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Our Perception vs Truth

 

When Yeshua was first brought to Pilate, Pilate questioned His accusers as to the charges and evidence against Yeshua. His accusers charged Him with claiming to be a king, a king set up against Caesar. When Pilate asked for the evidence to support the charge, His accusers said that the sheer fact that they had brought Him was sufficient evidence. Of course it wasn’t, and Pilate knew this. So, Pilate questioned Yeshua himself. All of the Gospel writers give a direct account of this discourse, but the Apostle John provides more of the conversation which opens the topic of this article.

 

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Yeshua, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Yeshua answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Yeshua answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Yeshua answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

 

John 18:33-38

 

Pilate’s first question was valid to ask. He had been told by credible persons (the High Priest and elders of the temple) that Yeshua was claiming to be a king. Actually, they had heard from others (rumor) that He was the Messiah and that constituted being the King of the Jews. When Yeshua was asked directly if He was the Messiah, the Son of God, Yeshua simply said, “You yourselves have said it.” This was enough for them to charge Him with blasphemy. However, they couldn’t condemn Him or participate in His condemnation as it was Passover, so they modified the charges and brought Him to Pilate for judgment and execution. Pilate could sense this. Pilate needed to follow Roman law and yet keep his relationship with the leaders in Judea cooperative. This may be why Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?”

 

But let’s go back to the question that Yeshua asked Pilate first. When Pilate laid out the charge, Yeshua asked, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” This did not make Pilate happy or comfortable. He knew that Roman law said that hearsay (the statement of a person which is not based on personal knowledge passed on to others) was unacceptable as evidence in a judgment. Pilate knew that the High Priest and the elders were not witnesses to anything; they had put themselves in the position of judges accepting hearsay as evidence and making an improper judgment. Now, they were passing on the same hearsay to Pilate in an effort to get him to declare it as the truth.

 

Yeshua’s question challenged Pilate directly as to how he would make a judgment (to determine the truth in the matter). Pilate knew that he did not have any evidence of Yeshua and His followers sowing sedition against Rome and Caesar; that was his duty and office to judge. It was not his duty nor office to participate in a conspiracy against anyone, even a Jew.

 

Pilate tried to get the Jewish leadership to try Him under their own laws, but they refused on religious reasons, insinuating that Pilate’s refusal to judge Yeshua would bring accusations against him to Rome. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar’s.” Pilate even tried to get King Herod to take the case off of his hands. Yeshua was from Galilee, that was Herod’s jurisdiction. Pilate was only governor of Judea. Herod just wanted to see a miracle and when Yeshua failed to comply, he sent Him back to Pilate.

 

So, “What is truth,” Pilate had asked.

 

Pilate failed to answer his question and you know the rest of the story. Pilate did what the Jewish religious leadership wanted. Pilate has gone down in history as the man who couldn’t do the right thing. He didn’t love or pursue the truth. He turned down the truth to follow the dictates (influence) of others in pursuit of his political career. He couldn’t stand when he needed to stand for the truth. In his feeble defense, he washed his hands of the entire matter. He was a coward.

 

So, let’s answer Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” We, as members of the Messianic faith, desperately need to answer that question. If we are to walk with the Lord, then it must be in truth and in spirit. God Himself said He is the truth. We cannot have a true relationship with God unless it is true faith. Presuming that God made the heavens and the earth, presuming that Yeshua is the Messiah, and presuming that we have a hope for the future is exactly that - presumption. Presumption is not the truth!

 

The question of what is truth has been addressed by mankind for ages. Pilate wasn’t the first nor the last to ask the question. Let’s examine the efforts of others to answer the question.

 

Modern philosophers actually have five theories to answer what is truth? First, let’s review some dictionary definitions.

 

Dictionary.com gives twelve definitions:

 

1.             The true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.

 

2.             Conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of the statement.

 

3.             A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.

 

4.             The state or character of being true.

 

5.             Actuality of actual existence.

 

6.             An obvious or accepted fact; truism, platitude.

 

7.             Honesty; integrity; truthfulness

 

8.             Ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience: the basic truths of life.

