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The Passover Lamb: What Passover Means to Christians

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April 27th, 2019
  

Is Passover Relevant to Christians?

You may be wondering, “Is Passover relevant to Christians?” The answer is not only a resounding YES. In fact, Jesus is all over the story of Passover! 

As with all the biblical festivals, Passover foreshadows the coming of Jesus, our Deliverer and our Savior. He is the One who made eternal atonement for ours sins. You may recall John the Baptist, seeing Jesus coming toward him, crying out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Jesus is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. And He has come to free us from the bondage and enslavement of sin. Just as the Passover lamb was to be without a fault, the Scriptures record that so was Jesus. Not one of Jesus’s bones were broken, not even on the cross. 

On the night that He was betrayed, Jesus observed the Passover meal with his disciples. In fact He said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)

the passover lamb

A Connection Between Passover and Easter

Every year, usually around the same time, Christians get ready for Easter, while Jewish families in Israel and around the world gather to recount the story of Passover. They retell the miracle-packed narrative, while followers of Jesus remember His death and resurrection.

So, what is the big deal with Passover? Is there a connection with Easter? Does it matter if I celebrate one or the other?

You may have heard questions such as this or even pondered these thoughts yourself. As believers in Jesus, Passover bears great significance for us, just as it has for the Jewish people for thousands of years.

It was never meant to be mere ritual, but an encounter with the Eternal One.

The Story of Freedom

The book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites journey to freedom, as God delivered them from slavery in Egypt

Centuries earlier, Jacob and his sons had left the Promised Land, because of famine, to live with Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but by this time he became Pharaoh’s closest advisor. In Egypt, the Hebrews prospered until a new pharaoh ascended the throne.

The new pharaoh oppressed descendants of Jacob and eventually enslaved them. The people cried out to God, who heard their cry and commanded their release.

Because the pharaoh’s heart was hardened, God sent ten increasingly dreadful plagues to the land. The night of the tenth plague God caused every first born son of every household in Egypt to be slain. Only then the ruler of Egypt agreed to let God’s people go. 

But that dreadful night, one more significant thing happened. God “passed over” the households of all Israelites, who put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. This sign of blood protected the faithful.

The Instructions about the Passover Lamb

The first instructions for the Passover are in Exodus 12 and begin with the lamb. On the 10th day of the first month of the year, a lamb was to be selected, brought home, and inspected for five days to check for blemishes. The lamb had to be perfect.

The lamb slain at Passover was to be unblemished, no bones were to be broken. It was the blood of this pure and spotless lamb that made a way to freedom. Because “the life of the flesh is in the blood… for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11)

Exodus 12:6 says that the lamb was to be killed at twilight, or “between the evenings.” Ancient Jewish tradition describes this time from when the sun starts to set until it has completely gone down, approximately 3-6 p.m.

Mark 15:34-37 says that Yeshua finally died around the ninth hour of the day. The first hour of the day was at sunrise —approximately 6 a.m. This makes the ninth hour around 3 p.m. Yeshua died at the exact time that Passover lambs were being killed, according to Moses’ instructions in Exodus 12:6.

passover meal

The Passover Lamb in Jerusalem

Soon after Jesus entered Jerusalem He spent most of His time being “inspected in God’s house” as the Pharisees and teachers of the Law tried to find fault in Him. But they could not find it, even with false testimonies.

Jesus was then sent to Pilate, and to Herod, in hopes of a death sentence. But even the Roman leader confessed, he could not find anything wrong with the Teacher from Nazareth. Yet, despite his own words, Pilate gave in to the crowd’s demands and sentenced Jesus to death.

Just like the instructions for the Passover Lamb, Yeshua was tested for blemishes for five days and declared perfect by both Jew and Gentile. Yeshua was killed because He was perfect. 

“For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

glasses of wine

Traditional Passover with Bread and Wine

You may be surprised to hear that the earliest instructions for a traditional Passover seder are found… in the New Testament. 

If you’ve experienced a traditional Passover meal and story telling, or seder (Hebrew for “order”), you know the feast brims with prophetic foreshadows of Messiah. The Last Supper was in fact a seder following much of the liturgy still used by Jewish families today.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you” (Luke 22:15) During the meal He identified the unleavened bread and wine with His own body and blood. The Church now calls this Holy Communion

Jesus tells His disciples, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20) It is the blood that makes atonement for sin, says Leviticus. It is the sacrifice of Jesus as Lamb of God that brought us in to the family of God.

The Apostle Paul recounts this night in 1 Corinthians 11. The apostle reiterated that every time we take this meal, we do this in remembrance of Jesus’s death and resurrection. We do this to honor Him.

This is the intimacy and the love that Paul indicates when he says, “that I may know Him [Messiah] and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10)

Deliverance at Passover

In the book of Exodus we also read that the Israelites were to remove all leaven from their households and only ate unleavened bread. As leaven symbolizes sin, symbolically they removed sin from their camp.

We who are delivered from sin and death by the Passover Lamb who is Yeshua (Jesus) are similarly told to purge the leaven from our lives (1 Cor. 5:7).

The feast of Passover continually recalls the story of the miracle of God’s provision for His people. Many believers proclaim Jesus (or Yeshua) as the Passover lamb, but it goes far beyond this basic understanding.

Part of Passover’s meaning for Christians is that it reminds us that like Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, God fights on your behalf. Sometimes the battle is greater than you expect only because the victory He intends is also going to be greater than you expect!

The original Passover event was intended to glorify God and make known His salvation not just to the Israelites, but to the Egyptians and other nations. He used the pharaoh’s worsening resistance to His will to do it.

Christians at the Passover Table

Today’s battles are to glorify God and make His salvation known – not just to those already in relationship with Him. They will help achieve the deliverance and exodus from bondage of entire nations.

I believe Yeshua still “eagerly desires” to share Passover with His disciples and family today. After all, the story is about Jesus, our Passover Lamb. He is our freedom.

This journey to freedom releases us from bondage of sin. He is our deliverance. And He, as the Lamb of God, invites us as Christians to remember His death and resurrection. Every time we observe Passover or the communion meal, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice.

The power operating in my life today as a believer is not only in His shed blood. The power comes through the resurrected Messiah, with whom I am now a joint-heir. Seated in heavenly places, I am afforded all the provision of His Kingdom.

The Path to Victory

The Bible teaches that a period is coming when God will release judgments on the earth not unlike those that befell Egypt. Anti-God forces will resist Him in a manner reminiscent of the pharaoh. But during that time, many will be protected just as they were in Egypt.

So if our battles are greater than we expect, let’s remember the victory God intends is greater, too. Meanwhile, He will be with us as He was with Israel in Egypt. At the appointed time, Messiah will return and effect full victory.

And all nations will join in Israel’s exodus song:

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15: 21)

Happy Passover!

Transform Lives in Israel this Passover!

As Christians, we thank God for His redemption of His people at Passover. We also thank Him for the blood of the Messiah, who became our Passover Lamb. With this good news, we want to bless Israel with the knowledge of God’s Word!

Do you want to get more involved regularly in what God is doing in Israel today? 

The Tribe is a passionate and faithful group of monthly donors on a mission to transform lives in Israel through the love of Jesus. Join the Tribe today: www.firmisrael.org/thetribe

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Esther Kuhn
Esther Kuhn grew up around the world, tagging along with her parents in ministry. She has lived and studied in Israel, and finds any occasion she can to take people to the Land of the Bible. Esther earned a Master of Divinity from The King’s University in Southlake, Texas and takes great joy in inspiring people to know God’s heart for Israel. As she says, “If God hasn’t changed His mind about Israel, He hasn’t changed His mind about you.”
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