Yeshua’s 2nd lesson – Passover

Read John 2:12-3:36
Pink almond tree in Israel

Soon it was time to go south to Jerusalem for the festival of Pesach (Passover – 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan), commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  It was spring time.  The apricot and almond trees were showing off their beauty.   Spring is when the weather is at its most unpredictable.   This month has much sunshine but very heavy winds.  It is characterised by heatwaves (“hamsin” – when hot dusty desert winds blow in from North Africa) followed by suddenly cold weather or even storms.   Sometimes the month of Nissan (March/April) would receive the heaviest rainfall, in Scripture referred to as the “latter rains”, which supplied nourishment to the barley and wheat crops as they become “white for harvest.”   (1) (2) (3) (4)

During the weeks leading up to Passover a “full-out spring cleaning search and destroy mission” is undertaken by Jewish families to rid their homes of chametz (leavened grain). This culminates in a ceremonial search for chametz on the night before Passover and then a burning of the chametz ceremony on the morning before the feast begins. (4) This removal of chametz from their homes was symbolic of removing evil and corrupt inclinations from within the people.

Central to the Passover feast is the sacrifice of the paschal lamb – a one year old male lamb or kid without blemish (Exodus 12:5) that was slain in the temple and its blood caught by a priest and sprinkled on the alter.  On the first Passover night in Egypt the blood had been sprinkled on the doorposts of each Israelite house (Exodus 12:13).  Now, the slaughtered lamb was hung upon special hooks or sticks and skinned, the abdomen was then cut open, and the fatty portions intended for the altar were taken out, placed in a vessel, salted, and offered by the priest on the altar, while the remaining entrails likewise were taken out and cleansed.   In the evening the lambs would be taken home and roasted on a spit of pomegranate-wood, then set on the table for the evening Seder meal.  No bones were to be broken (Psalm 34:20), either during the cooking or during the eating of the lamb, and the sacrifice had to be consumed entirely that same evening, nothing being allowed to remain overnight (Numbers 9:12). (5)

Following from the night of the Passover feast is the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread during which a flat unleavened bread, matzah, is eaten instead of any chametz, reminding the people both of the haste with which they left Egypt and that having been cleansed they needed to continue living in the purity of being free from all human evil and corruption. 

It was time for purification…

Going with the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” to the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem for Passover – eager anticipation of joyfully worshipping God.

Now Yeshua’s talmidim were going with their joyous, celebration saving, miraculous wine producing rabbi to Jerusalem for the annual celebration of God’s deliverance of their people from bondage and slavery.   They were travelling with their messiah, their deliverer, to this celebration of deliverance.  Eager expectation filled their hearts as these zealous young men approached Jerusalem.

The disciple’s joyous time together after the wedding suddenly shifted as they entered the temple courts in Jerusalem. The magnificent outward appearance of the Temple was not matched by the activities taking place within it.  A storm was brewing.   This apostolic reformation, this Kingdom of Heaven manifest on earth, was not all just fun, family and abundance of fine wine.  Yeshua was as fiery a reformer as Yochanan who had pointed them to Him, and the leaven had to be removed from His Father’s house before Passover could be celebrated:  

In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!”                                                                      John 2:14-16 BSB

If you have ever been to a livestock auction you would have some idea of the cacophony of sounds that accosted them as they entered the temple courts to worship and pray. Cattle bellowing, sheep bleating, doves cooing and men shouting over the din of it all to attract customers to their stall.   Yes, all those things were needed for the sacrificial system of worship, but the sacrifices and offerings were never meant to be a substitute for inviting people into God’s presence through worship in prayer, song and Torah reading and discussions.  All this buying and selling belonged in the marketplaces of Jerusalem, not in the temple’s very courts drowning out any attempt to pray or worship. 