 

9.             Agreement with a standard or original.

 

10.          Accuracy, as of position or adjustment.

 

11.          Fidelity or constancy.

 

12.          In truth, in reality; in fact; actually: in truth, moral decay hastened the decline of the Roman Empire.

 

I could cite other dictionaries, but they would essentially say the same thing. What is more interesting is to listen to a philosopher chase his tail trying to explain and define truth. According to several sources in philosophy, there are three generally accepted theories about truth with two additional ones competing for attention. They are the Correspondence Theory, the Semantic Theory, and the Deflationary Theory. Competing with these are the Pragmatic Theory and the Coherence Theory.

 

These theories attempt to define truth by defining the properties of truth. If truth is truth, then there must be something also called false or fake. This is the logic of truth. Does truth exist beyond what is linguistic (that which is spoken), and if it does, is it concrete or abstract? What are the rules (laws) concerning truth? That is, every assertion is true or false; no assertion can be true and false at the same time. Then there is the problem with what is an assertion of fact. What are the rules for a fact? Finally, philosophers struggle with some classical problems about truth. For example, can a declarative statement of the truth be made without a foundation for the truth. If there is no president of the country, can you declare that the President is bald? Don’t be quick to judge. He may be making a statement about the man who is about to be president, thus revealing the president. This also applies to any prophetic statement. Are prophetic statements the truth? Consider the opposite issues. What if the statement is a lie? Do the rules and definition of truth apply in addressing that issue? What if the declaration is about morality, ethics or aesthetics?

 

The Correspondence Theory dates back to ancient times, including Plato and Aristotle in a discussion of Metaphysics. They argued that a proposition for truth must have corresponding facts in existence. The theory also addresses whether the facts are dependent or independent of the truth.

 

The Semantic Theory is the product of a man named Alfred Tarski, who lived in the 1900's. He challenged the Correspondence Theory by arguing that something is true if and only if it is true. Therefore, truth is in and of itself independent of corresponding facts. The corresponding facts only mirror what is true to begin with. The Semantic Theory only works with a lot of semantics in the language.

 

The Deflationary Theory does not believe in assumptions concerning truth. Truth is only truth when it has a redundant element or it performs as the truth. This can be simplified to “I will believe it when I see it.”

 

The competing theories tend to be derivatives of these three arguments. They attempt to define truth without making it a definition. They try to strike an understandable relationship between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, with truth being present in all three. This is where lay philosophers weigh in. Consider these common quotations about truth.

 

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” - Winston Churchill

 

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”-  Galileo

 

“The search for truth implies a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.” - Albert Einstein

 

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” - Martin Luther

 

“Always tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember what you said.” - Mark Twain

 

“When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken, or cease to be honest.” – Unknown (some attribute to Attorney Richard Humpal)

 

“All generalizations, including this one, are false.” - Mark Twain

 

“A man may be an heretic in the truth, and if he believes things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy.”- F. W. Farrar

 

“Those who think that the majority holds the truth are themselves in the majority of fools.”- Unknown

 

“It’s not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.”- Henry Kissinger

 

We don’t need to carry this part of our conversation further. Suffice it to say that this is how the world attempts to answer the question, “What is truth.” But I do want you to consider the last quotation given by Henry Kissinger. This is this generation’s mantra for dealing with the truth.

 

According to the Bible, truth is clearly defined and it usually does not conform to what man thinks it is. Let’s examine some basic statements about truth from the Scriptures.

 

God says He is truth. When Moses was in the cleft of the rock, God defined Himself this way.

 

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”Exodus 34:6

 

The Son of God defined Himself as truth.

 

Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”John 14:6

 

The Bible defines the Law and Commandments in the Torah as truth.

 

Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.Psalms 119:142

 

You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.Psalms 119:151

 

God also defines Himself as spirit and instructs us to worship Him in the qualities of spirit and truth.

 

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:24

 

For the purposes of this article we will be focusing on the truth factor.

 

The Scriptures also give us some simple rules on how to determine the truth and what the truth does for us; however, this is where believers have the most difficulty dealing with the truth. The Law teaches that a single witness cannot determine the truth. There must be a confirmation of evidence, at least two or three evidences to render a judgment.

