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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 Blessing of the Firstborn

 

In every home with children, there is a firstborn. The firstborn grows up with a special destiny. Firstborns are thrust into the role of trailblazers and natural leaders. They represent the future hope of the family and its name. They are also regarded as the first heirs of the family. According to ancient tradition found in Scripture, all of the children of a family should receive an equal share of the inheritance, but the firstborn receives a double portion. Scripture speaks of this blessing of the firstborn as the birthright blessing.

 

But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, … by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn. Deuteronomy 21:17

 

The Scriptures do not stop there addressing the subject of firstborns. As you are about to discover, there is an incredibly deep teaching about the firstborn. Like hidden treasure, not everything is as it seems when it comes to the subject of the firstborn in Scripture. Consider the story of Abraham and his descendants.

 

Abraham received a covenant from God to become the father of many, to establish a special heritage and blessing for the people of God. However, Abraham's firstborn, Ishmael, did not receive the blessing. Instead, Isaac, the son born through Sarah received the blessing. Isaac's firstborn son, Esau, did not receive the blessing. Instead, Jacob received the blessing. Jacob's firstborn son, Reuben, did not receive the blessing. Instead, Joseph received the blessing. Joseph's firstborn son, Manasseh, did not receive the blessing. Instead, Ephraim received the blessing from the hand of Jacob. And still further, when the tribes were numbered, God declared the Levites to be the firstborn of Israel.

 

What is happening here? Why is the blessing not being given as a birthright to the physical firstborn descendant? The Apostle Paul specifically addressed this question in the book of Romans. He was addressing the hidden wisdom about the firstborn.

 

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named." That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:6-8

 

Let me summarize this wisdom about the firstborn. It is shrouded in controversy and many do not accept God's sovereign choices here.

 

Why was Isaac the firstborn over Ishmael? Isaac was the promised son through Sarah.

 

Why was Jacob over Esau? Jacob was the prophesied son through Rebekah.

 

Why was Joseph over Reuben? Joseph was the favored (chosen) son of Jacob because of his love for Rachel.

 

Why was Ephraim over Manasseh? Ephraim was the adopted son elevated to the level of being a son of Israel.

 

Why was Levi chosen over the physical, natural firstborns that follow? Because Levi was the priesthood who drew near to the Lord.

 

The blessing of the firstborn is not about being the firstborn physically. It is about God's promises, prophecies, choices, adoption, and those who draw near to Him.

 

To this day, there remains a dispute over who gets the blessing of the firstborn. Islam teaches that they descend from Abraham and that the Jews have stolen their blessing. The Palestinian conflict is rooted in the controversy between Esau and Jacob. Like Esau, the Palestinians (the inhabitants of the land) would prefer to destroy Israel than live with them. But the promised land, descending from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is called Israel. And it is the descendants of these fathers that are the remnant of promise.

 

And the story doesn't stop there. The firstborn of Israel are not just the physical descendants; they follow the pattern of those who received the blessing of the firstborn. They are the children of promise. They are prophesied. They are chosen. They are adopted. They are the ones who draw near to the Lord.

 

Understanding this hidden wisdom about the firstborn is not easy, even for Messianic believers. Some of my Messianic Jewish brethren assert they are physical descendants over the spiritual testimony of being "born again" into the family of God by the Messiah. Further, Christians play into this definition by referring to themselves as the spiritual descendants while Jews are the physical ones. This thinking divides the world into Jews and Gentiles. But the spiritual definition of the firstborn and who gets the blessing is dramatically different.

 

We have reviewed the path of the fathers and who received the blessing of the firstborn. But let us look at the most profound story of the firstborn in Scripture. Let's review the story of the Passover. The children of Israel were being oppressed by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God had made a promise to bring Abraham's descendants back from Egypt, to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God sent Moses to Pharaoh and his brethren and with great judgments God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. The final judgment was the death of the firstborn in Egypt.

 

Why that judgment? Why did God use the death of the firstborn to bring forth Israel out of Egypt? The answer was given by God even before Moses went to Pharaoh.

 

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, let My son go, that he may serve Me; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn." Exodus 4:22-23

 

The Passover was the night that God passed over the houses that had the blood of the lamb on the doors, but those houses that did not have the covering of blood suffered judgment. The blood pattern over the door formed the Hebrew letter Het. The letter Het has a specific meaning to Hebrews; it makes the word Chai which means "life." You may have heard the Jewish expression when toasting a glass at a joyous event - "L' Chaim" which means "to life!" Even more so, Messianic believers see even more in the Passover because of Yeshua's death, burial, and resurrection. We see the Messiah as the Passover Lamb, whose blood covers us, who passes us from death to life.

 

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

 

But let's ask a very basic question about this story of Passover since it is a story of salvation and deliverance. Who was saved at the Passover? Who was delivered? Was it all of Israel? No. It was only the firstborn of Israel that were saved by the blood of the Lamb. Many erroneously think that all of Israel was saved that night. Not so. It was the firstborn.

 

You could make an argument that all Israel was saved at the crossing of the Red Sea and you would be right. However, because of the Passover, not the Red Sea, the Torah gives some very profound instruction about the firstborn for all of Israel.

 

Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me. Exodus 13:2

 

This passage addresses the results of someone being saved. In the ancient tradition, a person saved by a deliverer owed his life to the deliverer. Since he would have died without deliverance, he now owes his "life" for being delivered. It was customary for the "saved" person to become the servant of the deliverer. God saved the firstborn of Israel and thus required them to belong to Him. God's instructions go further.

 

Now it shall come about when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, "What is this?" then you shall say to him, "With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. And it came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem. So it shall serve as a sign on your hand, and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt." Exodus 13:11-16

 

By this statement in Scripture, the ancient tradition became the commandment of the Lord for all God's people. The firstborn belong to God because He redeemed them. This is God's definition of "redemption." To redeem means to purchase out of slavery. Let us go further. You are about to discover the price tag for redemption.

 

The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. And you shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. Exodus 34:19-20

 

So what is the price of redemption or a firstborn son? What is it that is to be in your hand to redeem him? The answer for this comes from when God numbered all the firstborn of Israel and numbered the Levites. Initially, He substituted the Levites for the firstborn of Israel and made the Levites to be the Lord's portion (the redeemed value). But a specific value was determined for all Israelites who would follow.

 

Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord. Numbers 3:12-13

 

And you shall take the Levites for Me, I am the Lord, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel. Numbers 3:41

 

Consider this for a moment. God has consistently chosen to follow the path of natural things, yet His choice is sovereign and not determined by natural things. It wasn't Ishmael, Esau, or Reuben. It wasn't Manasseh, nor the physical firstborn of Israel. It turns out to be Levites who are called to be the firstborn of God. They will be commissioned to come near to the Lord (His altar) on behalf of all Israel.

 

When God selected the Levites as his firstborn, He instructed Moses to count all of the firstborn of Israel and the number of Levites. This is the meaning behind the book of "Numbers." A comparison match was made and there were 273 firstborn of Israel more than the number of Levites.

 

And for the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, Numbers 3:46

 

Apparently, a ransom price was paid for the 273 beyond the number of Levites. That value was recorded as 1,365 shekels.

 

From the firstborn of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. Numbers 3:50

 

It is simple to do the math. 1,365 divided by 273 equals 5. The ransom price for a firstborn is 5 shekels. These are referred to as the "coins of redemption." This is the price of redemption for a firstborn.

