Posts Tagged 'Passover'

Exodus, 5


Exodus 12-13:10

Moses and Aaron had left Pharaoh with some very bad news of what was to come:

Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt–worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:5-7 NIV84)

Chapter 12 has been called “the high point” in the book of Exodus and for good reason. In this chapter we learn about the institution of Passover, a special dinner that would become a memorial to the deliverance of Israel  from Egypt. Actually, Passover is much more than just a memorial meal of a great historic event. It is the bedrock of Israel’s birth as a nation and of its new relationship with Yahweh.

It all happened during Israel’s last night in Egypt. Every firstborn son and animal of Egyptian households were mysteriously slain while those of Israel were “passed over,” or spared. This terrible event was God’s final judgment against all the gods of Egypt.

The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods. (Numbers 33:3-4 NIV84)

The Passover Event, Exodus 12:21-30

Instructions, vs. 21-23

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (Exodus 12:21-23 NIV84)

God had spoken to Moses and now Moses had to speak to the people; he was to pass along to them what he had been told by God. What a good lesson for anybody called to preach or teach God’s Word: know what God wants you to say! And say only that.

The blood from the slain Passover lamb was to be “painted” all around the door. The head of the family was to use hyssop, a fluffy little plant that grows in abundance around rocks. Hyssop represents faith – it is by faith that the blood of Christ is applied to your heart and life. You trust what Christ has done when He shed His blood for you.

If the people were obedient, the so-called Death Angel of the Lord would “pass over” all the Israelite homes. Their safety was guaranteed by the blood.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV84)

D.A. Carson, well known Bible scholar and teacher, once remarked,

We overcome the accuser of our brother and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.

We can all say “Amen!” to that.

A permanent ordinance, vs. 24

This special dinner, with all its instructions followed to the letter, was not to be a one-time event. God intended it to be an everlasting memorial or object lesson. The people of God were to never, ever forget what He did for them this night.

Michael Youssef tells us why this memorial is so important:

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us.

Indeed. That’s why it’s so important to know God’s Word.  It’s a chronicle of what He’s done for His people. And that’s why it’s so important to testify about answered prayer! Tell people what He’s done for you so others can incorporate that in their prayers and praise.

In a stunning departure from the norm, the people of Israel did exactly as they had been told:

The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 12:28 NIV84)

They obeyed like their very lives depended on it. And they did!

Horror comes at midnight, vs. 29-30

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. (Exodus 12:29-30 NIV84)

Pharaoh should have known this plague would happen. He had been warned, but as is the case with many sinners, his heart had been hardened to the point where it blinded him to the things about which there should have been no doubt. Up to this point, the judgments of God had not claimed a human life, but now, with this final, awful judgment, the ante had been upped.

There are those who would say God was a little extreme in his dealings with the Egyptians. However, Pharaoh had been forewarned. It was within his power to stop this from happening. But then, there’s this:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21b NIV84)

He who creates life has authority over it, even to the point of taking it away. Man would do well to remember this factoid.

The Exodus, Exodus 12:31-42

During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. ” (Exodus 12:31 NIV84)

Pharaoh had to give up. Up till now, none of the plagues, as awful as they were, touched him directly. But this one took the life of his son. He had to get these people out of his country and he ordered Moses and his people to leave. It was the act of desperate man, not a contrite man.

Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me. (Exodus 12:32 NIV84)

Don’t read anything into that. Pharaoh wanted these people out of his country and the “bless me” request was just his way of averting more calamity.

As they were leaving, a remarkable thing happened:

The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:36 NIV84)

Whatever they wanted, the Hebrews took and the Egyptians let them. Seem unfair? Remember: they were owed a considerable amount in wages for unpaid and involuntary labor.

