Why Christians should celebrate the Passover: Pastor Jayon George

Exodus 12:11 “And thus shall you eat it; from your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.”

Recently I received a phone call from a friend of mine who asked the question, “Why are you spending so much time talking about Israel?” My response to him was, I have discovered my true Christian roots and I’m excited about it. Secondly I explained to him that Judaism is not only the root of Christianity, but that Israel is at the vortex of God’s prophetic time clock. More importantly, Israel’s appointed feasts or holy days, all points to Christ and His return in one way or another. Having said that, Passover is one of Israel’s appointed feasts that have much spiritual significance to our lives as believers today. However, it is unfortunate that the church have rejected the Passover and instead embraced pagan practices such as Easter egg hunts, Easter Bunnies, Valentine’s Day, and even Halloween to some degree. For more on the Easter Bunny and his colored eggs, watch for my article titled, “Since when Bunnies lay eggs,” set to be released in a few days. The Passover feast has so much to teach us in that it reminds us of our covenantal relationship with our God and with each other. Last night my family and I attended our very first Passover celebration with a wonderful Messianic congregation (Beit Yisrael), here in Orlando Florida. I must admit that it was one of the most enriching Christian experiences I’ve been a part of. It is my belief that all of Christianity ought to be a part of this great feast the Lord has ordained forever. If you are a believer and you are somewhat doubtful or critical about the Passover, please read to the end with an open mind and let the Lord speak to your heart.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

Since the time of Israel’s departure out of Egypt about 1445 B.C., the Hebrew people (later called Jews) have been celebrating the Passover Heb. (Pesach), each year in the spring (usually around the time of Good Friday and Easter). After more than four hundred years of bondage in Egypt, God determined to deliver the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from slavery. He rose up Moses and commissioned him to be the leader of the exodus (Ex. 3-4). In obedience to the call of God, Moses confronted Pharaoh with God’s mandate: “Let my people go.” To impress upon him the seriousness of this message from the Lord, Moses by the power of God, called down plagues as judgments on the Egyptian nation. At the same time, the people of Israel were learning about God’s power and His mercy to them from these disasters. During several of the plagues, Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go but then reneged on his decision once the plague was lifted. The time came for the tenth and final plague, the one that would give the Egyptians no choice than to drive the Israelites out. God sent an angel of death throughout Egypt to destroy “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast” (Ex. 12:12).

Since the Israelites were also living in Egypt, how could they escape the slaying angel? The lord gave specific command to His people; to obey it would bring His protection to each Hebrew family and firstborn son. Every family that sheltered in a house marked by the blood was safe from the destructive power of death. The night of judgment for the Egyptians was to be a night of salvation for the Israelites. Each family was to take a year-old male lamb without defect and kill it at twilight on the 14th day of the month of Abib; smaller households could share a single lamb (Ex.12:4). Some of the blood of the slain lamb was to be sprinkled on the two sides and on the top of the doorframe of their homes. When the angel of death went through the land, he would pass over those homes that had the blood sprinkled on them (hence the term Passover, from Heb. Pesach, meaning “to jump past,” “to pass by,” or “to spare”). Thus by the blood of the slain lamb, the Israelites were spared the judgment of death that came to all the Egyptian firstborn. God commanded the sign of the blood not because He could not otherwise distinguish the Israelites from the Egyptians, but because He wanted to teach His people the importance of obedience and of blood redemption, thus preparing for the “Lamb of God,” who centuries later would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). On that particular night the Israelites were supposed to be dressed and ready to leave (Ex. 12:11). They were commanded to roast, not boil, the lamb, and to prepare unleavened bread (i.e., bread made without yeast) and bitter herbs. The bitter herbs served as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Some see Unleavened Bread as an agricultural festival because it was linked with the barley harvest, when a first-ripe sheaf of barley was offered to God. The Bible links the eating of unleavened bread with the first Passover, when the people were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that there was no time to wait for the dough they took with them to rise.  As the night approached, they would then be ready to eat the food and depart in haste when the Egyptians came and begged them to leave their country. Waling and lamentation filled the land as death came to each Egyptian dwelling. Pharaoh told Moses to take the people and be gone. As soon as that night came, all the Egyptians were eager to speed the Israelites on their way. The Israelites were free at last to leave the land of their slavery and to set out for the land God had promised their forefather Abraham. Everything happened as the Lord had spoken (Ex. 12:29-36).

THE PASSOVER IN ISRAELITE/JEWISH HISTORY:

From that moment in history, God’s people celebrated the Passover every spring, in response to His command that the Passover be “an ordinance forever” (Ex. 12:14). It was, however, a memorial sacrifice. Only the initial sacrifice in Egypt was an effective sacrifice. Before the temple was built, each Passover the Israelites gathered together in households, killed a lamb, removed all leaven from their homes, and ate bitter herbs. More importantly, they retold the story of the miraculous exodus of their ancestors from the land of Egypt and from slavery to Pharaoh. Thus from generation to generation, the Hebrew people remembered God’s redemption and their deliverance from Egypt. Parents were expected to use the Passover to teach children the truth of how God had redeemed them from slavery and sin and made them a special people under His care and rule. Once the temple was built, God commanded that the Passover celebration and the killing of the lamb take place in Jerusalem. The O.T. records several times in which an especially significant Passover was celebrated in the holy city (e.g., 2 ki. 23:21-23; 2 Chr. 30:1-20; Ezra 6:19-22).