 

But you might ask, where did God get this price from? Did He just pick the number out of the air? No, of course not. It is the value of Joseph when he was sold to the Egyptians by his brethren. Referring back to Genesis, it is recorded:

 

Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. Genesis 37:28 NASB

 

This is one place where the NASB doesn't quite get it right, although it meant well. In the original Hebrew, it simply says it was 20 pieces of silver which is equivalent to 5 shekels, not 20 shekels. The sages of Israel have concluded that the price paid for Joseph was 5 shekels. This is where the price of redemption for the firstborn was determined. Apparently, this was fresh on the Israelites’ minds as they were carrying the bones of Joseph out of Egypt when the numbering was done. Therefore, when Moses specified that price, the testimony of Joseph and his valuation by his brethren was well understood. The price was (20 pieces) 5 shekels.

 

Jumping forward a bit, you might be wondering how the price of Yeshua (30 shekels) plays into this Biblical theme. First, the 5 shekels was paid for Yeshua as child. When Mary and Joseph went to the temple with Yeshua the first time, Mary was there to complete her purification requirements for the birth of a son according to the Law and to observe the custom of the Law for the coins of redemption.

 

And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Yeshua, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, [Simeon blessed the child according to the custom] Luke 2:22-27

 

Apparently, the custom of the "coins of redemption" worked this way. The 5 shekels were to be paid to a righteous man. The righteous man would accept the price (the 5 shekels) and pronounce the redemption of the child. It did not necessarily have to be to the temple treasuries or to the priests. Simeon was a righteous man and he received the coins of redemption (5 shekels) for Yeshua as a firstborn of Israel. This is what Mary and Joseph were doing in the temple that day.

 

Simeon's pronouncement of redemption for Yeshua was shocking. He proclaimed that his eyes had now seen "the redemption of Israel!"

 

But let's consider the price of Yeshua (30 shekels) paid to Judas when He did the work of redemption for us. That is to say, the value was not for Him (Yeshua) but for all of us to be redeemed. So, the math works this way: 5 shekels (the price of redemption for a firstborn) times 6 (the number for man, mankind) equals 30 shekels. Thirty shekels is the both the value of a sacrifice and symbolizes the "coins of redemption" for all the firstborn from the Messiah.

 

A child is too small to know of the coins of redemption or how they are paid. It is like the commandment of circumcision; it is a commandment observed on behalf of the child by a parent. Part of the blessing for the firstborn is that the Lord has already paid the coins of redemption for us (we have been ransomed and we didn't know it). Yeshua really is the "firstborn among many (firstborn) brethren."

 

There is another aspect to be the firstborn that relates directly to the Messiah being the firstborn of many. It is explained to us in Scripture as "first fruits." This, too, is an integral part of the Passover observance and is part of the blessing of the firstborn. The firstborn are the first fruits of the womb.

 

He also struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first fruits of all their vigor. Psalm 105:36

 

Passover time is really a threefold observance together. The first is Passover itself, the watchnight and remembrance meal. Then there are the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But in the midst of the seven days, the first day after the weekly Sabbath, is the Feast of First Fruits. It is from the Feast of First Fruits that the counting of the Omer and the Feast of Weeks is determined. This is part of the commemoration and remembrance of how the firstborn were saved at the Passover. Here is God's instruction for the Feast of First Fruits.

 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, "When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the Lord for a soothing aroma, with its libation, a fourth of a hin of wine. Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places." Leviticus 23:9-14

 

The ripe barley sheaves that had been harvested were to be waved before the Lord. Passover is observed in the Spring (Aviv) between the barley and wheat harvests. The first fruits of the barley harvest are waved at First Fruits. The first fruits of the wheat harvest are waved before the Lord at the Feast of Weeks (seven Sabbaths - 50 days after the barley sheaves are waved). God even instructs that the new harvest is not to be eaten until the first fruits are brought before Him.

 

With this precedent pattern in place, there are other similar instructions for all kinds of first fruits. They bear significance in understanding the firstborn.

 

You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. Deuteronomy 18:4

 

In effect, the tithe is the first fruits (a tenth) of the increase. When a person tithes, he is presenting his first fruits. Therefore, the last portion of your increase does not qualify as a tithe or first fruits to the Lord. Why does God demand the first fruits? Because the firstborn belong to Him!

 

And the first of all the first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house. Ezekiel 44:30

 

This is the same instruction given by Moses for the first fruits to be given to the Levites. Remember the Levites became the firstborn of Israel.

 

Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, "Now behold, I Myself have given you charge of My offerings, even all the holy gifts of the sons of Israel, I have given them to you as a portion, and to your sons as a perpetual allotment. This shall be yours from the most holy gifts, reserved from the fire; every offering of theirs, even every grain offering and every sin offering and every guilt offering, which they shall render to Me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons. As the most holy gifts you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you. This also is yours, the offering of their gift, even all the wave offerings of the sons of Israel; I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. Everyone of your household who is clean may eat it. All the best of the fresh oil and all the best of the fresh wine and of the grain, the first fruits of those which they give to the Lord, I give them to you. The first ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; every one of your household who is clean may eat it." Numbers 18:8-13

 

The Messiah is the person who ties together the concept of the firstborn and the first fruits for us. The truth is that all of these commandments were simply to instruct us in the Messiah, and how the Messiah would accomplish this. This is why Paul instructs us many times about the Messiah.

 

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:29

 

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. Colossians 1:18

 

And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15

 

God's sovereign choice of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, and ultimately the Levites is a demonstration of a much larger theme in God's plan. This is where we get the terms the "children of promise" and the "Chosen People." Each of us hold to the promises of God given to our fathers, and we discover that we are here by God's gracious choice.

 

But wait a minute. God must follow the rules too. What gives God the right to substitute another person in His family before the natural physical firstborn? How can He arbitrarily put one before another? Paul addresses this momentarily in both Romans and Galatians.

 

Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." Romans 9:13-17

 

For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Galatians 3:18

 

God's merciful choice actually has a legal term you may be more familiar with - Adoption. God adopts (elects) us into His family and kingdom - He chooses us! This adoption is how we are made part of His family and given the position and inheritance of the firstborn despite the natural born. Adoption is the merciful choice of a parent! And they show mercy on whom they have compassion.

 

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15

 

According to laws of adoption, an adopted son receives the inheritance of a firstborn, a double portion, and unlike the natural born, can never be disinherited. He is there by choice of the father, not by natural birth. The Levites, as the adopted firstborn, did not receive a portion like the other tribes. Their portion was the Lord's portion. The same is said of us as the firstborn of the Messiah. Our portion is not here; it is with the Lord.

 

As a Jewish believer of Yeshua the Messiah, I do not assert my position as a firstborn natural Jew. I assert God's choice of me (my adoption) into His family. Consider this the next time you take your seat at Passover. Remember the commandment to see yourself, to consider yourself there in Egypt being passed over. I remember struggling with this commandment. I asked myself, "How can I go back to Egypt and pretend I am there in the room with the blood on the door with my father or with my son?" I have learned it is really about seeing yourself as the firstborn at the Passover. It is what God did for me at the Passover.

 

1. The firstborn are covered by the blood of the Lamb.

 

2. The firstborn are passed over from death to life.

 

3. The firstborn are the redeemed.

 

4. The firstborn belong to the Lord; they owe their lives to God.

 

5. The firstborn are the first fruits of the kingdom, the best part.

 

6. The firstborn are the "chosen people;" they are adopted by God.

 

7. The firstborn are those who draw near to the Lord.

 

And when our children ask us why this night is different from all other nights, tell them that we are the firstborn of God, by His merciful choice. Tell them how the blood of the Lamb covers us. Tell them how we are passed over from death to life. Tell them how we are the first fruits, the best part. Tell them how they too are the firstborn of the Lord. And teach them how to "draw near" to the Lord to serve Him. And remind them that their inheritance is not here among mortal men; it will be brought to all of us when the Master returns. Tell them that this is the "blessing of the firstborn."