Corruption, greed, racism and fear exposed…

So, why was it being allowed?  The high priestly family in Yeshua’s day were no more committed to the purity of the temple nor worship than Elishib, the high priest in Nehemiah’s day, had been. There are Talmudic references to the unworthiness of the High Priests in this period. (6)  The income generated from hiring out the temple court as a marketplace helped move things along nicely.  The Pharisees were vitally concerned with the ritual purity of the people and temple but since Hillel’s death and the massacre of Hillelites opposed to the Eighteen Measures they had been dominated by Shammai and his followers.  Bet Shammai were opposed to the Jews having any contact with Gentiles and had forbidden even the most basic of trade between them.  Gentiles were considered unclean and their worship of God had no value, according to the doctrines of Bet Shammai, while ever they remained Gentiles.   So it seemed appropriate to have the temple’s “Court of the Gentiles” filled with Jews buying and selling all the things the Jews needed for their sacrificial worship.  As long as the temple guard remained vigilant at the doors to the rest of the temple to ensure that any Gentile who attempted to pass from the noisy marketplace of the Court of the Gentiles into the inner sacred Jewish space was immediately killed, Bet Shammai cared little what was done in that court already defiled by the very presence of Gentiles.

Between Bet Shammai and the Sadducees linked to the High Priest’s family, they had a firm majority in the Sanhedrin and easily drowned out the voices from Bet Hillel who considered the whole temple precinct as sacred unto God and encouraged Gentiles to turn to the one true God and worship Him alone. 

Just as Nehemiah had removed Tobiah from the place the High Priest had given him in the temple storeroom, so Yeshua now removed this noisy market from the place the High Priest’s family and Sanhedrin had allocated to them in the temple courts. 

“How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16b NIV) Yeshua charged them.

But Nehemiah had political authority, being appointed governor of Judea by the Persian emperor.  Yeshua had neither political, religious nor legal authority, He had not been appointed by Rome as Prefect or High Priest, nor had He risen to any position of power within the Sanhedrin.   His only claim was to spiritual authority “My Father’s house”, reminiscent of His answer to his mother as a twelve-year-old “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49b NIV).  So, they challenged Yeshua to prove He possessed such spiritual authority:

“What miraculous sign can you show us to prove you have the right to do all this?”           John 2:18 CJB

Yeshua’s answer, although misunderstood by his examiners at that time, revealed something of why he as a single individual was able to enforce what the whole school of Hillel could do nothing about.   He was willing to die for His convictions.  Yeshua had no fear of death and even now at the beginning of His ministry knew that the time would come when they would kill Him, but that He would overcome death and rise again:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”
The Judeans said, “It took 46 years to build this Temple, and you’re going to raise it in three days?” 
But the “temple” he had spoken of was his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his talmidim remembered that he had said this, and they trusted in the Tanakh and in what Yeshua had said.      John 2:19-22 CJB

This was another essential component of the original apostolic reformation.  It was a character trait that Yeshua expected his talmidim (disciples) to emulate:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  Mk 8:34-35 NIV

Those in the leadership of Bet Hillel who were willing to die for their convictions had been massacred that fateful night for their refusal to endorse Bet Shammai’s Eighteen Articles.  The Bet Hillel survivors had concluded that staying alive was a good thing and that more pragmatic ways of exerting positive influence would be wise.  Their efforts to avoid bloody conflict with both the Shammaites and Zealots on their right, and with the Romans on their left, along with their generally more lenient Mishna (Oral Law), led to many in this now highly polarised society considering them weak and compromised.   History would prove them to be the strongest, most enduring Jewish sect (apart from Yeshua’s own) as Bet Shammai, the Zealots and the Sadducees all came to naught after the destruction of the temple in 70AD and Bet Hillel became the foundation upon which rabbinical Judaism was built, but for now the pragmatism that would later become the strength of their position appeared to be wishy-washy weakness.   Thus those of strong, unyielding character and passionate in their convictions were easily drawn away to Bet Shammai or the Zealots who were so committed as to kill for their convictions.  Like Bet Hillel, neither Yochanan the Immerser nor Yeshua of Nazareth ever endorsed killing for their convictions, but they both demonstrated a willingness to die for their convictions.  They lived fearlessly.

Worship in the Temple

When Yeshua and His talmidim passed through the well guarded gates from the Court of the Gentiles into the sanctuary where only Jews were allowed, they entered an atmosphere of worship and sacrifice. It has been estimated that about 18,000 lambs were sacrificed in the Temple each Pesach. (7) Throughout the entire time of temple sacrifices, the band was playing and the Levitical choir was singing songs of praise, an integral part of the offering service. (8) In this atmosphere of praise Yeshua did miraculous signs and many believed in His name.

