Passover is finally here. During Passover, Israel is bustling with activity and liveliness. There are hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world, both Jewish and Christian, here to celebrate. Besides all the people visiting Israel, the songs of a great variety of birds fill the air each day with the joyful sound of non-human visitors as well.
Spring has arrived and even the barren hills of the desert are alive with vibrant green grass and colorful flowers. Israel is glowing with a beauty that makes the heart sing. Thanks to modern Israeli agricultural innovations (and God’s blessing on this land), even parts of the Negev Desert are alive with green fields of wheat that defy the arid climate of the region and the years-long drought in which we have been living in Israel. Passover truly is a time when we are surrounded by life, joy, love and hope in so many ways.
I live in Jerusalem. One thing that brings me joy this time of the year is seeing the sheep and goats grazing happily on the hills near my home, while their shepherds ride a donkey nearby, or simply herd the sheep from one place to the next. The lamb is an especially important part of Passover, so this time of the year my mind tends to wander to thoughts of Passover as I gaze out at the sheep.
The lamb reminds us of how God struck all the firstborn of Egypt but spared the firstborn of Israel. As part of His promise to spare the firstborn of Israel, God tells them: “The blood [of the Passover lamb] on the houses will show me where you live, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” (Exodus 12:13). In Hebrew, to refer to the event of God’s “passing over” Israel without harming them, we use the word “pesach” (to hear the pronunciation of this word click the play button below).
Yeshua’s last meal with his disciples before his death and resurrection was the Passover meal. During this meal, we read that he took a cup and said: ‘this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28 [see also: Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25). The cup that Yeshua refers to is most likely not just any regular drink with the meal; in Judaism, it is traditional to drink 4 cups of wine during the Passover meal that correlate with 4 promises that God made in Exodus 6:6–7:
- “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians”
- “I will deliver you from their bondage”
- “I will…redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments”
- “I will take you for My people, and I will be your God”
Regardless of what Yeshua actually drank with his disciples (whether wine as some would say, or juice as others believe), we know that the cup carried great significance in connection with the Passover celebration that Yeshua relates to the “blood of the covenant” and “forgiveness of sins”. That’s huge, perhaps too huge to grasp in its entirety, but worth considering as often as we celebrate Passover, and really any time we have the presence of mind to consider it.
There seems to be a connection between Jewish tradition and the cup mentioned in connection with the last supper. Paul tells us that when Yeshua spoke of his blood as the “blood of the covenant” he was doing so after the Passover meal (1 Corinthians 11:25). Traditionally, Jews drink the 3rd cup after the meal, so it’s quite reasonable to come to the conclusion that Paul is referring to the 3rd cup of the Passover meal. The 3rd cup symbolizes God’s 3rd promise in Exodus 6:6 to “redeem” Israel “with an outstretched arm and with great judgments”. Perhaps this is mere word play, but it seems to me that God really did redeem us in that Yeshua stretched out his arms on the cross and took on the “great” judgment that all of us deserve—death.
As I look out my window at the beautiful hills of Jerusalem on this sunny spring day, I remember that our God has given us the cup of redemption. This makes me think of Yeshua’s assertion in John 10:10 when he said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” God’s “pesach” (passing over), has meant Yeshua laying down his life for “many” (Matthew 26:28), an act of redemption worth celebrating with all the joy that comes with the beauty and liveliness of spring and the Passover season.
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