An Oasis of Yucca in my back yard:
A young father stepped onto the highway of life, and as he began his journey, he turned to the guide who was accompanying him, and asked; “Is this journey going to be long — and will it be hard?”
“Yes,” the guide replied. “Your journey will be difficult, and you will grow old before you reach the end of it. But I can tell you that the end will be far better than the beginning.”
The young father was thoroughly happy. He could not believe that anything could top these years. So he played with his children, swam with them in the pool, and played endless games with them. The sun shined upon them, and life was good. And the young father smiled and said to himself, “Nothing will be more lovely than this!”
Then the night came, and the storm rolled in. The path ahead was dark and foreboding, and the children shook with fear and cold. And the father drew them close, encircled them in his arms, and covered them with his mantle of love. And the children said; “Oh, Daddy, we are not afraid now, for you are here, and no harm can come to us.”
And the father said, “This is better than the brightness of sunlight, for I have taught my children courage!”
When the morning came, they looked at the hill up ahead, knowing that all of them would have to climb it. The children climbed and climbed and climbed and grew so weary. And Dad was weary too, but he continually encouraged them. “A little patience children,” he would say. “Keep at it; the top is not far now.”
The children climbed and climbed, and when they finally reached the top, they said: “Daddy, we could not have done it without you!”
And when Dad laid down to sleep that night, he looked up at the stars and said, “This is a better day than last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardship. Yesterday, I gave them courage; today I gave them strength!”
And the next day foreboding clouds appeared on the horizon — clouds of war and of hate and evil. The children felt the pressure of it all, and they began to stumble. But the father said, “Children, look up! Lift your eyes to the Light of life!”
And the children looked up and saw above the clouds the eternal glory of the Heavenly Father — Jesus, the Messiah! With His light He guided and brought them beyond the darkness.
And that night the father said, “This is the best day of all, for I have pointed my children to the grace and love of God in His Son, our Savior!”
And the days passed on into weeks, months, and years. The father grew older and slowed just a little. But his children were tall and strong and walked with confidence and courage. When the way became hard and the burdens heavy, they were there to help carry the load, and all experienced the victory together.
At last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a brightly lighted highway and wide open gates glistening with jewels. And father said, “I have reached the end of my journey, and I know for certain that the end is far better than the beginning. For my children can walk alone in righteousness, and their children after them.”
And the children said, “Daddy, you will always walk with us, even when you have passed through those gates!”
And the day came when they watched their daddy as he walked on alone, and the gates closed behind him. And they said: “We cannot see him but he is with us still. A daddy like ours is more than a memory; he is a living presence!”
THANK GOD FOR ALL GOOD DADDIES!
In celebration of Memorial Day, I am re-posting this story. I have several new readers and followers who were not with me when I originally posted “Sarge, Will You Tell Us About God,” and a number of Marine veterans have now discovered that the book is available. So I’d like to share the story again in the hope that many more people may be blessed by what the Lord did for an entire Marine unit during World War II.
The story itself makes up a small book, published by St. Ellen Press and is available on their website as well. Although it’s my story, and that of the other 321 men in my squadron, it is primarily HIS story.
In the past few years I have shared free copies of the book with hundreds of soldiers who were in the midst of horrible combat overseas. In response, I have received numerous testimonies of how the book strengthened their own faith and helped them experience miracles of protection and deliverance as well. I am grateful to be able to share it here. If you are reading this post and are a member of the armed forces — or you have a loved one who is — you may feel free to copy and print this story so that you can read it whenever you like and share it with others.
I have dedicated the book “Sarge, Will You Tell Us About God?” to my Marine buddy Dominic Cersosimo, better known as “Blackie.” We served together throughout the entire Pacific Campaign, and Blackie was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries resulting from a Kamikaze attack on LST 599 (pictured below the story).
