Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel. Originally a combination of a couple of different spring festivals, it is a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt–especially the night when God “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth plague–and of the following day, when the Israelites had to leave Egypt hurriedly. Passover is one of the most beloved of all Jewish holidays along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first of the festivals to be commanded by God for Israel to observe (Exodus 12). Commemorations today involve a special ritual meal called the Seder, featuring unleavened bread and other food items symbolic of various aspects of the exodus.
The book of Exodus tells of the origin of Passover. God promised His people to redeem them from the bondage of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:6). God sent Moses to the Egyptian king with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1). When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.
The night of the first Passover was the night of the tenth plague. On that fateful night, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doorposts and lintels with its blood (Ex. 12:21,22). Then, when the Lord passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood (verse 23). In a very real way, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from death, as it kept the destroyer from entering their homes. The Israelites were saved from the plague, and their firstborn children stayed alive. From then on, every firstborn son of the Israelites belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Ex. 13:1,2; Lk. 2:22-24).
The children of Israel in Egypt followed God’s command and kept the first Passover. However, none of the Egyptians did so. All through Egypt, behind the unmarked, bloodless doorways of the Egyptians, the firstborn children died at midnight (Ex. 12:21-29). “There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead” (verse 30). This dire judgment finally changed the Egyptian king’s heart, and he released the Israelite slaves (verses 31–32).
Along with the instruction to apply the Passover lamb’s blood to their doorposts and lintels, God instituted a commemorative meal: fire-roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8). The Lord told the Israelites to “observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (Ex. 12:24), even when in a foreign land.
To this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to this command. Passover and the story of the exodus have great significance for Christians also, as Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, including the symbolism of the Passover (Matt. 5:17). Jesus is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:12). He was killed at Passover time, and the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Lk. 22:7,8). By (spiritually) applying His blood to our lives by faith, we trust Christ to save us from death. The Israelites who, in faith, applied the blood of the Paschal lamb to their homes become a model for us. It was not the Israelites’ ancestry or good standing or amiable nature that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb that made them exempt from death (Jn. 1:29 and Rev. 5:9,10).
There has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Messianic Jews to retain their cultural heritage while professing their Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value. Many of the rituals associated with the Passover Seder have application to the Christian faith, and a Christian celebration of the Passover provides a unique way to bring the story of salvation to the ceremony.
Whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Colossians 2:16,17 tells us that we should “let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ”. Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts (Rom. 14:5).
While Christians are not bound by commandment to celebrate the Passover, it is the greatest opportunity to celebrate the Salvation of God through Jesus Christ. Celebrating the Passover will lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin and that is something we should celebrate every day of our lives. Besides all of this, if Christ is our Passover Lamb, why not celebrate Him?
Here’s a few nuggets to think about:
Did you know?
– That the traditional Last Supper Meal was actually The Passover Meal?
– That Jesus died on Passover
– That Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover?
– That Passover is more than an event, it’s a Person?
– That the idea of spring cleaning in our western culture came from the Jewish cleaning out of leaven in preparation for Passover?