THE PASSOVER DURING THE GOSPEL AGE
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn.3:16).
Almost 2,000 years ago, the Creator God came to earth and became the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. As a human he suffered vile indignities, excruciating torture, violent beatings, scourging, crucifixion, and the shame of a public execution. He suffered rejection by his own people, and injustice at the hands of religious and civil authorities. He was the victim of political expediency and religious hypocrisy and he was murdered by those that professed to follow the law of God.
To the majority of people today, the observance of the Passover presents no problem because they do not believe it exists. However, to those who have come to understand the importance of the annual festivals in relation to the plan of God for humanity, it is an extremely important event that should be understood as well as observed.
In order to understand the Passover that Jesus instituted for his followers, an explanation of the prophetic events surrounding Jesus' death must be given and four basic questions must be answered:
1. Why did Jesus observe the Passover before his death?
2. Why did he institute new rituals and symbolism for the Passover?
3. What do these new Passover rituals and symbolism mean?
4. Why and how should a Christian observe the Passover?
Behold the Lamb of God
As John the Baptist was preaching the coming of the Messiah and baptizing those who were repentant, he saw Jesus coming and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also verse 36.
It is important to remember that all of the prophetic meaning of the Passover pointed toward a time when the Creator God would come to earth to redeem and save humanity.
John's announcement that Jesus was the prophetic Lamb of God formally set into motion the progression of events that would culminate in the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Passover Lamb and the redemption of humanity.
Christ, the Lamb Without Blemish
"Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy. And if you call on the Father, who is without respect of persons judges according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God" (1.Pet.1:16-21 KJV).
Flesh, Bread, and Blood
During his ministry, Jesus spoke of himself as being the prophetic fulfillment of the Passover lamb for Israel, which includes the symbolism of flesh, bread, and blood.
John 6:31-33, 47-58 KJV
"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (vs.31-33).
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he that believes on me shall have, everlasting life" (v47).
In verses 31 through 47, Jesus speaks of himself as the one whom the Father sent to give and sustain life. He also says that it is through a belief in him (Jesus) that a person is granted eternal life.
"I am that bread of Life" (v48).
"Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (vs.49-51). See Rev. 2:17.
The Word Bread
The Hebrew word for bread is 'lechem', which means any food necessary for human survival (Matt.4:4; 6:11). It is interesting that the prophecies about Jesus' birth said that the Messiah who would be the literal and symbolic bread of life would be born in Beth-lechem (i.e., Bethlehem), which means house of bread.
Jesus came from heaven to give spiritual life that is eternal:
"Who ever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever" (vs.54-58).
See our study entitled "Not Discerning the Lords' Body" for a full explanation of what it means to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man.
THE PASSOVER UNDER THE NEW COVENANT
Passover 30 A.D.
The Passover season of 30 A.D. began much as it had in previous years. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world crowded into Jerusalem, and because they were concerned with preparing for the Passover, they did not realize that this particular Passover would be the most important event in all of human history. It was on this Passover that the Lamb of God would be sacrificed.
Because of a problem in determining the first day of the first month of the sacred calendar in 30 A.D., the Calendar Court sanctioned two Passover observances that year. This rare situation allowed Jesus to observe the Passover with his disciples and to institute new rituals before fulfilling the prophetic meaning of the Passover Lamb the next day on the second Passover. See our study paper concerning which day is the Christian Passover, for details of the Calendar Court's decision.
The Tenth of Nisan
Matthew, Mark, and John recorded that before the Passover, while Jesus was in Bethany having supper, a woman anointed Jesus for his burial. Matthew and Mark record that she anointed his head, and John records she anointed his feet. All three recorded that Jesus said he was being anointed in preparation for his burial, but only John records that this event took place six days before the Passover. See Matt.26:6-13; Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12:1-7.
Remember that the Passover lamb was selected on the tenth day of the first month and sacrificed at the end of the 14th day before sunset; then, it was eaten at the beginning of the 15th day just after sunset.
This anointing of Jesus by Mary, which happened six days before the Passover, was no accident. It was very important to the fulfillment of the prophetic symbolism of the selection of the lamb at the first and subsequent Passovers.