 

A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.Deuteronomy 19:15

 

Many brethren believe that their single eyewitness evidence is sufficient to be called the truth. They may see something and then appoint themselves as the prosecutor and judge of the matter. They think they know the truth and are doing truthful things. They are wrong; all they have is an assertion or a fact. They don’t yet have the truth.

 

Because of this one commandment, many brethren are falsely accused. There are a host of examples I could supply, but it is generally understood by everyone (because of their own personal experience).

 

This even applies to statements made by an individual about himself. Did you know that a full confession by a wrongdoer is insufficient evidence to convict a person? There are many cases where a person confessed to a wrong deed for wholly other reasons. I learned this as a child.

 

I was a sitting at the supper table one night with my family; my father noticed that his fork had one bent prong. It appeared that someone had used the fork to try to pry something. The fork was apparently weaker than the other object. My father became angry and immediately assumed that one of us children had bent the fork. There was no evidence to explain exactly how the fork was bent, nor was there evidence to point to one of the children. It could have been placed in the drawer, tangled with other things, and been bent by shutting the drawer, which happened once in a while. Rather than consider that or any other explanation, he declared that one of us kids had done the deed. When none of us immediately confessed, he raised the stakes. He stated that all three of us would be disciplined to ensure that he got the culprit. Again, he demanded to know who the person was that bent the fork. Somehow at that young age, I knew that my father’s judgment was not right; it was not about the truth, but I could do nothing. Looking back, God was teaching an important lesson about truth. Suddenly, my brother Frank (seven years younger than myself) confessed to the deed. My father took him from the table and disciplined him. Later that night, in between tears, my brother confessed the truth. He never bent the fork; he only confessed to protect his brother and sister. My father didn’t have very good judgment and did not know how to determine the truth of a matter.

 

Law enforcement personnel will ask for all of the details from a confessed criminal. It is not that they are morbid, they are trying to find additional evidence that will confirm the confession. They ask the confessor to show them the body or to produce other incriminating evidence. There is a reason for it. A single evidence, even a confession, is not proof. It is not the truth without confirming evidence.

 

Yet, believers will take a single account of a deed and summarily judge another brother. Worse yet, the average believer will listen to another person’s opinion (perception) of something and render a judgment against a fellow believer. The average believer professes to believe in the truth of God and yet believes the worst of one another with no confirmation. Those who follow the Torah need to check their own pulse on this. In my experience, Torah observant brethren seem to offend this even more so than church folks.

 

Yeshua spoke of this directly when He cautioned all of us,“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2) How would you like for your friends and brethren in the faith to suddenly drop all fellowship with you based on the perception (or rumor) of another in the form of an accusation? How many of you have used this defense: “Why didn’t you just come and ask me?”

 

Objectivity is absolutely required to find the truth. Subjectivity in searching for the truth is stupidity.

 

Do you remember Henry Kissinger’s quotation? “It’s not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.” This statement is how the world and worldly people think. It is not how believers are commanded by God to think, but it is common for many believers to act on. They don’t know the Torah in this matter. A perception is not the truth; a single fact is not the truth. These are assertions (evidence to be considered in determining the truth). But confirmation must be established.

 

The Apostle Paul specifically taught this when he instructed the brethren, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19) These are those who have firsthand knowledge, not rumor-mongers. The modern Messianic Movement has a major problem with this instruction. Many brethren (including leaders) do not obey this instruction. They believe their personal perception or their opinion and act on it as though it is the truth. Even worse, some brethren lay the responsibility for determining the truth on others. They deny any responsibility for passing false information on to others. They believe and act like they do not need to obey the commandments with regard to accusing another person.

 

I have lost many friends in the faith because they chose to listen to a single witness who was blatantly malicious. Some have actually quoted me on occasion. Yet, with no context or confirmation, they have fallen prey to division because of slander. They use the definition for truth that comes from the world (their own judgment and opinion) instead of the one they are pledged to obey from God. I am not the only one who has been harmed. This kind of harm in a spiritual community or congregation is a like a suicide bomber. In their zeal to harm one, they indiscriminately harm many.