Just this past month, there has been a new development in mine and Blackie’s relationship, and I will tell you about that in the following prologue to the book:
The Visit of a Lifetime
It was 67 years ago that my World War II buddy, Dominic Cersosimo, and I bade each other farewell and headed home at the end of the War. It was several years later when we finally located each other and communicated by mail and telephone. But it was not until May of this year that we finally came together again – as my wife and I drove to his home in Pennsylvania.
I didn’t know what to expect as we went up to his front door and rang the doorbell. The door slowly opened, and for the first time in 67 years, we looked each other in the eye – and guess what – tears began to flow on both sides.
The Cersosimo’s had spare bedrooms, and we moved in for nearly four days of joy, tears, and excitement. We virtually fought again the Pacific campaign against the Japanese, especially the Okinawa landing and capture.
It is amazing how true friendship, especially in war, never ends. Psalm 91 was our trust and support during those horrific times, and in spite of all we experienced and overcame, by God’s grace, not a single man in our unit was lost to enemy action. And I like to think that Marine Fighting Squadron 322 was reborn a week ago at McKee’s Rocks, Pennsylvania.
Now for the story:
IT’S A REAL WAR
It was late fall of 1943. We were in Marine Fighting Squadron 322, training at “war games,” on Parris Island, South Carolina. We were being honed daily. At exactly 11:00 P.M. we were rudely awakened and rousted out of our bunks with the terse command, “Begin packing!”
Marine Fighting Squadron 322 had received sealed orders from the upper echelon command. We were to board a hastily assembled troop train early the next morning.
“Surely one more night wouldn’t make that much difference,” we all mumbled, but in the Marines, orders are orders! The only information we were given was that orders were to move without delay to the West Coast, where we were to disembark for the Pacific Theater of Operations. So that was it! “War games” were now at an end. Our months and months and months of training were now to be put to the real test: honest-to-goodness war!
Ever since my sophomore year in high school, I had wanted to be a Marine. After December 7, 1941, as a senior in high school, I purposefully aimed for that goal. After graduation it took some doing, but I finally convinced my parents to sign the authorization papers permitting me to volunteer for service in the U. S. Marines. I was only seventeen at the time.
On July 3, 1942, in the Federal Building in Chicago, I raised my right hand and was sworn into active duty. My whole world was about to undergo a dramatic change.
The stories of the rigors and brutal lifestyle of Marine Corps Boot Camp are numerous and legend, and probably all true. But the tough, disciplined lifestyle was not my principle problem. Long before I entered the Corps – at the age of 12 – I had given my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and was born again. At 16, I felt a genuine call to serve Him in ministry and actually preached a couple or three times. I carried that commitment with me into the Marine Corps, and I was soon to learn what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
It was something like walking into a buzz saw. Here was a kid who read his Bible, never spoke a single filthy or curse word, never drank or partied with women while out on liberty. It is a gross understatement to say that I stood out. And since I was in a group of guys who did do all of those things, plus a few more, I became the subject of a lot of teasing. Nobody ever ridiculed my faith, per se, but I was quickly tabbed with the name “preacher.”
I determined that if I were to live through this unwelcome spotlight as a “born-again” Christian, I would have to demonstrate the best qualities of a Marine. So I made sure every task was done to the best of my ability – sometimes overdone – but never shirked. As far as I am concerned, it was done as well as the best and better than most.
ON THE WAY TO DESTINY
Back to the fall of 1943. By 9:00 the morning after we received the new orders, we were all on board the train, and within minutes, we headed west. This Saturday the mood among all the Marines in the unit was a mixed bag. There was excitement, yet a degree of somberness. We couldn’t help but think of what may lie ahead. We traveled under tight security – no one leaving the train under any circumstances. A dining car was attached so we could take our meals on the move.
Sunday morning found us racing through the state of Arkansas. After finishing breakfast, I returned from the dining car and sat passively next to the window, watching the countryside go by. As I looked up to the head of the car, in walked our personnel officer. He stood there looking over the passengers as if he were looking for someone in particular.