A journey begins, vs. 37-39

The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:37-38 NIV84)

What a sight that must have been! By some estimates there were upwards of 3 million people all following one man: Moses. Included in this estimate was what the KJV refers to as the “mixed multitude,” an indeterminate number of non-Hebrews who followed the Hebrews out of Egypt. Most, if not all of them, were Egyptians who, perhaps, had married Hebrews, or perhaps were other slaves or captives who saw this Exodus as a way to freedom. They were the “hangers on,” and would ultimately be the cause of a lot of problems for Moses and the children of Israel.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!” (Numbers 11:4 NIV84)

Yes, as a Christian, you need to be careful with whom you associate. They could get you into lot of trouble.

430 years, vs. 40-42

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41 NIV84)

What a night it was! This would be a day long remembered; the day freedom came to the people of Israel. Given the 430-year duration, we may speculate as to the dates of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt: 1876 BC to 1446 BC. That’s a “best guess,” but regardless of the exact dates, and regardless of whether it was 400, 430, or 431 years, four centuries is a long, long time to in a place you don’t belong.

Passover remembered, Exodus 13:1-10

Firstborn consecrated, vs. 1, 2

“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”  (Exodus 13:2 (NIV84)

The Exodus was a great blessing given to the people of Israel from their God. But God’s blessings upon a anybody carry weighty responsibilities. The Lord spared the firstborn while in Egypt and now these same firstborn were claimed by God; they were to be consecrated to Him.

If you are a Christian, then you belong to Him and He wants “the first” from you as surely as He claimed “the first” from the Hebrews. Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to give God first place in their lives. God claims our best – our very best – but a lot of us give Him what’s left over. He demands to be first in our lives but often He gets relegated to the rear. This is why we believers get into trouble so often. If we have the time, we’ll do something for God. If we feel like it, we’ll show up at church. If we have any money left over, we’ll give some to the work of The Lord.

The children of Israel needed to learn the seriousness of following God, and so He exerted His claim on their firstborn.

Feast of unleavened bread, vs. 3-7

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.” (Exodus 13:3 NIV84)

The importance of remembering this day needed to be passed on to the children. The weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread started here and it followed Passover. The people were to eat nothing with yeast in it, so as to remember the unleavened bread they took with them from Egypt.

The story of the Exodus is fact. It did happen. It is a historical story full of symbols and symbolism that point to other historical facts: the life and death of Jesus Christ. The blood of the perfect Lamb of God saves all men from sin just as surely as the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes saved them from the plague of death. And yet, it was necessary for them to eat the lamb. We, like them, must appropriate with Jesus did; we must let it work in our lives.

HEZEKIAH: Revival and Renewal

2 Chronicles 28—30

Just what is a “revival?” Where I live, in the southern United States, churches often have “revivals.” That’s what they call special evangelistic meetings. In the strange Christian-American sub- culture, a “revival” is something you have at a set time (like, 7 PM Monday evening). But, is a “revival” something you “have” or is it something that “happens to you?” Biblically speaking, a “revival” is really a spiritual awakening, sent by God in response to the prayers and passion of a local church. The New Testament clearly indicates that it is through the local church God works to reveal Himself to a sinful world:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10, 11).

This is why the local church is so important in the life of a Christian. How is the “manifold wisdom of God” made known? It is made known first through the mission of Christ:

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. (Ephesians 5:25, 26)

It is through the exposition of the Word of God that the church (its members) are cleansed and made holy. Paul noted elsewhere that the preaching of the Word is the primary reason for the church’s existence:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11—13).

So then, a “revival” is a spiritual awakening that occurs within the local church as it fulfils its mandate; as the members are “built up” and as their faith grows into maturity. All this happens through the ministry of the Word of God. It is not a song or hymn that changes a life, it is the Word of God. Pot luck dinners and benevolent exercises may be worthy endeavours, evangelistic services may attract a crowd, but renewal or revival can only happen in the context of the ministry of the Word.