The Jewish sages have written:

“Why were the Levites selected to sing in the Temple? Because the name Levi means cleaving. The soul of him who heard their singing at once cleaved to God.”            (Zohar 2:19a)

The Levite’s principal service was to sing over the offerings brought to the temple.   There would never be fewer than twelve Levites standing on the platform to utter song over an offering; and more could be added without limit.(‘Arachin l3b) Others would also be standing there, who played on musical instruments – lyres, flutes, harps, trumpets and cymbals.   Some of the musicians were Levites and some were Israelites of distinguished lineage who were acceptable to intermarry with the kohanim. (MT ibid. J.)   By the time of Yeshua, Temple tradition required at least two lyres but nor more than six; never less than two flutes, nor more than twelve; never less than two trumpets, nor more than one hundred and twenty; never less than nine harps, but their number could be increased without limit. There was only one set of cymbals. (‘Arachin 13a)  

On all Festival Days and on New Moon Days the priests would blow on the trumpets at the time of the offering and the Levites would sing. The trumpet was made of a bar of silver. If it was made of pieces of silver, it was fit; but if made of any other metal, it was unfit. The pipe of the flutes upon which they played was a reed, for its sound is sweet. (Ibid. lOa.) A song would always end with a lone flute, for it makes a pleasant finale. (9)

On twelve days during the year the flute would be sounded in front of the Altar: at the slaughtering of the first Pesach [Passover] offering; at the slaughtering of the second Passover offering; on the first Festival Day of Passover; on the Festival Day of Shavuot (Pentecost); and on the eight days of Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles).

Temple Worship wins out over ‘Oral Law’

Of interest is that the Oral Law now forbade the playing of instruments on Shabbat (the Sabbath), but because it was required for the offering it was allowed in the Temple, since Temple service was deemed to supersede the Sabbath.  This Mishnah declaring the playing of musical instruments to be work and therefor forbidden on Shabbat did mean, however, that no playing of musical instruments accompanied the Sabbath-Day worship in any Jewish synagogue. (9)

The Pascha Seder (Passover Meal)

Having completed the offering, Yeshua and His talmidim, along with the other pilgrims, left the Temple Mount with their lambs and placed them on a spit of pomegranate-wood in clay ovens specially prepared for the occasion, in courtyards all throughout Jerusalem.  After sundown every chavurah (predetermined group of people assigned to each offering) would gather round, performing the well-known Passover Seder, with the roast lamb as the centrepiece of the service. The Pascha Seder concluded with the singing of the Hallel, a collection of Psalms praising God for His deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian oppressors. The celebrants climbed up to the rooftops in Jerusalem where they could sing God’s praise in full sight of the Holy Temple. (8)  Maybe Yeshua did some of His miraculous signs up on those rooftops as God’s praises rang out throughout the city.

Miracles in Jerusalem

Each day, for the seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread, Yeshua was back in the temple worshipping and teaching the people and doing miracles.   Although Yeshua had no interest in performing a sign to prove to the religious leaders that He had the authority to do what they should have done, cleanse the temple, He none the less performed many miraculous signs in meeting the various needs of the Passover worshippers (John 2:23).  His was a power moved by compassion to meet human need.  In this one visit to Jerusalem, His talmidim saw both the strong severity and the tender compassion of their rabbi Yeshua.   He had indeed brought them to Jerusalem to see their people delivered, but the Roman soldiers were not the target of Messiah’s wrath.  

Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in His name.       John 2:23

Nicodemus comes by night

Interestingly the author of this gospel saw no reason to give us any details of what miracles Yeshua performed on this occasion and we are left to assume they included healings and deliverances as attested to in the rest of the gospels.  Whatever those signs were, they attracted the attention of at least some of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin.  One of them, Nakdimon (Nicodemus), found where Yeshua was staying at night (possibly in the home of an unnamed talmid, maybe in the home of this gospel’s author) and came to Him to engage in that depth of discussion which was typical in rabbinical circles as they sort to understand fully the implications for life of the teachings of scripture (John 3:1-21).   Nicodemus may have been sent by the Pharisees, possibly by their currently less powerful sect, Bet Hillel, whose teachings were generally more aligned with those of Yeshua than the dominant Bet ShammaiYeshua does not disappoint this learned rabbi, this teacher of teachers, but immediately launches into a depth of discussion that impacts not only Nicodemus but also His young talmidim who work on memorising every word their rabbi is teaching.