His eyes finally settled on me, and he walked over. “Sarge,” he began, “the guys wanted me to ask if you would conduct a church service. It’s Sunday you know.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and without thinking I blurted out, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“No, I’m not kidding,” he answered, “and if you will, I would consider it a personal favor.”
Instantly I agreed to do it and began praying, seeking God for the right message and scriptures. Almost immediately, Psalm 91 rose up in my spirit: the perfect word from the Lord for the moment. Later, all of us gathered into one car, and I began to share those comforting words and marvelous promises from the ninety-first Psalm. Other than my voice, the only discernible sound throughout that car was the clicking of the train wheels. I had the complete attention of every man in the unit.
The Lord was directing me as I had asked. Now I don’t recall everything I said, but I do recall assuring my buddies that God meant what He said in that Psalm. I assured them that God truly loved them and that He would be with them in every circumstance – if they would trust Him.
Then I led them in a closing prayer. I remember that we prayed, “Lord, wherever we find ourselves in the weeks and months ahead, may we bring honor to You, to our families, to the Marine Corps, and to our nation. In Your mercy, we ask for Your protection in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
That Sunday morning was to be a turning point in my Marine Corps experience. From that day forward, never again was I teasingly called “preacher,” or taunted for being “religious.” Trust and respect became the hallmark of my treatment by the other men. I have often thought about how different things might have been if, from the beginning, I had tried to just be “one of the guys.” To whom would they have turned on that fateful Sunday morning?
FAITH UNDER FIRE
Our squadron was in the Pacific Theater for a year and a half. We traveled all the way from the South Pacific to the final Pacific campaign – landing on Okinawa. We experienced our most difficult campaign at Okinawa. We read Psalm 91 almost every day, while enduring just about everything that made up the meaning of war: sleepless nights under heavy bombardment, air raids, shelling, snipers, Japanese suicide squads, and a direct Kamikaze hit on our LST as we headed for the beach.
Our Marine unit was on board the Navy landing ship LST 599 on that fateful day, as we headed for that Okinawan beach. Most of our equipment was on the tank deck of that landing vessel, and all of our personnel were equipped with personal gear, ready to land.
We were approximately one mile off-shore when a buddy and I went onto the top deck to survey the situation. As I glanced to the port side, I noticed a four-plane formation flying parallel to the beach. As the planes got closer, I nudged my buddy and said, “Those are not our planes; they are Japs!”
None of the ships in the landing party opened fire, because the general rule prohibited firing on any planes during a beach landing, due to the fact that ordinarily they would be our own planes supporting our landing troops. But, for some reason, the turret gunner on our LST opened fire. After the planes had traveled about ½ mile down the beach, one of them peeled off from the formation and headed directly for our ship. He was a Kamikaze suicide pilot intent on destroying our ship and everybody on board.
At that point, everybody opened fire on him but failed to knock him down. He crashed through the top deck of our LST, through 100 drums of high octane gasoline. The explosion and fire that resulted were almost unbelievable. The main objective at that point, of course, was to fight the fire, and we Marines joined in with the small Navy crew to get it under control.
In a situation like that, protocol dictated that the Navy captain of the LST was to get all the Marines off to safety if at all possible, because technically, we were considered passengers. But our commanding officer refused to leave the Navy crew helpless. So all of our unit stayed on board and fought valiantly.
We lost virtually all of our equipment and weapons, and our landing was delayed about 5 hours. But in spite of the deadly attack, not a single life was lost, and only a few non-life-threatening injuries resulted. After the fire was under control, we boarded another ship and completed our landing. Another Marine unit that had already landed heard of our loss of equipment and weapons and directed a supply of weapons back to us, so the campaign continued.
LST 599 was later beached on an adjoining island to be cleaned out, and during that process, it was discovered that the Japanese plane had also carried a bomb. It was by the grace of God alone that the bomb had not exploded on impact.
