Shabbat Pesach (Passover)
Exodus 12:21–51; Numbers 28:16–25; Joshua 5:2–6:1; John 1:29–31
“Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb.’” (Exodus 12:21)
In today’s reading, Moses instructs the Jewish People concerning the details of the first Passover offering.
Each family was required to choose a lamb, slaughter it, and place its blood on the top and sides of the doorframe.
“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe.” (Exodus 12:22)
This lamb’s blood on the doorpost caused the Angel of Death to pass over those within the house, and they were spared the final plague that fell upon Egypt — the death of the firstborn.
“When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (Exodus 12:23)
In the final plague upon Egypt — the slaying of the firstborn — the good deeds and righteousness of the people did not save them from God’s judgment.
The sign of the blood on the lintel of the door saved them, as well as every Egyptian, who also obeyed the command.
Likewise, we are not saved by our works but by faith in Messiah Yeshua’s offering for us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Passover: When Death Lost Its Sting
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Around the world, as the Jewish People commemorate their exodus from slavery in Egypt and celebrate the saving power of the God of Israel, Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) — both Jewish and Gentile — will celebrate freedom from slavery to sin.
“Messiah was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
In fulfillment of Scripture, Yeshua became our guilt offering [asham], paying the price for sin once and for all.
“…though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:10)
While the guilt offerings on the altar of the Temple were a method for receiving grace and forgiveness, they could only cover unintentional sins. Intentional (malicious, premeditated) sins fell under the curse of the law; the perpetrator was cut off. Sometimes that meant death and other times, banishment from the community.
Yeshua’s death and resurrection removed all sin for all time. As Yochanan (John) said when he saw Yeshua coming toward him at the Jordan River, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)
Because Yeshua became our Passover offering, we are no longer under the curse of the law. And while that includes intentional sin, this does not give us license to continue sinning deliberately.
God requires that we repent and make restitution. Failure to do so indicates that we are not following Him — that we are not drawing close to Him.
The Passover Lamb: When Being Passed Over Is a Miracle
“Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Passover is rich in lessons for all Believers in Yeshua.
Were you ever passed over as a child when members of a sports team were being chosen? For a child, being passed over could be devastating. Likewise, as adults, being passed over for a promotion, raise, or a prestigious role can be very frustrating.
But being “passed over” during the first Passover was a miracle of deliverance.
God’s judgment of Egypt would pass over those who had enough faith to follow His plan for salvation. That plan involved selecting an unblemished lamb, killing it, and placing its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their dwelling places.
Today, 3,500 years later, we can celebrate the Passover in all of its prophetic fulfillment.
We have the opportunity to place the blood of the perfect, chosen Lamb of God, Yeshua, over our hearts and homes, so that by faith, we too will be spared from the Divine judgment due to the spiritual fall of this world.
This, too, is a miracle of deliverance.
“The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you [pasachti], and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)
In Hebrew, the word for I will pass over, pasachti (וּפָסַחְתִּי), comes from the word pesach, which means to hop, to skip over or spare, and to pass over.
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Yeshua. … With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.” (John 19:38)
Weeks ago, on Good Friday, many Christians remembered the horrific death that Yeshua suffered on our behalf. Believers also read how Yosef (Joseph) of Arimathea and Nakdimon (Nicodemus) asked Pilate for Yeshua’s body.
But we must put those events into their proper Jewish context. Yeshua was executed on the day that the Passover lambs were being killed in preparation for the start of Passover.
Since Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection occurred in a Hebraic context, examining Jewish customs surrounding death, burial, mourning, and resurrection can further our understanding of His death and resurrection.
The Jewish burial customarily takes place within 24 hours, so in keeping with Jewish practice, they sought to bury Yeshua right away.
They also prepared Yeshua’s body for burial with tahara, ritual purification. In this ritual, the body is cleansed, and then dried and dressed in takhrikhim, a simple white shroud (Mark 15:46–47).
“Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Yeshua’s body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” (John 19:39–40)
When Yosef and Nakdimon prepared Yeshua’s body for burial, they performed the duties of the Khevra Kadisha — an organization that ensures the body is correctly prepared for burial and protected from desecration.
By wrapping Yeshua in linen, they were practicing the custom of takhrikhim, providing the proper burial garment for the deceased.
Since the Sabbath was quickly approaching, there was insufficient time to complete the preparations before Passover began; therefore, Yeshua was placed in a sealed tomb until the close of the High Sabbath day.
Thus, Yeshua was buried in a rich man’s tomb in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9)
More important than how Yeshua was buried is that He rose from the dead and gained victory over death. Hallelujah!
Both spiritual and physical death have been defeated through Yeshua’s victory, as Saul of Tarsus (Paul) said:
“But Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits [bikkurim] of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Messiah all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20–22)
This is the Good News that we want to share with all Jewish people so that they can be sure of their place in the Olam Habah (the world to come).
If Death Is the Result of Sin, How Could Yeshua Die Sinless?
Many wonder how Yeshua could die since He was sinless. Others wonder if He conquered death because He was the Son of God.
To answer those questions, we must first understand that God did not create humankind to suffer death.
The first book of the Torah, Bereisheet (Genesis), reveals death as the judgment of God upon humankind because of Adam and Chava’s (Eve) spiritual fall in the Garden of Eden.
After they had failed their test of obedience, God said:
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground [adamah], since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)
The name Adam comes from the word for ground or earth — adamah, since man was taken from the ground.
This Hebrew wordplay reveals a spiritual truth: sin has brought physical death to all humankind and with it, a return to the earth (adamah).
Thus ends a person’s physical existence on earth, with the soul separating from the body.
Yeshua’s death, however, was not due to His own sin, since He was sinless. He died when He took upon Himself the sins of the world.
He could die because He took those sins on Himself. He could rise again because His offering of His sinless life was effective.
“But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)
Resurrection: A Jewish Belief
Traditionally, the rabbis believe that every Jew will be resurrected and experience spiritual life.
As is written in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews describes great men and women of faith. Some women received their dead back to life again, while “others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35)
The Tanakh (Old Testament) also describes a resurrection from the dead and subsequent judgment.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel gives an account of what will happen in the last days:
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)
Kria: The Jewish Custom of Rending the Garments
“Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.” (Genesis 37:34)
In Judaism, seven immediate family members are expected to observe a seven-day mourning period: the father, mother, daughter, son, brother, sister, and spouse.
These seven mourners participate in a special tradition.
To symbolize how death rips the fabric of life, their garments are symbolically ripped just before the funeral. In this tradition called kria, the parents and children rend the garment on their left, closest to the heart. Spouses and siblings tear their garments on the right.
While this may seem like an odd tradition, it dates back to Biblical times, specifically Genesis 37:34.
In fact, at the moment of Yeshua’s death, the Heavenly Father also seemed to observe kria in His grief over the death of His Son Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:51)
Thankfully, Yeshua’s death wasn’t the final word. Just as He promised, death couldn’t hold Him (John 2:18–22; Matthew 26:31–32).
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
The sting of death is sin (1 Corinthians 15:56), and in Yeshua, death has lost its sting!
Therefore, those who follow Yeshua can live confidently without any fear of death or dying, knowing that when they pass from this life, their lives continue eternally with their loving Father in Heaven.
Though we were dead in our trespasses and sin and so undeserving of being called His friends, in the immensity of His love, He reached out to us and offered us eternal life.
On this First Evening of Passover, may we once again be overcome with gratitude for all that Yeshua suffered for on our behalf.
“Adonai presented Messiah as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood — to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25)