You Must Be Born again…

Yeshua begins with something that both sounds very familiar to Nakdimon and yet, in this context, very strange:

“Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”   John 3:3 BSB

The general theological position of Jewish rabbis such as Nicodemus was that “to be born of water”, a rabbinic idiom for physical birth, as a Jew ensured their entry into the kingdom of God. Based on Isaiah 60:21 the Pharisees had developed this doctrine as recorded in the Mishnah (oral law) Sanhedrin 10:1 and in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 90a:

All Israelites have a share in the world to come. For it is written, Thy people shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.

Over the years the rabbi’s developed a list of specific exemptions for Jews who rebelled against their God and heritage, but the basic doctrine was that if one was born a Jew he would enter the kingdom of God.  So to suggest that a Torah observant, God seeking, faithful Jew such as Nakdimon could not see God’s kingdom without being born again sounded incredulous.  What kind of new birth was Yeshua talking about?  

It was not that the concept of being ‘born again’ was foreign to Judaism. Pharisaic Judaism taught that there are eight ways to be born again.

There were two for which Nicodemus did not qualify. Proselyte conversion and becoming the Jewish king. When a Jewish man became king, he is said to be “born again.” He started a whole new life. Before, he was just a citizen of the nation, now he is the leader, with very different responsibilities and powers.   When a gentile converted to Judaism, he was said to be “born again” or “new-born”.  He moved into a whole new realm of life. He moved out of being Gentile and into being Jewish. He took on new responsibilities. He did not have responsibilities to the Mosaic Law before; now he is committed to the Mosaic Law and the traditions of first century Judaism. 

Nicodemus qualified, and had undertaken, the four chronological re-births available to studious Jewish men.  The first was when a young man entered adult responsibility, later called Bar Mitzvah and undertaken at 13 years, but during this earlier time referred to as “becoming obedient to Torah” and undertaken at 12 years.  The next one chronologically was marriage, as he is ‘new-born’ onto a new life with new responsibilities of being married instead of single.   We know that Nicodemus was married because it was one of the requirements for being a member of the Sanhedrin.  The next re-birth that a rabbi undertook was when he was about 30yo, became a ‘Rav’ and took on responsibility to teach the masses the doctrines of the rabbinic school to which he belonged.   At around 50yo he could be born again as a ‘HaRav’, head of a Yeshiva, rabbinic school, and responsible for developing doctrine. (10) (11)

In addition to these there were two recurring re-births undertaken by Pharisees such a Nicodemus.  The first was t’vilah (immersion).  Total immersion was, according to the developing Oral Law, required for most cases of ritual impurity decreed in the Torah. Immersions were required especially of the priests, since they had to be in a state of purity in order to participate in the temple service or eat of the holy things. Other individuals had to be ritually pure to enter the temple beyond the court of the Gentiles.  It became customary among the Pharisees to maintain a state of ritual purity at all times, which required frequent full immersions (baptisms), and so it was that many synagogues had mikveh’s (baptismal pools) attached to them.  Each immersion was considered a re-birth because he went from a state of ritual impurity to ritual purity.  The final way that Nicodemus had been born again was through repentance.  Repentance was also considered to be a new birth because it involved a new way of life, changing one’s mind from walking in unrighteousness to walking in righteousness.   Nicodemus may have expressed repentance frequently, and certainly would have done so at least yearly on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). (10) (11)

Yet it was clear that Yeshua was not talking about any of these means of being ‘born again’.  So Nicodemus expressed his incredulity that a faithful Jew could need anything more than all these in typical rabbinical style, by asking a question intended to expose the fallacy of Yeshua’s argument:

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”    John 3:4 BSB

Now it was set up beautifully for Yeshua to drive home his message:

“Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. John 3:5 BSB

Nicodemus’ confidence in being born of water, born as a Jew, was misplaced when it came to entering the kingdom of God.   Something other than this was needed.  Something other than coming of age or marrying or becoming a rabbi or the head of a rabbinical school or ceremonial immersions or even repentance or anything that man can do.   What was needed to enter the kingdom of God was something that only God’s Spirit could do.  Both men knew by heart such scriptures as Ezekiel 36:27: “I will put my Spirit inside you and cause you to live by my laws, respect my rulings and obey them”; Ezekiel 37:14a “I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive”; Jeremiah 31:33 and Job 33:23-30 which closely parallels much of what Yeshua is saying in John 3:1-21. (12)