 

This principle—that two or three evidences must be present to prove or establish a truth—is also true in mathematics and geometry. A single point of reference without at least one more angle is just a straight line. You must have an x and y axis to pinpoint a place on paper (two dimensions). You must add the z axis to pinpoint something in space (three dimensions). The Global Positioning System (GPS) used for navigation in cars and aircraft must have at least three satellites coordinating a position to work accurately (they prefer to use more). A mathematical truth (theorem) requires two or three proofs to be called a truth.

 

Even the Messiah addressed this point specifically when He was asked directly if He was the Messiah.

 

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.John 5:30-36

 

Yeshua was the Messiah, yet He said of Himself that if He alone bears witness of Himself, His testimony is not true. He is not saying that He lied; He is saying that there must be confirmation to have the testimony be considered the truth. If the Messiah cannot bear a singular testimony of Himself, saying it is not true, then how do individual believers think they are different?

 

Everyone acknowledges that God is truth. But, where is the confirmation? God must have two or three evidences to meet His own definition of the truth. Answer: God does supply the two or three witnesses. Not only does God manifest Himself in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but consider this passage.

 

… It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.1 John 5:6b-8

 

There is another aspect of handling the truth that the Scriptures require. It must be balanced and work in a cooperative fashion with loving-kindness.

 

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-2

 

Paul’s proposition could be just as easily said, “If I speak the truth, even the truth that comes from heaven and God, the truth that comes from deep knowledge and understanding, and yet speak it without kindness and care for those who are to receive it, then I am just making a lot of noise and have accomplished nothing.”

 

Sometimes the truth is not pleasant. Sometimes the truth is naked (transparent) truth and it offends us. Sometimes we discover that truth is on the other side and we are embarrassed. This is when loving-kindness and understanding are most needed.

 

In Chinese culture, they ask a specific question that seems to address the need for loving-kindness to be shared with the truth. They simply ask, “Is it necessary to share this truth right now?” This question is not about hiding the truth; it is about helping the recipient to receive the truth.

 

I thank God that He does not scorn me as I learn the truth about Him because of my past thinking of what I thought the truth was. This brings me to one of the most profound statements there is anywhere.

 

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.John 8:32

 

This is a very hard statement for brethren to believe. They have little courage whenever it comes time to tell the truth or to stand on the side of truth. Very few believe that truth brings freedom. They tend to believe more strongly that truth brings loss. This is where the rubber meets the road about believing in God. If you won’t trust the truth, then you won’t trust God. If you love God, you will love truth.

 

Television programs and movies love to use courtroom settings to tell a story. A courtroom is about telling the truth and rendering correct judgments. You have heard the popular oath for every witness, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Lying under oath is its own criminal offense - perjury.

 

A modern courtroom requires every piece of evidence to be weighed and factored into the judgment. They will not listen to hearsay, rumors, or conjecture. Each witness can only testify to that which he knows directly. No one can testify for another. Even if testimony speaks of wrongdoing elsewhere, it is only permitted for consideration in a verdict if it directly bears on the matter to be judged. Judges and lawyers must operate within the bounds of the law and cannot offend the law while trying to judge any matter. It is call due process.

 

“Justice, justice you shall pursue,” the Scripture instructs (Deuteronomy 16:20). “Justice, justice” is not a redundant expression. It means that you must use justice while pursuing justice. Failure to do so invalidates the proceedings. In other words, the truth must be based on truthful things. There is no formula where lies establish the truth. Two lies canceling each other does not establish the truth, it is just evidence of people lying.