 

The Passion of the Passover

The story of Yeshua’s last days in Jerusalem concerning His arrest, death, and resurrection are the very foundations of Messianic faith and New Covenant belief. It is called the Passion. All four Gospels devote much of their text to the circumstances and dialogue of the Passion events; however, the chronology of those events is in dispute by various factions, including some believers. The problem comes down to understanding how Yeshua could be in the tomb three days and three nights. Yeshua said that He would fulfill the sign of Jonah, who was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40

An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah. And He left them, and went away. Matthew 16:4

The traditional teaching of the church for the Passion week simply doesn’t add up to three days and three nights. Therefore, Yeshua did not appear to fulfill His own words.

In a most simple narrative, many brethren have been told that Yeshua ate a Passover meal on one night, was arrested, tried, and crucified the next day. According to many teachers in the church, that day was Good Friday. Then, Yeshua was buried Friday afternoon, sometime after three o’clock, and resurrected at dawn on Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, Mary and the other women saw him first. However, this chronology does not produce three days and three nights as Yeshua said. [Friday day, Friday night, Saturday day, Saturday night, Sunday day] The best you can get is three days and two nights, and you are stretching to get two of those days to work. From a Gentile Messianic reckoning, Yeshua died on Friday at about 3:00 pm and was seen Sunday morning at about 6:00 am. This means that He was only dead for a maximum of 39 hours. You cannot get three days out of that; it doesn’t even total two full days!

However, there is a solution to this Biblical question, but it requires one to see the entire process from a Hebrew point of view and to remember that Yeshua was fulfilling the Passover. Yeshua died on the Passover and was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. Yeshua did fulfill the sign of Jonah. Let us examine the Passion of the Passover.

The Story of the Lamb

The Passover is really a story about the Lamb. When Israel left Egypt at the exodus, it was the blood of the lamb on the lintel and doorposts that caused the angel of death to pass over the homes of the Israelites. The redemption of the Messiah is the same for us. We are passed from death to life because of His sacrifice.

And He entered and was passing through Jericho. Luke 19:1

Our story begins with Yeshua going up to Jerusalem for the last time. His journey brought him to Jericho before He was to go up to Jerusalem. It is near Jericho and the Jordan river that His ministry had begun with John the Baptist’s declaration, "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world." Remember, John was a Cohen—a priest of Israel—and it requires a priest to proclaim any sacrifice to be acceptable for service to God. This is also the wilderness region where Yeshua was tempted by the devil. The great mountain overlooking Jericho is called to this day the ‘mountain of temptation.’ Now, the time had come for Yeshua to go up to Jerusalem to be sacrificed.

And while they were listening to these things, He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. Luke 19:11

The people, however, had another idea. They wanted Yeshua to go up to become King, to establish God’s earthly kingdom in their day. Therefore, it is said that they supposed the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Even the disciples fell into this thinking. Even they did not understand what Yeshua had said would really happen to Him and to them. For Yeshua had explained to them even before they came to Jericho on the way to Jerusalem what would happen. They, like the other people, were hoping for a kingly Messiah that would rule from Jerusalem.

And He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. "For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said. Luke 18:31-34

Yeshua’s understanding of what was facing Him and the disciples as they went to Jerusalem was demonstrated many times. Not only did He know and advise them that He was to be mistreated and killed, as you will soon see, but He also knew where the colt would be tied for Him to ride into Jerusalem, and the location of the room where He would eat the Passover with His disciples.

The Lamb Enters the House

And after He had said these things, He was going on ahead, ascending to Jerusalem. And it came about that when He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it, and bring it here. "And if anyone asks you, why are you untying it? thus shall you speak, The Lord has need of it. " And those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of it." And they brought it to Yeshua, and they threw their garments on the colt, and put Yeshua on it. And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road. And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Luke 19:28-38

When Moses came to the children of Israel with the message of salvation and deliverance, he rode on a colt. Yeshua’s entrance into Jerusalem was to be the same. This was a prophetic sign to the Hebrew people. One like Moses was bringing the hope of redemption (freedom from slavery). This is the work of the Messiah.

Friday Midday, 8 Nisan

Yeshua, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Yeshua had raised from the dead. John 12:1

According to Moses, the Passover Lamb was to be selected and brought into the house on or before the 10th of Nisan, four days before the Passover. This period of time is to examine the lamb for any spot or blemish before it is to be slaughtered and eaten at the Feast of Redemption—the Feast of Freedom. Therefore, Yeshua had to arrive in Jerusalem prior to 10 Nisan to satisfy this prophetic requirement as the Lamb of God. Additionally, He was traveling from Jericho, which is more than a Sabbath day journey. He had to arrive in the Jerusalem area prior to Friday evening, the beginning of Sabbath. Therefore, the Scripture records that He arrived six days prior to Passover, which was prior to Sabbath.

And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling, Luke 19:45

Moses instructed us that in preparation for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread all leaven was to be removed from the house. A search is made of the home to accomplish this. This also was the work of the Messiah. Upon entering His house, He removed the leaven in preparation for the feast. This is why Yeshua cast out those who were selling (the leaven) upon entering the Temple.

Please take note of something here. The traditional church teaches that Yeshua entered Jerusalem on Sunday. They call it Palm Sunday. It should be Palm Friday, the day prior to Sabbath and six days before Passover.

The Lamb is Examined

From Friday until Wednesday, Yeshua’s routine was limited. He was in the temple each day teaching and spent His nights on the Mount of Olives. He may have visited His friend Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha in Bethany, but no specific mention is made. There are many references though to the questions and reception He received from the various groups in the temple area. Yeshua was meeting publicly with all of them. There were the Gentiles who received Him with joy. The sick and the lame were approaching Him and being healed. Also the Pharisees came asking their questions. He was approached by the Temple council leaders, the elders and chief priests, and the scribes. Finally, He was questioned by the Sadducees. Each of these groups were fulfilling the prophetic requirement to examine the Lamb and see if there was any blemish. Each examination was increasingly more critical. They did not understand that they were fulfilling the prophecies, but it is clear that Yeshua understood and submitted Himself to this process. It was also at this time that Judas decided to meet secretly with the chief priests and officers of the temple.

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people. And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. And he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the multitude. Luke 22:1-6

The Lamb is Prepared

Wednesday, 13 Nisan, prior to 3:00 pm

Passover was observed in the home first. Moses had instructed the children of Israel to prepare a lamb, roast it by fire, and to eat it with Matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs. The lamb was to be slain at twilight on the eve of the 14th of Nisan. The period of twilight is from 3:00 pm until sunset, the same time frame that the evening sacrifice was offered in the temple. When Yeshua instructed Peter and John to prepare for the Passover, they acquired the lamb and took it to the temple on the afternoon of the 13th. Once the lamb was slain (blood poured out at the altar), it was then taken to a residence to be cooked by fire and served with the other elements. Since they had been sleeping on the Mount of Olives, they needed a place to eat the Passover.