Yeshua continued:

Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind (Aramaic word play – ‘Rucha’ also = Spirit) blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.           John 3:7-8 BSB

Nicodemus wanted to know how.  How could it be that this most basic doctrine was false, that being a Jew did not ensure entrance into the kingdom of God?   How did being born of the Spirit work?  If everything he was as a Jew and everything he could do to live in the righteousness of Torah and ‘Oral Law’ obedience could not bring it about how could he be born again and fulfil his life-long hope and desire of entering into God’s kingdom?  It appeared that Yeshua was putting Nicodemus in an impossible situation where everything he had so confidently relied on for entrance into God’s kingdom was deemed inadequate and there was nothing he could do to make up the difference.

Yeshua questioned how Nicodemus could not understand this after all his years of studying and teaching the scriptures, even rising to the position of one who teaches other rabbis (Vs 10).   He then takes Nicodemus through scriptures he knows so well to help him see them with new eyes and understand how they relate to what is needed for him to be born of the Spirit.  Answering Proverbs 30:4 and referring to Daniel 7 Yeshua explained His deity and His origin in heaven, and therefore His authority as the Messiah, the Son of Man (Vs 11-13).  Then Yeshua adds to this lesson on Messiah from Numbers 21:8-9, what happened physically with Israel in the wilderness when they looked in faith on the uplifted serpent will happen spiritually with the Messiah – when Yeshua is lifted up on the cross those who look in faith on Him will be healed from spiritual death and be born again.  Just as the Israelites could not heal themselves of the snake bites, all their medical skills were unable to save their own lives, so also are they unable to save themselves, all their religious works are unable to achieve the needed spiritual birth. But what they could not do for themselves God did for each and every one who looked to the serpent Moses raised up in the wilderness for their healing.  The cause of their physical death was the serpents’ bite so it was a representative of these serpents that was raised up for their healing.  Even so the cause of mankind’s spiritual death is man, his own sinful nature, thus it is a representative of man, the Son of Man, who will be raised up for all to look to for the new birth and eternal life (Vs 14-15).  Then, while affirming God’s love for all peoples and desire to save them (Gen. 18:18, Psalm 107:1, Jer. 31:3) on to Ezekiel 18 about individual responsibility for sin, regardless of nationality, and therefor responsibility to look on and believe in the Messiah who will be lifted up for that sin (Vs 16-18).  This is the part that is man’s responsibility, not earning the spiritual birth but looking to the one who is able to give it.  Through Psalm 27:1, Psalm 89:14-18, Psalm 130, Isaiah 2:5 & 60:1-2 the need to come to and delight in the Light is espoused.  Yet Psalm 51 concedes even those born as Jews are brought forth in iniquity and love darkness to hide their sin and so live under condemnation, but those who practice the truth come to the light and look upon the One raised up for them. (13) (14)

Yeshua’s talmidim baptising followers…

After this time in Jerusalem for the eight day festival of Pesach (Passover), which foretold his upcoming death as the Lamb of God, Yeshua returned east to the Jordan region with his young talmidim and started immersing (baptising) people in water, even as Yochanan had been continuing to do.  

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptised.  Now John also was baptising in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.  And they came and were baptised.  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.     John 3:22-24

Just as the miracles Yeshua had done in Jerusalem sparked Nicodemus’ interest in speaking with Him, so they also stirred many to come and be baptised by Him.  In fact now even more people were going out to Yeshua and being immersed by His talmidim than to Yochanan the baptiser.