In the Old Testament, we have two excellent examples of national spiritual renewals; one under the reign of Josiah and the other under Hezekiah’s reign. Josiah’s revival is extraordinary. Judah had fallen far by the time he assumed the throne. The people had almost completely left the worship of God to chase after idols. Judah had literally become a nation of idolaters. When Josiah stumbled upon a copy of the Pentateuch in the Temple ruins, he called the people to the Covenant, read it to them, and a revival was sparked that changed the face of the nation.

Seventy years before this, however, King Hezekiah had a similar experience; one that Josiah must have been aware of. It is Hezekiah’s revival that we will study now, and we will study Josiah next time.

1. A call for sanctification, 2 Chronicles 28:1—4, 22—27; 29:1—11

One of the most important lessons to learn from studying the kings is that heredity and environment are not the only bases for success or failure. The all-important issue of personal choice cannot be ignored. Good and godly kings sometimes produced evil sons and vice versa.

The relatively good king Uzziah was succeeded by his son, Jotham, who is considered to have been another good king. Of Jotham, the chronicler wrote an interesting thing:

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD. The people, however, continued their corrupt practices. (2 Chronicles 27:1, 2)

Even though he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” that wasn’t enough to change the people’s collective heart; they remained fascinated with idols and idol worship. Perhaps one reason why the people remained spiritually stubborn was they bad example they had in Jotham: he did not enter the Temple. He was a good man, but he stayed away from the house of God. Like a great many Christians.

What kept Jotham away from the Temple? Remember his father’s bad experience in that same Temple; he barged in one day tried to play the role of a priest. In doing so, the Lord punished him with leprosy, which he suffered with until the day he died. No wonder little Jotham stayed away! He had a bad example in his father, and Judah had a bad example in Jotham. Jotham had a great opportunity to lead his people back to God, yet because of his bad example, and maybe because of either fear or bitterness, he refused to worship in the Temple.

Still, he was a good king and he died at the relatively young age of 41. His apostate son, Ahaz, took over the throne and he is known as one the weakest and most corrupt of all the 21 kings of Judah. Despite coming from good stock, Ahaz was as wicked as a king could get. He ruled for 16 years and died young, at only 36. He made idols to Baal and was a vile as the worst kings of Israel.

He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. (28:3)

Because of Ahaz’s sin, God literally removed His protection from Judah. When He did this, it was like the floodgates of hell being opened. For the first time, Judah faced invasions from Syria, Edom, and Philistia. Not only that, Israel waged war against Jerusalem; wars are always the results of sin, as James noted in his letter:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:1, 2)

As if adding insult to injury, instead of turning to God for help and deliverance, Ahaz turned to the Assyrians. He gave the king of Assyria treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the king’s palace as a kind of payment, but the king of Assyria offered no help at all. Ahaz, as the king of Judah, was national disgrace and a joke among the nations. Mercifully, when he died, his son Hezekiah, ascended to the throne. He was nothing like his father.

Hezekiah was the greatest of Judah’s “revivalist-reformer kings,” greater than Jehoshaphat and perhaps second only to Josiah. Judah, the southern kingdom, last almost 150 years longer than it’s northern counterpart largely because of what Hezekiah did. At the age of 25, Hezekiah began his 29 year reign, which included 15 years of “borrowed time,” given to him by God. Hezekiah not only “did what was right,” he also had an unfailing trust in the Lord:

Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. (2 Kings 18:5)

The very first thing he did was significant, for it brought about a time of national sanctification:

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. (2 Chronicles 1:3)

Those Temple doors, shut and locked since the days of his father, were opened up, repaired, and over-layed with gold. Then the king set about putting the Temple in order, concentrating on four things:

  1. Hezekiah had all the Levitical priests reconsecrate themselves to God. For many years, the priesthood had been allowed to degenerate and the priests engaged in acts of idolatry which led the people astray.
  2. The Temple and Temple grounds were purified, cleansed and cleaned up; restored, refurbished; and renewed.
  3. He rededicated the altar and the sanctuary, making the ready for the re-institution of the Mosaic sacrifices.
  4. He encouraged a national revival by re-instituting the sacrificial system long abandoned.