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. Luke 22:7-13

One of the most confusing parts of understanding this sequence of events is understanding what Passover is versus the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A Hebrew new day begins at sundown or evening time. Passover is the 14th of Nisan (it begins just as the day of the 13th ends and the eve of the 14th begins), while Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of Nisan and continues for seven days (Lev 23:5-8). However, unleavened bread is eaten at both events. Passover is not a Sabbath, but the first and seventh days of Unleavened Bread are. They are called High Sabbaths, and can occur on different days than the weekly Sabbath. The New Testament intermingles these two events together because they were observed one right after the other. Further, there were two lambs for Passover. The first on the eve of the 14th was slain in the temple but taken home to be eaten. The second is the day sacrifice in the temple on Passover day and put on the altar. This ceremony leads up to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover day was also called a day of preparation for the High Sabbath (the first day of Unleavened Bread). The Messiah ate the Passover (at the eve of Passover) with His disciples and was slain at the same time the Passover temple sacrifice was offered on the altar.

Wednesday Evening, the eve of the 14th of Nisan, the Passover, after Sundown

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 22:14-16

The seder meal of the Passover is structured around four cups of wine. Two are served before the meal and two are served after the meal. The first two cups are called sanctification and instruction. The last two are called redemption and praise. The cup immediately after dinner, the cup of redemption, was the cup that Yeshua used to inaugurate the New Covenant, the cup He instructed us all to drink as a remembrance of His death, burial, and resurrection.

Matzah is also served at the Passover, with three pieces designated as the "Unity." The second piece of this Unity is the broken piece which is wrapped in a linen cloth and used as the Afikoman, or dessert of the meal. This Afikoman is brought out (resurrected) after the meal and was used by Yeshua as the symbol of His broken body. This bread and the cup of redemption are used in Messianic communion. Bitter herbs (maror) are also served in conjunction with the cup of instruction prior to the meal. This was the sop that Yeshua used to designate who would betray him and another fulfillment of the prophetic pattern. Judas departed to get the guard and officers to arrest Yeshua after the first two cups just prior to the meal. Judas knew that Yeshua and the disciples would return to the Mount of Olives area to spend the rest of the evening.

Yeshua gave much instruction to His disciples at the Passover dinner. Several chapters of the Gospels address His specific statements and actions. This includes the foot washing, the announcement of betrayal, His impending death and resurrection, the last hymn before going to the garden, Peter’s denial, and the disciples being scattered.

Many believers are not aware that Psalm 118 is the traditional hymn sung at the Passover. Yeshua knew that the religious leaders had rejected Him and would seek His death. Consider these words and what they mean, knowing that Yeshua and His disciples probably sang them together.

The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. Psalms 118:22-23

Now consider this additional verse and how Yeshua must have felt knowing that He was facing His death.

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:24

Wednesday Night, 14 Nisan/ Passover, about Midnight (the watchnight)

Once the hymn was sung, Yeshua led His disciples out to the Garden at the Mount of Olives. He asked His disciples to remain awake and pray. Passover night was a watchnight. Everyone who observed the Passover in Jerusalem would be up and awake. It was traditional to speak of God’s redemption until you saw the dawn of the day. This is why everyone was up to arrest and interrogate Yeshua. This is why Yeshua expected His disciples to remain awake with Him.

The Lamb is Taken to Slaughter

Thursday Early Morning, about 1:00 am

When Yeshua was betrayed by Judas with a kiss, there was a sudden and passionate struggle which Yeshua subdued. He told Peter to put away his sword, He healed the wounded man, and He explained that what was happening was in accordance with the words of the Prophets. The Son of Man was to be delivered up to the hands of sinners. This was also the same hour that the Angel of Death went through ancient Egypt at the first Passover.

So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Yeshua and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. John 18:12-13

Annas was the Sagan Priest, or the second priest to the High Priest. From this point, only the elders of the priests would handle the Lamb of God sacrifice. In effect, they unknowingly were preparing the sacrifice for willful and defiant sin—the sacrifice for sin that merited death. Annas therefore sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. John 18:24

Caiaphas was the High Priest who had previously prophesied the death of Yeshua, that He would die for the whole nation of Israel.

But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." Now this he did not say on his own initiative; but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Yeshua was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. John 11:49-53

Thursday Morning, 14 Nisan/Passover day, about 7:00 am

And when it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, "If You are the Messiah, tell us." But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." And they all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I am." And they said, "What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth." Luke 22:66-71

Their interrogation had gone on for some time, and they had finally come down to the crucial issue: Was He the Son of God? Up to this time, Yeshua had fended off the question. He had previously said, "My time is not yet," but now, it was time. The Redeemer had come to the Feast of Redemption. The question was posed by the leaders of the nation. He gave answer. They had already made up their minds beforehand. They had condemned Him before they even asked. He was now the Lamb being led to the slaughter.

Thursday Morning, 14 Nisan/Passover Day, about 9:00 am

Then the whole body of them arose and brought Him before Pilate. Luke 23:1

You might ask yourself why the chief priests took Him to Pilate, a Gentile governor of Rome. One of the requirements of Passover is that you cannot mix death with the Passover. Since it is the passing of death to life, there is to be no condemnation to death either. However, the chief priests decided to use a Gentile, Pilate for that purpose.

They led Yeshua therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. John 18:28

Remember, this was the Passover watchnight. Had the chief priests condemned Him from their proceedings, they would have defiled themselves and negated the Passover sacrifice they were to officiate over in the temple that day. Therefore, they wanted Pilate to condemn Him and put Him to death.

Thursday Morning, 14 Nisan/Passover Day, about 9:30 am

Pilate was not particularly honorable, but he was a Roman governor bound by Roman law. Even condemning a Jew required some justifiable reason according to law. The first thing the chief priests accused Him of was being the king of the Jews. But wait a minute. There already was a king of the Jews, he was Herod. So, Pilate instructed that Yeshua be taken to Herod for trial.

And when he learned that He belonged to Herod s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. Now Herod was very glad when he saw Yeshua; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. Luke 23:7-8

Herod was no man to be played with. When Yeshua wouldn’t even answer any of his questions, Herod dismissed Him back to Pilate.

And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been at enmity with each other. Luke 23:11-12

Thursday Morning, 14 Nisan/Passover Day, about 11:30 am

And Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. I will therefore punish Him and release Him." Luke 23:13-16

Pilate didn’t have a problem with Yeshua, nor did Herod. It was Pilate’s intention to make the whole matter go away, but the chief priests wouldn’t let it go.

And he said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; I will therefore punish Him and release Him." Luke 23:22

It became clear to Pilate that the chief priests were going to make future trouble for Pilate. They planned to accuse him of siding with a man (Yeshua) who opposed Caesar as king. The priests also had gathered a mob to protest and demand the crucifixion of Yeshua. Even Pilate’s attempts to free a single prisoner in honor of the feast wouldn’t appease them. Pilate made a political decision. He washed his hands of the matter and gave the priests what they wanted.

And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand should be granted. Luke 23:24

Thursday Noon, 14 Nisan/Passover Day, (the day of preparation for the first High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread)

Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your King!" John 19:14

So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. John 19:16

Yeshua was led away with two others condemned to suffer Roman crucifixion. According to Christian tradition, the Via Delarosa is the name of the street in Jerusalem where Yeshua was led to His death. Much speculation exists as to which streets were used and exactly where the execution site was. I believe He was led away from the Praetorium to the place of the skull located on the Mount of Olives. Therefore, He most likely left the city by either the Eastern Gate adjoining the temple mount, or the Lion’s Gate just to its north. Either gate leads to the Mount of Olives.

The Lamb is Slain

Thursday afternoon, 14 Nisan/Passover Day, shortly after Noon

There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Yeshua in between. And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, "Yeshua THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS." Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Yeshua was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek. John 19:18-20

And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Messiah of God, His Chosen One." And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!" Luke 23:33-37

Roman crucifixions were a public spectacle, intended to remind the general public of Roman authority. Rather than a well hewn, stately cross, I believe Yeshua’s execution was a crossmember piece affixed to a tree trunk stripped of its branches. I believe the tree was an olive tree on the Mount of Olives. Anointing oil comes from squeezing and crushing olives. I believe the Messiah (the Anointed One) was crushed for our iniquities.