Evidence of being apostéllō from God
He must Increase but I must decrease“…

They came to Yochanan, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same immerses, and everyone is coming to him.”
Yochanan answered, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah,’ but, ‘I have been sent (apostéllō) before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”       John 3:26-30 HNV

Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) gives us an example of one who is truly operating in the authority of being apostéllō from God.  He is not jealous over “his ministry” to baptise, nor envious that more people are now flocking to Yeshua than to himself, but rather humbly views this as his great joy to see the many now bypassing him to go directly to the Son of God.   Yochanan’s apostolic mantra was: “He must increase but I must decrease”    Anything other than this, anything self-promoting or claiming that others must in some way come through us to get to Christ is not of the apostéllō of God.   This original apostolic reformation was one of practical love for others and rejoicing when they bypass us to go directly to God themselves.  Yochanan continued with this prophetic declaration:

He who comes from above is above all. He who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His witness.  He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.  For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for God gives the Spirit without measure.   The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.  One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won’t see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
John 3:31-36 HNV

This message brought joy and hope to many of the Jews, but was unsettling to the religious leaders, as was Yohanan’s levelling the same charges against them as against the ‘common people’:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his immersion he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bring forth fruit worthy of repentance!  Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  “Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t bring forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire. I indeed immerse you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:7-12

Disciples doing the work of the ministry…

Meanwhile, there had already been a shift if what Yeshua was doing.  It was no longer Yeshua doing the baptising, but his young disciples.  How quickly He got them into doing the work of the ministry.  They did not know much yet, but they could do what they did know and learn through the doing.   There is no indication that Yochanan ever had his disciples doing the baptising for him, every record is of Yochanan being the one in the water getting everyone fully immersed, as well as the one preaching the fiery sermons and prophetically calling the people to repentance.   Yochanan’s disciples were learning everything he said but not yet doing what he did.   After all, the evidence suggests that Yochanan had only been preaching and baptising people for about 6 months when Yeshua came to be baptised, and the Passover was only about 3 months after that, so Yochanan had been ministering for less than a year (15) and his most promising disciples had left to follow Yeshua.  It is not surprising then that Yochanan’s disciples had not yet graduated to doing what their rabbi was doing in baptising people.  Normal Jewish practice would have them learning from their rabbi, John the Baptiser, for over a decade more, until they were around thirty years of age, before they would be considered ready to teach or baptise others.  Yet, in such a few short weeks of following him, Yeshua had his disciples doing the ministry, doing the baptising for Him.   And still the people kept coming, even though they would only be touched by Yeshua’s talmidim and not directly by Him, more and more people kept coming to be baptised as Yeshua’s talmidim.    

Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptise, but His disciples)     John 4:1-2 NKJV

Yeshua’s disciples were doing the ministry of baptising the people for Him, to initiate them into being disciples of Yeshua.   Right from the beginning they understood that their calling was to bring people into following Yeshua, not following themselves.  So soon after they had begun to follow Yeshua, His disciples were beginning the process of making disciples for their rabbi.

As the word spread to the Jerusalem authorities that Yeshua was immersing more people than Yochanan, He left Judea with His disciples and headed back up towards Galilee.   Their next lesson was about to begin, and it was one that they were most unprepared for.

Reference List

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7. Coulter, Fred R. Chapter Seventeen – Later Passover Practices as Recorded by Jewish Historians. Truth of God – restoring original Christanity for today. [Online] [Cited: 22 April 2019.] https://www.cbcg.org/booklets/the-christian-passover/chapter-seventeen-later-passover-practices-as-recorded-by-jewish-historians.html.
8. Institute, The Temple. Facebook. [Online] 6th April 2015. [Cited: 21st April 2019.] https://www.facebook.com/22738684968/posts/the-levitical-choir-the-pesach-oven-seder-night-hallel-praise-to-g-dthroughout-t/10150531562509969/.
9. The Music of the Beth Hamikdash (the Jerusalem Holy Temple). Power of the Nigun. [Online] [Cited: 21st April 2019.] http://www.nigun.info/hamikdash.html.
10. You Must be Born Again. HaDavar Messianic Ministries. [Online] [Cited: 17th Oct. 2016.] http://www.hadavar.org/getting-to-know-god/you-must-be-born-again/.
11. Scott. Jewish Roots. Chosen People. [Online] [Cited: 17th Oct. 2016.] http://chosenpeople.com/main/jewish-roots/180–a-jewish-view-of-john-3.
12. Does the idea of being “born again” have a root earlier than John/Peter (or Jesus)? Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. [Online] [Cited: 17th Oct. 2016.] http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/9338/does-the-idea-of-being-born-again-have-a-root-earlier-than-john-peter-or-jesu.
13. Santala, Risto. STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF JESUS. [Online] [Cited: 18th Oct. 2016.] http://www.ristosantala.com/rsla/Nt/NT13.html.
14. Trimm, James. John 3:3 — Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek? [Online] 26th Dec. 1998. [Cited: 18th Oct. 2016.] http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/1998-December/000827.html.
15. Andrews, Samuel J. Date of the Lord’s Baptism, The Life of Our Lord Upon The Earth, Christian Classics. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: 18th February 2019.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/andrews-the-life-of-our-lord-upon-the-earth/date-of-the-lords-baptism.html.

