Passover Greetings in the Lamb!
Focus on The Lamb
This year is a special year: The Jewish and Christian calendars coincide, with the evening of Passover falling on Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, highlighting the scriptural truth that Yeshua, The Lamb of God, is the “first fruits” of those who will be resurrected from the dead through belief in Him: “But now Christ (Messiah) is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…” (Rev. 5:12). We believe that calendars converge this year to focus our attention on The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
The Lamb: From Genesis to Revelation
The “Lamb” (השה, ha-seh in Hebrew), occurs one hundred and two times in the New King James version of the Bible. While the first mention of the word “lamb” in the Akedah (Gen. 22) is very prophetic and significant, it is worthy of mention that the “lamb” existed even before the creation of the world, as recorded in the Book of Genesis. According to Colossians 1:16 and Revelation 13:8, the Lamb of God participated in creation, and His destiny was sealed at that time: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…All things were created through Him and for Him.” Revelation 13:8 calls Yeshua “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The God of creation is marvelous in “anticipatory love!”
In Genesis chapter 22, we read about God’s test of Abraham’s faith and love. When asked to take his only son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering, Abraham obeyed immediately. In response to Isaac’s question, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?,” Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7-8). A ram, a male lamb, caught in the thicket by its horns, was provided by God. Isaac was spared. God was pleased with Abraham’s willingness to not withhold his only son, the son he loved.
What God did not require of Abraham, He required of Himself. He allowed His only Son, the Son He loved, to be sacrificed on a hill in Jerusalem, which was probably the very same Mount Moriah of Genesis 22. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob provided a Lamb for all mankind. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
The Lamb and the Exodus
The first major appearance of the “lamb” is in the book of Shemot (Exodus) chapter 12, in the account of the first Passover. The “lamb” is the central figure in this redemption account. The Lord God instructed the Israelites to select “a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3). Very small households were instructed to join with others and select “the lamb” (Exodus 12:4). There were certain specifications required of the lambs: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year” (Exodus 12:5).
The progression of adjectives from “a”—”the”—”your”—becomes meaningful when we consider that the Passover lambs of Israel’s redemption from Egypt foreshadowed The Lamb of God who would one day take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Yeshua must be more than “a” lamb or “the” lamb. He must become “your” lamb to have forgiveness of sin, and eternal life! The lambs of the first Passover had to be without blemish. (They prefigured Yeshua, our sinless Messiah.) The lambs of the first Passover had to be males of the first year. (Did you ever notice that the Gregorian calendar begins with The Lamb of God? A.D. means Anno Domini, or “In the year of the Lord.” He is the beginning of year one!) The lambs of the first Passover could not have any bones broken (Exodus 12:46). (Yeshua’s bones were not broken, in fulfillment of Psalm 34:20 and recorded in John 19:32-33.)
The blood of the Passover lambs had to be applied to the lintel and doorposts of the Israelite houses, so that the Angel of Death would pass over them when the LORD passed through the land of Egypt, executing judgment against all the gods of Egypt. This is a beautiful picture of our salvation through Yeshua. When we, by faith, apply the blood of the Lamb of God to the lintel and doorposts of our heart, death passes over us. We are redeemed—not from physical bondage—but from the bondage of sin. The blood of The Lamb is our victory!
We often say that Passover without a lamb is like a wedding without a bridegroom. And yet, since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D., the “lamb” is a minor player at Passover seders. There is a place for the shankbone of a lamb on the seder plate, but in many Jewish homes a chicken bone is substituted, being more convenient. (No one uses a chicken bone on our watch! Our neighbors know who to ask if they need a lamb shank bone. Jamie has a collection of at least 100—just in case!!) Our people perish for lack of knowledge. When Moses said to the elders of Israel, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.” (Exodus 12:21), the Hebrew simply says, ושחטו,v’shachatu, and kill הפסח, the “passover.” PASSOVER IS THE LAMB!
Matzah and The Lamb
After the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there could be no more Passover lambs sacrificed. Over time, the matzah or unleavened bread became the most important of the three major elements the Torah required in the Passover celebration—the lamb, the matzah, and the bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8).
Step four in the order of the Passover Seder, called Yachatz, involves the breaking of the middle of three pieces of matzah which are together in a matzah tash or pocket. The Hebrew word yachatz literally means to break or divide. Dr. Ron Wolfson, a traditional Jew, makes an interesting comment on yachatz in his book, The Art of Jewish Living, the Passover Seder: “… The dominant themes of yachatz are brokenness and hiding. The matzah is broken and part of it hidden away for the afikoman, the last piece of matzah eaten at the Seder and, as we will later learn, a symbol of the now-lost Paschal sacrifice. In fact, the step of the Seder where the afikoman is found and redeemed is called tzafun (tza-FOON), literally ‘hidden’. This is a ‘hiding’ which foreshadows the future. In the future, something now in hiding will make complete that which is now incomplete. This is a foreshadowing of the Messiah, establishing that we not only celebrate the Passover of the past, but the Passover of the future.”