Thursday Afternoon, Noon to 3:00pm

And it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, Luke 23:44

As I said before, there is much speculation about exactly where the place of the skull is, where Yeshua was crucified. I believe it was the Mount of Olives, the same place where the red heifer was taken and where the scapegoat of Yom Kippur was taken. One compelling piece of evidence that supports this location is the Roman Centurion’s testimony in Matthew 27. At the time of Yeshua’s death, an earthquake shook, tombs were opened, and the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom. An ancient Jewish cemetery adorns the Mount of Olives, and along the Kidron Valley separating the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. The tombs are white stone boxes above ground with stone lids. A Gentile standing on the Mount of Olives, directly east of the Temple Mount, could easily see these tombs open (the lids being shaken off). A Gentile can only see through the open sanctuary doors with the veil torn if he is standing on the Mount of Olives. The darkness could not have been a solar eclipse. The moon is on the opposite side of the earth. More likely, very dark storm clouds gathered. During this time, Yeshua’s clothing was distributed by the casting of lots (a prophetic event necessary for every proper sacrifice). Yeshua, Himself also made a very profound statement tied to the Passover. He said, "It is fulfilled."

Finally, Yeshua died. The soldier took a spear and pierced His side. John records for us that he saw the water and the blood come forth. Not only is this physical evidence of His death, but it was also the fulfillment of the water ceremony from the temple service at the Feast of Tabernacles. This symbolized that the blood of redemption was poured out with the waters of salvation. It also spoke of God’s additional gift of His Outpouring Spirit. Further, Yeshua’s legs were not broken, a normal part of crucifixion. Moses had instructed that the Passover Lamb was to have no broken bones. This is why an unbroken shank bone is placed on the seder platter. It is called the Zarowa. The proper observance of Passover to this day requires the Zarowa to be present.

While Yeshua was dying on the cross within view of our Father sitting on the mercy seat, the priests in the temple were presenting the Passover sacrifice on the altar. It was normally presented at 3:00 pm, the same time that Yeshua died. This is why the Father tore His outer garment (the veil). It is the passionate expression of grief at the loss of someone loved.

Thursday Afternoon, 14 Nisan/Passover, shortly after 3:00pm

And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Yeshua. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. And it was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed after, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Luke 23:50-55

Actually, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus assisted in removing Yeshua’s body and placing Him in the tomb. This is noteworthy. Although they had disagreed with the proceedings, both of these men were members of the 14-member council that had condemned Yeshua. Moses had instructed that the chief priests were to officiate the ceremonial sacrifices. In accordance with the altar service requirement, only members of the council were authorized to physically come into contact with the Lamb of God sacrifice. Therefore, from start to finish, the chief priests accurately officiated without knowing they were satisfying the Mosaic requirements to sacrifice the Lamb of God. They had properly presented and handled the Lamb of God sacrifice in both place and time.

Thursday Late Afternoon, 14 Nisan/Passover, approximately 6:00 pm

And they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:56

Not only was there a High Sabbath for the Feast of Unleavened Bread about to begin, but the day following was a weekly Sabbath, therefore this rest and waiting period was for two Sabbaths.

Thursday Evening, 15 Nisan, the First High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, about 7:00 pm His disciples did not understand Yeshua’s teaching about His resurrection, but the chief priests feared its implications. They also had heard of Yeshua resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. So, they compelled Pilate to post a Roman guard at the tomb where Yeshua’s body lay. They feared that disciples would steal His body and then falsely say that He had been resurrected.

Friday, 15 Nisan, the First High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Everyone rested. The disciples were hiding in fear of arrest. Yeshua’s body was in the grave.

Sabbath day, 16 Nisan

Everyone is still resting. The disciples are still hiding in fear of arrest. Yeshua’s body continues in the grave.

The Lamb is Resurrected

Sunday Morning, 17 Nisan, about 6:00 am (the third day of Unleavened Bread) (The Feast of First Fruits) [The first day after the first weekly Sabbath, after the Passover]

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Yeshua. Luke 24:1-3

The angels greeted the women and told them what had happened.

He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Luke 24:6-9

What is fascinating about this moment was more than the disciples learning of Yeshua’s resurrection. It was what was happening in the temple. On the Feast of First Fruits, the priests wave green barley sheaves before the LORD thanking Him for the resurrection of life. Why the barley sheaves? They had been seeds that had died, been buried, and because of the waters of "salvation" had now been raised in newness of life. This was happening at the same time the angels were explaining to them what had happened to Yeshua.

Sunday Morning, 17 Nisan, about 8:00 am (the Feast of First Fruits)

The Gospels record for us how the disciples, particularly John and Peter, came and found the linen cloth left behind in the tomb. Remember, these are the same men who prepared the lamb for the seder meal earlier. These are the same men who prepared the Afikoman bread and the linen cloth for it. They may have been the same men to retrieve the Afikoman at the seder meal, playing the game. The game is played every Passover seder. After the supper, the Afikoman is to be brought back to the table to be eaten as the dessert for the seder. However, the Afikoman is missing and only the linen cloth is found. It is a little "hide and seek" game always played. However, at the tomb of Yeshua, it was more than a game. It was His resurrection. All they found was the linen cloth.

Sunday Morning, 17 Nisan, about Noon (the Feast of First Fruits)

Apparently two of the disciples were traveling to an adjoining city near Jerusalem. Yeshua walked with them, although His identity was hidden from them. He explained the reason for the resurrection as prophesied by Moses and the Prophets, only revealing Himself to them as He broke and blessed the bread when they shared a meal with Him. Remember, this is now the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was not just any normal bread. It was the same bread Yeshua had broken before at the Passover and had taught that it was about Him.

Sunday Late Afternoon, 17 Nisan, about 6:00 pm (the third day of Unleavened Bread - the third day after Passover) (The Feast of First Fruits)

Finally, Yeshua appeared suddenly in the same room with the disciples. I can only imagine how the disciples must have felt! They were experiencing fear for their own lives mixed with the joy of seeing Yeshua, further mixed with the awe of realizing His resurrection. Their emotions must have been stretched in every direction. That is why the entire story is best described as a Passion.

Counting the Days

Yeshua was in the grave on Passover Day-14 Nisan, the night of 15 Nisan, the day of 15 Nisan, the night of 16 Nisan, the day of 16 Nisan, the Night of 17 Nisan, and seen on the day of 17 Nisan. Yeshua’s words were correct, like Jonah, He was in the grave of the earth for three days and three nights. This is the Passion of the Passover.

