Lamb Selection Day
Welcome to the time warp. It is such a strange season to be in. I've officially lost all sense of day, time, and season. Do you ever go through this process in the early morning fog of waking up? I have to first remember where I am at. I'm in bed. My bed. In my room. In my house. What is today? Tuesday. In the city of Orange, CA, Tuesday is trash day. Did I get the trash cans to the curb? I hate being the guy running out at 6:30am in my slippers (in the rain, uphill both ways, for drama) dragging the 96-gallon (yes, we use the big one) can behind me as the truck is rolling up. And not only is it Tuesday, but it is the third Tuesday of "The Great Quarantine" where the Coronavirus is dominating the headlines.
Dominating our lives.
That's the Gregorian calendar. Let's move over to the Hebrew calendar. Today is the thirteenth of the month of Nisan. Big deal? Kind of, but let's take a moment and dig a bit. Exodus 12 with me for a bit.
"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight." Exodus 12:1-6
While there is still a very small sect of Jews knows as the Haredim who still sacrifice a lamb during Passover, this tradition is no longer kept. On the tenth day of Nisan, the Israelite family enslaved in Egypt took a lamb from their flock. There were conditions: one-year old, male, without defect. For the next four days, this lamb was to be inspected, scrutinized, and tested to be sure it was without spot or blemish. If it passed the test, on the fourteenth day of the month, the lamb would be slaughtered.
Blood on the doorpost.
Let's fast forward. New Testament. Luke’s gospel account shows a dramatic turning point in Jesus’s ministry. Galilee was no longer His base of operation. Jesus is determined as He is moving toward Jerusalem to complete His mission as the final atonement for sin (Luke 22:14). So the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem was the day of the setting aside of the Lamb of God. And over the next few days, there was a testing to prove that THIS LAMB was without spot or blemish.
“…knowing that you were redeemed…with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.” 1 Peter 1:18-19
The purpose of the Triumphal Entry was not to offer Himself as King or to re-offer the Kingdom. That offer will come again on the eschatological calendar. What happened on this day is that the true Lamb of God was set aside for a period of testing to prove He was without spot or blemish. In the midst of this Passion Week, recall the tests of Jesus. He went back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem every day, and entered into dialogue (confrontation/attack) with four different groups:
The Priests and the elders (Matthew 21:23-22:14)
The Pharisees and the Herodians (Matthew 22:15-22)
The Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33)
The Pharisees (part two) (Matthew 22:34-40)
In each of these interactions, the Lamb is being scrutinized. Jesus is asked questions like:
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
“Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him...Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:24-28)
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? (Matthew 22:36)
It's at least a three hour study to look at the nuances of each story, the authoritative, theological, political objections that were raised by each of these groups. What is beautiful is that after each of Jesus' responses to these questions, the responses from His accusers were:
“And they were not unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.” (Luke 20:26)
"When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching." (Matthew 22:33)
"And no one dared to ask him any more questions." (Luke 20:40)
"And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." (Mark 12:34)
On that day, the tenth of Nisan, the Lamb of God was set aside. From the tenth until the fourteenth, the Lamb would be tested to show that He was without spot or blemish. All of the religious leaders were silenced by His answers.
Why do we no longer sacrifice a lamb during Passover each year?
This one Who rode into Jerusalem a few days earlier, proved to be without spot or blemish, and that meant He could proceed to the cross to be the real Passover sacrifice, the perfect Lamb of God.