Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). In Israel, everything stops for the Passover festival. At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem swelled in size anywhere from one to two and a half million people with pilgrims arriving from all over the world. Jesus waited in Bethany until four days before Passover, presenting Himself to the Jewish people as the Passover lamb on the tenth day of Nisan, in fulfillment of Moses' command:
3Tell 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. 4If 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 is. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight (Exodus 12:3-6).
Jewish people were instructed to take the lamb during the tenth day of the month and to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. During the four days, the lamb could be inspected and observed as to its worthiness to be a substitute for the family. In the days when Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God had spoken that He would judge the Egyptians for not releasing Israel from their slavery. The Lord told the Israelites that a destroying angel would go through Egypt and that judgment would not fall on the Israelite homes if the blood of a substitute lamb were seen on the doorposts and lintel (Exodus 12:12-14). The blood was a sign that a substitutionary sacrificial lamb had been slain for the occupants of the house.
Messiah would endure four days of inspection by the religious elders and the people before He would be crucified as the Passover Lamb slain to deliver them from the slavery of sin. He was crucified at the same time the Passover lambs were beginning to be sacrificed for the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan. When no sacrificial lamb’s blood was seen on the doors in Egypt, the destroying angel took the lives of every firstborn. It was a very visual reminder for the Israelite families to see this innocent lamb give up its life as a substitute for each household. As the Israelite families followed this ritual every year, they remembered how they were protected by the blood of the slain lamb (Hebrews 11:28).
The blood of an innocent lamb had to be shed for the Israelites to leave Egypt, the place of slavery. In the New Testament, the writer to the book of Hebrews writes, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). The lamb was to be pure and with no spot or defect. Of course, this was a shadow picture of what God was going to do when Jesus the Messiah came. His blood would make atonement for all who trust His sacrificial death to deliver them from slavery to sin and Pharaoh/Satan. In the plan of God, Messiah is the One slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the Lamb of God, innocent, pure, and with no fault or defect. Thank God for His deliverance! Keith Thomas
Shortened from the series on the Book of Luke, study 52. The King Comes to His Temple.