At His last Passover Seder, Yeshua identified the afikoman with Himself. When He said to His disciples, “Take, eat; this is My body,” (Matthew 26:26), the Messiah clearly meant: “I am your Passover sacrifice.” The modern day afikoman ceremony graphically portrays the death and resurrection of the sinless (unleavened) Lamb of God. The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white napkin, hidden, sought for, and “resurrected.” The one or ones who find the afikoman are rewarded. It is like searching for Messiah and finding Him! Dr. Wolfson states in his book that religion is all about “finding,” that being religious involves trying to solve life’s puzzles. This quest has no sure answers. This is not the case with Messianic Jews. Our confession is that of Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Yeshua says to us, “…seek, and you will find…” (Matt. 7:7). This is our joyful reality.
Believers in Corinth were exhorted to follow their “unleavened” Messiah when celebrating the Passover: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). May we all follow this same advice this Passover season.
The Prophesied Lamb of Isaiah 53
The Lamb of God, who would suffer and die as the final sacrifice for the sins of Israel and the world, was prophesied over 700 years before Yeshua was born. The Jewish prophet Isaiah gives us a picture of Mashiach ben Yosef (the suffering Messiah) in chapter 53 of his book: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth…For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8). “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11)
This Lamb to come would replace, once for all time, the millions of lambs that Israel sacrificed as burnt offerings as commanded in the Torah (Leviticus 5:6 etc.). No one— certainly not the Jewish people—killed the Lamb of God. He laid down His life willingly. It was His Father’s will. Yeshua said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again” (John 10:17). The Sacrificed Lamb was destined to become The Risen Lamb!
The Lamb: White and Ruddy
There is a lovely, veiled reference to the Lamb of God in Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs), the book of the Bible that is read each year in traditional synagogues during the Sabbath of Passover. Shir HaShirim is considered a love song between God and His People because God married Israel when He took her out of Egypt (Jeremiah 31:32). Shir HaShirim is also a love song between Yeshua and His Bride. (This is the focus of Jamie’s new book, which, Lord willing, will help prepare the Lamb’s bride!)
In chapter five verse nine, a lovesick bride, who has asked the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find her Beloved, is presented with the question: “What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you so charge us?”
The bride proceeds to describe her Beloved, beginning with: “My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand” (Song 5:10). The first, and by implication, the most salient feature of her Beloved is His purity (whiteness) and His passion (redness). In Hebrew, literally ואדום צח, “white and red” tzach ve’adom (tzach v’ah-DOME), the bride is describing a spotless, slain Lamb: Messiah’s sinless, pure humanity, and His blood shed for her. “Tzach” also has the implication of something dazzling white, full of glory, like the glory manifested in Matthew 17:2 on the Mount of Transfiguration.
A “white and ruddy” Messiah is a victorious Messiah, mentioned in Revelation 19:11-14. (We often find in the Holy Scriptures, a juxtaposition of white and red in verses that include Yeshua, the Lamb of God.) “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”
A “white and ruddy” Lamb is the One who cleanses us from all sin through His blood, so that we become clothed with the white robes of His righteousness. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9) That’s us!—as seen in a vision by the Apostle John. Though our sins were like scarlet, they have been made as white as snow—by the blood of Yeshua, our Lamb (Isaiah 1:18).
The Lamb Defeats the Serpent
It was already prophesied in Genesis 3:15 that the Lamb would one day bruise (crush) the head of the serpent, (the devil, hasatan), reversing the curse that had caused separation between God and mankind. The final book of the Bible, not surprisingly, contains more references to The Lamb than any other book. It is worth noting that the victory of a lamb over a serpent is an example of the ways of God. His ways are not like our ways: they are higher—and supernatural (Isaiah 55:8). Following are some of the verses concerning a victorious Lamb from the Book of Revelation.
“…’Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever’.” (Revelation 5:12-13)
“These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)
“But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21:22-23)
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3) AMEN!
Since our Yeshua is coming back for a bride, and since we will celebrate together at the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9), it is appropriate to say that “Lamb” is Yeshua’s nuptial name.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)
Love in The Lamb, our Heavenly Bridegroom,
P.S. A promise: “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them living fountains of water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
P.P.S. Look for next month’s report on our 2015 Mercy Mission during which we blanketed Israel with lambs!