A Second Passover: Why the timing of Easter week was no accident
Good Friday is just a couple of days away. Matthew 26 describes what Jesus was up to during the last couple of days before his crucifixion. Jesus had been traveling around Jerusalem for some time knowing he would be arrested when he arrived. Then on Palm Sunday, a few days before the Jewish Passover, he decided to go. Why go then after avoiding it all that time? What if I told you he was intentionally waiting until Passover because he was making a very important point? Let me share with you my observations of that chapter from my upcoming book, The Messiah Prophecy: Evidence of a Savior in the Gospel of Matthew.
Exodus 1-15 reveals an ancient story of slavery and freedom. More than a thousand years before Jesus lived, the Jewish people were suffering from more than 400 years of bondage and slavery in the land of Egypt. Finally, after four centuries of suffering, the Jews would be rescued. A man named Moses, maybe you have heard of him, was given instruction to pay Pharaoh a visit and demand the Jews be set free. After a series of meetings that did not go very well, God decided He was done with the Pharaoh’s insolence. He sent Egypt nine messages that He was serious and that He wanted His people set free. Perhaps “messages” is an understatement. The Bible calls them plagues. Ok, that is a loud message, but the Pharaoh remained unmoved. So, God took it up a notch with message number 10. The 10th plague was that the first born of each household would die. The Jewish families had been given instruction to make a sacrifice of a lamb and paint their door post with its blood. This sign would protect their children from the Angel of Death and their homes would be passed over. The message was received this time and the slaves were set free. Imagine the excitement and fear the Jews must have felt as they began to gather their things and prepare to leave for their homeland. They were instructed to leave in a hurry so they were to cook their bread without yeast to make their departure quick. It was an act of such significance that Jews would celebrate this night for three thousand years and counting. This holiday is called the Passover.
Moses showed up on the scene after 400 years of waiting. The Old Testament chronicles their journey which eventually led them to the Promised Land where they lived in peace for many years. Unfortunately, due to their penchant for sin and pride, they did not remain free forever. They became oppressed once again by the Persians and eventually the Romans. Ironically, Jesus’s arrival on the scene in Jerusalem just happened to be 400 years after the Old Testament writers went quiet. God inspired no scriptures to be written for 400 years. It is a period of time often referred to as 400 years of silence; another 400 year period of waiting.
Matthew was telling his readers that their wait had come to an end. Chapter 26 chronicles a new Passover. The events leading up to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus happened during the Passover week. Jesus said, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (vs. 2) The chapter opens with the disciples making plans for the Passover meal
that was being held in a couple of days. The timing of this was no accident, it was by divine design. God was making a point to His people. He was drawing a direct connection between the first Passover and the sacrifice of Christ. God was sending a lamb to be sacrificed whose blood would be a sign for the Angel of Death to Passover. The people of God were being rescued again, but this time forever. The difference was that their freedom would be from death and eternal separation from God instead of an oppressive regime.
Matthew’s readers would have seen the parallel clearly. They would have grown up observing the Passover feast and hearing of the great rescue. When they heard this part of the story of this man Jesus, I doubt they would have missed its significance. This was not Matthew’s construct, but it certainly elevated his point, right? But just in case they were dense and did not see it, Matthew pointed out that several of the details of the events were in fact mentioned in the “Messianic Prophecy” checklist. For instance, the Christ was to be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver according to Zechariah 11. This was the exact amount of payment Judas received for his betrayal. (vs. 24) Another was that He would be in anguish and in constant prayer. (vs. 38-39) Verses 49 on depict His persecution and confinement as told in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 50 said He would be spit upon. This happened in verse 67. In verses 67-68, His face was severely beaten just as Isaiah as predicted in his chapter 52.
Jesus and His disciples were busy in chapter 26. A plot was hatched by the religious leaders. A woman anointed Jesus with expensive oil. Judas struck a deal with the Pharisees. When Jesus and His team shared the Passover meal, a couple of significant things happened during that meal. First, Jesus called Judas out for betraying Him. Then He informed the disciples that they each would deny Him. Peter was indignant about this, but Jesus told him that Peter would go on to deny Jesus three times that very night. Jesus prayed His infamous prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to be delivered from His impending task, but ends up deferring to God’s will instead of His own. We see Judas give his famous kiss to signal Jesus as the one to be arrested. We witness a disciple cutting off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus was arrested, questioned, and beaten. And just as Jesus said, Peter denied Jesus a total of three times.
In preparation to write this chapter, I marinated in its verses for several days. I was lost in the drama, emotion, and layers and layers of meaning. Man, I could write an entire book just about chapter 26! There is so much meaningful content. But what stands out in my mind is the personal implication of these verses. The account of Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals His anguish and sorrow at the suffering He knew He had to face. He knew before it ever happened how terrible it would be. In the next two chapters He will be tortured, mocked, and murdered in the most violent of ways. Yet, with that knowledge, He still handed Himself over to His accusers. He never resisted or fought back. Why not? Why would He knowingly accept such a fate? I know the answer in my soul because it is the message God has whispered to me since my first heart beat. I am utterly and unconditionally loved and chosen by my Father in heaven. God, my Father, loved me, He pursued me, and He rescued me. He was not satisfied with the separation from Himself that my sin required. So, he created a way, a second Passover, to bring me to my homeland.
-Carrie Roark in The Messiah Prophecy (soon to be released)