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  • Passover and the completed work of Jesus
    Sunday, 20 April 2008 @ 05:10 am SGT
    Contributed by: Yinghuo Chong
    Views:: 9,648
    ChowTime It is very interesting that on this week of Passover, the parashas reading of the Torah for the week deals with the Day of Atonement and so many issues that we believers are taught relating to the crucifixion and death of our Messiah.

    The parashas or Torah reading—the weekly portion of the Hebrew Bible that is read, studied and meditated by Jews—for this week is from Lev. 16: 1-18:30. This year Passover, which begins at sundown today is later that most years because of the way the Jewish lunisolar calendar is worked out based on the full moons and seasons of the year.

    As I read the portion of the Old Covenant, mindful of Passover and what Christians refer to as Good Friday, there are many issues that are so significant and allude to events surrounding the death of Jesus and to his work in redemption, specifically.

    The parashas starts with teaching Aaron, the chief priest, on how to approach the Holy of Holies, within the curtain. It tells of a specific time that the chief priest can enter on a specific day—only one day in the year as commanded, on the Day of Atonement, which Jews celebrate as Yom Kippur.

    Interesting that prior to this commandment, the Lord spoke to Moses in reference to the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died when they tried to approach God with “unauthorized” (NIV) and “profane” (NKJ) fire in Lev 10: 1. There is very much discussions in Torah studies about this: that it is significant why God made reference to Nadab and Abihu just before instructing Aaron what to do.

    One interpretation is that the two sons are seen as righteous people (whereas Christians always interpret them to have dishonoured the LORD.) It is believed that the death of a righteous person brings atonement for people who recognizes his death as a holy day!

    Note Lev. 10:4, when the chief priest enters the sanctuary, he has to wear a sacred linen tunic on very specific portions of the ceremony when he is seeking for forgiveness for his people. The custom to wear white garments on Yom Kippur even today symbolizes the Jews’ confidence that God will accept their repentance on Yom Kippur. It seems to imply the confidence of a “done deal” of forgiveness. What inferences can we draw for those in white, including Jesus, in Revelation?

    Another issue raised in this week’s reading that is interesting too is the casting of lots of the two goats, one for the LORD, and the other the Azazel, which NKJ renders “the scapegoat” in Lev. 10:5-10. In Hebrew, it is referred to as the “Azazel” goat, interpreted as the scapegoat. The lot cast on the goat for the LORD is offered as a sin offering, while the one for Azazel is presented alive, also to make atonement upon it but let go as the scapegoat far away into the wilderness (Verse 10.)

    Some say Jewish practice has been that the Azazel goat was taken away from the Temple, led and pushed off a cliff. Because the two goats are similar in appearance, the priest would tie a red strip to the neck of the goat for Azazel and tradition records that as the goat went over the cliff, the strip would turn to white in colour, symbolizing the forgiveness of Israel’s sin. Other studies say this goat was let loose and escaped.

    All these details challenge us to think about how they parallel the Calvary story. We are taught how Jesus was our sacrificial lamb. Which lamb was this? There are so many sheep, goats, lambs, goat’s kids that are named in the Torah in reference to sacrifices.

    Can we suggest that the goat whose lot was cast for the LORD was Jesus? During the Good Friday service that I attended last month, the pastor giving the message said that Jesus was the scapegoat, which I found strange because usually this is taken as the goat that escaped—the escaped goat. At another service the Sunday before Easter, another preacher referred to Jesus as the first goat, whose lot was cast for the LORD.

    Who is the goat for Azazel? When the crowd gathered in front of Pontius Pilate at the so-called trial of Jesus, Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted him to release Jesus or Barabbas, as was customary for the Passover feast. (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 18). Barabbas got away. Was he the Azazel goat?

    Or, could Judas, even, be the Azazel goat? In Jewish commentary, there is no clear understanding what Azazel means. It simply says in Hebrew, “for Azazel”, the characters which symbolizes “strong” and “mighty.”

    Some sages have interpreted Azazel as a place that symbolizes the forces of evil, drawing from it a lesson that we must be aware of such forces and fight against the evil that we come up against. What was done to the scapegoat should teach us the need to repent and to remove sin as far away from us. Others say that Azazel refers to Satan, saying it is the name of a fallen angel.

    I brought these interesting points up because these rituals were celebrated in the fall (September or October) and not during Passover. I find it exciting that this year the reading coincides with the week that our Lord died for us. As Christians, the death of Jesus draws in many of the symbols that is associated with Yom Kippur, the tearing of the curtain, Jesus being our chief priest, Jesus in the white robes, and Jesus being our sacrificial lamb.

    It is significant to me that none of the practices of Feast of Atonement has been practised in Jerusalem since the destruction of the Temple. This is because there is no more need for such atonement for sin because by dying on the Cross, Jesus settled the sin question.

    As a believer, I understand that to mean that this is because of the completed work done by our Lord, that when he said “It is finished,” on this night more than 2000 years ago, it was indeed finished.


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