Around the world today, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday: the Sunday before Easter when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Loved by the crowds on Sunday, he was crucified by the religious leaders on Friday. Coincidentally, some of the words in this post, provide a deeper meaning behind some of the Easter events.
When the Jewish nation were wandering around the desert they couldn’t have a temple because a fixed building quite obviously doesn’t work when you’re nomadic. So they had a tabernacle instead which was basically a pop-up temple that popped-down again when they moved on to the next patch of sand.
This sort of edifice is otherwise known as a tent. Which is probably why it also went by the other name of ‘The Tent of Meeting’. And it was actually a pretty big tent. This makes sense if you’re meeting God in it.
They kept the ark in the tabernacle (the box not the boat, the tent wasn’t that big). There was also a courtyard area and two rooms inside with only one doorway into the place. One room was called ‘The Holy Place’ and the other room was called ‘The Most Holy Place’. In between the two rooms was a curtain which symbolised the holy divide or distance between God and humanity.
Whilst tabernacle is a noun, sometimes in the Bible it’s used as a verb, as in the sentence: God tabernacled among them. The whole point of the tabernacle (and the ark in there) is not just to meet God but also to be reminded of God’s presence with his special people, the Jewish nation.
Of note however is the curtain that symbolises the divide or distance between God and humanity. Matthew’s gospel is written to the Jews who knew all this symbolism. At the very point when Jesus breathes his last on the cross, Matthew records the following:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Jewish readers would understand exactly what that meant. There was now ‘open access’ to God.
U: Unleavened Bread
I’ve made bread only three times. The first and third times were OK according to those who ate it. The second time whatever I did, I did something wrong because even the family dog refused to eat it, it was so bad. I’m not sure where I went wrong because the recipe I was using was fairly basic.
At any rate, anyone who has ever made bread knows that the whole process is slowed down by the waiting for the yeast to rise. So if you’re in a hurry to eat bread the yeast has got to go, hence you’re eating unleavened bread. The Jews were told by Moses to make unleavened bread just before they left Egypt, because they were in a hurry to go. There was no time for dilly-dallying yeast.
Because this was such an important time for the nation it became a festival they celebrated every year called (you guessed it) The Feast of Unleavened Bread. This coincided with the Passover Feast because a whole bunch of things happened around the same time.
As you’d expect, life as a Jewish slave in Egypt wasn’t fab. This is why Moses was sent on a mission by God to get the Jews out of there. The Pharaoh wasn’t interested in listening to this idea and despite a whole bunch of hideous plagues taking place in Egypt at God’s command, the Jews were not released and only received far worse workers’ conditions.
So God took action and all of the firstborn sons of every family in Egypt died in the one night. This was basically the tenth and final warning. However, on that same night the Jews were eating their unleavened bread… and lamb (A Kebab?). If they put the blood of the lamb on the sides and tops of their door frames the angel of the Lord would quite literally pass over their house and the firstborn son would not die.
So their firstborn sons were saved from death and then the Jews hightailed it out of Egypt. This is why The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread are highly significant for Jews and Christians.
The Passover continued being celebrated year after year and was the festival that was being celebrated when Jesus was crucified. This means Jesus, “God’s firstborn son” takes the place of the sacrificial lamb of the Passover.
If you’re not sure about that you’ll remember that Easter shifts every year. This is because The Passover is determined by the moon cycle. That’s why there’ll be a full moon this coming Friday.
Yours in a Kebab shop,
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