Passover and our Spiritual Eyes

Spring time is my favorite season. The trees begin to bud and produce their cool shade. The mornings are warm and inviting. Everything begins to grow again. Spring time is a favorite of many; but the reason it is my favorite time of year is because of the holiday called Passover. God calls it the beginning of months.
This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
Exodus 12:2

Passover is the most Christian holiday I have ever observed. It has the most spiritual significance to me personally of any religious holiday. I would like to invite you to consider keeping the Passover for the first time, if you never have. And, if you have kept the Passover, I would like you to re-examine what it means in the light of what Moses wrote and what Yeshua did. It is in the keeping of the Passover that our spiritual eyes and hearts are awakened like the new growth of spring. It is in the eating of the unleavened bread, we eat the Word of God and are truly satisfied and find true contentment. It is in this feast of the Lord that we clearly see our Messiah and King. This is the feast of Redemption and we get to sit at the table with our King and Redeemer.
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."
Exodus 12:3

Did you know that Yeshua entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey on the tenth of the month just like Moses said the lamb is to enter the house? Yeshua was riding on a lowly donkey just like Moses did when he went to gather the children of Israel in Egypt. The prophet Zechariah had said that our King would be mounted on a donkey and bring us salvation (Yeshua).
So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt.
Exodus 4:20a

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9

It is interesting to note that the commandment to observe the Passover is for the home. Furthermore, guests are to be invited to the Passover. It is not a private affair, but one to be shared. Each observant household is to offer a lamb as the main entree.
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.
Exodus 12:4

On a traditional Passover seder platter, the lamb shank bone is always represented as the lamb even though lamb might not be eaten in the meal. The unbroken shank bone of a lamb is called the Zarowa (the arm). The prophet Isaiah asks a question about this Zarowa, which is key to understanding the Passover properly.
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm (the Zarowa) of the Lord (Adonai) been revealed?
Isaiah 53:1

Simply put, the lamb (the Zarowa Adonai, the arm of the Lord) shank bone of the Passover is a picture of the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God is the sacrifice promised by our father Abraham to Isaac to be offered on Mount Moriah. It is the sacrifice taught by Moses, separate from the law and yet in accordance with the law, for willful, defiant sin. It is the sacrifice that passes us from death to life, and those who have life are recorded in the Lamb's book of life.

As a believer, this is important to you. Your annual observance of the Passover is DIRECT evidence concerning your understanding of who the Lamb of God is and your level of spiritual maturity. Failing to observe the Passover is evidence of two things. Either you have not been taught or you are in willful disobedience. The message is clear: only those who are in the house with the Lamb's blood on their door posts are spared when the Angel of the Lord comes with judgment. Knowing the Redeemer and His work as the Lamb of God and knowing about redemption, but not experiencing it, are two different things. Standing outside and observing those who are keeping the Passover affords you no protection from the Angel of the Lord.
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.
Exodus 12:5-6

There has always been some controversy about the timing of the Passover. Is it the eve of the 14th day, the day before the feast of Unleavened Bread; or, is it concurrent with the first day of the feast of Unleavened, the 15th of the month? Is Passover separate from the feast of Unleavened Bread or the first day of it? Traditionally, the Jewish community has connected the two and keep the Passover seder meal on the eve of the first day of unleavened. I am not convinced that traditional observance is correct. The eve of the 14th is the day before the first day of unleavened.

In parallel, there has also been some controversy about the timing of Yeshua's death. We know He was prophesied to be buried three days and three nights.
…for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Matthew 12:40

If you have the crucifixion on Friday after a Thursday evening Passover meal and Yeshua is buried before sundown Friday, then how can He be seen on Sunday morning (the first day after Sabbath) and it be called three days and three nights? By Jewish count, it can be called three different days, but it is not three days and three nights. We definitely know the day He arose, therefore an argument can be made for an earlier Passover observance (maybe the evening of the 14th instead of the 15th). Maybe, Yeshua observed the Passover meal on the evening of the 14th (Tuesday night), was arrested and crucified on Wednesday day. Wednesday then would be "the day of preparation" for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread which begins on the 15th (Wednesday night). Moses instructed that the first and seventh days of unleavened bread are high Sabbaths (days of holy convocation with no labor).
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 23:6-8

Now listen to John's account of when Yeshua was taken from the cross after His death.
The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)…
John 19:31a

Yeshua died and was buried on the same day. He died on the Passover and was buried just before the evening began. In Jewish thinking, the new day begins at sundown. Yeshua died on the day of preparation before the high Sabbath (the first day of unleaven). He would have been in the grave Wednesday night, Thursday day, Thursday night, Friday day, Friday night, Saturday day, and He would have been seen Sunday dawn (the day after the Sabbath). This is a combination with three nights (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) and three days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Remember the counting of the days in Jewish thinking is evenings and then mornings. As Messianic Jews, we may need to seriously reconsider the date we keep the Passover in our homes. Moses instructed us to keep it on the eve of the 14th, not on the eve of the 15th (the first day of unleaven) as the traditional Jewish community follows.
Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.
Exodus 12:7-10

When the ancients placed the blood on the door posts, a particular Hebrew letter is formed the letter Het [ח]. This letter means life. You may have heard of the common Jewish toast "Le Chaim" (to life!). The blood on the door posts was a sign to the Angel of the Lord indicating which houses had life, and death passed over them. Today, we understand the greater work of Yeshua as the Lamb of God in passing us from spiritual death to eternal life.
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

Why don't we put the blood on our door posts? That event only took place in Egypt. We do as the descendants of Israel do. It is understood that the four Passover cups of wine symbolize the blood of the Lamb. Those four cups tell the story of the Passover so that we might remember and teach our children.
Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, "I am the Lord, and I will bring you [the cup of Sanctification] out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you [the cup of Instruction] from their bondage. I will also redeem you [the cup of Redemption] with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you [the cup of Praise] for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians."
Exodus 6:6-7

In the traditional seder, two cups are before the meal and two cups follow the meal. This is why the Messiah took the third cup after the supper, the cup of Redemption and used it for the New Covenant.
In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
I Corinthians 11:25

This was the Redeemer presenting Himself at the feast of Redemption (Passover) using the cup of Redemption symbolizing the blood of the Lamb of God. Yeshua was the Lamb of God about to be sacrificed for us.

The Passover meal also includes unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs. The unleavened bread is called the bread of haste" because Israel had to leave Egypt quickly. There was no time to let the daily bread rise and become leavened. The matzah also speaks of the sinless nature of Yeshua. Leaven is a spiritual symbol of sin. This is why Paul instructs us.
Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I Corinthians 5:7-8

Traditionally, three pieces of matzah are used for the formal part of the Passover seder. They are called the "Unity." Different teachings are offered to explain the use of these three pieces of matzah. However, let me relay exactly what is done with the bread and you can decide for yourselves what they mean. First, the second piece of the matzah is broken in half. The Abest part" is wrapped in a clean linen cloth and placed separate from the Passover table. A pillow is put over the wrapped bread. It is said that the bread has been buried and a Astone" is covering it. This piece of bread is called Athe Afikoman". The piece of bread is considered to be the best part of the Passover, it serves as the dessert for the meal. The remaining three pieces of matzah are used in telling the Passover story and for eating bitter herbs. Generally, the father or leader of the Passover eats the first piece and the other half of the second piece and the third piece is shared by others at the table. When eating bitter herbs (usually horseradish), one learns to eat more matzah than bitter herbs; therefore, the bread "comforts" us.

Immediately after the supper, when it is time to drink the third cup (the cup of Redemption), the leader of the Passover calls for the Afikoman (the wrapped and buried piece of matzah) to come forth". But, this is where a traditional game is played with the children. During the meal, they are to remove and hide the Afikoman. Therefore, when the leader calls for the Afikoman to come forth, the children report, "The stone [the pillow] has been moved and all we found was this linen cloth."