The importance of the Temple cannot be overstated. One might observe that there were many Jews at this time who were still faithful to Jehovah, and that was probably the case. But the Temple and the concept of corporate worship was absolutely essential in the Jewish faith, just as the local church and corporate worship is today in the Christian faith. It was then, as it is now, God’s intention for His people to gather together and worship Him corprately. That’s why the the repair and refurbishing of the Temple was top priority for Hezekiah.

Hezekiah did something else that no other king in Judah was able to do:

He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.) (2 Kings 18:4)

With the Temple up and running, the king took away the alternative: he rid his nation of all signs of idolatry. He not only got rid of all the shrines, high places, and Asherah poles, he also did a very controversial thing: he destroyed a precious object inside the Temple itself; the bronze snake Moses, originally made at God’s behest. Why did he do that? Obviously, many of the people had fallen so far from God, that instead of worshiping God, they began to worship the “things” of God.

Many, many Christians today get caught up in that kind of worship. Walk into many churches and you will find, not idols, but icons all over the place. Whatever gives the worshiper a sense of peace or a feeling of spiritual well-being is Nehushtan! Nehushtan takes many forms in the 21st century. Nehushtan can be the cross that hangs on the wall of your church. There is no merit in that cross; there is merit in what Christ did on His Cross! Nehushtan can be hymn or a worship chorus if it makes you feel good or moves you. Nehushtan can also be your church, if it gives you something that should only come from God Himself. Whatever does for you what God Himself ought to do for you is Nehushtan—it’s an idol.

2. Passover restored, chapter 30

With the house of worship in order, the priests performing their duties according to the Word of God, and the people made ready for worship, it was time to celebrate Passover, the greatest of all Jewish feasts. Chapter 30 details Hezekiah’s awesome Passover, this was truly an event; it had not been celebrated properly since the days of the united kingdom. With that in mind, Hezekiah did a most unusual thing:

They decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, calling the people to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. It had not been celebrated in large numbers according to what was written. (2 Chronicles 30:5)

What was so unusual about inviting the 10 tribes to the north to come to the Temple in the south to worship like the old days? It was unusual because by this time there were no ten tribes to the north any more! Almost all of the population of Israel—the northern kingdom—had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. This grand invitation was sent out some four years after the fall of Israel. Of course, the Assyrians didn’t get all the Israelites. You can imagine many of them hiding in caves and forests when the Assyrian hordes came calling.

The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. (verse 10)

Some who survived the Assyrian invasion had no interest in returning to God. But there were some who jumped at the chance to worship with their brothers and sisters:

Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. (verse 11)

Verse 12 tells us that Hezekiah was doing exactly what God wanted:

Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD. (verse 12)

Not since the days of Solomon had there been such a crowd of worshipers in Jerusalem! Amazingly, not only had the Temple grounds been fixed up, but Jerusalem the city was cleansed! This must have been one incredible party, and God was extremely pleased.

One final example of the kind of King Hezekiah was. We read this:

Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (30:18—20)

What a beautiful picture! Almost all of the people specifically invited to Passover from Israel were ceremonially unclean, which means the shouldn’t have participated in it. But Hezekiah, whose heart was right, understood the difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law. He interceded on behalf of those who were deemed “unclean,” and God took care of them! He healed the unclean because of the prayer of the king.

Hezekiah also understood that the condition of the heart was more important than any form or ritual could ever be. We may sneer at people that visit our churches who don’t know the hymns or the Lord’s Prayer, or the Apostle’s Creed by heart, but does God? Of course not! God is not impressed with our rituals. The Creeds that we work so hard to memorize mean nothing to God. God wants worshipers who will drop all their pretences and come humbly to Him in spirit and truth.

