Tag Archives: passover

Re-enacting to remember [God’s heart for the holidays, part 2]

6 Nov
Image result for gettysburg reenactment smoke

A few years ago the Gettysburg Battlefield celebrated the 150th anniversary of the terrible and momentous events of July 1-3, 1863 during our nation’s Civil War.  Because my family lives about an hour away, we visited the battlefield hoping to see re-enactors.  While we were there before any full battle re-enactment took place, at one point we viewed a company of soldiers perform various rifle assault formations, including firing their weapons.  It was eye-opening for me to see the variations used, as well as the amount of smoke their rifles emitted.  If the wind was low during the original battle, the smoke could have been like thick fog across the fields.  Re-enactment gave me a whole new perspective. 

In this series of posts we’re talking about God’s heart for holidays, and today we’re going to see how re-enactment is very important to God.  I don’t think I ever encountered that phrase before: God’s heart for holidays.  But as we continue studying Deuteronomy 16, God very clearly has a desire for his people to have regular holidays.  Why?  Doesn’t it seem like the God of the universe should have bigger things to fuss over than holidays?  Keep reading, and perhaps we can find out.

Yesterday we talked about how one particular ritual was embedded in many of Israel’s feasts and holidays, and that is the ritual of sacrifice.  In this post, we are going look at the first of three feasts described in Deuteronomy 16 in which Israel performed  sacrifices would take place: Passover, Pentecost (or Weeks) and Tabernacles. As we read about them, we’ll see that God gives the times of the year when these feasts are to take place.  The image below presents an annual calendar of when the various feasts take place, and you’ll notice that there are other feasts not mentioned in Deuteronomy 16.

Before continuing with this post, read Deuteronomy 16:1-8, which talks about the Feast Unleavened Bread and Passover. During the celebration of Passover, Israel was to sacrifice a firstborn animal at the place God chose as a dwelling for his name.  We already heard God, in 15:20, refer to the place he would choose as a dwelling, and he will mention it a number of times in the rest of the passage as well.  So what is this place? 

Remember that Deuteronomy is the second telling of the law.  Thus, these feasts have already been commanded of God previously.  Your Bibles most likely list the Scripture references where you can read the first time that God commanded these feasts. Passover, for example, is previously described in Exodus 12, Leviticus23 and Numbers 28.

You know what that means?  These are not new festivals.  In fact, the people of Israel have already been observing them every year for about 40 years.  So that place where God says they should come, the place that he will choose for his dwelling, that would have been the tabernacle, and eventually, hundreds of years later during the reign of King Solomon, that place would be the temple in the city of Jerusalem. Look ahead to verse 16, and we see that they were to go on a pilgrimage three times every year to this place. One pilgrimage for each of the feasts we are learning about.  That’s where they are to go with their firstborn and celebrate the Passover. 

See that word, “celebrate” in verse 1.  It literally means “prepare” or “keep” the Passover.  It has much more to do with the practice of observing the holiday.  No doubt about it, we’re going to get to the rejoicing and celebrating part.  But here in verse 1, God is instituting the habit of regular holidays.  This same word “celebrate” is repeated in verse 10 and verse 13.  It is the same Hebrew word that refers to preparing or keeping the holiday. 

That is very instructive.  God wants his people to habitually, every year, observe these feasts, these holidays, and for a reason!  What reason?

God wants them to regularly remember his amazing miraculous power that freed them from slavery in Egypt.  The word “Passover” refers to the last of ten plagues that God sent on Egypt in the process of freeing Israel from slavery. 

That final plague was the one where God said the firstborn (there’s that again) child of every family would die, unless they covered the frames of their doorways with the blood of an animal sacrifice.  That blood was the sign to God’s angel that the house was to be passed over and the firstborn inside would be saved.  All the people of Israel performed the sacrifice, used the blood to mark their doorways, and they were saved.  The Egyptians did not do this, however, and their firstborn died, leading the Egyptian king Pharaoh to finally allow Moses to lead Israel to freedom.  So the people of Israel gathered their belongings quickly, and left, beginning the long journey toward the Promised Land.

If you look through the description of the holiday in Deuteronomy 16, you see that God wants his people every year to re-enact what happened during the original Passover.  Of course it is not a total re-enactment, but there are elements of the celebration that remind them of the original story.

See how they enter into the drama and story of the event?  Every part of it is an act of remembering, as he says in verse 3.

We did this a few years ago when we had a Passover Seder dinner here.  It was so great to hear the story of Passover from a Messianic Jew, and learn of all the connections between Israel’s deliverance from slavery and the whole world’s deliverance from sin in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What we see about God’s heart for the holidays, then, is that he wants his people to remember, and he wants them to practice remembering on a regular basis. 

In part 3 of this series we’ll look at the two other feasts mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, and as we study those feasts, we’ll continue to learn about God’s heart for the holidays.

The beginning of the end for Jesus

28 Apr

This is it.  Thirty-three years of Jesus’ life has led up to this moment.  We’ve covered the life of Jesus, as told in the Gospel of Luke, through our sermon series which began on November 30, 2014, with Luke chapter 1.  Nearly 70 sermons later, we have 7 left.

After learning about his birth and early years, we jumped into Jesus ministry years, and we’ve been there ever since.  Ever so slowly Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus’ life has been building to this moment.

During those ministry years, we watched Jesus burst onto the scene starting with his baptism, temptation and his testy early ministry days in his hometown, where he almost got lynched.  But from that dark day, his star shot up.  The crowds grew and grew, amazed by his miracles and his authoritative teaching.  We watched as he chose his 12 disciples, and had a following of close friends, men and women.  Little by little he taught them, gave them behind-the-scenes access into his life and thinking, and eventually sent them on two mission trips.  Somewhere in year 2, we think, he turned southward, moving his ministry focus from Galilee in the North, to Samaria and Judea in the south.  He left the Galilean crowds behind, but rather quickly huge crowds formed in the south.  His ministry had grown nationwide, and Jesus and his disciples had become household names.  We watched the religious establishment as they watched Jesus, jealous of him, suspicious, and not happy at all.

All in all, we have seen the words, works and way of Jesus.

The Jewish people in those crowds, including his disciples, thought they were witnessing the rise of their long-awaited political Messiah who was going to save them from the Romans.  Jesus was a very different Messiah, however, with a very different salvation message, for the whole world.

The Jews hoped a Davidic warrior King was entering Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday.  But Jesus wept, knowing that Jerusalem, the temple, the religious establishment and the people had him figured all wrong.  So in his last few days of ministry he fended off their attempts to trap him, and he taught them, or at least tried to teach them, who he really was and what he was really about, the mission of God’s Kingdom.

Now this Sunday we reach the end.

Or rather, the beginning of the end.

Jesus has left the temple, never to return.  No more crowds.  No more teaching.  No more miracles, except one.

Luke tells us that it was a holiday, the Passover, the day the Jews celebrated the miraculous act of YHWH as he interceded for them, freeing them from slavery in Egypt thousands of years before.  A fitting historical context for what is about to happen.  Jesus gathered with his disciples to celebrate Passover, just as all Jews across the nation would be doing.  Except that Jesus injects a new meaning into that celebration. A new meaning that had life-changing implications for the disciples, and still does for us.

Join us at Faith Church on Sunday as we study Luke 22:1-38 to learn more.