Behold the Lamb of God. Those words came from John the Baptist – John 1:29. It is most appropriate to do that between celebrating Jesus’ Triumphal Entry (Palm Sunday) and our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Many know this week of celebration and commemoration as Holy Week. So let me add to your reflections and celebrations with an opening question and some examination. We know HOW Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The question at hand is this: WHY did Jesus come into Jerusalem for the week just prior to His death?
Behold The Lamb – A Passover Requirement
During that final week, Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples. But beholding Him closely we see He IS our Passover. Look back at the very first Passover (Exodus 12:5). The lamb had to be without blemish. Jesus’ Triumphal Entry brought Him to examination. And that is easy to see if we notice all the events in Jerusalem that week.
Scripture tells us that the next morning (after the Triumphal entry) Jesus came to Jerusalem to go to the Temple. The irony is this was the same day and time that the priests were putting the lamb for the people on display. This practice had become part of the public celebration of Passover. The lamb was there for all to see that it met God’s requirements for Passover. Hold on to that bit of info.
Behold The Lamb – In Examination
Most of us are familiar with the confrontations Jesus had in Jerusalem. But it’s proper to think of them as Jesus being examined. The first examination was at the hands of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We know this from Matthew 21:23ff & Mark 12:13-15. They wanted to know by what authority He did miracles. Jesus exposed their attempted trap and their sinful motives.
Then the Pharisees and Herodians tried to trick Jesus with a question about taxes and loyalty to Caesar. I’m sure you recall that encounter. Jesus’ simple answer left these religious leaders and teachers with nothing to say (see Mark 12:13-17). After that, the Sadducees took their turn at Jesus (Mark 12:18-27). Jesus proved them to be ignorant of Scripture! How humiliating for Israel’s teachers (the preachers of the day). Everyone was out to find fault with Jesus. So the Pharisees took another turn. Jesus’ teaching of the Greatest Commandments left them speechless. So Matthew 22 ends with these words:
No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
So, Behold the Lamb Who can withstand public examination!
Behold The Lamb – On Trial
The examinations that followed are what we know as Jesus’ trials. Annas and Caiaphas both examined Jesus. False witnesses could not agree. Those charged with supporting law and justice wound up subverting both. So we Behold the Lamb Who can withstand religious scrutiny. But Jesus had be examined by the State. After all, it was the governmental authority of the day that authorized His execution. Therefore Jesus was examined (tried) by Pilate. And Pilate declared publicly:
I find no fault in Him.
Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Then Pilate gave in to cries from the crowd. We remember the words, Crucify Him! Crucify Him! But those weren’t the only words from the crowd. These same Jews celebrated the Passover the night before. Their celebration ended with these words:
From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God, and beside Thee, we have no King, Redeemer, or Savior.
So there was wicked irony in their cries to Pilate:
We have no King but Caesar!
So we can Behold the Lamb Who knows the depth of Man’s wickedness and still bears our sins, takes the stripes that heal us, and wears our thorny crown.
Behold The Lamb – The Final Exam
Have you ever had a big exam and spent time preparing it for it? Jesus’ last exam was one He prepared to meet. His final prep was done at Gethsemane. John 17 gives us some of His prayer. And examining the Passover gives us insight and understanding. Jesus was about to endure the full measure of God’s wrath against sin. The Cup of Wrath had been consumed only hours before. It was one of four cups in the Passover meal. And in John’s Gospel we can overhear some of Jesus’ prayerful preparation for His final examination:
Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless Your will, not Mine, be done.
The place of Jesus’ final exam was Golgotha. The One Who was examined and tried was on the cross. He was put there at 9:00 a.m. – the exact time the Lamb for the People was staked out by altar. The religious folks, teachers of the Law (priests & scribes, etc.) were anxious to claim victory over a rabble-rousing Rabbi. Wanting to add insult to injury the mocked Jesus. There was irony in their ridicule. They taunted Jesus in way predicted in Psalm 22 – a well-known Messianic Psalm. Taunts they intended as proof that Jesus was not their Messiah only underscored the truth of His real identity. Matthew kept a record of the insults for us:
- See Matthew 27:39 alongside Psalm 22:7
- Notice Matthew 27:42-43 alongside Psalm 22:8
The people said, He saved others, let Him save Himself. And Satan’s attack was also in the mouth of the people: If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross.
And there lies one of the greatest of all the ironies of that day: If Jesus had come down it would have proved He was NOT Who He said He was. He would NOT be the Messiah Matthew’s Gospel has shown Him to be. Jesus proved Himself to be the Son of God, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of David, and our Passover by staying on that cross. And we can Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He is worthy to be examined!
A Divine Exclamation Point!
We could stop here and be blessed by what we’ve seen and learned. But doing so would cause us to miss what I call God’s exclamation point.
One rabbinic practice was to quote the first verse of a Psalm in order to call the whole Psalm to mind. From the cross Jesus quoted the opening verse of Psalm 22 – My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me. All the insults of an angry crowd should have come crashing down around them. They should have realized the truth of the moment. They didn’t.
The writer of Hebrews shows us our Great High Priest – Jesus. He was also God’s Passover Lamb. But our High Priest, God’s Lamb, had to preside over His own death while the temple priests were sacrificing the lamb for the people. The temple priests sacrificed their lamb at 3:00 p.m. And outside the city, at the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) Jesus gave up His Spirit and died.
The final verdict on Jesus’ examinations was in. The veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Earthquakes tore the land apart. Graves burst open and the dead lived again. And confirmation of Who Jesus is did not come from His own people who had rejected Him. No. The confirmation came from a Gentile. Our Passover made a way for all men to partake of the Passover. All men live in themselves as slaves. Slaves to fear, lust, greed, hate, prejudice and much more. But slaves can still come through the Blood to become sons. And they can know what the Roman centurion declared: Surely, this was the Son of God. So, who do you say that He is?