This is what revival and renewal is all about. It is about God—His Person—and our response to Him. Our responses, not to a hymn or sermon, but to the living Word of God are the ones that are genuine.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


Jesus: The Man of Action, 2:13—25

Of all the stories of the things Jesus did while on the Earth, the cleansing of the Temple courts ranks up near the top.  In it, we see of side of Jesus we don’t see very often; not the gentle Shepherd or eloquent Teacher, but a decisive man of action.  This is a brief account, but we see an excellent example how sin repulses God and His response to it.

1.  Setting the scene, verse 12

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

This verse serves as a note of geographic transition and notes the passage of time, as indeterminate as it is.  From the higher ground of Cana of Galilee, Jesus, His mother Mary, His brothers—James, Joses, Jude, and Simon (Mark 6:3)—and His disciples journeyed down to the low-country of the lake-side until they reached Capernaum.

Because we know when Passover occurs in the calendar year, we can backtrack and be fairly sure of the logical dates of the events recorded.  Jesus in late February or early March changed the water into wine, and from Cana He attended the Passover festival in Jerusalem, which was held in early spring (sometime in April).

Most scholars are of the opinion that Jesus cleansed the Temple not once but twice, once at the beginning of His ministry and once near the end (the second cleansing is recorded in the Synoptics; Matthew 21:10—17; Mark 11:15—19; Luke 19:45—46).

2.  Cleansing the Temple, verses 13—17

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Verse 13, though seemingly innocuous, contains an extremely sad commentary on the state of the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus.  Notice that John calls this feast “the Jewish Passover,” yet in Exodus 12:27 it is referred to as “the Lord’s Passover.”   The once-great celebration had, over the intervening centuries, degenerated into just another religious feast.   In fact, Passover by the time of Christ had become an excuse for religious leaders of the day to exert considerable control over the general population and fleece them even more than they had been doing the rest of the religious year.

There is a minor but very profound warning for Christians.  In 1 Corinthians 5:7, our Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as “our Passover.” We must be ever-vigilant to ensure that the sincere observances of our faith never become yet another excuse to just “get together” for fellowship or a meal.  May God help us to keep Jesus Christ the reason for everything we do as Christians.

The fact that Jesus went up to Jerusalem was no surprise.  It was required of every Jewish male from the age of 12 and up to attend Passover at Jerusalem.  We can only imagine how hurt Jesus must have felt upon entering the Temple court.  Instead of being greeted with the din of worshipers entering and leaving, the filth and stench of a barnyard was all He saw and smelled.

In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.

Certainly having all kinds of animals wandering around the Temple area during this time of year was not unusual since they would be used in the sacrifices.  But the selling of animals and the changing of money was the thing that galled Jesus the most.  The vendors were on site selling to those worshipers who had to travel a great distance the kinds of animals they were required to present at the Temple for their sacrifice.  What was particularly despicable about this was that these vendors would not accept any kind of money save the special Temple money.  So before animals could be purchased, the pilgrims had to exchange their money with on site bankers, who of course were happy to do that, for a tidy profit of course.

Why did all this happen?  The religious leaders of the day have figured out a way to make religion easier; the animals and the moneychangers were there for the convenience of the worshipers.  In reality, however, because of man’s ideas the whole system was opened up for abuse and corruption and deception.  The Holy Temple, ostensibly the house of God and a house of prayer, had been transformed into a den of robbers.

So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  (verses 15, 16)

This was Jesus’ response to what He experienced upon entering the Temple area.  Filled with holy zeal, Jesus drove out all traces of the animals and the vendors, and then He turned His attention to the moneychangers.  What Jesus told these men was reminiscent of His reaction to His parents the day they lost Him as a boy in the Temple—

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49)

What Jesus did this day was entirely within His character and His nature as the Father’s only Holy Son.  Many people are under the false impression that Jesus is all about being “meek, mild, and gentle.”  While Jesus is the embodiment of love and once describe Himself as “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29), there is much more to Christ and this incident illustrates His “other side” with clarity!   Jesus Christ did not and does not deal lightly with sin.

