Summary: Sermon for Good Friday
JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD
Show the significance of Jesus’ death, tying together the old and new testaments
Why were shepherds on a hillside outside Bethlehem the first people to be told the good news of Jesus’ birth? What is the significance?
Maybe it was in keeping with the manner of Jesus’ birth - humble, poor, ordinary - to be shared with ordinary, poor, humble shepherds.
But it was more than that!
In JOHN 1:29 -
Jesus, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, is baptised by John who calls Him "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world". In fact, Jesus is called a lamb or compared to a lamb more often than any other figure. The sacrificial lamb was a common sight to every Jew and had great significance to them.
Lambs were sacrificed to:
1. make atonement for a trespass against the Law.
2. give thanks to God.
3. commemorate a feast or special day.
4. keep the Passover.
LEVITICUS 1:10 tells us that all sacrificial lambs were to be males without blemish.
describes the Passover lamb - namely:
one year old, a male, without blemish, separated from the flock on the 10th day of Nisan (our April, or their spring), inspected/kept apart for 5 days, and then killed on the 14th day "in the evening" or "between the evenings" which meant at the end of the day between 3.00 and 6.00 pm (Jewish days started and ended at sunset ( still do).
Many people would flock to Jerusalem every year in April to eat the Passover (as did Mary and Joseph regularly, and Jesus many times too). As it was difficult to bring your own year-old lamb with you and still hope to find it "without blemish" when you arrived in Jerusalem, it became the custom to buy a yearling when you got there. For this purpose many lambs were especially bred in the countryside around Jerusalem, and Bethlehem (8 km away) was one of these places.
Shepherds would tend their young sheep out in the open countryside for 6 months - from April (spring, just after Passover, when many lambs were born) until October - and then bring them into enclosures after the Feast of Tabernacles, for the winter.
The shepherds out on the hillside were no doubt tending the Passover lambs when the Lamb of God was born under their noses - very apt that they should be the first to hear about it.
But let’s follow the last few days of Jesus’ life and see how the shepherds and lambs fit into the picture.
A reading of the gospels makes it plain that Jesus died during the feast of the Passover, and Mark clearly details the last 5 days of Jesus’ ministry.
MARK 11:1-11 [Day 10 of Nisan]
Get the day by working backwards
Jesus enters Jerusalem amidst a crowd shouting "Hosanna in the Highest - Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
On the same day shepherds were entering Jerusalem, driving their flocks before them - the flocks that would be sold for sacrifice at the Passover in 5 days’ time. Maybe some of these same shepherds had been on that hillside in Bethlehem some 33 years before ??
MARK 11:12-19 [11 Nisan]
6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?´
Jesus throws out the money-changers and their tables. These evil men were selling Passover lambs (without blemish) and doves for sacrifices to Jews who had come from afar. They were also changing foreign money into Jewish coins so they could be used to pay for sacrifices and offerings in the temple.
Jews from other countries who had come to celebrate the Passover were ripped off heavily but could do nothing about it - until Jesus put a stop to it.
MARK 11:20-13:37 [12 Nisan]
Jesus is grilled by all the Jewish leaders. He is questioned/tested to see if they could find fault with Him and thus have something for which they could accuse Him - but they were unable to find a single thing.
At the same time, all over Jerusalem, families were inspecting their
year-old lambs to see if they could find any blemish in them.
MARK 14:1 and 12 [13 and 14 Nisan]
Mark 14:1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.