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What Does “Palm Sunday” Mean?

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One of thousands of beautiful groves of palm trees in the country of Israel!

 

Perhaps you have sung songs with the words “Hosanna” or “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” contained in them…there are a number of these songs that are sung in our churches today.  They are used in our praise and worship to bless the Lord and exalt His Name!  Do you know where these phrases originated?

 

Not long ago my husband and I were privileged to visit the country of Israel for ten days and tour many of the historic sites where God manifested His power to the children of Israel, and where Jesus walked, taught and performed many miracles over 2,000 years ago!  One of the streets on which we walked was believed to have been the very road that Jesus traversed riding on the back of a donkey into Jerusalem with the crowds waving palm branches, throwing their cloaks in the road before Him and bestowing the greatest honor upon Him.  We read of this event in the Gospel of Mark 11:1-10, where verses 7-10 read,  They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.  And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.  Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the Highest!” (NASB)

 

John 12:12 & 13 recounts the story in a similar way:  On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast (the Feast of the Passover was just five days away), when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” (NASB)

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Here is a photo my husband took a few weeks ago when we walked this very road from the Mount of Olives down into Jerusalem, a very steep incline!  I had such a feeling of awe, knowing that my Savior had no doubt ridden a donkey down this same path, hearing words of adulation and praise from the people who had observed His miracles and were sure He was their long-promised Messiah.

 

Alas, the praise and honor they were giving to Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew) did not last long!  Five days later, after observing the Passover meal (the Last Supper as we call it) with His disciples in the upper room, Jesus walked in the same direction to the Mount of Olives on that very road…Mark 14:26 says,  After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  On the way, at the base of the mountain, is a beautiful garden called Gethsemane, which we also visited.  Verse 32 says,  They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.”  The chapter then goes on to detail His great agony as He prayed throughout the evening prior to His arrest, knowing full well what awaited Him in the coming hours.

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Here is a portion of the beautiful Garden of Gethsemane as it looks today.  It is still a very sacred and moving place to visit.  To me, the irony of the whole story is that as you read further on in Mark 14, in three places Jesus asks His disciples to pray with him and three times He comes back to find them sleeping.  Only a few days earlier, they had been with Him shouting out “Hosanna!” in praise to their King, but when He asked them to pray with Him for a few hours, they were unable to stay awake.  Instead of being critical of the disciples, I ask myself, “Can I pray when the Lord asks me to intercede for someone?  Can I crucify my flesh and stay awake long enough to pray until the burden is lifted and I know that I am victorious in the midst of the situation or crisis?”  Jesus understood our humanity and fleshly inadequacy when He spoke to His disciples, not in an angry manner, but as a father would lovingly correct a child. He told them in verse 38,  Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (NASB)

 

So, this Sunday as you wave palms branches and sing “Hosanna to the King of Kings!”, may you be aware not only of His great love for you, but of the fact that Jesus experienced the pain of rejection, of people turning their backs on Him, and of those closest to Him being unable to “stay the course” when He needed them most.  Let His healing balm cleanse and soothe your deepest feelings of rejection and hurt, knowing that He experienced it all before we were even born, and now intercedes for us at the right hand of the Throne of God!  Hosanna!  Praise be to God!

He Is Risen!

musicnote[1]One of my favorite hymns is “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, whose words were written by Charles Wesley, brother of the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley.  The Wesley brothers were both involved in active ministry and faithful followers of Christ.  Charles lived from 1707-1788 and wrote hundreds of hymns during his lifetime.  It seems no Resurrection Sunday service is complete without singing this beautiful hymn!

But, with all of the fanfare and excitement surrounding this holiday celebrated annually each spring, it is important to look at some facts concerning Easter.  First of all, the holiday as celebrated today, has pagan origins, not always pleasant to look at.  The name is derived from “Eostre”, an Anglo-Saxon goddess who was celebrated at a pagan spring festival celebrating the vernal equinox.  She was the “dawn goddess”.  Going even further back in history, the roots of the celebration can be traced all the way back to Nimrod, grandson of Noah, and his wife Semiramis, who is also known as “Ishtar”.  The Feast of Ishtar was started thousands of years ago by Nimrod, who wanted to be worshipped as the “Sun God”, and his wife, known as the “moon goddess”, goddess of spring and fertility, and the Queen of Heaven. This feast celebrated the rebirth or reincarnation of nature and the goddess of nature. Nimrod built the city of Babel, where God confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel.  Their wickedness was known throughout the earth!.

Jesus Christ’s (Yeshua, the Messiah) resurrection occurred just after Passover, on the Jewish Feast of First Fruits, celebrated the first Sunday morning after Passover.  For centuries Christians celebrated on this day, but in AD325, Roman Emperor Constantine, presiding over the large council at Nicea, set the date of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (explaining the wide difference in dates for Easter each year), and in seeking to “Christianize” the pagans and the entire world, decided to give new names and meanings to the old pagan festival celebrating fertility in order to keep people happy who were already celebrating these events.  Thus, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection was combined with a pagan fertility festival and renamed Easter!  All of these facts are readily available online if you care to do the research.