  • He is light that shines in the darkness, John 1:5;
  • He insulted King Herod, Luke 13:32;
  • He confronted the Pharisees in anything by love, Matthew 23:24, 27, 33

This whole, wild scene must have triggered something in the memories of the disciples—

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  (verse 17)

The verse they remembered and related to what they saw is Psalm 69:9.  Strangely enough, this one single verse is one of the most oft quoted OT verses in the NT.  It is seen an astonishing 17 times throughout the NT!

3.  The demand for a sign, verses 19—22

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  (verse 19)

Though John refers to these questioners are “Jews,” in keeping with his custom of referring to the enemies of Jesus as “Jews,” the author is obviously referring to some religious authority, probably part of the Temple administration.  Their demand for a sign was pretty typical of the way religious leaders felt about Jesus during His ministry.  In fact, later on, Jesus would comment on it while talking to the Pharisees—

A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  (Matthew 12:39)

The Jews had an inclination to demand a miracle as a basis for their acceptance of the reality of the divine truth—they would believe only if they could see—

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  (John 6:30)

But their question this time was far more than just a request for a sign.  It was a direct challenge of Jesus’ authority to do what He had just done.  Jesus’ answer was simple, but with double meaning—

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  (verse 19)

What we have here is a mashal; a paradoxical saying.  Jesus would become known for using these frequently in His career.  They were veiled and pointed remarks, often sounding for all the world like a riddle.

This mashal is full of words with more than one meaning.  The word “destroy” in the original is a term that could mean tearing down a building or killing a human body.  “This temple” could refer to either a sacred shrine (like the Holy of Holies, for example) or it could refer to man’s body as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Finally, “I will raise” is an expression used to denote the reconstruction of a building and the resuscitation of individuals.

Because the Jews were not spiritually minded, Jesus’ meaning was completely lost, they assumed He was referring to Herod’s temple, which had been in the process of being built for 46 years and remained uncompleted in the days of Jesus.  John knew that Jesus was actually referring His body, which He would “raise up” in three days.

The Jews saw only with their eyes; they saw only the physical temple and sanctuary in front of them.  Had they studied the Scriptures which they knew so well in faith with a believing heart, they would have understood.

Verse 22 seems to indicate that this mashal stuck in the minds of the disciples for a long time.  It also gives us an insight into the minds of the disciples, for though they walked with Jesus for three years and witnessed many miracles, they failed to grasp its full meaning.  It wasn’t until Jesus rose from the dead that the full truth of Christ’s teaching was believed by the disciples.

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Lessons we can learn

Hendriksen suggests four immediate lessons:

  • By cleaning out the Temple, Jesus confronted the secular attitude of the religious Jews.  One should never temper with holy things.
  • He exposed graft and greed within their religion.
  • Jesus assailed the anti-missionary spirit and hypocrisy of the Jewish faith:  the court of the Gentiles had been built specifically as an invitation for them, Gentile converts, to join them, the Jews, in worship of Jehovah.  Instead, it became hijacked for mostly commercial reasons.
  • The whole incident fulfilled Messianic prophecy, Psalm 69 and Malachi 3.
(c)  2010 WitzEnd

A Survey of Mark’s Gospel

The Last Hours, Part One

Mark is such a lopsided Gospel. He spends fully one third of his Gospel on the last week of Jesus on Earth. He spends two full chapters on just the last 24 hours of His life alone! Mark gives almost no information about the life of Jesus before His ministry began, yet gives every excruciating detail surrounding Peter’s denial of Jesus. He rushes through Jesus’ teachings at breakneck speed but then slows down to a crawl as he describes the Last Supper. If we only had Mark’s Gospel, we would no virtually nothing about Jesus’ family but everything about a woman who washed His feet. Why did Mark write such a lopsided Gospel? To him, it wasn’t lopsided at all. To Mark, the most important event in the life of Christ was His death; far more important than childhood details and incidents during His life. Mark tells us everything we need to know surround the death of Christ.