 

Furthermore, two or three brethren repeating a rumor does not make it true. That is not the confirmation referred to in Scripture. A majority in a democracy may determine a decision, but a majority does not determine the truth. Remember, some people just plain lie. Sometimes it is to get attention or because they want something; sometimes they are afraid. But in all cases, a liar is a coward. The Torah has a lot to say about a malicious witness, a person who would intentionally lie to bring about an error in judgment against someone. Whenever a person lies against a believer in his own community, he is hoping that the community will make a judgment against the person. The fact is that he is lying to the whole community about the brother. According to Torah, he should receive the same punishment that the brother could have received. Do we do that? No. We tend to ignore the liar and the brother who was lied about suffers a loss of reputation. Where do you get your reputation back after it has been damaged by a lie? Who do you see to get the matter corrected? One could say that God will restore all things in the kingdom to come. I agree, but my question is what about now, since the Lord commanded us to walk in the truth here and now.

 

Until believers are taught the definition of truth according to the Torah, we are subject to HaSatan’s definition of the truth, which is personal perception. Until we love the truth more than the world we will continue to do HaSatan’s bidding and harm one another. Every Messianic brother needs to proclaim the truth and do so in brotherly love.

 

Let me conclude this article by answering Pilate’s question “What is truth?” Truth is the Lord our God. It is His Law and commandments. It is established by confirming evidence. It is served with loving-kindness. And, in the end, it is our freedom.

 

Truth is not a single fact or assertion. It is not a personal perception or someone else’s opinion. It is not presumption or a subjective summary judgment. Making accusations is not the love of the truth; the love of the truth honors the due process and seeks to guard against false accusations. Truth works with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Those who choose half-truths and mix falsehoods bring captivity and destruction to themselves.

 

Let me also conclude with a child’s riddle about truth. You are on a road that forks. One way leads to the city of truth. Everyone who lives there speaks only the truth. The other way leads to the city of lies. Everyone who lives there speaks only lies. A man is standing at the fork in the road. You do not know which city he is from. What question do you ask him to go to the city of truth?

 

Answer: You ask him, “Which way is the way to your home?” The liar will point to the city of truth; the truthful person will point the same direction - the city of truth.

 

Where do you want to live? In a world where personal perception is called the truth (which makes it a lie)? Or in the kingdom of God? The Torah teaches us that God is sanctifying us in the truth, teaching us to walk in truth with one another, and to speak the truth. We need to decide where we live - the city of lies or the city of truth. Where is your home? What is truth to you?

 

The next time you hear a bad report or an accusation against a brother in the faith, challenge that person and demand that he prove it - demand the confirmation. Next, ask for his motivation in spreading the information. If he cannot confirm it, if he seems to have an agenda far from loving- kindness, then don’t listen to him. And, for God’s sake, don’t believe him!

 

Speak the truth, love the truth, and cling to the truth!

 

The Watchnight of Passover

The Watchnight of Passover

 

In September of 1862, United States President Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively announcing the end of slavery in America. The law went into effect January 1, 1863, but on December 31, 1862, many African Americans held an all-night vigil waiting for freedom. They called it a watchnight. To this day, some African Americans still observe it every New Year's Eve.

Maybe you have joined other evangelical churches for “watchnight services” to bring in the New Year. It is fairly common among churches. They do not keep it for the same reason as African Americans do. They are seeking spiritual renewal and trying to pray in the New Year.

Despite the various reasons mentioned, most Christian believers do not know that the practice of a watchnight originates from the ancient Passover in Egypt and the annual memorialization of Passover. Yeshua the Messiah observed the watchnight with His disciples. In fact, all of Israel was up and about that night. This explains the background activity surrounding His arrest and trial at night by the High Priest Caiaphas and King Herod.

The Passover festival is expresslycommanded to remember the past, to remember how God delivered us with His outstretched arm and mighty deeds. It is to teach our children about God's redemption and the Lamb of God. It was about midnight, in the middle of the night, that the Angel of the Lord went throughout all of Egypt. Those houses with the blood of the lamb covering were passed over. Those homes without the blood suffered the death of the first born, both man and beast. As believers of Yeshua, not only are we to remember the story of the Lamb, we are to be reminded of His death, burial, and resurrection. It is the same story.

Keeping the Passover is more than a commandment; it is a crash course and annual review of God's great plan for our salvation and deliverance. God has not only heard the cry of bondage due to our taskmasters, He has come down to do something about it. God also knows of our slavery to sin and He has provided a covering for us. Moses led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt and the house of slavery, but Yeshua has led us out of the house of slavery to sin.