The truth is, the Early Church did not celebrate Easter, but rather the Passover; rabbits and eggs have nothing to do with Christ’s resurrection, but rather are symbols of the ancient pagan fertility rites; sunrise services looking to the East are based on pagan customs (Ezekiel 8:15-18) and Good Friday and Lent are manmade events. Jesus predicted that He would be in the ground “three days and three nights”, so the math just does not work if you believe he was crucified on Good Friday. The truth is, he was more than likely crucified on Thursday morning, embalmed and laid in the tomb before sundown on Thursday, as the Jews were prohibited from working on the Passover, which was Friday (a day on the Jewish calendar is from sundown to sundown); Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his twelve disciples probably on Wednesday evening, a night earlier, as he knew he would be dead by the next evening when Passover was to be celebrated. Then, the regular Sabbath was Saturday, and the biblical Feast of First Fruits was celebrated on that Sunday following the first Sabbath after Passover. Jesus arose from the dead at the dawning of the first day, Sunday, thus becoming the “first fruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20-23). He not only fulfilled His promise to rise again after three days and three nights (the math works here!), but He fulfilled the Sabbath and the Feast of First Fruits! He became our Passover Lamb with His atonement for our sins, as well. When the veil of the temple was torn in two at Jesus’ crucifixion, God was giving us a sign that Christ had indeed fulfilled the requirements of the Law, becoming our sin offering so we might have Eternal Life!

So, knowing all of the pagan origins of this holiday and the fact that even many churches today continue to combine the pagan with the spiritual, perhaps in ignorance, should we refuse to observe this Resurrection Sunday? Emphatically not! This day celebrates the greatest event in history…the resurrection and eventual ascension to Heaven of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, sent down to us by our Heavenly Father to show us the way to God by giving His life for us and providing His blood as atonement for our sins! It is a final work, a once-and-for all event, spoken by our Lord when He uttered the words, “It Is Finished!” By accepting His finished work, we enter into salvation from our sins and Eternal Life is assured! We do not have to work for our salvation; it is a free gift, provided through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection!

So, how shall we celebrate this day? On Resurrection Sunday, let us join with millions around the world in singing Charles Wesley’s song, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, knowing that we are not celebrating a mixture of pagan symbols and man-made ceremonies that are not in the Word of God, but a risen Savior!  Let us rejoice out of a deep sense of awe and gratitude for what our Lord did for us on Calvary and through His resurrection, providing salvation through Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”!

 

Should Christians Observe the Passover?

]Every Biblical Dinner I am so blessed to see all the happy faces enjoying the message, the fellowship and the food.

I am in Tonopah, Nevada for a few days with my husband, a professional engineer, who is on a consulting job for a gold mine near here. Pretty neat, huh? This picturesque small town nestled amid the mountains in the “high country” between Las Vegas and Reno, near the California border, was the perfect setting to observe the beautiful full “Passover” moon last night. My husband and I read the Passover story from Exodus 12, particularly verse 14, “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” (NKJV) Should this verse be ignored as it seems to be by  many churches? What does it mean to us as Christians today?

“Passover” was the night described in this chapter where God struck dead the firstborn children and animals of all the Egyptians, but “passed over” the Israelites who had, by God’s decree, slain an unblemished lamb at twilight and put its blood on their doorposts. When the death angel saw the blood, he “passed over” that house and allowed their firstborn to live! This is why the Jewish people to this day observe the anniversary of this mighty miracle wrought by Yahweh to free His people from slavery! I was pleasantly surprised to see on the news this morning that President and Mrs. Obama even observed a “seder” (Passover meal) at the Whitehouse last night with a number of guests.

We know that our Lord Jesus Christ, Yeshua, completely fulfilled the Passover by His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood as the final sacrifice needed for our salvation! This is the fundamental core doctrine of all Christians who believe in salvation by grace. But, knowing that Christ fulfilled this event, wouldn’t it be great to use this holy day as a teaching tool for our children, as mentioned in Exodus 12 by God? I remember we used to have a special meal of lamb on this night, as did the Israelite people of old, and we put a little stuffed lamb by each child’s plate signifying that Jesus is the Lamb of God. They remember the event to this day!

Some would argue that we are not Jewish, hence we need not observe any of these ceremonies because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial laws! I quite agree that He did; however, let us remember that the Jewish people are descended from only one of the twelve tribes of Israel (thirteen actually, as the sons of “Joseph” were actually divided into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, by his father Israel, known as Jacob, when he gave them the inheritance before his death).  There are twelve other tribes, known as the “lost tribes” which have been integrated into other societies throughout the world. You may very well be an Israelite! Does that surprise you? Well, without getting into the devisive teaching of whether or not there are two “houses”, the House of Israel and the House of Judah, as mentioned in the Word, let us just say that observing some sort of “Passover” remembrance is certainly not wrong, and a wonderful opportunity to thank and praise our Heavenly Father for His wondeful miracle of letting His people go from the land of Egypt!  Besides, as children of God, born into His family through conversion and the New Birth, we are by adoption the seed of Abraham and may rightfully claim all of the privileges and blessings promised to him so many years ago! I love Isaiah 41:8, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend.” (NKJV) This verse speaks about Jacob (Israel) being “God’s chosen”. It says nothing about only the tribe of Judah being His “chosen”. This blesses me, because I know I am “God’s chosen” and have the right to partake of His blessings!

The Apostle Paul states in Romans 11:1, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (NKJV) Any who are physically or spiritually descended from one of the tribes of Israel can claim all the promises God made to His people through Abraham and later Moses. God (Yahweh) sent His Son, Jesus (Yeshua), to be that blood sacrifice and sin offering necessary for our atonement. Thus, He fulfilled Passover and the Day of Atonement when He was crucified on the Cross just before Passover. He then arose at the end of the Sabbath (the Bible speaks about the dawning towards the first day of the week, which would be Sunday, when the women discovered the empty tomb). We are not sure exactly when He arose, but the word “dawning” is also translated “dusking” in the original Greek text, indicating He probably came forth at the end of the Sabbath, around sundown. As you are probably aware, the Jewish days begin and end at sundown. When I think of Jesus fulfilling the atonement required for righteousness, the Passover observances, as well as the Sabbath, I get very excited and want to shout and sing! I know this blog is supposed to be about music, and I see a whole symphony of music played in this story! Happy Passover and Resurrection Sunday, everyone! Be blessed in Yeshua’s Name!

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