This was important in the first century, given the fact that a new religion was founded by some fanatic who appeared to be criminal. To enemies of this new faith, this kind of gossip was prefect for discouraging new believers, whether Jew or Gentile. After all, who wants their good name associated with a criminal? That’s why Mark gives so many details about the conspiracy against our Lord, about His innocence in the face of jealous and petty religious leaders.

Theologically, the Gospel of Mark is a true masterpiece. Unlike the other two Gospels and John, Mark shows the degree to which God is willing go in order to save man and establish His Kingdom. Consider the irony: Jesus had taught that in His Father’s Kingdom the least would be the greatest. Hanging on the Cross, Jesus became the very least of all men.

1. Judas, 14:10—11

The priests had already decided to destroy Jesus—

Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.” (14:1—2)

But how would they do it? Jesus was still very popular among the people. A solution would present itself in the person of Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ friends, in fact, Judas was the only one of the Twelve Jesus ever referred to as His “friend.” In Matthew’s account of Judas’ meeting with the chief priests, it is Judas himself who suggests betrayal for money. But who was this man?

Judas was one of the Twelve, and he was the treasurer of group (John 12:6). He was apparently trusted by all the rest, followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, but was never fully committed to Christ—

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70)

Professing to be a son of God, Judas was in reality the son of perdition (John 17:12). He was destined because of his unrepentant heart to a lost eternity. Luke said this of Judas in Acts 1:25—

… Judas left to go where he belongs.

That is a very cryptic way of saying that Judas never belong in the family of God; he followed Jesus, but had never given his life to Jesus. But that still doesn’t explain why Judas did such a thing: betray an innocent man for money. Many scholars have suggested a variety of reasons: jealousy, greed, disappointment with Jesus’ mission, and although we can never know what was in his mind, we know what was in his heart. At some point, Judas yielded to the dark thoughts of his soul and opened the door for Satan to come in. Judas, whose name literally means “Judah,” which itself means, ironically, “praise,” was about set in motion events that would change the world.

2. A long dinner, 14:12—21

Time was winding down for “the Lamb of God.” Very soon, He would be slain as “our Passover.” In the interim, Jesus would have one last opportunity to fellowship with His closest friends; that opportunity would be the Passover meal. They were all visitors to Jerusalem, and it was customary for many larger households to open up guestrooms for groups, such as Jesus as the Twelve so they could observe this most solemn of Jewish rites.

Jesus foresaw all of this, and He sent two disciples into the heart of the city with very specific instructions to find a man carrying a water jug. How many men in Jerusalem that night would be carrying a pitcher of water? Probably not very many, it any at all, as that was considered part of the woman’s duties; to see a man carrying a large pitcher of water would be strange indeed.

After all the food was purchased and the preparations made, that evening, the 14th of Nisan, the same day Jesus would die, He dined with His twelve friends for the last time on earth. This meal commemorated Israel’s escape from Egypt and the birth of her nationhood. It was a sacred hour intended to strengthen the family unit and bind God’s chosen people to Himself.

The guests at the Passover meal reclined on small couches on a level with the tables, each person leaning on his left arm with his feet extending outward. As they ate and fellowshipped together, Jesus suddenly made this awful prediction—

[O]ne of you will betray me—one who is eating with me. (vs. 18b)

Of course all the disciples were shocked and saddened. It was surely unbelievable that one them could do such a heinous thing. Jesus further identified the one who would betray Him as “one who is eating with me.” As Wessel noted, to betray a friend was bad enough, but to do it after eating a meal like this was regarded as the worst kind of treachery in the Middle East. It reminds us of heartbreaking words of Psalm 41:

Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me. (vs. 9)

Each of the Twelve wondered it would be them, and Matthew, in his account, records that even Judas asked the question. The disciples were a fearful bunch, prone to bouts of doubt and faithlessness and their concern was probably that in a moment of weakness they would inadvertently do Jesus harm. Judas, of course, merely went along with the others. Jesus doesn’t identify His betrayer by name, just gives a clue—

