Easter has become a holiday that many people love to glance over. We love the Easter dresses, egg hunts, and large family meals. While we’re enjoying the decor of the season, it’s almost important to understand exactly what was going on during the week we know as “Holy Week”.
10th Day of Nisan
The Easter season very closely mirror that of Passover, perhaps not for purely coincidental reasons. Passover is the period of time in which Hebrews celebrate their deliverance from bondage at the hands of the Egyptians. They acknowledge the past miracles that the Lord has performed in their lives and look forward to their eventual deliverance from the evils of this world through the coming of a Messiah.
The entire week prior to Easter, the week we know of as “Holy Week”, lines up pretty effectively with the traditions of Passover. On the 10th day of the month of Nisan, which is the same day Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, Jews would be selecting their sacrifices for the Passover festival.
While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects. (Exodus 12:1-6)
What makes this interesting is thinking about how Jesus was received. He was greeted by the people of Israel who were calling him a king and a messiah. They were ‘selecting’ Jesus as their savior and, whether they realized it or not, as their sacrifice.
On the 10th day, Jesus went into the temple to find a series of money changes and vendors. Why were these vendors there? Many of them were selling animals for sacrifice. This means that people were treating their sacrifices like last-minute Christmas gifts and purchasing whatever they could get their hands on. It’s no wonder Jesus didn’t like what He saw.
Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:12-13)
What we see from this is that Jesus was displeased with the commercialization of the devotion of the Jews. It showed how their observance of a holiday which is supposed to reflect redemption and salvation had been cheapened and commercialized. What a lesson to us on Easter to ensure we do not forget what Easter is really all about.
14th Day of Nisan
For the next 4 days, the sacrifice would be inspected for blemishes. The sacrifice had to be perfect. No second-quality sacrifice would be sufficient to offer to the God who delivers His people from slavery. During those same four days, Jesus would be inspected by the Pharisees and religious leaders. His inspection would culminate to this one moment where he would sit in front of Pontius Pilate who would declare that Jesus was an innocent man. This brings us to the 14th day of Nisan.
Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. (Luke 23:13-15)
On this 14th day of Nisan, the Passover lambs would be slaughtered and their meat roaster on the flames of the alter. On the same day, Jesus would be crucified on a cross as a common criminal.
Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. […] But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:6-7,13)
All of this is interesting, but what does it tell us about Easter? Simply put, Jesus’ entire ministry on earth is a story of relating to man in a manner in which he’ll understand. For the Jews, they understood Passover and the meaning of the days preceding the Passover festival. Jesus is, in fact, the Passover lamb which was the only sacrifice sufficient to atone for all our sins. In the same way that the blood of the lamb saved the Hebrews from the judgment of the angel of death, so does the blood of Jesus Christ save us from the judgment of God in the face of our own sin. With the redeeming blood of Christ, we are made whole and the penalty of death will have no other choice but to pass-over our everlasting souls.