For those of us who see the resurrection of Yeshua from the grave being foretold, we can see God's great plan of salvation in the Passover story. Maybe this is why Yeshua took the Afikomen at the Last Supper and referred to His own body broken for us.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
I Corinthians 11:23-24

The word "Afikoman" is also significant in its meaning. In the Hebrew it means, "It is finished." This was the last word spoken by Yeshua as He died.
When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" [Afikoman] and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
John 19:30

The bitter herbs speak not only of sorrow and bitter hardness from bondage. They also speak of betrayal. Yeshua used the bitter herbs to designate that it was Judas who would betray Him.
Jesus therefore answered, "That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him." So when He had dipped the morsel [the matzah with bitter herbs], He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
John 13:26

The instruction of Moses concerning the Passover is personal instruction.
Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste-- it is the Lord's Passover.
Exodus 12:11

For those of us who know Yeshua, we know our loins are to girded with truth and feet shod with the Gospel. We know that we go by the authority of God with His Shepherd's staff in our hand. We remember God's great work of Salvation in Yeshua our Messiah. We remember that God delivered us with "an outstretched arm" when He was hung from the cross of a tree.
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 12:14

If anyone tells you that the Passover is not for Christians and that it is not done anymore, then you are talking to someone who does not know who the Lamb of God is or what it means. You are talking to someone who knows about some religious things but has never sat at the Feast of Redemption and experienced the Lamb of God, nor does he realize that he is outside looking in.

The OutCry of a Nation

Most of you know the basic story of Sodom and Gomorrah. We know that these cities did some grievous things, sexual in nature, and that God judged them. It is one place in the Bible that we weigh the issues of homosexuality and sexual perversion. In fact, our vocabulary has the word "sodomy" from the story to define perverse sexual behavior.

While the story of Sodom and Gomorrah does contain the elements of sexual perversion, this is not the primary reason why God came down to judge the inhabitants. Examine again what the Lord said to Abraham. "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great."

What outcry? Did you hear an outcry? Abraham didn't hear an outcry. Sexual perversion is a behavior of consenting adults, right? So, what outcry is the Lord referring to?

There are two elements to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah: the outcry and their sin. We know that their sin was exceedingly grave and was a great perversion, but who cried out and what was it that the Lord heard? Whatever it was, God heard it and caused Him to come from heaven, walk upon the dust of the earth, see for Himself, and execute fire and brimstone total judgment. Only Lot and his daughters were spared. So what was the outcry?

There is a lot of sin going on in the world and it is exceedingly grave, but the Lord hasn't shown up yet to execute fire and brimstone judgment. There is plenty of sexual perversion going on in this world and the Lord has not shown up yet with His judgment by fire. What was it at Sodom and Gomorrah that caused God's direct action? Before we try to answer the questions, maybe we should ask ourselves if this is important to us. Why should we want to know what the outcry of Sodom is? What bearing does it have on us?

We know the Lord is coming back to judge this world and His judgment will be more severe than Sodom and Gomorrah. He says He will judge the whole world, not a couple of cities. Sodom and Gomorrah are examples for us to prepare for the final judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah has a lot more to do with other more serious issues than just sexual behaviors. Listen to what the prophet Ezekiel has to say about Sodom and Gomorrah.
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.
Ezekiel 16:49-50

"Arrogance, abundant food, careless ease, failing to help the poor and needy, haughtiness, and abominations." Before we go any further, doesn't this description of Sodom match the description of America. Let me be plain and obvious. Our generation and this world has made a transition recently. We have now become like Sodom and Gomorrah. I'm not just referring to the sexual perversions; I'm referring to what the outcry of Sodom was.

There is an ancient story in a book that parallels much of Genesis. It is called the Book of Jasher. It is not considered to be part of the Bible but it does elaborate on people and places in the Bible. In particular, it tells a series of events trying to explain the outcry of Sodom. I am not saying that it is accurate but it does lend insight into ancient thinking about this subject. By the way, the books of Joshua (Josh 10:13) and 2 Samuel (2 Sam 1:18) do refer to this book.
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Using the book of Jasher, let me explain in more detail what the ancients said of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Festivals of Sodom

Sodom and Gomorrah was actually a complex of five cities. They were located in a fertile and green valley with the Jordan river feeding it. It was said that a man would have to walk a half a day to cross this valley and that many travelers, strangers and merchants came through it. According to the ancients, Sodom would hold a festival in this valley four times a year. Each man would come to the valley with his wife and daughters. Then the men would take other men's wives or daughters to have sex with them without the objections of the husbands and fathers. Apparently, they took particular pleasure in virgin daughters.

As bizarre as that may seem, it is no more bizarre than Lot offering his daughters to the mob when the men of Sodom demanded Lot's guests (the Angels of the Lord) to be brought out.

Can you imagine the emotional and physical trauma to the women of Sodom for such behavior? But this strange festival is not considered to be the outcry that the Lord heard.

The Visiting Merchant

Another story of Sodom deals with a visiting merchant who came to Sodom and set up his goods for sale on the streets of Sodom. The citizens of Sodom came to see his wares and then everyone mobbed his small market taking everything. He was unable to guard and protect his wares because of the sheer number of people taking them. Furthermore, his cries of help were ignored; instead, the people began to taunt him. Each would hold up what they stole and explain that they only took one item or a small item. It is said that the mob played timbrels and danced following the man out of the city weeping at the loss of all his goods. But the weeping at the loss of goods is not the outcry that the Lord responded to.

The Hospitality of Hedad

Another story of a traveling merchant is even more bizarre. It tells of a merchant with a donkey carrying cloth of many colors. Apparently, the load upon the donkey was suspended by a mantle (a carrying frame) and a cord (a line to bind the load to the frame). Unlike the first merchant, this merchant was only traveling through Sodom and not intending to stop and sell his wares. A certain man of Sodom named Hedad saw the merchant and invited the man to stay the night in his house to rest. At first, the man was going to continue on, but Hedad explained how the day was ending and that he could care for his donkey as well with straw and food. So, the man accepted Hedad's invitation.
The next day, Hedad's invitation was extended even further to meals for the man. The day went by and another night's rest was extended. The traveling merchant again accepted. Again, another day's hospitality was offered and accepted. Then on the third day, the merchant insisted that he must continue on his trip and requested the mantle and cord to tie his goods to his donkey. At this point, Hedad began to do something bizarre. Hedad then began to give an interpretation of the cord and mantle as though they were symbols in a dream. Hedad said that the man would have a long life (the cord) and that he would have an orchard of many trees with different fruits (the mantle with the colored cloth). The man, of course, was shocked and complained that he had no dream and wanted his cord and mantle returned promptly. Hedad continued to act as though he was interpreting a dream and would not return the man's property.

The traveling merchant then went to the city's officials, the judges. There he came before a judge to make complaint against Hedad. After the merchant stated his case, then Hedad complained how he had shown great service to the man for the past two days and he had offered to only charge him three pieces of silver instead of four for the interpretation of his dream. The judge then ruled in favor of Hedad, citing his hospitality for the past two days. However, the judge also ruled that the merchant would have to pay for all the meals, lodging and the interpretation of the dream. The judge further explained that Hedad's reputation for good interpretations was excellent.

Apparently, the judgment against the merchant equaled the value of his goods. The man went away with only his donkey. Hedad and the corrupt judge took his property, including the cord and mantle. Can you imagine the dismay of the merchant realizing that Hedad had intended all along using his hospitality to trick him into staying the two days and then using an utterly absurd story to take his property? But, even this is not the outcry that the Lord responded to.

The Evil Judges

Sodom and Gomorrah was also known for its evil judges. According to the ancients, in four of the five cities, evil judges were stationed to do harm to strangers to the benefit of the citizens. A poor stranger traveling into Sodom would easily find himself arrested and charged with a violation of law and customs. They would accuse the stranger of judging them when he questioned their strange customs. While Sodom wanted to be open with their sexuality, they were closed to any questioning of its value. Each of these four cities and judges had a bed that was used to measure these questioning strangers. It was a particular length. The judge would order the stranger onto this bed to be measured. If he was found to be shorter than the bed, he was stretched. They would put three men at his head and arms, and three others at his feet. Then they would stretch the man to the length of the bed. In medieval times, this was called the rack. If the man was longer than the bed, he was then squeezed somehow from at his sides, to the point of death. Essentially, the questioning stranger was tortured to death in a public display. The judges would then proclaim that this was the proper punishment for any man who came to Sodom questioned their customs.

