September 24th, 2012 by Christine Colbert

The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.

The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.

He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”

His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”

Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added)  This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.

In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”

In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.

These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.

Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.

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May 3rd, 2012 by Christine Colbert

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.” John 6:53

 

Israel’s exodus from Egypt, as celebrated in the Passover Seder, was a foreshadowing of a much larger escape to freedom.

A Seder is a celebratory meal. Much could be said about the ways that each item on the Seder plate reminds us of Israel’s bondage in and flight from Egypt. We might touch on precious details like having a young boy sing a song that sets forth “the four questions,” for the purpose of emphasizing the unique historical tradition of Passover.

We won’t try to cover all the details and tradition here, but will instead touch on just a few of the most meaningful aspects.

The blood of a lamb that was applied to the doorposts and lintels of all the Hebrew people’s homes — to protect them from the angel of death that would strike down the first-born of all people, and even animals, living in Egypt — would have approximately suggested a cross. As one pictures the blood being applied to each side post and to the lintel over the top, this image or connection becomes clear. The Jewish people were told to eat the lamb before they fled from Egypt.

During the celebratory Passover dinner each year, three pieces of matzoh, or unleavened bread, would be placed into a white cloth with three separate pockets. The middle matzoh, or afikomen, would be removed from the cloth late in the Seder, broken, and the pieces would then be eaten by all who were present. Jewish people had for some 1250 years — and in the last two millennia many still have — practiced this Seder without understanding its larger meaning.

Many of us are really only now coming to realize that Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples was a Passover Seder!

For more than a thousand years, until that “Last Supper” Passover that Jesus shared with His “brethren,” the prayer “Blessed art Thou, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth” had been offered as the afikomen, or the matzoh from the central pocket of the white cloth, was broken and then consumed by all.

But this second-person kind of prayer was brought into the first person as Yeshua dined with His disciples that night. Taking the cup of wine, He said, “This is my blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.” (Matthew 26:28) Then “He took bread, said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ ” (Luke 22:19)

This is also the origination of the Eucharist or Communion, as practiced in Christian churches.

We remember that when Jesus had earlier in His ministry told His disciples and others that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, many found the teaching so appalling and incomprehensible that they departed from Him! He was speaking figuratively of the vital importance of our recognizing and coming to Him — of understanding what the long Passover tradition had been foretelling.

The placement of the afikomen in the center pocket revealed that it would be the body of the Son — among three — Father, Son (in the middle), and Holy Spirit — that would be broken. The matzoh in the central pocket represents the One in the central position in the Trinity.

Jesus was crucified on Passover, died on Unleavened Bread, and was resurrected on First Fruits. As one person put it, “Probably not a coincidence.”

The matzoh in the Passover tradition, in addition to representing the sinless Messiah — since leaven had long been a symbol for sin in the Jewish culture — also reminded the Jewish people of their hasty flight from Egypt. They had been instructed to make the bread without leaven so they wouldn’t have to wait for it to rise.

The First Fruits tradition holds great meaning. Each harvest season, the “first and best” of the grain harvest would be offered to God. Its acceptance would guarantee the acceptability to God and the security of the rest of the harvest.

Yeshua, clearly the first and best in His sinlessness and voluntary sacrifice, provides and ensures the rest of the harvest of souls. He is described in Scripture as “the first fruits of those who sleep.”

The blood of the spotless lamb that was applied to the doorposts in Egypt protected the Hebrew people from death and signaled their freedom from bondage, the beginning of their exodus. The blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ — His giving Himself that we might renounce sin, recognize Him, and live — protects us from spiritual death and “makes us free.”

Israel’s feasts were called, in Hebrew, “moedim,” or “appointed times”; they were considered “rehearsals.”

The “rehearsal” idea suggests their preparing us for future events. Many people perceive that the annual timing of these feasts that Yahweh characterized as being “for all time” will parallel the timing of major “last days” events.

Who can adequately express the value of beginning to glimpse the uniting theme running through this vast history — that it is Jesus Christ (Yeshua), hailed by John the Baptist (Yohannan the Immerser) as “the Lamb of God,” who fulfills the Passover!

For all the contentiousness, cruelty, and false dichotomy that have existed down the centuries between spokespeople for the Jewish roots and for the Christian branches of the one tree that is the tree of Life — it is Jesus who is the Passover Lamb.

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