When John recorded that it was six days before the Passover that Jesus was anointed for his burial, he was doing so with the knowledge that there had been two Passovers that year. Jesus had kept the first Passover with his disciples, while many of the Jews (Jn.2:13; 6:4; 11:55) had kept the second Passover (i.e., the one on which Jesus was crucified).
Using inclusive counting, the day Jesus was anointed for his burial would have been the 10th day of the first month, which was the same day that the Passover lamb was selected and set apart for its sacrificial death.
The following chart shows inclusive counting of six days which include the anointing of Jesus for his burial and his crucifixion and burial on Friday afternoon during the second sanctioned Passover of 30 A.D..
The King Comes
On the day after being anointed with oil, Jesus entered the city riding on a colt which fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zech.9:9 KJV).
As Jesus began his entry into Jerusalem, his disciples rejoiced and proclaimed him as the Messiah who was coming in the name of the Lord (Lk.19:35-38):
"And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him. Teacher, rebuke your disciples. And he said to them, I say to you, If these should be silent, the stones will cry out. And as he drew near, seeing the city he wept over it" (Lk.19:39-41 Para.). See Matt.21; Mk.11; Lk.19; Jn.12.
Jesus knew who he was and why he had come to earth; however, no one else knew or understood who he was or why he had come (except perhaps John the Baptist). The priesthood and religious leaders whose sacred trust it was to preserve God's word in its purity and meaning had, instead, perverted God's law and worship system. Therefore, the Jews did not understand the prophetic meaning of the Passover's rituals and symbolism.
Because of this, the people did not recognize who Jesus was nor his reason for coming. The Jews of Christ's day were waiting for the advent of a Messiah who would deliver them from their physical bondage and restore the kingdom of Israel to power. They were not looking for the Messiah to come and sacrifice himself for the sins of humanity.
TWO DAYS UNTIL THE PASSOVER
"And it happened when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, You know that the Passover is after two days, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified" (Matt.26:1-2 Para.).
There are two significant things to learn from these scriptures:
1. The festival that Jesus and his disciples observed is acknowledged as the Passover and not some other observance.
2. Jesus knew that he would be betrayed and would die on the Passover.
These scriptures set the stage for the events that would occur during the Passover ceremony that Jesus observed and the Passover that the Jews observed.
Over the centuries the Jews had seen many false messiahs come and go; however, Jesus was different. He came with great spiritual power and a message of repentance. This message of repentance was especially offensive to the religious leaders, because Jesus accused them of leading the people into sin and away from God. Because Jesus did not fit their idea of what the Messiah should be and they perceived him to be a threat to their religious authority and political power, they wanted to kill him. See Mk.11:15-18; 12:1-12; Lk.19:45-48; Jn.5:1-16; 8:37-40.
"Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, to the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matt.26:3-5 KJV).
"After two days was the feast of the Passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people" (Mk.14:1-2 KJV). See also Lk.22:1-2.
The sequence of events just prior to Jesus' death are very important to understand for the following reasons:
1. In order to fulfill the prophecies concerning the sacrificial Lamb of God, which was to be slain for the sins of humanity, each event had to occur in its proper time frame and in exact detail. See Matt.5:18.
2. These events show that, in 30 A.D., there were two consecutive Passover observances sanctioned by the sacred calendar court.
Judas the Traitor
"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, And said to them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him" (Matt.26:14-16 KJV). See also Mk.14:10-11; Lk.22:3-6.
Here, we see the first part of the prophecy concerning the price paid for the betrayal of Jesus.
"And I said to them, If it is good in your eyes, give my price; and if not, let it go. And they weighed for my price, thirty of silver" (Zech.11:12 Para.).
The conspirators did not want to kill Jesus on the first or last day of the feast of Unleavened Bread (see Jn.11:55-57). According to their tradition, this act would have caused them to be guilty of defiling holy time. However, when Judas came forward to betray Jesus before the feast, their problem concerning defilement of the festival day was solved. Therefore, they seized this opportunity.
This is an extremely important point, because Jesus was actually killed on the preparation day of the second sanctioned Passover during the ceremonial process of killing the Passover lambs, just as it had been prophesied. See Isa.53:7.