You can be assured that the stranger cried out, but according to the ancients, even this was not the outcry of Sodom that the Lord responded to.

The Poor Man

In every city there are those who are poor. In the ancient times, the poor would sit near the gates of a city asking for money to buy food. According to the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, if a poor man was seen asking for money for food, he was taken into the center of the city and constrained. There, the citizens of Sodom would give him money (gold and silver). But when he would offer the money for food, no one was permitted to sell him food. Instead, they would watch and taunt the man with giving him money but no food for which he needed. No matter how much he offered, no one would sell or give him any food. Because of his constraints, they would watch the man starve to death. Then, each man of Sodom would retrieve his money and the man was buried under a bush in the wilderness.

Can you imagine the poor receiving the monies only to be refused the food no matter how much he offered? Death by starvation is not a pleasant thing anywhere. In Sodom, it was put on display for entertainment. Even this was not considered to be the outcry that the Lord respond to.

Eliezer's Visit to Sodom

Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, was dispatched by Sarah to visit and see to the welfare of Lot. According to the story, Eliezer came upon a man of Sodom beating and stripping a poor man of his clothes near the city of Sodom. When Eliezer challenged the man, the man asked if he was a family member of the poor man or one of the judges of Sodom. When Eliezer confessed that he was neither, then the man of Sodom attacked Eliezer with a rock striking him in the head causing him to bleed.

The man then drug Eliezer into the city and took him before one of the corrupt judges. There, the man complained to the judge that he had struck Eliezer to remove some bad blood from his body, and now, Eliezer refused to pay his hire for removing the bad blood. Eliezer, of course, responded to this incredible complaint by questioning how anyone could expect to be paid for wounding another. The judge of Sodom of course ruled in favor of the man from Sodom. At this point, Eliezer rose up and struck the judge. When the judge began to bleed profusely, Eliezer explained that he had removed some bad blood from the judge and that his fee should be paid to the first man for his service to Eliezer.

While this story has an interesting turn and we want to cheer for Abraham's servant Eliezer, this is not the outcry that the Lord responded to.

Palitith, Lot's Daughter

Abraham's nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom. According to the tradition, Lot had a third daughter. Her name was Palitith and she was the oldest. Palitith grew to maturity and married a man of Sodom. One day, as she went to the center of the city to draw water, she found a poor man constrained with the money begging for food. Each day, she would put bread in her empty pitcher and take it to the well. Secretly, she would give the poor man bread and water. Then she would return home with her water as though nothing had happened. After many days, the men of Sodom could not understand why the poor man had not died of starvation, but instead seemed as healthy as ever. So, they stationed men to watch over him. When Palitith gave him bread from her pitcher, the spies reported her and she was arrested. All of the people of Sodom judged her and built a large bonfire. Thereupon, they threw Palitith into the fire for helping the poor man. Even this, however, is not referred to as the outcry of Sodom.

The Woman of Admah

Admah was one of the five cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A woman in that city, like Palitith, took pity upon a visitor. When she saw the stranger and knew the danger he was in, she took the stranger in, claiming he was her guest and invited by her. She gave him food and water, and then before the men of the city could challenge him again, secretly helped him to escape with his life. The woman was arrested. To judge her severely even though she had been lawful, they covered her with honey and placed her where bees attacked her and stung her to death.

The Outcry of Sodom

According to the tradition, the cry of this unknown woman in Admah is the outcry that the Lord heard. But don't misunderstand the real meaning of the ancient story. It is well understood that every story was part of the outcry. You see, the outcry was the outcry of injustice.

Just as the woman of Admah was challenged for being hospitable toward the stranger, so Lot was challenged with taking in the two angels into his house. Sodom was a place of abundant food, tranquility, and life with ease. They refused to help the poor and needy, they refused to feed the hungry, and they did many evil things. Their sexual perversions were more of a symptom than a cause of their perversions. They had perverted every good thing and attacked anything righteous.

The reason that the angels wanted to go to the square of the city (Gen 19:2) was to see if anyone did justice, to see if anyone sought the truth, ten were not found in any of the five cities.

Now consider ourselves and where we live. Sexual perversions abound. Like Lot, we disagree with the culture and lifestyle, but our communities are full of the sights and sounds of sexuality and open sensuality. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry in America. The internet has pornographic sites in the 100,000's. Everyone knows about it and by knowledge is a participant to some extent. But let's address something really grievous.

Our country slaughters innocent unborn people in the millions for the sake of inconvenience. Our government sanctions and our supreme court has ruled that this is equal to righteousness and justice. Every elected official is measured against this one issue, the right to an abortion.

I feel like Eliezer trying to understand the logic of paying a man of Sodom for helping him get rid of some bad blood. We live in a time and world where Godliness is under attack as being an ultra right-wing conservative extremist. We live in a bizarre place where justice is whatever you make it to be with some judge's latest ruling. We live where truth is whatever you make believe it is. And what is really weird, everyone goes along with it.

A few years ago, a Christian lady friend of mine who works at a U.S. government facility, shared how one of the men in the office, suddenly came in one day dressed as a woman. That wasn't the weird part. Then all the ladies in the work place were called to a meeting and it was explained that this woe-MAN would be using the ladies room. She (him) [IT] was embarrassed raising her/his/its skirt in the men's room. Any lady objecting was then led into another meeting to counsel with some PhD from the local university to deal with their prejudices and archaic ultra conservative beliefs. Don't laugh. This really happened and is happening in our land. The customs of our land are no different from Sodom and Gomorrah. You will be judged as unrighteous for taking issue with it!

The outcry of Sodom is coming from our world today. This world has abundant food but we will not share it with the hungry. The hungry are starving. This world is slaughtering the innocent and the helpless, all for our own personal convenience. The world is at ease and laughing at any suggestion of God's judgment. Righteousness is old fashioned and out of style. Justice is perverted and twisted for the benefit of a few. The harm of others has become entertainment for the masses.

Just as the Lord came and had lunch with Abraham sharing with him what was about to happen to Sodom, the Lord has shared with us about the world's future. Abraham pleaded for the righteous few. The Lord was careful to save the righteous. In fact, listen to the Angel's words as Lot was escaping.
Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.
Genesis 19:22a

The Lord has heard the outcry. He has informed us of His intent. He has seen for Himself. We have heard the plea to escape. As soon as the righteous are safe, judgment begins.

How quickly and in what manner does that judgment come? Part of the answer is in the last night in Sodom. We know that Lot spent a long night pleading with his sons-in-law to escape, only to hear them think he was joking (Gen 19:14). How many of your family think your walk with the Lord is some kind of a joke? How many of your family have accused you of acting like a judge because you believe we are the last generation and will see God's judgment. The judgment at Sodom and Gomorrah came the next day. And on that very day, Lot's wife looked back in the process and was judged.

It is on this last point that we conclude. This was the point that Yeshua made reference when He warned us about the final judgment. People who live in Sodom like to live there, and they don't like to leave it. This is particularly frightening when you consider that we all are living in the Sodom and Gomorrah of today. I'm curious. Can you find nine others in your town that will follow the instruction of the prophet?
Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

Are we prepared to leave the Sodom and Gomorrah in our lives and around us or are we still asking, "What outcry?"

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