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President Ronald Reagan stated April 2, 1983:
"This week Jewish families … have been celebrating Passover ... Its observance reminds all of … the battle against oppression waged by the Jews since ancient times …
And Christians have been commemorating the last momentous days leading to the crucifixion of Jesus 1,950 years ago. Tomorrow, as morning spreads around the planet, we'll celebrate the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus."
The most important event in the Christian calendar is the Resurrection.
The word “Easter” is in the King James Bible only once, in Acts 12:4. In every other place, and in every other translation, the word used is “Passover.”
Passover is the first of the seven major Jewish Feasts. The feasts are in three groups:
In the Spring are the Feast of Passover; the Feast of Unleavened Bread; and the Feast of First Fruits.
Fifty days later is the Feast of Pentecost at the beginning of the harvest. "Pente" means 50.
At the end of the summer harvest are celebrated the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement; and the Feast of Tabernacles
Let’s look at these:
Passover was first observed around 1,400 BC, the night before the exodus from Egypt.
The Pharaoh had previously enslaved the Israelites and made them thrown their baby boys into the Nile River.
God judged Egypt with plagues, the final one being sending the angel of death to kill the firstborn.
On the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nisan, each Israelite family killed a lamb and put its blood over the doorposts of their house so that the angel of death would "pass over" their home, as the lamb took the judgment in their place.
Exodus 12:8 gave instructions regarding the Passover lamb: "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it."
Jewish days began at sunset and lasted until the next sunset. In 33 AD, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples in the evening and then in the morning he was crucified -- on the day of Passover.
The Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 5:7: "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us."
The lamb is considered the most innocent of animals. John the Baptist saw Jesus and exclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!”
Justin Martyr, who live c.100 to 165 AD, described:
"That lamb … was commanded to be wholly roasted … a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb ... is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb."
Crucifixion was the most painful Roman torture, reserved for slaves and rebels.
Dr. Alexander Metherell, M.D., Ph.D. wrote:
“The pain was absolutely unbearable … In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’”
Cicero called crucifixion, “the most cruel and hideous of tortures.” Historian Will Durant wrote that “even the Romans … pitied the victims.”
Isaiah chapter 53 described the Messiah’s suffering:
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed ...
The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent ...
He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished ... Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer ... The Lord makes his life an offering for sin ...
My righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities ... For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors."
The next Jewish Feast after Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jews would get all the leaven or yeast out of their homes. Leaven is symbolic of sin.
On the exact Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus was in the tomb - He “who taketh away the sins of the world.”
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 5:6–8: "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven ... Let us keep the Feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Theologians have studied what Jesus may have experienced as in Matthew 12, when Jesus replied to those demanding a sign:
“None will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
The Book of Jonah recorded: "Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly … out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight … the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever.”
Next is the Feast of First Fruits marking the earliest harvest of the spring, the winter barley, which is the first grain to ripen in Israel's growing season.
As soon as it appeared above ground it was harvested and brought to the temple.
Leviticus 23:9-14: "When you enter the land ... and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest ... The priest ...shall wave the sheaf before the Lord.”
Jesus rose from the dead on exact day of the Feast of First Fruits.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:20–23: "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept ... But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming."
Jonah declared: “Thou hast brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple ... Salvation is of the Lord.' So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."
The fact that the Gospels have women being the first to testify of Christ’s resurrection is evidence that the disciples did not make up the story, as women were not accepted as witnesses at that time. Josephus included in the Antiquities of the Jews the first century policy: “Let not the testimony of women be admitted.”
Anyone wanting to fabricate a story would certainly have had made it up with men being the first witnesses.
Sir Lionel Luckhoo (1914- 1997) was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as world's most successful criminal attorney. He wrote:
"The bones of Muhammad are in Medina, the bones of Confucius are in Shantung, the cremated bones of Buddha are in Nepal. Thousands pay pilgrimages to worship at their tombs which contain their bones. ...
But in Jerusalem there is a cave cut into the rock. This is the tomb of Jesus. IT IS EMPTY! YES, EMPTY! BECAUSE HE IS RISEN! He died, physically and historically. He arose from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God."
Fifty days after First Fruits was the Feast of Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks (seven weeks of seven days), officially marking the beginning of the main harvest season (the end of barley harvest and the beginning of wheat harvest.)
Fifty days after Jesus rose from the grave was the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles, the Church was birthed and the harvest of souls began.
Three thousand were saved the first day, and eight thousand by the end of the week. Then the new believers in Christ spread the harvest around the world.
The world had been divinely set up for this moment.
c.1400 BC -- Moses and the Children of Israel celebrated first Passover, came of Egypt in the Exodus into the Promised Land, and began the tradition of observing the Seven Feasts.