Passover has been observed and is observed still to this day by way of a seder (order) service. A Haggadah is a booklet used at Passover to follow the seder. The Haggadah leads the participants through several symbolic elements, four cups of wine, and unleavened bread. But there is an aspect to Passover that overshadows the meal and its elements. It is the watchnight of Passover. Each person is to see themselves back in Egypt being passed over by the Angel of the Lord. We are instructed to tell our children that we were there at the real Passover and the Lord passed over us. Passover night is to be different from all other nights. In fact, all of Israel is to remain awake for the night speaking of God's redemption. This is why the children are to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

There is a very old Jewish expression concerning the Passover, “There is no greater joy than to speak of God's redemption until the dawn of the day.” This expression is about the watchnight of Passover. It is my hope that this article will move you to keep the Passover anew this year and join all Israel and the Messiah in a watchnight.

 

Passover In Egypt

In the movie The Ten Commandments, the Angel of the Lord is depicted as a green mist skulking across the sky past the moon forming a skeleton hand of death upon Egypt. Joshua is seen putting the blood of the lamb on the door posts and then watching the green mist moving through the city streets. Joshua finally enters the house with Moses and announces that death is all around them. The movie was not able to truly display the Passover scenario. Simply said, you don't see anything passing over them. Instead, you see death seeping in and around everything. That's not Passover. Passover is really about being passed from death to life as the Messiah said.

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

 

John 5:24

Passover is about life. Passover is about freedom. Listen to how Moses tells us to describe the Passover.

 

…You shall say, “It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.”

 

Exodus 12:27a

Let's go back to the original Passover that took place in Egypt and clear up some misconceptions.

First, they began to prepare for Passover four days earlier. Moses instructed them to bring the lamb into their homes to ensure that it had no defect and that it wasn’t sickly. The lamb was befriended and was played with by the children. When the Passover came, there may well have been some trauma in the house since the lamb had become a new pet. People gathered in a particular home based upon the ability of the lamb to feed them the feast. Not every Israelite home had a lamb. The lamb was shared together. See how Moses instructed this.

 

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.”

 

Exodus 12:3-7

With regard to the watchnight, this was the instruction of Moses.

 

For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the Lord. And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.

 

Exodus 12:12-14

Passover is not a daytime observance; it is a nighttime observance. It is to remember what happened on a particular night. All other feasts of the Lord are observed in the daytime. Passover is kept in a home at night with guests of the home. Did the Messiah keep the Passover in the temple with all Israel? No, He kept it in a private room (home) and garden with His friends. Peter and John had prepared a lamb just for Yeshua and the disciples.

Moses, in recounting the ordinance, speaks again of a single house and a single lamb.

 

It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.

 

Exodus 12:46

 

This is how you keep the Passover feast and watchnight to the Lord – in a private, rather than corporate way. The Lamb takes precedence; you spend time with the Lord that night.

When the Angel of the Lord passed through Egypt, even Pharaoh arose that night.

 

Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.

 

Exodus 12:29-30

Passover with the Messiah

Before we can address the specifics of how the Messiah and the disciples kept the Passover, we need to review an ancient controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees didn't observe Passover the same way. The Gospels clearly show that Yeshua and His disciples observed the Passover before the Pharisees did.

Pharisees and modern day Judaism do not believe that the 14th of Nisan is the Passover, even though Moses clearly says it is.

 

And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

 

Exodus 12:6

 

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.

 

Exodus 12:18

 

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord's Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.

 

Leviticus 23:5-8

According to Moses, Passover is on the 14th of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is kept for seven days beginning on the 15th of Nisan. High Sabbaths are on the 15th and the 21st of Nisan. Passover lasts for one day and The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts for seven days.

But what did the Pharisees do then and what does modern Judaism do today? According to them, the 14th of Nisan is the day before Passover and at the conclusion of the day (the eve of the 15th) they observe Passover. They make Passover a high Sabbath. Then they add another day (the 22nd of Nisan) to the end of Unleavened Bread to make an eight day total. Most calendars call the entire eight-day festival Passover and do not use the title The Feast of Unleavened Bread. You can verify everything I have said here with a standard Hebrew calendar. This controversy goes way back.

