Lynn and I and our boys had a wonderful time hosting a Passover seder last night. It was a very full house — 52 people! We’d never done a sit down dinner for that many, much less a seder for that many, but it was a great time, with ages ranging from toddlers to seniors, and fun mix of people, including Jews, Iranians, South Koreans, Italians, and many others.
One of my favorite elements of the evening was retelling the story of the original Passover, when Jews living in slavery had to sacrifice a perfect lamb and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their home. If they did this in faith, in accordance to the word of the Lord which came through the prophet Moses, then the angel of death would “pass over” their house and not bring death and destruction to them and their family. But if they didn’t have faith and thus didn’t obey the word of the Lord, then even though they were Jewish, the angel of death would strike their home. The Lord was true to His word, and led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and eventually into the Promised Land. Later, of course, the Lord said the sacrifice of a perfect lamb had to be done in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, and that faith in the blood of the sacrificed lamb would cover a person’s sins and the Lord would forgive them of their sins for that year. Nothing else would provide forgiveness but faith in the blood of the sacrificed lamb. The question, then, for all Jews since 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple and burned down Jerusalem has been: How do we get our sins forgiven when there is no more Temple?
If we believe the Lord is merciful, then we have to believe He would provide a way of forgiveness before letting the Temple be destroyed. That’s what makes one particular set of prophecies so intriguing. In chapter 53 of the Book of Isaiah in the Jewish Scriptures, the Lord spoke through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah to say that one day the Messiah would come not only to bring us once-for-all atonement for our sins, but to actually be the guilt offering Himself. It was a mysterious prophecy about a coming “suffering servant” who would literally take our sins upon Himself so that we could find forgiveness. Many rabbis didn’t understand what in the world the Lord was talking about. Wasn’t the Messiah supposed to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Wasn’t the Messiah supposed to reign over the entire world and bring peace? Why then did Isaiah write about a Messiah who would suffer and die? Why did Isaiah write this: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him….But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering.” What exactly was the Hebrew prophet saying? Of whom was he speaking, and why?
These are important questions to consider, especially this time of year. That’s why last night, Lynn and I gave everyone who came to the seder the gift of a fascinating book I would commend to each of you. It’s called Isaiah 53 Explained: This Chapter Will Change Your Life. It’s available in paperback or on Kindle. It’s a quick and intriguing read and written by a real expert on the subject. You can also watch a compelling half-hour documentary on Isaiah 53 shot on location in the Holy Land. I’d encourage you to take a look, share it with others, and let me know what you think on the “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook.
That said, may the Lord bless you, your family, and all of Israel with true “shalom” this Passover season!