HOLIDAY BLESSINGS, Chapter 7
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)
Holiday Blessing: Faith, Family, Festivals, Food, & Fun — Chapter 7, PASSOVER and EASTER: Faith Foundations for Celebrating Christ’s (Once-for-All-Time) Death, Burial, and Resurrection
The New Testament makes clear that the Old Testament feast of Passover was a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself perfectly fulfills what the feast of Passover was all about.
- Passover is the holy feast that God established during the miraculous time when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, redeeming His people by blood and power—in a dramatic foreshadowing of Christ’s redemptive blood (at Calvary) and resurrection power (when He rose from the dead). The holy festival of Passover was instituted by God, and decreed to the nation of Israel through Moses (Exodus chapter 12; Leviticus 23:5). The proper celebration of Passover included faith—believing God’s promises about the purpose of Passover (Hebrews 11:28).
- What Christians call “Easter” is really the New Testament celebration of Passover. (Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the primary fulfillment the Old Testament Feast of Firstfruits – because Christ is the “Firstfruits” from the dead (1st Corinthians 15:20).
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1st Corinthians 5:7-8)
Obviously, Jesus Himself is our Passover Lamb — He alone completely fulfills the requirements and meaning of the Passover holiday. In Christ, thankfully, our otherwise inescapable death-sentence as sinners (Romans 6:23) “passes over” us (1st Corinthians 5:7-8), because Christ’s vicarious sacrifice (of Himself at Calvary, for us) redemptively “takes away” our sin, so the Lord Jesus Christ “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Many have puzzled over the phrase “3 days and 3 nights”, in Matthew 12:40, because they assume that Christ was crucified on a Friday, yet rose again on a Sunday — the math doesn’t add up (pardon the pun). In short, the problem is that Christ was not crucified on a Friday, and the Jews used the word “Sabbath” to identify more days than just Saturday, so a reference to any day as being before a “Sabbath” is not a guarantee that a Friday-Saturday context is being designated.
To further complicate matters, the Romans defined daybreak at midnight, so a 24-hour “day” was measured (by Romans) from midnight-to-midnight, and the 12 hours of daytime (versus the 12 hours of nighttime) was bracketed as midnight to noon, then onto the next midnight, then the next noon, and so on. However, the Jews defined daybreak as occurring at sunset, so when the sun went down on Thursday evening it was deemed the beginning of Friday. In other words, a 24-hour cycle for Jews was from sunset to sunset (which matches Genesis chapter 1,, where nighttime precedes daylight hours).
Sometimes a New Testament writer used Jewish time-measuring terms; however, at other places, a New Testament writer used Roman time-measuring terms. So, if you are reading a part of the New Testament, that refers to Christ being crucified at a certain time, you need to discern whether Jewish or Roman time terms are being used.
It was about the 6th hour. [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out: “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So [Pilate] delivered Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called ‘The Place of a Skull’, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him 2 others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. (John 19:14b-19)
And it was the 3rd hour, and they crucified Him. (Mark 15:25) — That allows only 3 hours between Pilate’s “Behold” speech (~ 6 a.m.) and Christ’s execution (~ 9 a.m.).
Notice how Roman time-keeping differs form Jewish time-keeping.
The 6th hour (in the morning) in Roman time (John 19:14) is 6 hours after midnight: our “6 a.m.”
The 3rd hour (in the morning) in Jewish time (Mark 15:25) is 3 hours after dawn (6 a.m.): our “9 a.m.”
After you analyze the New Testament information about the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ — carefully recognizing which “Sabbaths” are being referred to, and noticing whether Roman or Jewish time terms are being used, it all “adds up” and makes sense. Here is a very helpful chart to summarize how the timeframes fit.
And, for a church service message, on this very topic (with more analytical detail than this post will attempt), please review this sermon (at Bayside Community Church in Tampa, Florida), and notice also that its PowerPoint slides are posted on the church’s website, at the following links:
(“Timing Christ’s Resurrection: Hebrews and Romans” March 3rd, A.D.2016)
(PowerPoint slides for message on Christ’s Resurrection message, above)
Words cannot aptly express the value of Christ’s vicarious death, burial, and resurrection — to redemptively reclaim and rescue us sinful humans. That Christ died for our sins, voluntarily, so that we can be forgiven, is amazing beyond words. Of course, God’s forgiveness is not forced upon anyone — we are not robots! — so the applicability of that redemption is only efficacious (at the individual level) if, as, and when each of us individually believes in Jesus as our personal Savior (John 3:14-18). The saving grace of God is a gift (i.e., Christ’s redemptive person and work), unto all those who believe — but this gift must be accepted (by childlike belief) at the personal level (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So Passover and Resurrection Day are inseparable holidays, providing the Scripture-fulfilling good news that the apostle Paul trumpeted:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. (1st Corinthians 15:3-4)
Festivals Celebrated Near and Far
So how is Easter celebrated?
For centuries Christians have greeted one another, on Resurrection Day, with this greeting: “CHRIST IS RISEN!” The reply is similar: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
Many churches have Easter Cantata music programs, celebrating Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Some churches present dramatic theatrical programs, complete with reenactments of those miraculous days when Christ Jesus paid for our souls’ salvation.