This is part of the reason why Yeshua warned His disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees.” The Pharisees added leaven to the instruction of Moses. They even added a day to the feast of unleavened bread – thus, the leaven of the Pharisees.

As followers of Yeshua, I believe we should follow Yeshua's counsel and stick with what Moses said. Following the traditional Jewish calendar for Passover, First Fruits, Unleavened Bread, and the Counting of the Omer to the Feast of Weeks is error. It is the instruction of the Torah leavened by the Pharisees.

Yeshua kept the Passover specified by Moses with many others in the land. He instructed Peter and John to prepare the Passover Lamb for them to feast. They went to the temple on the afternoon of the 13th and sat down to the meal in a prepared room on the eve (the beginning) of the 14th. This is how Matthew describes the event.

 

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Yeshua, saying, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” And the disciples did as Yeshua had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. Now when evening had come, He was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.

 

Matthew 26:17-20

Moses commanded the children of Israel to eat the Unleavened Bread eight days (the eve of the 14th through the 21st of Nisan). The Passover is the Lamb meal on the eve of the 14th that is slain at the temple prior to the eve of the 14th. This was the preparation of the Passover in conjunction with locating a place to eat it privately.

Here is Mark's account of the Passover.

 

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; and prepare for us there.” And the disciples went out, and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening He came with the twelve.

 

Mark 14:12-17

Mark's account is virtually the same as Matthew. The preparation for Passover is about preparing the lamb and the room. Here is Luke's account.

 

Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” And they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large, furnished, upper room; prepare it there.” And they departed and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

 

Luke 22:7-15

Again, Luke recounts the same details: preparation for the lamb and the room.

By the way, here is side-note that is worthy of mention. Why was the man carrying a water pitcher a significant sign for them to follow? According to the custom of Yeshua's day, only women carried water pitchers. It was part of their daily tasks. Seeing a man carrying a water pitcher would have definitely stood out as unusual.

John's Gospel does not repeat the preparation instructions. He concentrates on what Yeshua shared at the Passover meal beginning in John chapter 13 through chapter 17.

Having eaten the meal, they went to the garden of Gethsemane for the watchnight until Yeshua was arrested. John's Gospel says it this way.

 

When Yeshua had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, into which He Himself entered, and His disciples.

 

John 18:1

Luke, Mark, and Matthew describe the garden location as well.

 

And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.

 

Luke 22:39

 

And they came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.”

 

Mark 14:32

 

Then Yeshua came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

 

Matthew 26:36-38

The garden of Gethsemane is located on the Kidron Valley side of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means the place where olives are crushed. When Yeshua went out to observe the watchnight of Israel, He went to a place where olives are squeezed and crushed. The first squeeze of olives is for anointing oil. Yeshua was the Anointed One, the Messiah. Therefore, it was more than appropriate that He chose that place to begin the work of redemption with His arrest.

If you will recall, the Gospels also speak of Yeshua finding the disciples sleeping instead of remaining awake. He was even annoyed with them to some extent.

 

And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?”

 

Mark 14:37

Why did Yeshua expect them to remain awake? Wasn't it late? Didn't they eat a fine meal with four cups of wine? If you or I had been there we would have wanted to sleep too. The reason Yeshua wanted His disciples to be awake, the reason that all Israel was up and about that night was that it was the watchnight of Passover. It was expected of everyone observing the Passover to observe the watchnight.

Passover with our Brethren

For most Messianics today, Passover is a gathering for all their local brethren in a fellowship or banquet facility. They eat unleavened bread with horse radish and the sweet mixture of apple and honey. They might even have wine to drink. But most have not prepared lamb nor are they eating in a private place (such as a home) as Moses said or as Yeshua did. Still further, they do not hold a watchnight. After the seder meal, everyone goes home to bed. This is far short of what Moses instructed and Yeshua did.