After this event, the Navy declared that if it had not been for the Marine unit that stayed aboard to help fight the fire, the LST would have been lost. As a result, our Marine unit was awarded the Navy Unit Citation for endangering our lives and staying aboard to save the ship.
GOD’S WORD WORKS!
Months later, after the island was secured, our replacements arrived, and we boarded a ship to return home on August 6, 1945 – the day the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. It was not until months later, at the time I received my honorable discharge, November 5, 1945, that it dawned on me just how powerfully the Word of God had worked for all of us: Of all the Marines in our unit, not one single man was lost to enemy action.
Praise God! His Word Works!
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust!
For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His trust and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only a spectator shall you be as you witness the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge over you, to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways. They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot.
Because He has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation. (The Amplified Bible).
God’s Medicine: Healing scriptures on CD. Anyone who is too ill to read for himself – or anyone who just wishes to lean back and rest with eyes closed while soaking up the healing Word of God – will find this CD most helpful. The Lord tells us clearly that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:10). So even if your faith for healing is very small, listening to this CD will increase that faith and build it up to receive what you need from the Lord. Just click on the link below and listen free.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials (or struggles) which are to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.” — 1 Peter 4:12,13
Have you ever heard of a creature called the DoDo Bird? You probably have heard or seen the name, but as with most of us, the chances are you discarded it as the invention of some comic strip artist or some cartoon character.
But the DoDo Bird really did exist. It was a species of rather large, and very clumsy birds that for centuries inhabited an island off the coast of Africa. They lived in a unique and truly exotic environment. Their island home was devoid of humans and predators. Food supply was abundant and within easy reach from the ground. All the DoDo Bird had to do all day long was to walk around, unchallenged, and eat.
There is an old adage I heard as a young boy that applies to just about everything involving physical activity: “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!” For the DoDo Bird, this proverb proved to be a painful and permanent reality. In the course of time, their wing muscles shrank and feathers grew shorter from lack of use. Once sharp, piercing beaks and claws were now short and dull. And then, the inevitable happened … man came to the island. The abundance of DoDo Birds caught their eye, and after discovering this strange creature to be a delicious dish, men began capturing and shipping them back to the mainland as gourmet food. Unable to fly, and all their natural defenses gone, the DoDo Bird was unable to escape or defend itself, and became totally extinct.
It seems that in our modern, computer- driven society, the smarter we think we are, the dumber we are likely to turn out to be. Observe God’s magnificent creation, the human body. It is beautifully equipped to perform … to do … to be active physically and mentally. God intended everything about us to be functional on a continuing basis. But in spite of this truth, one of the greatest problems we face today is how to counteract the influence of people who are determined and dedicated to the pursuit of luxury, with the deliberate goal of avoiding effort. America developed through struggles, and when progress came in any area it was because problems were faced.
The same principle applies to our Christian walk. We should never look upon the blessings of life with a flippant attitude, but be continually thankful to our God. Never wait until we become physically ill, or find our back against the wall in some other way, to run to God and try to appropriate His power to meet our urgent need of the moment. We must continually work at enriching our relationship with Him – daily touching Him in serious prayer and feeding on His Holy Word, welcoming and responding to the Holy Spirit’s direction in every detail of our daily lives. That, too, is struggle beloved. But unless we flex our spiritual wings and feet and tongues with that kind of dedication, we stand in danger of experiencing the fate of the DoDo Bird. And spiritual extinction is far more frightening.
“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from thy sight. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to their whole body!” (Proverbs 4:20-24).
public domain image courtesy of http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=public+domain+images+of+dodo+bird
The Pool of Bethesda was constructed with five porches to house the multitudes of sick and infirm who were gathered there around the clock. Jews had made this place something of a shrine. It was fed by an underground stream, and at certain seasons the water would stir up, or as the Hebrew puts it, it would “boil up.” This movement of the water was attributed to an unseen angel who did the stirring, at the same time release healing power into the water. The first one in the pool would be healed. All the rest — tough luck.
