The four Gospels describe in specific detail how Jesus died during the Passover Feast, not Yom Kippur. So how do we explain this (seeming) problem? I submit that the date on the Jewish calendar was Passover when he died but the events that transpired look exactly like the Old Testament Day of Atonement.
Let me explain. Jesus is arrested and brought to the high priest to be examined. The high priest accuses Jesus of blasphemy, placing what is said to be the guilt and sin of the Jews upon him when in reality all that these various leaders are doing is transferring their own guilt upon Jesus in a mock display of power and symbol. Jesus is then led away like a scapegoat to the place called “the skull.” It was a wilderness; a dump where criminals were taken to die. Here is what I see – the Gospels tell you that this is Passover, but the storyline says this is not just a Passover lamb but this (he) is a scapegoat. When Jesus breathes his last breath and dies the thick veil of the temple – the very entrance into the Holy of Holies – is torn from top to bottom.
But there is much, much more to consider in support of my thesis. The Gospel narratives show you what is going on by the way the writers refer to the work of Jesus by using the words of Isaiah. Here are the words we all know so well:
“He has born our grief.”
“He has carried our sorrow.”
“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Do you know where Isaiah got these words? They all come from the Yom Kippur ritual in Leviticus.
Immediately after the Christmas story we meet John the Baptist who points people to the messiah and says that he’s the one who “takes away (ahzahzels) the sins of the world.” He is the world’s scapegoat!
Non-Christian history tells us that forty years before the temple was destroyed in A. D. 70 the whole process of the Jewish atonement stopped working. Study this for yourself and you’ll see this is the case. According to the Talmud the atonement simply stopped working. This is interesting precisely because this is not a Christian interpretation.
Everyone of us knows the power of sin in our lives. We have also experienced God’s forgiveness if we know and love the Savior. But we struggle with our sin, especially with recurring sin. We confess it and then we do it again. This puts us in the place were we not only wonder if God will forgive us but we also do not allow ourselves to be forgiven deeply within our souls. The “scapegoat” has been crucified but we can’t send our sin away. We keep coming back to it, again and again and again.
It may not have occured to you that all “coming back to our sin” has a great deal to do with how we/you understand the cross.
Yom Kippur occurs to this day, every single year it takes place on the Jewish calendar. But we who confess Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews and the Savior of the world too easily forget that he is our great high priest. Hebrews says he offered himself once for all for our sins. What he did then was sit down! It was over, finished.
Take these words into your heart and soul today. This is incredibly good news, the best news anyone will ever hear who wants to be forgiven of all their sin.
Hear this good news again in the words of Hebrews 9, the text I began with yesterday. Read these words prayerfully as you step out afresh into the love of the One who paid your debt and set you totally free.
23 Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
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John, I’m confused by this statement: “Non-Christian history tells us that forty years before the temple was destroyed in A. D. 70 the whole process of the Jewish atonement stopped working.” Did the Jews stop performing the Yom Kippur ritual? Did they sense it was no longer efficacious? Not sure what you mean by this.
Yes Joe, this is what I am saying. The evidence is that around A.D. 70 or so the process of Jewish atonement came to an end. There is little reason given in the Talmud, it just stopped. So, sometime after Jesus’ death the sacrificial system ended. This is not biblical history but Talmudic.
Like our varied views of the atonement which generally focus on one or more of many facets of the atonement, the Hebrew calendar pointed to varied facets of the salvation that was to come. The story of Passover is the story of exile and return and for Christ in came in his descending to earth, his accomplishing our salvation, and his return to the heavenly realm. So the atonement day or Yom Kippur described the same reality pictured in Passover, but centered on the atonement, whereas Passover prefigured Christ’s greater mission in his choosing exile and return to save his people.
Wonderfully said. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.
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John – Thanks for this commentary. I always appreciate when people can add depth to my reading of Scripture. Over the years, as I have read the Scriptures and other works on the Scriptures, I have come to see that the New Testament authors wrote with the intention of demonstrating that Jesus is the recapitulation of the history of Israel, and that they used various literary techniques, ie allusions, and symbolism, to support this demonstration. When we read about Jesus, in accordance with their purpose, the Old Testament should be evoked again and again, in many layered and textured ways, and thus their writings are THE witness to the work of God in the history of Israel that has received its climax in Jesus the Messiah.