When John Ernest opened fire at the Chabad of Poway (CA) Synagogue Saturday morning, April 27, 2019, it memorialized a Passover celebration the congregants will never forget. CNN reported that Lori Kaye, aware of what was about to happen, “jumped between the gunman and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, sacrificing her life to save the spiritual leader.”
As Rabbi Goldstein reported on NBC’s Today show, “I was face-to-face with this murderer, terrorist, who was holding a rifle and looking straight at me. That’s when he fired, blowing off my right index finger and severely injuring my left index finger.” Goldstein heard a loud bang, quickly turned and saw Lori stretched out on the floor … and by her side a gentleman, also unconscious. Her husband, a medical doctor, had come to her aid and when he realized who she was, he fainted.
The carnage could have been much worse. Oscar Stewart, a congregant and U. S. military veteran, charged the terrorist but survived unscathed only because the young man’s gun had jammed. Nineteen-year-old John Ernest fled but was captured a short time later.
Passover is a celebration that was well established by New Testament times. Originally slated to memorialize Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Jesus’ Passover in AD 33 marked the final such celebration with His disciples and for them Passover took on a dramatic, new meaning.
Only a few days earlier, the Jewish Sanhedrin, the ruling council of men who had religious jurisdiction over the people of Israel, met to decide what to do with the troublesome Rabbi from Nazareth. The meeting was a farce. They all knew what they were going to do; it only remained for them to justify their actions. And Caiaphas, the High Priest, gave them that, ostensibly to protect against an insurrection led by Jesus and his followers. “It is better for you that one man die for the people,” he stated, “than that the whole nation perish.”
Consequently then, and apparently without a single voice raised in His defense, they sentenced their Messiah to death by crucifixion. And everyone, it seems, except for Jesus’ followers, cheered. The Council congratulated themselves on a “job well done,” the Romans guaranteed the peace, and the Pharisees threw a party.
Happy days were here again, or so they thought. But hold on, boys; there is more to come!
Three days later a disturbing rumor surfaced, and suddenly these men realized they had made a colossal mistake. An empty tomb, a report from Roman soldiers stationed at the place of Jesus’ burial, and eyewitness reports, at one point from over five hundred people, verified the unbelievable: Jesus, just as He had predicted, lived again! “If in this life only we have hope,” reported the Apostle Paul, “we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead.” Jesus was back!
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Words cannot convey our gratitude for the men and women who, like Lori Kaye, have willingly given their lives to protect us. And that goes for Jesus as well. His sacrifice, voluntarily given on our behalf, ensures that, if we have the courage to welcome Him as the Lord of our lives, the promise of eternal life — and heaven — is guaranteed. Thank God for Jesus!