Because this pool had become a shrine, Bible says “great multitudes of impotent, blind, and crippled folk would lie around it waiting for the moving of the waters.” (Vs. 3) Now, I don’t believe that John is recording here something that he believed was so, or that it was something that was actually happening. I believe John was reporting it as a Jewish tradition just as the Jews believed it in that day. I think he did it for a very important reason: to expose its weakness and limitations – in comparison to the all-inclusive healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was not, and could not have been, of God.
Let’s take a look at the situation. The water may have stirred. Hydrostatic pressures within a feeding stream is normal, and occasionally that will cause a movement in the body of waters they feed. But we do not serve a God who would create such a scene of selfishness and disregard for hurting and dying people. Who could have made it to the pool when the waters did move? Only the strong, the rude, the selfish, who would shove and shoulder their way to the edge, ahead of everybody. The rich and important could make the poor and the helpless to step aside. Only the most agile, alert, with the most help, could possibly get to the pool first, stepping over the crippled in the process.
The cry went up, “The water is moving!” What a mad rush it must have been – but only one could benefit. The poor cripple in our text heard that cry for 38 years. But he had no chance. By the time he dragged his crippled body a few feet, it was all over. Somebody else had used up all the power.
This is kind of like a “Wheel of Fortune”, and I can tell you right now, our Lord Jesus will have no part in such a pool. No doubt some were healed. Many have been healed at Lourdes, but not because of the shrine or its water. The body may have responded, as it very definitely can, to the move of faith. Our body is a marvelous creation. Some may have truly believed Jehovah God and received His miraculous touch. But that some were healed is not the point or the question.
Think about it: at the Pool of Bethesda each healing brought more anguish to the hundreds who still lay there in their suffering. (And you can bet the religious hucksters and the money hungry priests were “Johnny-on-the-spot” to take advantage of their terrible disappointment. Ah, but in contrast, look at how many times Jesus “healed them all!”
In this passage from John, Jesus had just come from the well experience with the Samaritan woman. He had just told her that the healing water of life did not come from that well, or from some pool – but it came from within the hearts – BY FAITH – a well springing up unto everlasting life. And He was the giver of that fountain. Now every poor soul waiting by the pool was undoubtedly a Jew. They already had something better than a possible moving of the water at the pool. Every one of them – as a Jew – had the wonderful promise of a loving Jehovah God to heal them. They had Moses and the prophets and the Psalms of David. What greater promise could He give that the one He gave through Moses: “And God said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord, your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will allow none of the diseases to come on you that came on the Egyptians, for I the Lord am your healer.'” (Exodus 15:26).
And this from David: “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits;Who forgives all of your iniquities and Who heals all of your diseases.” Psalm 103:2-3.
And Jeremiah 17:14says, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved.”
The truth is, this bunch of people at the pool were spiritually blind to the Word of their God. Think what glory God would have received if they had sought out His Word with as much vigor as they were expressing at the pool. You know what was wrong? They were waiting for the wrong thing.
Jesus was drawn to this one certain crippled man. Now you can put a lot of different faces on this man because he represent multitudes today who are suffering — including Christians. Like with the woman at the well, Jesus knew exactly what this man was thinking. Scripture doesn’t say why Jesus picked him out. Maybe he had lain there the longest – 38 years of despair and disappointment. The average person there could not understand the depths of his suffering, but Jesus did. Think how many times he must have raised his hands and pled, “Please help me.” But they rushed on by.
And the world rushes on by. Multitudes of Christians today are lying in a state of despair and depression — impotent either physically in one of many ways, or impotent spiritually – hoping for a miracle. They’re waiting for someone to stir things up and make something happen. Many of them spend their entire lives waiting for that life changing miracle. They drag themselves to meeting after meeting; seminar after seminar; whole series of counseling sessions. And they tell and retell their story of pain and woe — but nothing seems to happen.