732 BC -- The Ten Northern Tribes of Israel were taken captive by Assyria and scattered, resulting in pockets of Jewish communities being established around the known world.
509 BC – The Roman Republic was founded and began to expand with a road system connecting the known world.
335 BC -- Alexander the Great conquered and spread the Greek language around the known world.
285 BC – The Old Testament was translated into the Greek language, called the Septuagint.
27 BC -- Pax Romana began a century of world peace.
33 AD -- Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and at the end of the Pentecost week, Jewish believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, traveled from Jerusalem during the Pax Romana peace, on Roman roads to their communities around the world, speaking to people they met in the Greek language, harvesting souls, proclaiming that the Old Testament verses, which could be read in the Greek Septuagint, were fulfilled in the risen Christ.
We are awaiting the fulfillment of the last three Jewish Feasts.
The long months of harvesting continued as the Israelites worked in the fields, threshing, winnowing, sifting of the grain, as well as harvesting grapes, figs, almonds and pomegranates, before the latter reign.
At the end of the summer harvest, the Feast of Trumpets called people to gather from the fields to the Temple – The harvest was complete.
Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:40 “Two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”
The next two feasts are the Day of Atonement, the most solemn of all feasts, which students of prophecy speculate aspects may be fulfilled in the Great Tribulation or the Judgment Seat of Christ; and finally the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Israelites dwelt in booths or tents to remind them of their pilgrimage in the wilderness for 40 years. This could foreshadow the saints being with the Lord forever.
John 14:2 “In my Father's house are many mansions: (dwelling places) if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Many non-Christian ancient sources confirmed details of Christ’s passion. Dr. Gary Habermas catalogued over 3,400 sources, many of which are skeptical or even critical of Christians, adding to their veracity, including:
- Josephus 37-100 AD,
- Suetonius 70-160 AD
- Pliny the Younger 61-113 AD
- Tacitus 56-120 AD
- Mara Bar-Serapion 72 AD
- Lucian 125-180 AD
- Babylonian Talmud.
Piecing together these sources, they confirm key points of the gospel, such as:
Jesus died by crucifixion; he was buried; His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended; The tomb was empty a few days later; The disciples had experiences that they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
The twelve apostles went to their deaths holding to their faith in the risen Christ.
One third of the Bible is prophecies. Over 300 prophecies are about the Messiah:
- He would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
- He would be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14)
- He would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 9:7)
- He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11:12)
- He would be mocked. (Psalm 22:7,8)
- He would be crucified. (John 3:14)
- He would be pierced. (Psalms 22:16)
- He would die with the wicked yet be buried with the rich. (Isaiah 53:9)
That one person, by random chance, could fulfill just eight prophecies is considered a statistical impossibility.
Josh and Sean McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict (2017), quotes Professor Peter W. Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, who stated:
“We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. (1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. That is one with 17 zeros behind it)
The first prophecy was God telling the serpent – the seed of woman will crush his head.
Prophecies had to be not clear enough so Satan could not figure them out and try to stop them, like he did with Herod killing the baby boys in Bethlehem, yet the prophecies had to be clear enough so that after Jesus rose from the dead they could prove He was the promised Messiah.
Robert Morris Page (1903-1992) was a physicist known as the "father of U.S. Radar for inventing pulsation radar used for the detection of aircraft. He served with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., held 37 patents, and received the U.S. Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the Presidential Certificate of Merit. The son of a Methodist minister, Robert Morris Page wrote concerning the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled:
"The authenticity of the writings of the prophets, though the men themselves are human, is established by such things as the prediction of highly significant events far in the future that could be accomplished only through a knowledge obtained from a realm which is not subject to the laws of time as we know them.
One of the great evidences is the long series of prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah. These prophecies extend hundreds of years prior to the birth of Christ.
They include a vast amount of detail concerning Christ himself, His nature and the things He would do when He came--things which to the natural world, or the scientific world, remain to this day completely inexplicable."
The date of Easter even changed our calendar.
In 45 BC, Julius Caesar wanted a common calendar used in all the countries conquered by Romans. He switched their various lunar calendars, based on the monthly cycles of the moon, to a solar calendar of 365 days with a leap day every four years.
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of the Christians and made Christianity the defacto state religion. He wanted a common date to celebrate Easter throughout the Roman Empire and he wanted it on a Sunday.
This would settle the “Quarto-deciman Controversy.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th edition) explained how the “Quarto-deciman Controversy” ended with the switching of Easter from the traditional Jewish Passover to a particular Sunday determined by a new formula:
“Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Evangelist and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 to confer with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject; and urged the tradition, which he had received from the apostle, of observing the fourteenth day (of the Jewish month of Nisan) …
A final settlement of the dispute was one among the other reasons which led Constantine to summon the Council of Nicaea in 325 …
The decision of the council was unanimous that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout the world, and ‘that none should hereafter follow the blindness of the Jews’.”