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

2 thoughts on “Yeshua’s 2nd lesson – Passover”

  1. * In the above notes, we see Jesus going to Jerusalem for the festival of Pesach (Passover) during the Hebrew month of Nissan. This is the month in which they celebrate the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. As the festival approached, there was a period of cleansing according to the traditions of Jewish families to rid their homes of chametz (leavened grain). The ceremonial removal of chametz from their homes was symbolic of removing evil and corrupt inclinations among the people. Leaven often represents sin and decay in the Bible. Once merged, yeast becomes an inseparable part of the bread; the same is true concerning the effect of sin on our lives. In those days, the Jews were constantly sacrificing unblemished animals to temporarily atone for sin. However, the scriptures show us that only the Messiah, the perfect sinless sacrifice (the Lamb of God), could offer a permanent solution. The unleavened bread therefore, represents the sinless life of Jesus; he is the only perfect sacrifice for our sins.

    * When he went to Jerusalem, Yeshua as a fiery reformer hoped to find when Jews had removed leaven from His Father’s house in preparation for the celebration of the Passover. Instead he found men in the temple courts selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He drove those selling doves and all forms of merchandise alleging that they had turned the house of his Father into a marketplace. This kind of backsliding and corruption was prevalent because the priesthood in the days of Yeshua were no longer committed to the purity of the temple nor worship.

    In this lesson we learn that the reason why Yeshua was offended was not because the pilgrims needed to purchase sacrificial animals like cattle, sheep, goats, doves/pigeons, etc.; but that God’s house had become perverted from its main function as a house of prayer, and turned into something resembling a market, in which everyone brought their produce, set up stalls, and crowds came to do their shopping. Yeshua’s anger was appropriate. As Christians we also learn that there are times when the lack of anger at a great injustice or wickedness shows separation with reality. We need to understand that it’s not anger that is evil, but what that anger causes us to do that which is unrighteous (Ephesians 4:6). So we must control our anger so that our actions are appropriate. In this situation, we see that for the Son of God to return his Father’s House to its rightful state was entirely appropriate, if not “politically correct.” Jesus was so identified with his Father to the extent that he saw the merchandising as an insult to his Father, and thus to him.

    * Still, during the seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread, Yeshua worshiped and taught people in the temple and performed miracles among the people who came to worship during the Passover (John 2:23). Through these actions of compassion, Yeshua demonstrated to His talmidim that he indeed brought them to Jerusalem to see their people delivered. Our lesson to learn here is that, just as Yeshua was moved with compassion to minister to the needs of people and work for them miraculous signs, so must we do likewise.

    * We also see Nicodemus coming to Yeshua by night. He wanted to know more about the kingdom of God. Nicodemus had strong desire to enter the kingdom of God. Yeshua showed him that everything he had so confidently relied on to enter into God’s kingdom was considered inadequate. He questioned how Nicodemus could not understand this after all his years of studying and teaching the scriptures, even rising to the position of one who teaches other rabbis. He then takes Nicodemus through scriptures he knows so well to help him see them with new eyes and understand how they relate to what is needed for him to be born of the Spirit.

    In this encounter of Yeshua and Nicodemus, we learn that the conversion of Nicodemus demonstrates that even the most religious person needs the new birth. In John 3:10 Jesus calls Nicodemus “the teacher of Israel;” a term indicating that Nicodemus was recognized as the master religious teacher in Israel, literally the theologian of theologians. And yet in the beginning, he did not understand the new birth or his need of it. The understanding and submitting to Christ meant putting aside the false, man-made theology in which Nicodemus had been trained and taught, and bow the knee to the person and authority of the Messiah. Therefore, we learn that even the most religious man on earth needs the new birth, equally as much as the most dreadful sinner.