Notice something very important here. Jesus asked this man a question that on the surface seems ridiculous. “Do you want to become well?” What He was really asking him was, “Are you really in earnest about getting well? Do you mean business? Or do you want me to sympathize with you?” This happens to be a fact of life — some do not really want to get well. They have been through so much pain and agony, they just cling to it and make do.
Notice what the man replied. He did not respond with an eager, “Oh yes, I want to be healed!” His reply was “I have no man to help me.” In other words, “I am not healed because it’s somebody else’s fault.” If the truth were known, he probably gave up on success here long ago.
A sad truth is that so many people have built their lives around pain and suffering. They have complained and discussed their situation for so long that if they did get healed, they would have nothing to talk about and probably have to learn a whole new lifestyle. They would have to learn the language of hope; they would have to be joyful and encourage others.
Fortunately for this lame man, Jesus ignored his response. He simply responded with, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!” Notice that Jesus did not rebuke him, did not cross examine him, and made no moral demands. He was compassionately touched with his infirmity. All that Jesus asked him to do NOW, was to believe His words and OBEY — rise up and walk!
You know, the man could have refused by saying, “It won’t work. I am destined to die like this” or, “Are you kidding?” He had to believe that his time for deliverance had come, and move in total obedience. Now look at verses 19-20. Jesus tells the Pharisees. “My Father wanted him healed, so I healed him!” It was God’s love, His will, His desire that this man be whole … and so it was.
Sometimes it is so difficult when you are down and weak to believe that God loves you. But no matter how worthless and displeasing you feel, that is the time to step out in childlike faith and declare, “Lord, on Your Word alone, I will arise, get up, and walk with You!” You don’t need to understand any of it. There is time to learn the ins and outs of doctrines —all of that will come in time. But you must take the first step of obedience, rise up and turn to the Lord! He’s waiting! God will respond to the cry from the heart.
I somehow feel that Jesus came to the man at Bethesda in response to the heart cry to the Father. “In my distresses I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even unto His ears.” Psalm 18:6. You can be sure that a cry from the heart to God will always be answered by the coming forth of a healing word from heaven. GLORY!
Saints, there is no such thing as too far gone. And don’t think you have to spend the rest of your life running to the pool and waiting for something to happen. The lame man spent years at that pool. But if Jesus had not come by, and if he had not OBEYED the Lord, he would have died lame on that porch.
According to God’s Word, all of our suffering, regardless of what it is, can be turned around and not only bring healing to the individual, but also bring great glory to our Lord and Savior. Seek the Word of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit will surely manifest on your behalf…and your testimony of deliverance will testify of the greatness of our Healer and Deliverer, our Lord Jesus. Don’t be that Christian that just sits by the pool murmuring and wallowing in self pity.
Jesus has come by. He is here. Repent, cry out to the Lord. Heed His Word in obedience. Then rise and walk with Him, and be made whole! GLORY!
Photo Courtesy of Garden of Praise
“The Lord is my shepherd ” – That’s relationship.
“I shall not want” – That’s supply
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” – That’s rest.
“He leadeth me beside the still waters” – That’s refreshment.
“He restoreth my soul” – That’s healing.
“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness” – That’s guidance
“For His Name sake” – That’s purpose.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” –
“I will fear no evil” – That’s protection.
“For Thou art with me” – That’s faithfulness.
“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” – That’s discipline.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies” – That’s hope.
“Thou anointest my head with oil” – That’s consecration.
“My cup runneth over” – That’s abundance.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” – That’s blessing.
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord” – That’s security.
“Forever” – That’s eternity.
FACE IT: THE LORD IS CRAZY ABOUT YOU!
(Note: My wife Pam and I conduct “Christ in the Passover” services every year during the Passover/Easter season. These services include the full Passover celebration, including the complete Seder dinner. In each element of the service, we explain how that particular element represents Jesus Christ, and how He fulfilled the purpose of every aspect of the Passover celebration. Many of the photos with this article are from those services.)
“These are the appointed times of the Lord; holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of that month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover” Leviticus 23:4-5.
