Finding Yourself in Passover

By Nic Lesmeister
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Posted in Featured Articles, Pesach, Uncategorized, on April 21, 2019

Chag Pesach Sameach! (Happy Passover),

For the second year in a row, Passover and the Church holiday of Easter are being celebrated on the same calendar weekend. As a follower of Jesus (Yeshua), I am always thrilled when this convergence occurs. And as a Gentile, it gives my family and me a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the richness of both holidays.

Just this morning I was reading Luke’s Passover account in chapters 22 and 23. Most of us are very familiar with the story of the Last Supper, which was Jesus’ celebration of Passover with His disciples. We’re all familiar with Jesus’ crucifixion and death. And, especially in the Evangelical church, we’re familiar with His resurrection. All along my drive home from the MJBI offices, I see signs that say, “He has risen!” in the yards of joyous, forgiven followers of Jesus.

Sometimes, however, we overlook the human element of the Passover and Resurrection stories. Growing up in the Catholic Church, every year on Good Friday we would sing, “Were You There?” a cappella. It was an intentional way to put ourselves into this historic story and truly feel the emotions of what it must have been like to be present for these incredible events.

As we meditate on and connect with the Passover and Resurrection stories this year, I want to encourage you to reimagine what the events of Luke 22 and 23 might have felt like through the eyes of three separate people who witnessed these events in real-time: Peter, Joseph, and a woman from Galilee.

 

Peter

In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus forewarns Simon Peter that Satan has asked to “sift him” like wheat. The accurate visual illustration of the meaning of this phrase would be like aggressively shaking something in order to separate it from something else. Jesus told Peter that Satan was requesting to literally shake him so fiercely that he might turn away from Jesus after three full years of seeing His miraculous ministry.

After Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times, Peter passionately denies this would ever happen. Yet, just hours later, after a servant girl notices Peter in the light of a fire and identifies him as a follower of Jesus, Peter quickly fulfills Jesus’ predictions. Verse 62 says that Peter left “weeping bitterly” after Jesus looked right at him when the rooster crowed.

Close your eyes and imagine the feelings Peter must have been experiencing. Everything within you was zealously loyal to Jesus, yet in a moment of human weakness, of fear, you betrayed your own Savior. And then you look up to see His eyes locked on yours, as His prediction is proved true. I cannot imagine the depth of pain Peter felt in that moment, or the hopeless loss that must have filled his heart as he ran out of the courtyard weeping.

 

Joseph

Joseph was from Arimathea, which is today where modern Ramallah sits (the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, interestingly). Luke 22:50 says he was a righteous man and a member of the Jewish High Council. Yet, he did not agree with the decisions of his fellow religious leaders to send Jesus to His death.

After Jesus drew His final breath, Joseph requested Jesus’ body from Pilate. It was clear Joseph held a high position in society to even be able to make this request from the Roman ruler of Judea.

Verse 51 says Joseph was “waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.” Again, now imagine yourself as Joseph. You have been righteously waiting for the Kingdom of God and the rule of the Messiah your entire life. Because of Jesus’ life and ministry, you clearly felt that Jesus was this Messiah who would fulfill the biblical promise and establish the Kingdom in Jerusalem. Yet, now you are personally pulling His lifeless, bloodied, and limp body down off a cross. What great confusion you must feel in these moments. What sadness and anger you also must feel to see the Messiah’s broken body in such a horrific state.

 

A Woman from Galilee

Lastly, Luke 22:55 says that “women from Galilee” followed Joseph to his tomb, where Jesus’ body would be laid to rest. Remember that 85% of Jesus’ public ministry took place in the Galilee region of Israel. These women clearly saw Jesus raise people from the dead, heal their incurable diseases, set demonized people free, and bring liberty to thousands of others through His ministry of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Once again, imagine yourself in their shoes. The heroic, triumphant Jesus was now lifeless, battered, and being put into a tomb for His body to decay. You were there to follow Jewish practice, anointing His body with spices and oils. However, because the Shabbat had started at sundown on Friday, they could not return to the tomb to do this. Instead, they had a long 24 hours of waiting ahead of them. Again, the confusion, despair, and anxiety must have been palpable.

 

Finding Yourself in Passover

As we begin to put ourselves in the shoes of these three people, it allows us to fully experience the Passover of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for the atonement of our sins—for our Exodus from death, imprisonment, and judgment.

Imagining these stories through the eyes of these characters allows us not to skip forward to His resurrection without fully understanding what it must have felt like to live for three days feeling that the great hope you believed in was lost. The weight of it must have been unbearable.

 

Sunday Dawns

But then, Luke 24 opens with this:

Very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.

These same women from Galilee finally get to the tomb with their spices after Shabbat ends. But Jesus’ body is not there. Men in dazzling robes appear to tell them that the Son of Man has risen from His death.

In verse 34, Luke notes that one of the first people Jesus appears to is Peter. Imagine the emotion Peter felt when Jesus appears to him, alive. Wow, it must have been incredible!

There is no account of Joseph of Arimathea experiencing Jesus’ resurrection, but we can easily assume that he similarly was elated when he realized the Kingdom of God truly HAD come in the resurrection of Jesus.

Each year all of us celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, I hope this year that you can find yourself in the true, historical story of what our Messiah endured and accomplished for us. We must experience both the greatly disappointing sorrow of His death, as well as the immense joy of His resurrection. Only then will we truly be able to identify with Him as both the Son of Man and the Son of God.

The Passover Lamb delivered us from our own bondage by being slain for us. He then rose above the power of death to eternally provide hope for us all. May you, your family, and your friends experience the miraculous power of both these events this year.

 

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

Nic Lesmeister

Nic LesmeisterNic Lesmeister
President & CEO

 


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