 3:00 PM
            (one night / one day)
       Friday 3:00 PM to Saturday 3:00 PM
            (one night / one day)

According to an article in the Good News Magazine, “Several computer software programs exist that enable us to calculate when the Passover and God's other festivals fall in any given year. Those programs show that in A.D. 31, the year of these events, the Passover meal was eaten on Tuesday night and Wednesday sundown marked the beginning of the 'high day,’ the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.” “Jesus wasn't crucified on Friday—or Resurrected on Sunday!” The Good News magazine, United Church of God, 2006-MAR-APR, Pages 13 to 15

Obviously more stock can be placed in the Biblical evidence than the above quote. It is interesting, however, to note that many theologians believe that Jesus was crucified  between 29 and 32 CE.

It would be a “hard sell” to get the Christian world to give up Resurrection Sunday, even if they did buy into the above scenario.  After all who wants to give up a good tradition? Don’t we still celebrate Christmas in December even though most know that was not when our Savior was born? But there ARE a couple of things worth pulling out of this study.

One is that perhaps we should have much more respect for the biblical Sabbath. The roots of the Sabbath date back to creation. And while its tradition is imbedded in a God-given Law, we can also now see it should lay claim to the title of “Resurrection Sabbath.” “Resurrection Sunday,” just doesn’t seem to hold much water  anymore. (Uh-oh, there goes one of those of those sacred cows ... up in smoke on the altar....)

And how about the itch some traditionalists have over churches now having Saturday and even Friday services? They argue, “Haven’t we always had Sunday services because that is the day of the week He rose from the grave? No, Sunday is the day He was first discovered gone from the grave, having risen from the grave, the previous day, I believe.
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Matthew 28:1-6

By the time the women, the first of His followers to see the empty tomb, got to the tomb, Jesus had already risen, on Saturday. (And I wonder if those guards were shaking as much from the continuing presence of the angel, or from the sight of the risen Christ coming out of the tomb?)

The book of Acts probably debunks best the Sunday only worship mantra. Acts 2:46 says, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” Looks like any day really is a good day to worship.

Another is that the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, paves the way for the free gift of eternal life to any who claim it. And this is regardless of what view one may take on particular days and events.

How simple and yet how true are the words:
“...whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not judged;
he who does not believe has been judged already,
because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 3:15-18  
May this special week be blessed and meaningful to you!
In Messiah's love,
By His Every Word