by Marcelo A. Tolopilo ©
I want to dedicate the next three Lighthouse articles to exploring the Lord’s last Passover on this earth. Actually “exploring” is too ambitious a term because we don’t have the time to dig and excavate the depth and breadth of this marvelous topic. Let’s rather think of ourselves as textual archeologists working on a small yet rich area, gently brushing back the sediment of unfamiliarity that often obscures the treasure of a text.
In our first two articles, we will unearth the beauty of God’s sovereign plan in the unfolding of the Lord’s last Passover. First, we will see God’s sovereign control over the big picture, our present article. Secondly, we will consider God’s amazing orchestration of the details in that first Easter. In our third article, we will contemplate the Divine passion that drove Jesus through that last difficult Paschal season to be our innocent substitute.
The final Passover of Jesus’ life didn’t just randomly happen. It was decreed; it was ordained, and the promise enshrined in scripture hundreds of years before it came to pass. In a long reaching prophesy known as the “70 weeks of Daniel” (Daniel 9:20-27), Daniel was given wisdom to see deep into Israel’s future redemption and to perceive two extremely important events. He was given knowledge to discern 1. when Messiah the Prince would present Himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25), and 2. that when He did, He would be eliminated, killed, cut down completely (Daniel 9:26).
The start of the clock and the time until Messiah’s first coming
God revealed a very specific timeline for these events to occur. First, God declared that the time clock to Messiah’s presentation would begin with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem in its entirety. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince …” (Daniel 9:24). Secondly, God made clear that the amount of time until Messiah’s public presentation would total 483 years. “There will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks …” 7 weeks of years, or 49 years, and 62 weeks of years, or 434 additional years for a total of 483 years from the decree to the coming of Messiah.
Also extremely crucial for the scope of this prophecy is identifying the right decree because that gives us the start of the clock, doesn’t it? The most important detail God’s Spirit gives us regarding this issue is the fact that Jerusalem would be rebuilt in its entirety. We see this critical detail in Daniel’s words found in verse 25 “… it (Jerusalem)will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress” (Daniel 9:25) i.e., this decree would sanction the Jews to rebuild the beloved city completely.
The only declaration that fits that criterion like a glove is the decree of the great Persian King, Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). With that mandate, the hourglass was turned and the coming of Messiah began to draw ever nearer. Israel’s king could only come at the appointed time. The prophecy made, the timer was set. When was the time fulfilled and who was the man of the hour?
My friends, this course of time (483 years after Artaxerxes’ decree) was completed at the Triumphal Entry on 9 Nisan AD 30 when Jesus presented Himself publicly for the first time as Israel’s Messiah. Then and there He accepted Israel’s recognition and praise as Her King and by so doing declared Himself openly to be her Messiah. The multitude rightly erupted in messianic praise.
The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).
In Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry, we find that the Pharisees scolded Jesus for allowing the people to ascribe to Him such clear messianic titles. The Pharisees demanded that He silence His followers, but Jesus responding with His own rebuke declared that if His disciples became silent the very stones of the ground would cry out and confess Him as King (Luke 19:40). Why would the earth itself cry out? Because the time had come! God’s sovereign hour for the public manifestation of His King had arrived and nothing could silence or obviate that reality. Jesus, the King of Israel, had arrived to Jerusalem’s hosannas at the beginning of Passover week.
A foreboding promise for Passover
A second truth revealed to Daniel was no doubt deeply troubling and difficult to understand. Attending this glorious promise of Messiah’s advent was what seemed a conflicting, dark conundrum. When Messiah came, He would be killed! “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing …” (Daniel 9:26).
The term “cut off” means “killed,” “eliminated,” “cut down,” and “have nothing” means exactly that! The Lord Jesus was unjustly murdered and died destitute without anything, even His coat taken away. His disciples having fled in fear, left Jesus to die alone. His body tortured and pierced, He bled and died. How could this be? Though enigmatic, this was so because Jesus was God’s Passover Lamb! He arrived on that last Passover to Jerusalem as King, but He came to die because He was also, as John the Baptist confessed,“the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This was all according to the“predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:32). The Father, working through the hands of evil men, was ultimately the One “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over… as His Passover Lamb “for us all” (Romans 8:32).
“For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)