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD CELEBRATE THE PASSOVER

The Passover was likewise observed by the Jews in N.T. times. The only incident from Jesus’ boyhood recorded in the Scriptures occurred when His parents took Him to Jerusalem at twelve years old to celebrate the Passover (Luke 2:41-50). Later in life, Jesus regularly went to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:13). The Last Supper that Jesus ate with His disciples in Jerusalem, shortly before going to the cross, was a Passover meal (Matt. 26:1-2, 17-29). As believers we must understand that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during a Passover meal. It was during the meal He took the bread and the wine and blessed it and distributed it to His disciples.Christ did not replace Passover with a different festival. In fact, the only thing that He replaced was the spring lamb with His own sacrifice—and the institution of the bread and wine to symbolize it.  Jesus Himself was crucified on the Passover, as the Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) who delivers those who believe from sin and death. Though the nature has somewhat changed, the Jews today still celebrate the Passover. Since there is no temple in Jerusalem where a lamb can be slain in obedience to Deut. 16:1-6, the contemporary Jewish feast (called the Seder) is no longer celebrated with a sacrificed lamb. But families still gather together, all yeast is ceremonially removed from Jewish homes, and the story of exodus from Egypt is retold by the father of the household.

The Passover account is found in Exodus 12:12-14Verse 14 states that the Passover ceremony was commanded by God to be an annual memorial feast to be kept by Israel “forever.” (This command is repeated in Leviticus 23:5.) Exodus 12:15 introduces the seven-day festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread (also repeated in Leviticus 23:6-8), which was to immediately follow the Passover feast each year. This is why Acts 12:3 states, “Then were the days of unleavened bread,” before mentioning the Passover in the next verse. These days were always kept in conjunction with one another. If the Passover was instituted forever, then New Testament instruction for its observance should be clear. This instruction is found in I Corinthians 5:7-8: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast (of unleavened bread, which always followed Passover, as explained above)…”

Christ, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29Acts 8:32I Peter 1:19Rev. 5:6), replaced the Old Testament lamb eaten on Passover evening each year. The New Testament symbols of the bread and wine were instituted so that Christians could eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God. Jesus’ sacrifice replaced the need to kill a spring lamb. Luke 22:19 shows that Jesus substituted the bread and wine to be taken annually in commemoration of His sacrifice for the remission of our sins—both spiritual and physical. Early Christians kept the Passover, not Easter. Notice this from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 8, p. 828: “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers…The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals [God’s festivals of Leviticus 23], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb…continued to be observed.”

The original apostles and early New Testament Church did not observe Easter. Notice: “In the second century A.D., Easter Day was, among Christians in Asia Minor [these would be the Gentile churches that Paul raised up in places such as Philippi, Colossae, Galatia, etc.—and he warned the Galatians (4:9-10) about taking days such as Easter] the 14th of Nisan [or Abib] the seventh month of the [civil] Jewish calendar” (World Almanac, 1968 edit., p. 187). The date described here is not Easter Day, but rather the Passover—which was kept on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) of the sacred calendar. The apostles and early Church did not observe Easter. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 Paul says, “Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you……“Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

It is imperative that we understand that in this passage Paul is not talking about the Lord’s Supper, but rather the Passover. If it was not a meal, then why would he say “For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk?” He then goes on to say “when you come together to eat, wait for another.”  In the same way Jesus initiated the Lord’s Supper over a Passover meal, in the same manner, Paul and the early church partook of the Lord’s Supper during the Passover meal. Despite the overwhelming proof that God’s Holy Days, as listed in Leviticus 23, are still to be kept by Christians today (Acts 2:112:318:2120:616I Cor. 5:7-816:8), not many Christians who claim to believe in the God of the Bible keeps them. Almost no one in the Christian church, who professes to worship Jesus Christ, observes the Passover as He commanded.

YESHUA (JESUS) & THE PASSOVER:

For Christians, the Passover contains rich prophetic symbolism that points forward to Jesus Christ. The N.T. explicitly teaches that the Jewish feasts are a “shadow of things to come” (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1), i.e., redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. Note the following in Exodus 12 that remind us of our Savior and His will for us.

  1. The heart and soul of the Passover event was God’s saving grace. God brought the Israelites out of Egypt not because they were such a worthy people but because He loved them and because He was faithful to His covenant (Deut. 7:7-10). Similarly, the salvation we receive from Yeshua comes to us through the amazing grace of God (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:4-5).
  2. The purpose of the blood applied on the door was to save the firstborn son of each family from death. This blood points to Christ’s shedding of Hid blood on the cross in order to save us from death and from God’s wrath against sin (Ex. 12:13,23; Heb. 9:22).
  3. The Passover lamb was a “sacrifice” (Ex.12:27) that functioned as a substitute for the firstborn. This sacrifice points to Christ’s death as a substitution for the believer’s death (Rom. 3:25). Paul explicitly calls Christ our Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7).
  4. The male lamb that was marked for death had to be “without blemish” (Ex. 12:5); the lamb prefigures the sinlessness of Yeshua, the perfect Son of God (John 8:46; Heb. 4:15).
  5. The eating of the Lamb represented the identification of the Israelite community with the lamb’s death, a death that saved them from physical death. Similarly, taking the Lord’s Supper represents our participation in the death of Yeshua, a death that saves us from spiritual death (1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:24-26). As in the case of the Passover, only the initial sacrifice, i.e., His death on the cross, was an effective sacrifice.
  6. The sprinkling of the blood on the door posts was done in obedient faith (Ex. 12:28; Heb. 11:28); this response of faith brought about redemption through the blood (Ex. 12:7, 13). Salvation through Yeshua’s blood is obtained only through “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26).
  7. The Passover lamb was to be eaten along with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8). Since yeast in the Bible usually represents sin and corruption (Ex. 13:7; Matt. 16:6), this unleavened bread represented the separation of the redeemed Israelites from Egypt, i.e., from the world and from sin. Likewise, God’s redeemed people are called to separate themselves from the sinful world and dedicate themselves to God alone.
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