This ended the tradition of asking Jewish rabbis when Passover would be.
Constantine then adopted a new formula for determining the date of Easter, namely, the first Sunday after first full moon after Spring Equinox.
Peter Schaff wrote in History of the Christian Church:
“At Nicaea … the Roman and Alexandrian usage with respect to Easter triumphed, and the Judaizing practice of the Quarto-decimanians, who always celebrated Easter on the fourteenth of Nisan [Passover] became thenceforth a heresy.”
This was a defining split between the Jewish Christian Church -- as Jesus and his disciples were Jewish -- and the emerging Gentile Christian Church.
Church scholars compiled precise tables of when future dates of Easter would be.
Not everyone was quick to use the new church tables, particularly the Irish, whose tradition it was that in 433 AD, the night before Easter according to the old calendar Saint Patrick confronted the Druid chieftain King Leary, resulting in thousands of Irish converting.
In 567 AD, the Council of Tours moved the beginning of the year back to March 25, as Julius Caesar’s January 1st was considered pagan.
During the Middle Ages, France celebrated New Year Day on Easter.
The Church's table of dates based on the Julian Calendar had a slight discrepancy. It was off by about 11 minutes per year.
After a thousand years, in 1582, the church tables made Easter ten days ahead of Constantine’s formula -- the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox -- and even further from its origins in the Jewish Passover.
Pope Gregory XIII decided to fix the problem by eliminating ten days from the calendar and skipping a leap day in years divisible by 100 and also divisible by 400.
It sounds complicated but it is so accurate that the Gregorian Calendar is still the internationally used calendar today.
The Gregorian Calendar also returned the beginning of the new year from March 25 back to January 1st.
Thus, setting the date of Easter is the reason the world is using the Gregorian Calendar!
In closing, one last question needs to be answered. Why did the lamb have to die?
To answer that, we must ask:
Why did God make us?
First, we are creatures made with a free will with the ability to love God.
Secondly, God has to hide himself behind His creation for us to have a free will, because if He ever revealed Himself in all of omnipotent universe creating power, your response would be involuntary. And for love to be love it must be voluntary!
Thirdly, God is just and must judge every sin, because if He did not judge their sin He would by default be giving consent to their sin.
Numbers 30 explains that silence equals consent. This is seen in wedding ceremonies where the minister asks if anyone objects they should speak now or forever hold their peace. By staying silent, those in attendance are giving their consent to the wedding.
If God is silent and does not judge even the smallest sin, His silence would effectively be Him giving consent to the sin. If He gives consent to even one sin one time, He would be denying His just nature. He would be denying Himself! And 2 Timothy 2:13 declares "God cannot deny Himself."
In mathematical equations, there are constants and variables.
In the equation of redemption the constant is that God forever was, is, and forever will be just. The variable is who takes the judgment – you or a substitute.
The Lamb is our substitute. The Lamb is God’s way to love you without having to judge you.
The sacrifice of the Lamb was foreshadowed by the coats of skins God made for Adam and Eve.
It was foreshadowed by the sacrifices made by Abel, Noah, and Abraham. Genesis 22:7-8:
"Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for burnt offering."
It was foreshadowed in the Law of Moses with the Passover lamb, and on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest brought the blood of lamb into Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the mercy seat. The blood changed it from a "judgment" seat into a "mercy seat."
It was foreshadowed by the sacrifices of David, Solomon, and Elijah.
The Lamb of God took the judgment in our place: "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son."
How was Jesus' sacrifice enough to pay for the sins of all mankind?
Jesus is divine and experienced judgment in a dimension we will never understand.
2 Peter 3:8 says "A day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day." Jesus experienced the day on the cross as if it were a thousand years.
In God's perfect justice:
the eternal Being, Jesus, who is innocent suffering for a finite--limited period of time
is equal to
all of us finite--limited beings who are guilty suffering for an eternal period of time.
Infinity times finite equals finite times infinity.
An unlimited Being suffering for a limited period of time equals all of us limited beings suffering for an unlimited period of time.
Jesus suffered the equivalent of eternal judgement in all or our places, and He is THE ONLY ONE who could have done it!
When someone believes the Gospel – that Jesus suffered in their place, that their sins have been taken away, that they are forgiven and accepted by God – they are filled with joy and gratefulness.
The unconditional love they experience brings a behavioral change from the inside–out. "The goodness of God brings men to repentance." (Romans 2:4)
They experience a polarity change in their heart -- instead of avoiding God, they are drawn to God.
They enter into a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, then they are filled with Holy Spirit who dwells within them and works through them to bring the love of God to a lost and hurting world.
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Image Credits: Public Domain; Description: Icon of the Resurrection; Date: December 11, 2009; Source: Author Surgun100; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Resurrection_(24).jpg