[O]ne who dips bread into the bowl with me. (vs. 20)

Then Jesus added words that would burn into even the hardest of hearts—

It would be better for him if he had not been born. (vs. 21)

We wonder what Judas felt at that very moment. A little later, Jesus would turn to Judas and say to him—

“What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27)

And we are told at that moment, Satan entered Judas and left into the night. Immediately after Judas left, Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

3. The Last Supper, 14:22—25

There are a total of four versions of the Last Supper in the New Testament: Matthew 26:26—30; Mark 14:22—26; Luke 22:19—20; 1 Corinthians 11:23—25. Both Matthew and Mark parallel each other and Luke and Paul have certain similarities. All four accounts speak of the bread, the wine and the blessing. Only Paul and Luke record Jesus’ command to observe this Supper until He returns.

The Bread

Jesus used the type of bread associated with this meal, unleavened bread. The first thing He did was “give thanks.” Mark used two different Greek verbs which are translated as “give thanks,” but both come from a single Hebrew word barak, which means to “bless” or to “praise God.” The Passover blessing went like this—

Praised be Thou, O Lord, Sovereign of the World, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.

After the blessing, Jesus divided up the unleavened bread in the customary fashion and gave a piece to each of His disciples and said, “This is my body.” What did Jesus mean by that? He did not mean to imply that the bread had literally become His body; He was, after all, standing right in front of them! Previously Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine,” and we surely know that was a symbolic statement; Jesus was not literally a piece of vegetation! The significant thing about the bread was not what He said, but rather what He did with it: He broke and He distributed it. The bread represented His body, that is, His abiding presence, promised to the disciples on the night of His crucifixion; and His words would become a pledge that whenever His followers gathered together to celebrate this meal in the future, He would be with them.

The cup

The “cup” in verses 23—24 is actually the third cup of the evening and was drunk after the meal was eaten. Jesus again gave the customary “thanksgiving,” this time using the word eucharisteo, from which we get the word Eucharist. The meaning of the cup is somewhat different than that of the bread. Jesus’ words concerning the cup—“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (vs. 24)—sound a lot like the words of Exodus 24:8—”This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” The word “covenant” suggests an agreement between two parties and also friendship. This is significant in light of Hebrews 9:22—

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

There could be no covenant and no friendship between God and His people without blood being shed. Reconciliation with God always requires a blood sacrifice, which is an atoning sacrifice. Since man himself cannot be that sacrifice— he cannot shed his own blood as the sacrifice — a substitutionary offering, accepted by faith, is required. The Lord established this covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:7; Psalm 105:9), and all who by faith are counted as Abraham’s descendents (Galatians 3:7; 29).

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul records the ceremony as the Lord revealed it to Him, and he recorded Jesus’ words slightly differently than did Mark—

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (vs. 25)

The word “new” may be small, but it is loaded with meaning. Wessel noted that the death of Jesus inaugurated a new era, and therefore a new covenant was needed. To whom was this “new covenant” made? The first covenant was made a Mt. Sinai, and it was between God and the nation of Israel. This new covenant, established by Christ, was prophesied by Jeremiah many centuries before the Last Supper was celebrated—

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31—33)

Obviously the fulfillment of this new covenant between God and Israel will not occur until Christ returns as Messiah to establish His Kingdom on Earth, Christ instituted it the night He was betrayed. But while this new covenant is related to the restoration of Israel in the future, note what Jesus said—

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24)

The word Jesus used was “many,” not “all.” There are two schools of thought about why Jesus chose “many.” First, as might be expected, John Calvin believes that while Jesus may have said “many” He really meant “all;” Calvin—

By the word “many,” he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race.

I prefer to let Jesus speak for Himself; He said “many” and He meant “many,” not all. Consider—

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)

But while Jesus may have said “many,” He did not say “few.” The blood of the new covenant is for all who respond in faith believing in what Jesus did for them on the Cross.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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