“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 her shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth.”
– Isaiah 53:7
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
– John 1:29
This Resurrection Sunday was unlike any other in my lifetime.
What’s Resurrection Sunday? It’s what I call “Easter.” Easter, you see, was a pagan festival. And many celebrated it yesterday – with Easter bunnies and eggs and other fertility symbols – much like the ancient Saxons marked it in the pre-Christian period.
Resurrection Sunday makes more sense to me. It is the day we Christians rejoice that Jesus is alive and risen from the dead – our conquering Savior from all sin. It is a good day, indeed – the best day of the whole year, the best day in the history of man.
Resurrection Sunday is not about eggs, bunnies, flowers and springtime. It’s about a Lamb – the Passover Lamb.
But why was this Resurrection Sunday unlike any other in my lifetime?
Thanks to Mel Gibson’s cinematic vision, the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus became more real to believers than ever before.
What he showed us in “The Passion of the Christ” was the ugliness of the practice of crucifixion. There was and is perhaps no more painful way to die. And that’s how Jesus chose to die to pay for our sins. According to the prophet Isaiah, who foretold His death, Jesus was scourged, tortured and marred more than any other man. Nails through the hands, nails through the feet and a crown of thorns puncturing His head. Jesus was whipped. His torso was pierced with a spear.
Remember what John said the day he saw Jesus coming toward him at the Jordan River? He proclaimed Jesus the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.
John was a Jew. Jews traditionally, since the time of Moses, sacrificed an unblemished lamb at Passover. The First Passover for the Jews came in Egypt, when they were instructed to mark their doorways with the blood of an unblemished (or sinless) lamb. This sign protected them from the angel of death – sent to Egypt to claim the lives of all first-born sons – because it passed over their homes and moved on to homes not marked with blood.
And here was John – recognized by many in Israel as a young prophet – saying that Jesus was the “Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
Indeed, Jesus is the Lamb. He was the first-born Son of God. His blood was shed for us. God did not spare or protect His own Son, but spared us – those He loves and who love Him – by having Jesus be the pure sacrificial Lamb, who not only protects us from the angel of death for a time, but for eternity.
It may be a coincidence that Jesus’ death and Resurrection coincided with pagan fertility rites. But it is certainly no coincidence that His death and Resurrection occurred around the Jewish feasts of Passover and unleavened bread. Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and He is the Unleavened Bread.
The true meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was brought home to Christians by the Apostle Paul, who wrote, in 1 Corinthians 5: 7-8, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
Yeast represented sin – through decomposition and fermentation. Once we are freed from sin through the blood of Jesus, we are then encouraged to avoid the old sin ways.
Today, many so-called Christians have forgotten their Jewish roots. They don’t understand the symbolism and message of the Jewish feasts. They don’t get the relevance of the Old Testament. They don’t grasp that they are spiritual adoptee children of Abraham. Some today even fail to acknowledge that Jesus Himself was Jewish – a rabbi, who came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. But, then again, maybe such folks are not really Christians at all.
In some European countries today, they still call Easter “Pascha” – a much better name. This is derived from the Hebrew word “pesah,” which means “passover.” Jesus was celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover shortly before He was arrested and sentenced to be crucified. Passover recalls how God rescued the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt. Christians believe that Easter, like Passover, is a time of rescue.
We say that by His Death and Resurrection, Jesus rescued us from eternal death and punishment for our sins.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed.