We are continuing our journey through the Torah readings of this special Passover season. Of course, there is a special reading for the Passover—as you can imagine it’s Exodus 12, the story of Exodus. From the New Testament account, we know that Jesus had already been crucified and buried, but where did his disciples spend this Holy Day? We read in the Gospel that “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment,” and they may have gone to a synagogue to listen to the Torah reading. I believe that, as they were listening to the story of the exodus, they would have had flashbacks of the events of the past week and would probably have found answers to some unanswered questions they had.
WHY DID JESUS ENTER JERUSALEM ON SUNDAY?
Today, Christians all over the world know that Palm Sunday is the beginning of Passion Week, but do you know why Jesus was entering Jerusalem on that particular day? We can find an answer in the first verses of Exodus 12, where God instructed that the lamb that was to be slain on the eve of the exodus, be separated out four days beforehand:
In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb… Your lamb shall be without blemish… And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
So, on the 10th of Nisan, the Passover lamb was chosen and set apart and preparations began for its slaughter. This is the reason Jesus had to enter Jerusalem on Sunday the 10th of Nisan – the very same day when the perfect lamb was to be selected and set apart.
THE LAST SUPPER
They would definitely be thinking about the last meal that Jesus had shared with them. As we know today, the precise nature and timing of the Last Supper has been among the most debated topics throughout the history of the New Testament. Unlike us, the disciples of course knew exactly when it happened. I believe that it was on Wednesday Nisan 13 that the disciples prepared this special meal that we call the Last Supper and that was, in fact, seudah maphsehket – the last meal before the Fast of the Firstborns. A year ago, I wrote a post on this blog discussing the nature of this meal, and if you are interested to know more details I can refer you to this article (“The Last Supper and the sign of Jonah -2). Here, suffice to say that as Jesus and his disciples were Galileans, they would have observed the Galilean traditions. There were several differences between Judean and Galilean Passover observance, but the most important one was a special fast—the Fast of the Firstborns, in remembrance of the firstborn Israelites who were saved from death (that is why we read in Mishna that “in the Galilee, they didn’t work at all” on Passover day). The fast took place on Nisan 14, on the day of Passover. In Hebrew, the last meal before the fast is called seudah maphsehket. Thus, in the Galilean tradition, there was this special meal at the beginning of Passover (Nisan 14) called seudah maphsehket. After this meal, there would be a whole day fast, and the next meal would be the Passover meal—the Seder. In this sense, this meal was indeed the Last Supper.
Jesus and the disciples ate this meal on Wednesday night, at the beginning of the Passover, as the day changed to Nisan 14. Then Jesus was arrested at night, tried and convicted early on the Thursday morning, and then crucified during the day – and all this happened during Passover day, Nisan 14, Thursday. Then, on Thursday, Nisan 14, Jesus died on the cross.
THE END OR THE BEGINNING?
And here their thoughts would stumble: it was all still very raw and horrifying. We know that the Gospel accounts (except John) don’t mention disciples “near the cross”, only some of the women followers; but I think it’s somewhat difficult to imagine that they were not watching the agony of their Teacher from a distance. Have you ever thought of how they must have felt when they heard their Rabbi wheezing from the cross in a small and weak voice: “It is finished”! They probably gasped desperately as they took in the plain meaning of these words: It is finished! “All our hopes are gone! It’s finished!” I suppose, up till that very moment they had still been hoping, still been believing for a miracle – not only those who mocked him, but much more His followers must have hoped for Him to come down from the cross—to deliver Himself and the whole Israel and thus to prove that He was indeed the Son of God. They had waited and believed till the very last moment. However, not only did it not happen, but He Himself said that everything was finished! Astonished, they kept staring at one another: Did you hear that? He Himself just said it; these were His very last words: It is finished! Everything we hoped for, everything we believed in – everything is finished! There is nothing more to hope for, nothing more to wait for. Not only was our Teacher taken and crucified, not only did He die a horrible, cruel, humiliating death on a Roman cross, but before He died he had made sure we would not hold onto any false expectations: It is finished!
They knew many details that we long to know: they knew exactly when they had the Last Supper, exactly when he was crucified, who was standing next to the cross – but they didn’t understand why it all happened, why he had to die, why everything was finished. Ever since his death, they had been confused and terrified, stunned by horror and disbelief– but now, as they listened to Exodus 12, did they begin seeing the connections and parallels between the stories? Did they begin comprehending a new meaning of this “it is finished”? Did this new meaning begin dawning in their hearts? The death of the Passover Lamb, when finished, meant not the end, but the beginning of a new era; maybe Jesus’ death that was completed, accomplished, finished on Passover, would also mark, not the end, but quite the opposite—the beginning of a new era?
I would like to remind you, my dear readers, that we offer a new course, called Weekly Torah Portion, and those interested to study in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, are invited to sign up for this course (or to contact me for more information and for the discount). Also, If you’ve liked the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books, you can get them through my page on this blog, https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/.
CHAG PESACH SAMEACH!
MANY BLESSINGS TO ALL MY WONDERFUL READERS FOR THIS SPECIAL SEASON!
 John 19:30