Some Messianic brethren today are not familiar with the issues of the Passover and the eve of the 14th. Even more so, they have never heard of a watchnight on the Passover. They blindly follow the rabbinical tradition (the Pharisaic tradition). Don't get me wrong here. There are many traditional elements of Passover that are good and very worthwhile.

For example, the basic seder contains a sequence of elements and the four cups:

 · Kaddesh (prayer of sanctification)

 · The Cup of Sanctification

 · U'Rechatz (washing of hands)

 · Karpas (parsley/celery dipped in salt water)

 · Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzah bread and burial of the Afikoman)

 · Maggid (telling the ancient story beginning with Joseph being sent)

 · The Cup of Instruction

 · Rachtzah (washing of hands)

 · Motzie Matzah (eating the matzah – unleavened bread)

 · Maror (eating the bitter herbs)

 · Korech (eating the matzah, herbs, and sweetness)

 · Shulchan Orekh (setting the table for the meal – eating the meal)

 · Tzafun (resurrection of the Afikoman)

 · The Cup of Redemption

 · Barekh (blessing after the meal)

 · The Cup of Elijah

 · Hallel (Psalms of Praise)

 · The Cup of Praise

 · Nirtzah (conclusion)

 

There is nothing wrong with this order of the Passover seder. Even Yeshua followed this basic order. He too washed the disciples, ate bitter herbs with His betrayer, and served the Afikoman bread and cup after the meal. He concluded His own Passover with songs of praise. But He also remained awake for what was to happen later that night.

I understand the zeal of many Messianics to get back to the Torah, to escape the traditions of the church fathers. But, blindly following the traditions of the Pharisees is not the answer. They too have departed from Moses (and the Messiah) as much as the church fathers have. Instead, we need to return to the commandments of the Lord and join His table of fellowship.

Some have justified themselves in keeping the Pharisaic (Judaism's) tradition by saying that they were joining with “greater Israel” all over the world by being in unity with the majority. I believe in being unified with my brethren as well, but that unity should be with the “remnant of Israel” not “unbelieving Israel.” Passover is not a custom or tradition; it is a commandment of the Lord given to us even before the Ten Commandments were given. Taking liberties with God's commandments never works correctly. Keeping the commandments even as Yeshua kept them works to everyone's benefit.

Passover is one of the most powerful bridges there is in our faith to show how Moses was speaking of the Messiah. Just as the children of Israel kept the Passover prior to being made free, so many church Christians attend a Passover and gain their freedom from religious captivity to pursue the Messiah – the real Passover Lamb.

Church tradition has taken the Afikoman (broken bread) and the cup of Redemption from the Passover to create their “communion” service. Despite Yeshua's stated desire and future hope to eat the Passover with His brethren, churchmen replace it with church sacrament (the teaching and tradition of men). When Christians discover that the communion elements are really misappropriated Passover elements, they are stunned. When they find out that even they are invited to the Passover table, they are genuinely grateful. I have discovered that Christians really want to eat the bread so they will never be hungry again. They want to drink from the cup so they will never be thirsty again. Yeshua offers that bread and cup at the Passover table.

Therefore it is important that we as Messianics accurately portray and keep the Passover as Moses and the Messiah did. Substituting one set of customs and traditions of religious men with another set is not right. Leading our Christian brethren to keep the instructions of the Pharisees as a replacement for church tradition is not right.

But what should we do for ourselves to keep the Passover as best as we can?

Here is what Moses said.

 1. Make your observance of Passover to be a commandment of the home, not a banquet setting. Eat it with friends, not unbelievers and strangers.

 2. Eat lamb with the unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the apple/honey mixture. Judaism forbids you to eat lamb on Passover. What is wrong with that picture?

 3. Gather with your brethren after the Passover meal and hold a “watchnight” at least past midnight. See yourself being passed over there in Egypt. See yourself there with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

If you do these things Passover will take on a whole new dimension. Truly, you will be able to instruct your son, “The Lord passed over my house.” Even further, you will be able to say to yourself, “I remained awake while the Lord agonized to prepare Himself to be the Lamb of God for me.”