It is typical in many places to have a special “Easter Sunrise” service, where a group of Christians worship outside, where they can view the sunrise together, with Scripture reading, prayer, and singing — all to recall how, on that unique Sunday morning, visitors to Christ’s tomb found it empty — and soon learned that the reason for the empty tomb was that the Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
What an amazing event to celebrate! Christ’s human body never experienced mortal corruption — and this fulfills Psalm 16’s prophecy, which Peter explained at Pentecost:
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain, Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David speaketh concerning Him, “I foresaw the Lord always before My face, for He is on My right hand, that I should not be moved; therefore did My heart rejoice, and My tongue was glad; moreover also My flesh shall rest in hope, because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hades [translating from Hebrew sheol to Greek hades], neither wilt Thou allow Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life; Thou shalt make Me full of joy with Thy countenance.” Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he [i.e., David] seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hades, neither His flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:22-32, with quotation from Psalm 16:8-11 in bold)
In other words, Psalm 16 is not a description of King David talking about himself, because David died a natural death and his physical body corrupted — his bodily remains remained buried. Rather, David prophetically, in Psalm 16, predicted how David’s descendant (i.e., Jesus the Messiah) would experience death, yet overcome it by miraculous resurrection, so that His once-buried physical body never corrupted.
Family, Friends, Fellowship, and Fun
For small children Easter is often celebrated with an Easter egg hunt. As a boy I participated in many easer egg hunts. Of course, you cannot have an Easter egg hunt without making Easter eggs — colorfully decorated boiled eggs that someone hides, then children rush about to find the hidden eggs. (later, these boiled eggs make for good eating.)
Perhaps the fanciest Easter eggs that I have seen, and have touched, are the amazingly decorated eggs prepared — in a complicated multi-step process — by the Texas Wends. The decorating of eggs (especially for Easter) is common in Slavic cultures.
The Wendish people (a/k/a Sorbs), a largely-Lutheran Slavic people-group (who formerly inhabited parts of what are now parts of Germany or Poland), some of whom still speak Wendish (a/k/a Sorbian) produce the most exquisite eggs one can imagine. (See below.)
Foods to Match Holidays and Festivals
Because the Easter season is such a special time, it only makes sense to accent it with special cuisine, beyond colorfully decorated boiled poultry eggs!
In Scandinavian countries, Easter is called Passover (“Påsk“, or Påske“), for obvious reasons — Christ’s Passover-accomplishing crucifixion, burial, and resurrection comes as a package, the best packaged gift of all time. For one example of how Swedes celebrate Påsk, consider the following recipe (from ScandinaviaFood.com):
In Sweden, Easter is called påsk, (pask), and in Norwegian and Danish påske, (paske). In Finland, Easter is named pääsiäinen (paasiainen). The word originates from the Jewish word, pasach which means pass by [i.e., pass over]. In Western Christianity, which uses the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. In Norway and Denmark, as well as in Sweden, painting eggs is a tradition, which for instance is popular at schools and kindergardens. Small children also goes from door to door asking for candy in exchange for handing out Easter cards. The houses in Scandinavia is usually decorated with Easter-decorations such as feathers in various colours, the earlier mentioned painted eggs and Easter decoration of twigs, tied together and fitted with feathers.
The celebrations in Sweden and the Scandinavian countries usually begins at Skärtorsdagen (Maundy or Holy Thursday) and continues at Långfredagen (Good Friday) and Påskafton (Holy or Silent Saturday) and finishes at Sunday, which is known as påskdagen. Påskafton or ‘Easter eve’ is when most of the Swedes celebrates Easter, probably mostly because of the resemblances to Julafton, or Christmas eve. At Påskafton, children will have their Easter-eggs or Påskägg (paskagg), which contains candy and in some cases smaller gifts. The egg-opening is often preceded by a egg-hunt, where children have to search for their egg, which usually is hidden somewhere in their home. . . . . Food-wise, Easter is not as traditionally bound as for instance Christmas. A buffet-style smorgasbord or påskbuffé (paskbuffe) is often served, and as well as many other holidays in Scandinavia contains the traditional dishes like herring, salmon, meatballs, boiled potatoes and filled eggs. In addition to those dishes, many eat lamb in various forms. You may also find pies, breads, salads and additional egg-dishes.
The candy at Easter is often specially designed for Easter, with candy such as chocolate Easter-bunnies, small chocolate eggs and similar. The beverages served together with the Easter-food or påskmat (paskmat) usually is like Christmas, beer, schnaps and påskmust (paskmust), with the latter exactly the same thing as julmust, which is served at Christmas. In Finland, apart from the memma, or mämmi (mammi) is traditionally served at Easter. Mämmi is a dessert which originates back to the 18th century, it’s a dark brown porridge made of water and sweetened rye malt. It is then baked in a slow oven in cardboard boxes made to look like birchbark baskets. Mämmi is a dessert served with cream and sugar.
Many celebrate Easter with family get-togethers, often featuring a smoked (or honey-baked) ham. Obviously, Easter ham is a Gentile tradition, not Jewish cuisine!
Final Thoughts on Passover and Easter
Because Jesus is our Passover, “the Lamb of God Who takes away [i.e., removes] the sin of the world (John 1:29), and has conquered death by His resurrection, we can sing songs of resurrection, as we worship Him as our Redeemer, such as these songs:
“Easter Song”, by Matthew Ward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a2Va94Tldc
Appreciating How the Promised Seed of Woman Became the Ultimate Passover Lamb Who Fully Paid our Sin-Debt and Then Conquered the Grave
“Behold, the Lamb of God”, John the Baptist said;
In God’s time the Paschal Lamb, for our sin-debts bled;
Deserved we death, yet He did pay;
Finished, He arose! Quick, that third day!
The risen Lamb could not, would not, stay dead! 
[Limerick reprinted from James J. S. Johnson, “Appreciating How the Promised Seed of Woman Became the Ultimate Passover Lamb Who Fully Paid for our Sin-Debt and Then Conquered the Grave”, Limerick Legacy series (Cross Timbers Institute, Short Paper # AD2013-08-08-B; © AD2013 James J. S. Johnson, used by permission).]