“And they brought the [donkey] colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.” (Mark 11:7)
Advent means “coming” and on this first Sunday in Advent we are reminded why the Christ came. He came in order to enter Jerusalem so that He would accomplish our salvation by His death and resurrection. As Advent begins, our Palm Sunday Gospel reminds us that as we prepare to celebrate Christmas we must always keep Christ’s reason-for-coming clearly in focus.
When the original Passover event occurred—the event marking the deliverance of the children of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians—God used lambs as His means to create this deliverance. On the 10th day of the month of Nisan the father of a Jewish household was to select for his family a perfect yearling lamb. For four days this lamb was treated like a family pet…but then it was to be sacrificed on Nisan 14! The blood of such a Passover lamb was then placed on the doorposts and lintels of the doorways to Jewish homes, and then the members of a lamb’s family roasted and ate the lamb. As a result, by God’s grace death passed over that home; because of the lamb’s blood the members of that household were spared the death that would strike the Egyptians.
Everything that God commanded the Jews to do in relation to worship and salvation pointed to the Christ, including the command to continue celebrating the Passover. Additionally there were numerous Old Testament prophecies specifically predicting the Christ. Ultimately the believing Jews of the Old Testament realized that when the Christ would come, all would be fulfilled in Him (Jn 1:45; 5:39).
On that 10th of Nisan when the final week of Jesus’ humbled life began, He prepared to ride a donkey into Jerusalem. At that time some Jewish fathers still followed the custom of selecting their family’s Passover lamb on Nisan 10. So on this 10th day of Nisan some 2,000 years ago God the Father directs us to behold His Son as the final, perfect, chosen Passover Lamb. No earthly father chose this lamb; God the Father chose Him to be the sacrifice for His family. We are to realize and believe He is our Passover Lamb, whose death delivers neither from Pharaoh nor from slavery to the Egyptians nor from the death that would strike all who had no lamb’s blood on their doorposts. The blood of this infinitely powerful Passover Lamb delivers from Satan and from slavery to sin and death, and His blood, shed at the cross, causes death to pass over all marked with that blood. We have been marked with that blood in Holy Baptism (1 Jn 5:6-8), and in Holy Communion it has entered the portal of our body. Appropriately the Apostle Paul would explain, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor 5:7b).
The Christ is the grand Passover Lamb. So how did God the Father verify that Jesus is the Christ? He did it frequently; He did it uniquely through the prophet Zechariah who predicted that the Christ would be identified by his riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech 9:9). Of Zechariah’s prophecy, Jewish-born scholar Alfred Edersheim writes, “…with singular unanimity the Talmud and the ancient Rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy [of Zechariah] to the Christ.” (Life and Times, 370).
Saint Peter truly explains what Advent is ultimately about: In the Christ, whose coming was long anticipated “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pe 1:18).” As an infant Jesus was intimated to be a newborn lamb when the shepherds visited him in Bethlehem. John the Baptist declared Him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Finally, for our salvation, on the 10th day of Nisan some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ is identified as the Passover Lamb of God—riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.