THE DISCIPLES PREPARE THE PASSOVER
"Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples" (Matt.26:17-18 KJV). See also Mk.14:12-15; Lk.22:7-12.
Jesus and his disciples accepted and acknowledged this day as being before the Passover meal and the first day of the spring feast (Matt.26:17; Mk.14:12; Lk.22:7); they understood this day to be the preparation day for eating the ceremonial Passover meal (Matt.26:17; Mk.14:12; Lk.22:9) and they knew, without a doubt, that the Passover lamb must be killed before the evening of the first day of the spring festival (Mk.14:12; Lk.22:7):
"And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover" (Matt.26:19 KJV). See also Mk.14:16; Lk.22:13.
These scriptures show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus and his disciples were making preparations to keep the Passover ceremony, which included the killing and eating of the sacrificial lamb. To claim that Jesus who was the Creator and law giver did not know which day was the Passover is illogical and a denial of the clear meaning of these scriptures.
The disciples prepared for the Passover as they were instructed by Jesus. But what did it mean to prepare the Passover? What preparations were necessary? Exactly what did they have to do before eating the Passover meal?
The following preparations had to be completed in order to observe the Passover:
Would the priests have accepted the sacrificial lamb's blood and sprinkled this blood on the altar if the day was not an authorized Passover? Absolutely not!
If Jesus and his disciples prepared and ate the Passover as they said they did, the lamb and all other arrangements would have been performed according to and in harmony with the law of the Passover.
Jesus and the Disciples Eat the Passover
With all of the preparation completed, the lamb roasted, the bitter herbs and unleavened bread set in their places, the Passover was ready to be eaten.
Just after sundown, thirteen men sat around a table in Jerusalem eating the Passover with varying degrees of joy and apprehension. They ate with joy because of what the Passover meant to them historically. They ate with apprehension, because of the events that occurred prior to and upon their arrival in Jerusalem and the sober and thoughtful mood of Jesus:
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Lk.22:14-16 KJV).
THE WASHING OF FEET
During the meal, Jesus rose and took off his outer garment; then, he took a basin of water and a towel and began to wash the feet of the twelve disciples. This act of humility further illustrated his sober and thoughtful mood.
By washing his disciple's feet, Jesus instituted a completely new and different ritual. But what is its purpose, why is it necessary, and what is the lesson that should be learned by this ritual?
The following are a few of the many references to the washing of feet in the scriptures, along with the reasons for its performance:
Custom of the Day
In the time of Jesus, it was the custom for the host to supply water with which his guests could wash their own feet, wash the guests' feet himself, or have a servant or slave wash them. Jesus explains this new Passover ritual, by using the example of a humble servant as an example of the attitude that is required of those who serve God.
Jesus Washes Their Feet
"He rose up from supper, and laid aside his garments. And taking a towel, he girded himself. Then he put water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded" (vs.4-5 Para.).
This action by Jesus was totally unexpected by the disciples who believed Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and had come to Jerusalem to liberate the Jews and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
"He then came to Simon Peter. And that one said to him, Lord, do you wash my feet?" (v6 Para.).
Peter's response to what Jesus was doing was perfectly logical, given his belief of who Jesus was and the Jewish customs concerning who washed feet.
"Jesus answered and said to him, What I am doing you do not yet know. But you will know after these things" (v7 Para.).
Not only did Peter not understand what Jesus was doing, but it is also highly unlikely that any of the disciples understood.
"Peter said to him, You may in no way wash my feet forever. Jesus answered him, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. Simon Peter said to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head" (vs.8-9 Para.).
The performance of this ritual is so important that to not take part in it will result in a person being excluded from participation in what Christ is doing on earth.
"Jesus answered, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. For he knew who was going to betray him, and that is why he said not everyone was clean" (vs.10-11 NIV).
Before a festival observance, it was customary for a person to bathe themselves. Peter and the others had obviously done this; therefore, Jesus' reference to Judas shows that the washing of the feet has a spiritual rather than a physical meaning.
It is apparent that eleven of the disciples had the right attitude toward Jesus, but Judas did not. However, to one degree or another, they all lacked the spiritual quality for which the act of washing another person's feet was symbolic.
