The two early-spring festivals are the
Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The sacrificial lamb was slain
on the Passover (the 14th of Nisan), and the Days of Unleavened Bread were
observed for seven days from the beginning of the 15th of Nisan to the end
of the 21st day. It was during these days that ancient Israel marched out of
the land of Egypt toward Mount Sinai.
What did the
Passover service mean to the ancient Israelites?
"And when your children ask you, 'What does
this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to
the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared
our homes when he struck down the Egyptians'" (Exodus 12:26-27, NIV).
"Then Moses called for all the elders of
Israel and said to them, 'Pick out and take lambs for yourselves
according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall
take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and
strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the
basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until
morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and
when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD
will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your
houses to strike you'" (Exodus 12:21-23).
The ancient Israelites knew that the firstborn in each family was
spared from death only because God could see the blood of sacrificed
lambs at the entrances to their houses. Throughout Egypt all those
living in houses not having their entrances smeared with the blood of
these sacrificed lambs lost their firstborn. But the families of Israel,
being obedient to God's command to sacrifice a lamb, were delivered from
death. Their firstborn did not perish.
The apostles Paul and
Peter understood that the slain Old Testament Passover lamb foreshadowed
the death of Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for sin.
Does God still expect us to observe the
"And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you
and your sons forever" (Exodus 12:24).
God instituted the Passover,
and all His other festivals, as continual, enduring and permanent
observances (compare Leviticus 23:14; 21, 31, 41). The word translated
"forever" in these verses usually means perpetual rather than eternal.
In other words, these festivals were given as permanent festivals,
observances we should keep throughout our physical existence. God never
intended them to be mere temporary observances that we would discard at
a later date, as is commonly taught today (be sure to read "What Did
Paul Really Say in Colossians 2:16?," page 12).
does the Passover have for Christians?
"For indeed Christ, our Passover, was
sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
"For you know that it was not
with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from
the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the
precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen
before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for
your sake" (1 Peter 1:18-20, NIV; compare Exodus 12:3-6).
apostles Paul and Peter understood that the slain Old Testament Passover
lamb foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for sin.
Notice the reaction of John the Baptist to Jesus: "... John saw Jesus coming
toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
world!'" (John 1:29). John also understood the symbolic and prophetic
relationship of the Old Testament Passover to the work and mission of Jesus
God's plan for the redemption of mankind begins with
Christ's sacrifice for our sins. Amazing as it may seem, this first step in
God's master plan of salvation has been observed since the days of Moses in
the Passover festival (Hebrews 11:24-28). Through the observance of His
sacred festivals, God had ancient Israel act out, every year, the major
steps in His plan of human redemption. Our redemption begins with our
accepting Christ's sacrifice for our sins.
Was Jesus aware of the relationship between His crucifixion and the
"Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all
these sayings, that He said to His disciples, 'You know that after two days
is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified'"
"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus
knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the
Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the
end" (John 13:1).
Did Jesus look
forward to participating in the Passover service with His disciples?
"Then came the day ... on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat
the Passover'" (Luke 22:7-8, NIV).
"When the hour had come, He sat
down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, 'With fervent
desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer'"
"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave
thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat;
this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them,
saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which
is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28, NIV).
On the night before His death Jesus instituted the New Testament Passover
service. Anciently, lambs were sacrificed as forerunners of Christ's
sacrificial death on the Passover. But Jesus instituted new symbols of His
suffering and death-unleavened bread and wine.
Should Christians continue
observing the New Testament Passover service?
"For I received from the Lord what I
also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took
bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after
supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat
this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy [irreverent] manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and
blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV).