On Sunday, April 9, 2006 thousands of Christians will celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago.
They’ll retrace the route Jesus took as he began the last few days before his death, burial, and resurrection. The march will descend down the Mount of Olives, past the Garden of Gethsemane, and up through St. Stephen’s gate into the Old City.
One week later on Easter Sunday, April 16, hundreds of Christians will crowd into the Garden Tomb and mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This year the garden tomb plans to hold additional services because of the number of pilgrims in the Holy Land. The number of tourists is up this year because the number of terror attacks is down.
In between these Christian holy days, Jews will celebrate the Jewish Passover. On April 12, Jews here in Jerusalem, Israel, and throughout the world will celebrate the exodus from Egypt. While many Jews may not recognize it, the exodus out of the bondage from Egypt is a powerful foreshadowing of the exodus Jesus provides us from the bondage of sin.
The night before he died, Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples. For Christians, it’s become the most important meal of all time, a meal that changed the course of history. It’s a meal filled with meaning, power, and Old Testament roots.
For example, as host, Jesus would have blessed the meal and told the story of Passover, the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt found in the book of Exodus. This story is poignantly summed up in Deuteronomy 7:8-9:
“It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty Hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God. He is a faithful God keeping His Covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
This meal would mark another exodus, out of the slavery of sin where even the bread was a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God. The bread used for Passover is pierced because the bread has to be baked quickly. After 18 minutes, the bread begins to make its own yeast, which is the reason for the piercing. It’s a powerful picture of the one pierced for our transgressions, the "bread of life."
After breaking the bread, Jesus raised the cup. He proclaimed “this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood.” During the Passover meal, this cup was known as the “cup of redemption” and it, too, is a potent picture of our redeemer. Two thousand years later, the power of this meal is still transforming the world and doing "this in remembrance of" him, the communion cup has knit the body of Jesus Christ together since that night. And these symbols will not be celebrated just in this age, but for the age to come, since Jesus said that night he would not partake of this cup again until we celebrate it in his kingdom.
Here in Jerusalem, instability fills the atmosphere. The Israeli government after its elections is marked by political instability. The Hamas-led Palestinian government remains committed to the destruction of Israel despite any claims to the contrary. The threat of terror is never far away.
Dozens of attempted terror attacks are regularly thwarted by Israeli security forces. Here, it’s a shadow under which many learn to live. And this year, the threat of a nuclear Iran and a possible military strike casts an even longer and menacing shadow over the Middle East.
But despite the troubles and storms of this current age, this Easter season we can still depend on the rock of our salvation. He never changes. And the comfort we can all draw upon--whether here in Jerusalem or anywhere in the world--is that when all these things begin to take place, the bible tells us to “look up, for our redemption draws nigh!” We can join the cry that has united Christians throughout the past two thousand years, “Maranatha”, Come quickly Lord Jesus!