"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said to them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet" (vs.12-14 KJV).
Jesus who was the Creator God is the Redeemer and Savior of the new agreement with national Israel and the rest of humanity. He is truly the Master and Lord of all whom the Father calls to salvation because he sits at the Father's right hand (Heb.8:1); he is the first son of the Father's New Creation (Rom.8:29) and he holds the office of High Priest before the Father (Heb.2:14-16; Rom.8:33-34; 1.Jn.2:1-2).
"For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him" (vs.15-16 KJV).
Here, Jesus clearly says that what he has done is an example for the disciples to follow in their relationship with each other, and it is to be done on subsequent Passover observances. See Matt.28:19-20; 1.Pet.2:21.
What is the Lesson?
In order to understand the important lesson that is taught by this ritual, it is necessary to understand something about the disciples before to their conversion.
The disciples of Jesus were just like other people, they had their likes and dislikes, their good and bad habits and qualities, their own attitudes as to what was right and wrong, acceptable, and unacceptable, and many other characteristics that made them unique individuals. However, as with all humans, they also shared many similar personality traits.
One of the human traits that can be very destructive, if not managed properly, is that of competition for authority and position. This human trait is unacceptable to God and must be overcome by all those who are called to salvation.
Striving for Position
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there are a number of accounts that show the concern among the disciples as to which one of them was going to get the greatest reward and position of authority in the Kingdom of God:
"Also a dispute arose among them as to which one of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or he who serves? Is not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Lk.22:24-27 NIV). See also Matt.18:1-4; 20:20-28; 23:1-12; Mk.9:33-35.
Because Jesus understood that the human desire for position and authority for the wrong reasons is against the law of love, he explained many times through parables the attitude a person should have concerning positions of authority:
"When he noticed how the guests picked their places of honor at the table he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, Give this man your seat. Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presences of your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk.14:7-11 NIV). See also Lk.18:9-14.
In this parable, Jesus spoke of the Father as the one who calls the elect to the marriage supper of the Lamb of God and he showed that it is the Father who bestows rewards and positions of authority in the Kingdom. Each person who is called to salvation must patiently wait (i.e., serve) with humility, knowing that the Father will reward them according to their works. See 1.Cor.13:1-12; Col.2:18-23; 3:1-14; 1.Pet.5:5-6.
Joy and Happiness Through Humble Obedience
After commanding them to perform the washing of feet, Jesus said that those who understand and perform this ritual will be happy:
"If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (Jn.13:17 KJV).
In verse 17, the English words 'know' and 'happy' are from the Greek words 'eido' and 'makarios'. 'Eido' can mean 'to see, know, perceive, be sure, or understand; 'makarios' can mean 'an overwhelming joy and happiness that comes from fulfilling a charge'.
If a person truly perceives and understands the spiritual implications of this ritual, and practices its lesson of humble service to the Father and his people, they cannot help but be happy. This kind of joy and happiness can only come through participation in the Father's call to salvation and the knowledge and assurance that there is a divine reward for humble obedience.
This ritual not only illustrates the type of attitude a person must have toward serving the household of God but also the attitude that a person must have toward their service to God as they fulfill their responsibilities and functions within the church. It also shows the type of lifestyle that is pleasing to God.
Humility and Service
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (vs.3-4 NIV).
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in the fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient to death even the death of the cross" (vs.5-8 KJV).
There are many scriptures that show what true humility is and how to acquire this personality trait. The acquisition of true humility comes from having a true understanding of God's plan and love for humanity and following the instructions he has given to acquire a humble attitude:
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13).
When Jesus had finished washing his disciples' feet, he began to say things that seemed unusual to the disciples. Even though they had been his companions for over three years, his disciples had never seen him like this. He began to speak of his betrayal by one of them, his impending death and glory that would follow, and the love that they should have for one another. All of this seemed very confusing to them because they were expecting him to establish national Israel as a world power again and to reign as king.
MORE NEW RITUALS AND SYMBOLISM INSTITUTED
THE UNLEAVENED BREAD
During the first Passover, the Israelites ate the lamb with the unleavened bread for physical nourishment as well as for the prophetic symbolism that it represented for the future.