In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Leviticus, Jehovah God commanded the children of Israel to faithfully recognize a full calendar of feasts that He was setting before them. He ordered Moses to proclaim to His people that these were the “Lord’s appointed times.” In other words: “I, the Lord God Jehovah have established them, and the times set are my times.” What God did in these two sentences was to establish what is known as “The Seven Feasts of Israel.” All of them would bring remembrances of some great thing Jehovah God had done for His people; and prophetically point to the future fulfillment of each by the coming Messiah.
It should be noted that on His last night on earth, just before His crucifixion, our Jewish Messiah Jesus chose to celebrate Passover with His disciples. He placed His personal imprint on the celebration that night, in a way that would impact the Church for all time.
The Feast of Passover is the convocation that begins the Festival Year for the Jews, and occurs at the beginning of spring. Exodus 12 and beyond tells in great detail the story of how the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage and slavery. The critical time slot in this saga was the night of the tenth plague. From this historic night, God begins to set dates.
Now, we need to understand that the Hebrew calendar is much different than the Roman calendar we use today. It is a lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon, not on the revolutions of the earth around the sun. Each month starts with a new moon, and reaches a full moon in the midst of a 28-day cycle. Passover always falls on the first full moon of spring, in the month of Nisan, the first month of the Sacred Festival calendar, and the month that is equivalent to our April.
An interesting sidelight here is the beautiful story of how God uses the almond tree at this time of year. This tree grows profusely in the land of the Hebrews and blooms at the end of winter. Even if a Jew could not read or understand the calendar, he would not miss Passover. All he had to do was watch the almond tree: when blooms appeared, the next full moon was Passover.
Well, what is the meaning of Passover? In one word: SALVATION! On that night in Egypt, because of “a male lamb without blemish” and its shed blood, there was deliverance and life! The message in both the Old Testament and New Testament is very clear: the Blood of The Lamb saves and delivers. That blood delivered the Jew from Egyptian bondage and death and the Christian from the bondage of sin and death.
It is no coincidence that Jesus was sacrificed on Passover. He spoke with resolute firmness in Matthew 26:27, “This is my blood of the New Testament, shed for many for the remission of sin.” John the Baptist had declared earlier as he introduced Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River, “Behold the LAMB of God who takes away the sins of the world.” God set the dates, and the principle involved here is present in all of the remaining feasts.
The faithful Jew today celebrates Passover in commemoration of the deliverance of their ancestors from Egypt while looking forward to the ultimate deliverance through the Messiah to come. On the other hand, the Christian today, both Jew and Gentile, celebrates Passover, not only recognizing the deliverance from Egypt, but also seeing the feast as a prophetic shadow — pointing to the Messiah, Yeshua Jesus, who has already come and fulfilled this wonderful convocation. In Egypt the Hebrew children marked their house with the blood of the lamb. Today, as Christians we mark our hearts and body with the Blood of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb of God. We have already been passed over; the death angel cannot touch us. Our eternal life has already begun — RIGHT NOW!
On that night, at the Passover table with His disciples, Jesus took the unleavened bread, gave thanks and broke it. He then passed it to the disciples and said: “Take and eat, this is my Body given for you…” Then He raised the Third Cup, “The Cup Of Redemption,” prayed the prayer of thanks, and passed it to the disciples saying, “Take and drink; this is my Blood of the New Covenant shed for you…”. And thus, our Holy Communion was born! As they ate the Bread and drank the Cup Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” He is literally saying, “I am now the Paschal Lamb of God; it is My Blood that saves from death and brings life more abundantly.”
Not only did Jesus fulfill the Feast of Passover by going to the Cross, but He also fulfilled the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Feasts. He was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, arose from the Tomb on the Feast of First Fruits, and sent the Holy Spirit to His church on the Feast of Pentecost. In the not too distant future, He will fulfill the 5th Feast — The Feast of Trumpets — when He comes for His Bride! Can you shout “GLORY!”?