FROM PASSOVER TO THE OVERPASS
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
MARCH 20, 2016
1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.
— Matthew 26:1-5, ESV
I grew up in an idyllic southern town that was laid out foursquare. The streets ran vertically, the avenues cruised horizontally, and a series of train tracks divided the city between north and south. Those trains rolled long and slow in my childhood days, and it was not uncommon for a long enough, slow enough train to block traffic for a half an hour or more. Back then, there was no overpass.
Since the hospital was on the north side of town, accidents and other medical emergencies south of town could run into a serious problem. The lack of an overpass caused ambulances to be stalled south of the tracks on many occasions. And, on occasion, people died.
So, an overpass had to be built. Like any other municipal decree, it was controversial, messy, and expensive. After years of waiting and wrangling, it finally got done. Now there is an overpass, and the overpass has saved lives.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is an overpass. It was decreed by our sovereign God. It is controversial, messy, and expensive. Yet, it saves lives. Yours could be one.
Jesus Preaches the Gospel
We turn a page in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus’ public ministry ends and His public humiliation, suffering, and death is about to begin. In chapters 24 and 25, He has spoken about the crown He will wear at His second coming. But in Chapter 26, He reminds them about the cross He must bear at His first. Jesus preaches the gospel to His disciples, and tells them in two days He is going to die.
This is actually the fourth plain preaching of the gospel that Jesus gives to His disciples, according to the disciple Matthew. Christ spoke boldly of His death, burial, and resurrection in 16:21, and is answered by Peter’s misguided rebuke. Jesus does it again in 17:22-23, this time met with stunned silence and fear. In 20:17-19, the Lord offers the same simple message, which this time turns James and John into opportunists, wanting the best seats at the table.
The fourth and final preaching of the gospel by Jesus is fairly unique. Jesus’ emphasis is on crucifixion, which at this point would have still been unimaginable for the disciples to accept. So, to help their acceptance and understanding, Jesus ties the upcoming crucifixion in with an ongoing Jewish tradition: the Passover. Perhaps the picture of the Passover will help Christ’s disciples, old and new, to come to grips with the cross.
Jesus and the Passover
Matthew’s is the most Jewish Gospel, yet this is the first time the most important of all Jewish rituals gets a nod. Perhaps it was not until Jesus mentioned it in connection with His crucifixion that Matthew, and the other disciples, finally began to understand. In fact, no Jew or Gentile can really understand the gospel unless we comprehend the Passover.
The Passover is the quintessential event of the Old Testament. Until it happened, Israel was under a death sentence. The Egyptians, having already enslaved the people of God, were systemically committing genocide against them. For a century it had been their policy to abort male babies, allowing females and a few males to live on in bondage. If it had not been for God, His servant Moses, and the Passover, there would have been no salvation for the Jews.
The Passover itself was a ministry of death and life. In this tenth of ten plagues that led to the Exodus, God decreed the death of the firstborn of all who lived in Egypt. However, the Passover provided an overpass that lead from death to life. It was controversial, messy, and expensive. It required sacrifice, death, and blood. Whoever, in faith, would take the blood of an innocent, sacrificed lamb and put the blood in the shape of a cross over the top and sides of the entrance to their home, would be saved. God’s death angel would pass over that home, and the residents inside would be provided with an overpass from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to Israel.
The lamb, the blood, and the cross allowed the Passover to paint a picture of salvation for Old Covenant saints to celebrate each year. But in the fulness of time, Christ became the Passover, and the overpass, for those among all nations who repent and believe in Him.
Jesus Is the Overpass
It takes a lot of planning and a lot of people to build an overpass. So it is with the gospel. God planned it before He laid the foundation of the world. But people, in real time and space, played a part in the planning as well.
The Jerusalem religious establishment has been plotting to kill Jesus ever since He burst on the scene as the would-be Messiah three years ago. By the time of the final Passover observed by Jesus, they have finally had enough. They would seek out a traitor, seal ties with imperial Rome, and sack the one who claimed to be the Christ.
The Romans did their part in this perfect planning by devising the execution method known as crucifixion. It was controversial, messy, and expensive. Yet, it perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament Passover and provided the overpass to New Testament Christianity.
The people, representative of the whole human race, played a pivotal part, too. The religious rulers acted in stealth because the people clamored for health and wealth. That’s right, the people loved Jesus and would have objected at first to His arrest and death sentence. Not, however, because they believed He could provide salvation from sin and death; but, because He had the potential to provide them with miracles, healing, and free food.
So, it looks like we are all to blame. Religious hypocrites, government elites, and the popular masses all took part in the building of the overpass. It was controversial, messy, and expensive. But it has been built, all under the supervision of our sovereign and gracious God.
Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the Passover. Jesus is the overpass. He is the only bridge from sin and death that leads to salvation and eternal life. He alone can atone for sin and impute perfect righteousness. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (ref. John 14:6).
If you had lived on the outskirts of Egypt in the land of Goshen during the days before the first Passover, what would you have done? Would you have thought it hopeless and silly to sacrifice your family lamb and paint its blood in a cross outside your home? Would you, like so many would later prove, that you preferred the comfort and complacency of slavery and death in Egypt rather than go through the controversy, mess, and expense of riding an overpass to the Promised Land? Or, would you exhaust yourself in faith and spend yourself in trusting God and the blood of the lamb for your salvation?
“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power,
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour,
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
“Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!
— Elisha Hoffman
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org