The prophetic and symbolic meaning of the lamb and the unleavened bread were slowly revealed over many centuries through various writings and the prophets. At Jesus' last Passover meal, he explained the true prophetic meaning of the sacrificial lamb and the unleavened bread to his disciples as he instituted the new Passover rituals and ceremony.
The Breaking of Bread
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body" (Matt.26:26 KJV).
"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me" (Lk.22:19 KJV). See also 1.Cor.11:23-24.
During the first Passover, the Israelites ate the lamb as a symbol of a life that had been given in order to spare them from death and as a source of nourishment that would give them physical life-giving energy as they left Egypt.
Jesus said, "For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world, and I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger" (Jn.6:33,35).
Those who come to Jesus through the Father's call to salvation (Jn.6:44,65) and truly believe the message he taught are spared from eternal death (Jn.6:50). The life-giving power of Christ provides spiritual nourishment and strength to sustain the believer as they leave their former life of sin and grow toward spiritual maturity.
The Broken Body of Christ
Jesus broke the unleavened bread, which contained the symbolism of sinlessness, and he explained that it was a symbol of his own body that would be broken. He did this in order to show the coming fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the destruction of his body as the Redeemer and Savior of humanity.
Under the sacrificial system, all sacrifices were to be as physically perfect as possible; only those that conformed to God's standards of perfection were acceptable to God. See Lev.22:20-24; Deut.15:19-21.
Not only was Jesus free from spiritual imperfection (sin) but also physical imperfection. Therefore, he was an acceptable sacrifice for humanity's sins and physical imperfections.
The broken unleavened bread of the new Passover replaces the sacrificial lamb's body of the Passover that was observed by ancient Israel. Moreover, the broken unleavened bread represents the broken body of Jesus Christ, which he willingly gave for humanity.
THE WINE AND THE BLOOD
"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt.26:27-28 KJV).
This cup is the new agreement in my blood, which is being poured out for you" (Lk.22:20).
"After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1.Cor.11:25 KJV).
The Blood of the Covenant
After the Israelites left Egypt and were camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, they made an agreement with God to do whatever he told them. In return for this obedience, God promised to give them tremendous blessings.
Moses wrote this agreement in a book, read the agreement to the people, and they again agreed to do whatever God required of them. Then, Moses sprinkled the book and the people with the blood of sacrificial animals; thereby, ratifying and sealing the agreement with blood.
The blood that was sprinkled on the people and the agreement was symbolic of the blood of Jesus Christ, which would forgive their sins and ratify and seal the new agreement between God the Father and those of his New Creation. See Acts 20:28; Eph.1:5-7; Col.1:12-14, 20; Heb.10:19-22.
The Blood of Forgiveness
The violation of God's law requires that the violator be put to death (Ezk.18:4,20; Rom.6:23). before the new agreement, the Creator God allowed the life of an animal to be substituted for the life of the violator in order to cover their sins and hide them from his sight. The blood of the Passover lamb on the door frame of the Israelites' homes on the first Passover was a literal and symbolic covering for their sin.
In order to form a new and better covenant (Heb.8:1-10) that included the forgiveness of sins (Isa.43:11; 45:21), this same Creator God of the original Passover sacrificed his own life as a substitute for the life of those who violate the law of God.
It is through Jesus Christ's sacrifice and intercessory authority with the Father that we can have our sins forgiven and forgotten by the Father. See Psa.103:8-13; Isa.1:18-19. Refer to our study paper concerning salvation and atonement for sin, which explains the reason why the sacrifice of Christ was necessary.
Notice what the writer to the Hebrews says about the sacrifice of Christ being the ultimate and final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin:
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb.9:14-15 KJV).
The Death of the Testator
"For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives" (Heb.9:16-17 KJV).
In order to bring the new agreement into force, Jesus had to fulfill the prophetic symbols concerning the Passover and the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He did this through his life and death.
Because of Christ's righteous and sinless life, he could not be put to death for his own sin; therefore, he was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of others. And because he was the Creator of all things, his life was worth far more than anything he had created. Therefore, his blood, which contained his life, could be substituted for the life of a sinner. It could purge away sins as well as ratify and seal the new agreement with a repentant sinner.
