Torah Portion In Real Time (3): The Passover Lamb

 

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”![1]  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!

HAPPY EASTER!

MANY BLESSINGS TO ALL MY WONDERFUL READERS FOR THIS SPECIAL SEASON!

[1] John 19:30

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Iathane (Y'israel)

    Chag Pesach Sameach Julia Jehudim Achoti, all i can say here is “brilliant and thank you”! More please

  2. Francois Aerts

    Chag Pesach Sameach, Julia ! This text is again very inspiring, but the problem with this text is the related dispute if the Last Supper was a Seder meal or not. “Seudah maphsehket” suggests indeed a “Pesach Seder”, but a lot of ancient texts suggest that ordinary bread was used for the Last Supper (“Artos” instead of “Azymos”, in Du Tillet Hebrew Matthew “Lechem” instead of “Matsah”, in the Syriac Gospel also bread, etc…). The real question here is if the pre-fast meal of the Galilean “Seudah maphsehket” is already subject to ALL the rulings of a proper Seder meal. This 24-hour fasting is reminescent of the Catholic fasting period, where the preceding period has looser ruling concerning food use. Could you enlighten me further concerning the rulings of the Galilean “Seudah maphsehket” ? Could it be possible that the Galilean interpretation was influenced by Deuteronomy 16:3 : “seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction – , שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל-עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי”, in the sense that ” Lechem Oni – The poor man’s bread” could be ordinary bread (an exception for the poor? – Yeshua and His disciples lived a rather Essene-inspired asetic lifestyle,.) ? This issue might be very hard to determine.
    BeHatslachah oeLeHitraot!

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Francois, I am always glad to hear from you! As you know, there are different concepts re the nature of the Last supper – whether it was Seder or it was not – but I personally don’t believe it was Seder. (By the way, I expressed my view last year, in the article that I mention here). In my eyes, “Seudah Maphseket ” makes a perfect sense: as we all know, Jesus and his disciples were Galileans, therefore they would have observed the Galilean tradition of the Fast of the Firstborns. The fast took place on Nisan 14, on the day of Passover, and the “Seudah Mafseket” had to be the evening of the previous day, when 13th of Nisan becomes 14th. This meal was BEFORE the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was not a seder meal and of course, the bread (and not matza) was used there (that’s why we have “bread” in all these texts you mention).

  3. Wai Chiu

    Where can I find “The Last Supper and the sign of Jonah -2”?

    1. Julia Blum

      Thanks for your interest Wai. You can find all the old articles in the archives of this blog. But here is the direct link for your convenience:
      https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/last-supper-sign-jonah-2-2/

  4. Carla Gade

    Happy Celebration of our Lord’s Passover! Joyous Ressurrection! Thank you so much for your teaching. It makes absolute sense to me. You have truly enlightened me with your instruction. God bless.

  5. Chris Whitaker

    Sorry Julia the only day of the week that Jesus could not enter Jerusalem is Sunday and that is because He was a Jew. Jesus travelled from Jericho to Bethany on the previous day, a Sabbath Day and a distance of about 15 miles. This would have been against the Mosaic law and therefore a sin.

    1. Wendy

      I was always taught as Yeshua was our Passover lamb; He came from his home in Bethlehem ( house if bread) and entered Jerusalem on “lamb selection day” Sunday and then tested for blemish and found pure then crucified on the 14th of Nisan at the time the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was made? Can you give me the scriptures and reasons you think this is not right? Thanks, blessings Also it’s not that long of a walk, He could easily walk to Jerusalem on the 14th. ?

      1. Chris Whitaker

        If the 10th was a Sunday then Jesus ate the last supper (Passover) on the Thursday night and according to tradition was crucified on the Friday. The problem with this is Jesus would have travelled from Jericho to Bethany on the Sabbath day, more than a Sabbath days journey, and was crucified on the 15th Nissan, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and therefore a Sabbath Day. The Jews wanted the crucified men taken down before the Sabbath so it is unlikely that they would have had anyone crucified on a Sabbath. Another anomaly is if the Friday was the day of the Passover then Nissan 10th would have been a Monday. The next preparation day when Jesus was placed in the tomb would not be until the sixth day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As you can understand the tradition fails on a number of accounts. BTW I am a Creationist.

        1. Julia Blum

          Chris, if Sunday was the 10th, then Wednesday (day) was the 13th, and on Wednesday night Nisan 14th began. I believe that Jesus ate the Last Supper (Seudah Maphseket) on Wednesday night , Nisan 14th, – and was crucified on the next day, Thursday (still Nisan 14th) . All the numbers make sense then.

      2. Chris Whitaker

        The synoptic gospels indicate that Jesus was still at liberty on the day of the Passover, to be more precise the day the Passover Lamb was to be killed and prepared for the feast that started at sunset. Nissan 14 the disciples prepared the Passover. After sunset, now Nissan 15, Jesus with His disciples eat the Passover, and sends Judas out to betray Him. After supper they go to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus prays for about three hours, then allows His disciples to sleep. When Jesus is arrested after sunset, (must now be the following day, Nissan 16) Jesus is arrested, tried and finally crucified, died and was laid in the tomb “and that day was the preparation for the Sabbath drew on”(Luke 24:54).

  6. Rick Toole

    I must say ,many years ago I really did not want a woman to teach me , maybe my christian upbringing ? Some 20 years ago my wife and I became messianic , in that time I went to yeshiva ( via internet ) with a yeshive in Israel . There I had women teachers that taught me more than I had dreamed ! This very same thought is mine every time I read your thread Julia !!! Your insight amazes me, I look forward to all your post . Chag Sameach. Rick T

  7. Beth

    Thank you Julia. Chag Pesach Sameach! Your insights and knowledge are much appreciated. I have learnt a lot from your blog and always look for to reading them. Shalom.

  8. JOHN M AKIN

    Julia, Thanks so much. I study and appreciate all your postings. I have a couple of questions. Jesus said, “It is finished”.
    In the original language could the word have been, “accomplished”, or “performed” as it is in the NASB?
    A couple of scholars that I have read say that with the statements, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” and “it is finished!” that Jesus is actually calling His followers attention to Psalm 22 which I am sure that they had committed to memory in order that they would not lose heart and fall into deep depression. Was He providing them with a spark of hope and trust? Just over three days later that spark of hope exploded into great joy and faith in their God.
    John

    1. Pavel Stoychev

      My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Excuse me,my English is bad ,but I can remember once (whenJesus was praying)came voice from heaven….and Jesus have said”This voice came not for me,rather for you” …..Maybe now this prayer was not
      so much for the Father(The Father and the Son perfect were noing what must hapen according Isaiah 53…but we?).
      So …I think this prayer came for us….in order to every one to know that Jesus was suffered without mercy…Mercy was for us,but for our Saviour curse.

    2. Oliver Hirsh

      I’m with you, John. The loved scriptures were self-fulfilling, and confirmed Jesus’ trust. His prayer to the Father in John 17:11 that “those whom thou hast given me…may be one, as we are” is basic to his mission.

    3. Chris Whitaker

      Just maybe Jesus said “It is finished” because by dieing a sinless man He defeated Satan and placed him on God’s wanted list for murder? A capital crime even in God’s Kingdom.

    4. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much for your kind words John. As you know , the books of the New Testament (at least the manuscripts that we have) were written in Greek. The Hebrew New Testament has been translated from Greek, and different translations use different Hebrew words to render “it’s finished”: most translations have the word כלה (it’s finished, it’s over!) while the modern translation uses the word נשלם (it would be closer to what you suggest, something like: it’s accomplished, it’s completed). WE can only guess, we have no way to restore exactly his Hebrew words.