Purim’s Passover Lamb!
I’ve been telling the story of Passover, and of its link with the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples, to classes of young schoolchildren in the UK. And I have mentioned how roast lamb is an important part of the meal because Yeshua was the ultimate Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of all who put their trust in him.
We do this every year as part of an ‘Easter Journey’ explaining the message of Christianity in many of the schools of our Yorkshire town.
Easter usually falls very close to Passover, making it easier to link the two feasts. But this year the spring festivals seem to be slightly out of sync, with Purim falling around this key Christian celebration instead, starting on Wednesday and ending on Thursday evening – the day before Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross, and on the very night when the Last Supper is traditionally thought to have taken place.
So perhaps this fusion is particularly apt, after all, as Purim is the time when Jews celebrate their rescue from a genocidal plot by the Persian official Haman. Queen Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman, then risked her life by pleading with King Xerxes for her people to be spared without being officially invited into his presence, according to protocol. “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish,” she pledged (Esther 4.16), and thus became the means of redemption for God’s chosen people.
Today’s Persia (modern Iran) has declared their intention of wiping Israel off the map, perhaps with the nuclear missiles they are developing, in a similar way to Haman.
But now we have someone even greater than Queen Esther – the King of Israel, Yeshua HaMashiach – who has already come to their rescue.
Esther was prepared to die for her people; Jesus willingly died for his people, and for us all! He has already paid for their sins by going to the cross “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53.7) and, when Israel’s enemies threaten to destroy her in the last days (which we appear to be witnessing now), he will fight against them (Zechariah 14.3). The Jewish race will not only be spared, but will also enjoy everlasting salvation (Zech 12.10, Romans 11.26) through the ultimate sacrifice of the ‘Lamb of God’, as John the Baptist described his cousin Jesus (John 1.29).
Whereas Esther brought redemption to her people in ancient days, Jesus is their Saviour now. Unlike Esther, “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him…he was despised and rejected by men…But he was pierced for our transgressions…” (Isaiah 53.2-5)
And Isaiah’s message to the Gentiles is: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim…that her sin has been paid for…” (Isaiah 40.1, 2)
The joy of the Purim parties will overflow when the Messiah, who first appeared as a suffering servant riding on a donkey, is finally revealed as the King of Israel!