Ratified and Sealed with Blood
"Whereupon neither the first was dedicated without blood. For every command according to the law being spoken by Moses to all the people, taking the blood of the calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, he sprinkled both the scroll and the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined to you" (Heb.9:18-20).
The Blood Covenant
"To the general assembly the church of the first-born which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb.12:23-24 KJV).
Those who are under the new agreement during the gospel age of salvation do not have to offer animal sacrifices because they are found righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Atoning Blood of Christ
"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb.10:12 KJV).
"So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which has not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider" (Isa.52:15 KJV).
The blood of Christ atones for the sins of humanity and is the blood by which a new agreement is ratified and sealed with national Israel and the rest of humanity.
The Temple and Vessels
"And likewise sprinkled both the tabernacle and the service vessels with blood. And almost all things are cleansed by blood according to the law; and apart from shedding of blood no remission occurs" (Heb.9:21-22 Para.).
The sacrificial blood of dedication under the first agreement with national Israel was symbolic of the purifying nature of the blood of Jesus Christ. The purifying blood of Christ's sacrifice is applied to the elect children of God before their becoming holy objects dedicated to God's service.
"John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you and peace from the One who is, and who was, and who is coming, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, even from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler the kings of the earth. To him loving us, and freeing us from our sins by his blood" (Rev.1:4-5 Para.). See also Eph.1:7; 1.Pet.1:18-19; Rev.7:13-14.
It is extremely important for anyone who is seeking salvation to understand and believe who Jesus Christ is and that he sacrificed his sinless life to pay the penalty for their sins. See Rom.3:9-23; 6:20-23.
The scriptures say that all have sinned and are waiting to be executed under a death sentence. In order to escape this execution, a person must have their sins forgiven and be justified (made innocent) before God the Father.
The Bible also says that the only way to have one's sins forgiven is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Without belief in Jesus Christ, no one can be saved.
Jesus our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior
"I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior" (Isa.43:11 KJV).
"Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the Lord that makes all things. . ." (Isa.44:24 KJV).
"I the Lord am your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob" (Isa.60:16 KJV). See also Isa.45:21; Hos.14:4.
"For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost [humanity]" (Matt.18:11 KJV).
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1.Tim.1:15 KJV).
JUSTIFIED BY HIS BLOOD AND SAVED BY HIS LIFE
Paul spoke to the Romans and Colossians about God the Father redeeming us by sending his Son to give his life as payment for the sins of humanity. He says that we are reconciled to God the Father by the blood of Christ and we shall be saved from death through him. Notice also that we are made innocent before God the Father by the death of his Son and we are saved because Jesus lives:
"For we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will with difficulty die for a just onefor perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good onebut God commends his love to us in that we yet being sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being justified now by his blood, we shall be saved through him from wrath. For being enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life" (Rom.5:6-10 Para.).
Colossians 1:13-22 KJV
"Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (vs.13-15).
Christ the Creator
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:" (v16). See also Eph.3:9.
Reconciled by His Blood
"And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. . .. And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, I say, whether they be things in the earth, or things in heaven" (vs.17-20).
Reconciled by His Flesh
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreproveable in his sight:" (vs.21-22).
It is through the sacrificial body of Jesus Christthe Creator Godthat we are reconciled to God the Father and are able to have our death sentence removed.
Jesus Speaks of His Betrayal
As Jesus began to prepare his disciples for his death, he mentioned the prophecy in Psalms concerning the one who would betray him to be killed so that, after his death and resurrection, the disciples would have confirmation that he was indeed the prophesied Messiah:
John 13:18-32 KJV
"I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, he that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me [Psa.41:9]. Now I tell you before it comes, that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I am he . . .. When Jesus had said this, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you shall betray me" (vs.18-19, 21).
"Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spoke. He then lying on Jesus' breast said to him, Lord, who is it?" (vs.22-25).
"Jesus answered, he it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus to him, That you do, do quickly" (vs.26-27).