    * Yeshua further shared about the experience of Israel in the wilderness in Numbers 21:8-9, when they looked in faith on the uplifted serpent. This was symbolic of what will happen spiritually with the Messiah. He demonstrated that when He is lifted up on the cross those who look in faith on Him will be healed from spiritual death and be born again. God provided salvation for this disobedient people, so that they might survive divine judgment. He instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and to set it on a pole, so that anyone who was bitten by one of the serpents could merely look up at the serpent and be healed. This is precisely what happened. All who were bitten and looked up were healed.

    This Old Testament provision for the healing of Israel demonstrates the salvation God was about to accomplish through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the serpent was lifted up, and consequently became a source of salvation, so the Son of Man must be “lifted up,” so that those who look up to Yeshua in faith can be saved from God’s wrath as well. The snake-bitten Israelites were smitten by God for their sin. They deserved to die, and apart from His provision of the serpent, they would have died. Those who did not look up to the bronze serpent indeed died. The act of merely looking up to the bronze serpent was an act of faith. As the people of Israel could see at that time, there was no direct link between the snake bite they had received and the healing for which they hoped. But it was the means through which God provided to bring about their salvation. It was the means God declared through Moses. It was the one way God said His people could be saved. Those who looked to the bronze serpent were saved from the death they deserved.

    * Lastly, we see Yeshua quickly handing over the ministry responsibilities of baptism to his young disciples. Since they did not know much yet, this on-job training was very important. Also they had understood that their calling was to bring people to follow Yeshua, and not themselves. This is a very important lesson for us to learn that we have been called to bring people in a relationship with Jesus; baptize them, and teach them to obey and follow Yeshua (not ourselves).

  2. The statues related to the Passover were necessary in light of the mixed multitude that went out of Egypt with Israel. Participation in the feasts that would be formative for Israel’s life in the land required that a person be identified as a part of the Lord’s pApox by letting all his males be circumcised. Jesus knows the history of the Passover as he was with the children of Israel in Egypt, therefore to fulfill the scriptures he asked his disciples to prepare for the Passover. By Jesus action in the Temple, he acted against corruption, and injustice by leaders who took advantage of the vulnerability of the poor. The question we must today is how do we use God’s house? Do we use it for the purpose it was created as a place of prayer or do we use it as a place for making money? In Africa today some churches have become places of business. Some pastors are exploiting their members for gain and profit, instead of preaching and teaching the true Word of God to their members. They sell anointing oil,holy water, and other spiritual things. Members are sometimes even asked to pay money for prayers so they can be blessed. These misdirected pastors are using churches in the same way the leaders used the Temple in the time of Jesus. Such pastors should be aware that the same displeasure Jesus showed to those who abused and misused God’s holy Temple may be shown to them. The lessons we learn from Jesus as he cleansed the Temple should not be limited to the physical building. Paul the Apostle, said in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that our bodies are the Temple of God and must be honored. I strongly believe that displeases Christ when we do dishonor our bodies. Dishonouring God’s temple in whatever form is wrong, and it must stop.
    The reading touch the Pharisees and one of them called Nicodemus went to Jesus by night, like all the Jews in his time. Nicodemus believed that the Kingdom of God belonged to the Jews because they were born as God’s chosen people. It is like many of our social clubs, secret societies, guilds, and Lodges, where membership is only open to people with a certain family name, profession, ethnic group, or financial status. Jesus clearly said that membership into God’s Kingdom is not by any human credentials. It is not restricted to one ethnic group or race. It is not limited to the rich or powerful. Instead, it does require a certain rite Passage. This is not physical birth or social standing but a spiritual rebirth. He told Nicodemus that membership into God’s Kingdom is open to all. You can be part of God’s Kingdom if you repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Saviour, you will be born again into the family of Jesus.
    Jesus was baptizing, that is overseeing his disciples, as they continued administering the baptism of John which was based on repentance and which symbolized purification from sin. John had not yet been put in prison alerts we the readers to the fact that everything that has happened up to this point in John’s Gospel takes place prior to Mark after John was arrested.
    Some of the Pharisees began to go John to be baptize, and he questioned them to repent as the axe is already to the roots of the tree if they failed to turn away from their sins. We should follow the examples of the disciples as they baptized those whom came to the Saviour by believing in Him, while the Master sat down to watch them.

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