In verses 26-27, we see the prophetic fulfillment of Psalms 41:9 as Judas eats the Passover bread given to him by Jesus.
"Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightaway glorify him" (vs.31-32).
The Greek word from which the English word 'glorified' is translated is a very complex word, which has a number of meanings depending on the context in which it is used. This word can be used to denote the testing of something as well as supreme splendor as in the glory of God.
There can be little doubt as to what Jesus intended when he spoke of being glorified, because he knew that he was approaching the final test of his loyalty and obedience to God the Father. By becoming victorious in his final test, he would receive supreme and divine splendor (i.e., glory) as a spirit being in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus to Die Soon
Jesus speaks of his death and return to his Father in heaven; then, he gives a new commandment to them to love each other:
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you, and I go to him that sent me. You shall seek me: and as I said, Where I go, you cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (Jn.13:33-35 KJV). See also Jn.7:33-36; 8:12-25.
After telling his disciples that he is going to die and return to heaven, Jesus tells them to love one another as he has loved them. But what kind of love did Jesus have for his disciples?:
"O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn.17:25-26 KJV).
Before being human, Jesus was an immortal, spirit-being who possessed the highest form of existencelife that springs forth from itself, never dying nor decaying.
This immortal being who was not subject to death, voluntarily emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man in order to live a sinless life as an example for us to follow. He then sacrificed his life in an agonizing death as payment for the sins of all humanity.
This is the kind of love that Jesus had for his disciples and still has for all of humanity. His love is the ultimate love any being can have for another. This kind of love holds nothing back and is willing to give all for those who are loved:
"This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things I have heard of my Father I have made known to you . . . These things I command you, that you love one another" (Jn.15:12-15,17 KJV).
Jesus reminds his disciples of the new law that he had given to them and tells them that it is by this personal quality that people will know that they are his followers. True love and concern for another individual is a rare thing and is indeed a sign of those who follow Christ. This kind of love is a manifestation of God's holy spirit working within an individual. It is the same kind of love that God the Father and Jesus Christ have exhibited in providing a way of salvation for humanity. This kind of love is truly selfless and puts the welfare of others before one's own welfare. See 1.Cor.13:1-13.
1.John 3:10-12,14-16 Paraphrased
"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (vs.10-11). See also verse 23.
"Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and killed his brother. And why did he kill his brother? Because his own works were evil, and his brothers righteous" (v12).
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is as a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (vs.14-16).
Peter to Deny Christ
"Then Jesus said to them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad . . . Peter said to him, Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended" (Matt.26:31-33 KJV). See also Jn.16:32; Zech.13:7.
Jesus tells the disciples that they would desert him because of what has been prophesied and what would shortly come to pass. Peter declared that he would never desert Jesus. To this Jesus says:
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren. And he said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with you, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell you, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before you shall deny that you know me three times" (Lk.22:31-34 KJV). See also Mk.14:27-31; Jn.13:36-38.
The Passover Ceremony Concluded
After the completion of the old Passover rituals and the institution of new rituals for the new Passover, Jesus and his disciples concluded the Passover observance by singing a hymn. See Psa.115-118.
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives" (Matt.26:30 KJV).
It is very important to remember that Jesus was the Creator God who came to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity; therefore, he had to keep the law perfectly in order to be a sinless sacrifice. Moreover, Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover in complete compliance with the law.
Jesus did not come to change the rituals and symbols of the Passover; he came to fulfill their prophetic symbolism and meaning, which he did through his crucifixion and death on the day that followed the first Passover as most of the Jews were observing the second sanctioned Day of Passover. See 1.Cor.5:7 "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" and Heb.10:1-19.
During his last Passover observance, Jesus reminded his disciples of many of the things he had taught them. He also spoke of some of the prophecies concerning him as the Passover lamb and the Messiah. He foretold some of the events that would soon take place and he instituted new rituals and symbols to be observed and performed by his followers after his death and resurrection.
The new rituals and symbols that Jesus instituted are not prophetic patterns for a future fulfillment as the prior Passover symbols were. They are to be observed with contemporary meaning and serve as reminders of Jesus' sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, the institution of the new agreement, and that his followers are to be servants.
By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w22