What does the Passover have to do with Jesus?
What does the Passover have to do with Jesus? The Eucharist or Holy Communion is a celebration of the Passover. About 10 years ago, I attended a celebration of Passover with Messianic Christians while in Arizona during medical school. The celebration of Passover with the group Tikvah Ba Midbar (Hope in the Desert) changed my life. For the first time, I saw the connection of our Jewish roots as Christians. I always wondered how eggs and bunnies made it into the celebration of Easter. What do eggs and bunnies have to do with Jesus raising from the dead? Really, not much. It turns out that our word “Easter” comes from the pagan goddess Ishtar. Ishtar is a fertility goddess. She was a goddess of love, war, and sexuality and known as the “courtesan of the gods.” The celebration of Easter as the resurrection of Jesus Christ should not be discounted however. Since nearly the second or third century, Christians have been celebrating Easter as the resurrection of Christ. However, is it surprising that the Enemy would weave in eggs and bunnies to pollute the meaning of this time?
There is still much debate about Easter and when it should be celebrated. Western and Eastern Christianity set the date using different calendars. Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism and most Protestantism) set the date using the Gregorian calendar and Eastern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) set the date using the Julian calendars. Easter is a moveable holiday and occurs in the spring between March 22nd and May 8th. It is dependent on the equinox of the sun and which calendar one is using. Passover, however, is always celebrated on 14 Nisan (in the Jewish calendar). It begins at sunset on 14 Nisan and goes until sunset on 15 Nisan. Passover is technically only a one-day celebration. However, it is usually observed together with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which goes until the 21st of Nisan. Within the Feast of Unleavened Bread is another feast, the Feast of First Fruits on 16 Nisan. Why so much time discussing dates? Because, these feasts are prophetic of Christ’s resurrection. They were implemented more than 3000 years before Christ came on the scene of history. They were and are celebrated by God’s chosen people, Israel.
Let us get back to the Passover story now. I had heard the story of the Exodus before but until going to the Passover Seder (say-der) in Arizona, I had not realized that the entire story of redemption by Christ was packed into the Passover. Each year, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in their homes. The Passover is the really the story of the exodus of the Israelites. However, after the Israelites escaped from captivity and were delivered into freedom, God proclaimed the remembrance of that deliverance by celebrating the Passover feast.
The Story of the Passover:
The Israelites were in bondage in Egypt. They were enslaved and treated cruelly by Pharaoh. They were forced to make bricks from clay and straw in hard labor. God promises the Israelites with four “I will’s.” He says, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with might acts of judgment. I will take you as my people and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:6-7)
God had already chosen his people and told them that he would deliver them and make them free and take them as their God. Moses then went by God’s command to speak to Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites freedom. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and made him resistant to Moses’ request. So, God sent ten plagues on the people. God first made the water of the Nile into blood, then sent frogs, gnats, flies, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, and covered the land with darkness. Finally, God sent the death of the firstborn. However, before God sent the tenth plague, God instituted the Passover. On the tenth day of the month, the Israelites were to bring a 1-year-old unblemished lamb into the household. They were to care for it for 4 days and then on the 14th day, cut its throat, take the blood and put it over the doorpost. They were to roast it over fire and eat it in haste with their sandals on their feet and staff in hand. They were to be careful not to break a bone in its body and any uneaten portions were to be burned in the fire. (Exodus 12:1-15) God also commanded that they put away yeast from their households and to eat bread that was baked without yeast (unleavened bread, i.e. matzo) for 7 days.
The blood of the lamb was placed over the door and the death angel literally “passed over” the house and the firstborn of the house was spared. This is where the term “Passover” comes from. Finally Pharaoh released the people. God delivered them through the Red Sea through the wilderness and eventually after 40 years to the Promised Land.
Passover and the Lord’s Supper
As we have previously discussed, the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist or Holy Communion IS the Passover celebration revealed. In Matthew 26, we find Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples. In the Passover meal, we find 4 cups that are taken during feast. The first two are taken before the meal. These are the Cup of Sanctification/Freedom and the Cup of Deliverance. There is then a meal and a breaking of bread together. After the meal, there are two more cups taken together. These are the Cup of Redemption and the Cup of Thanksgiving. Before the third cup, half of a matzo called the “Afikomen” which was previously hidden by the father of the house is found. The Afikomen is the portion of matzo that Christ took after/during the meal and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” After the bread, He took the third cup, the Cup of Redemption stating to His disciples, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:27-29).
What is interesting is how perfectly Christ fits the prophesy of the Passover. We refer to Christ as the Passover Lamb. (1 Cor 5:7, 1 Pe 1:19) If one looks at matzo, we find that it has holes (piercings) that are in lines (stripes). Isaiah 53:5 states that “He was wounded (pierced) for transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (NKJV).
Now let us clarify the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews look back at their deliverance in the past that God promised. But they also look towards a future deliverer, a Messiah. Jesus, who is God incarnate, steps in as the perfect sacrifice to cleanse the people of their sins. Hebrews (4:14-16) clarifies Jesus’ status as a high priest. Each day required that the priests offered animals for their sins and the sins of themselves. But even the priests were imperfect and the animals were a stand-in for a coming perfect sacrifice. Jesus, living a completely obedient life, offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the people. He celebrates the prophesy with His disciples that HE is the redeemer. The Cup of Redemption is a celebration of His blood spilled to cover the sins of all. The bread, which was broken, is a representation of Him who was pierced for our transgressions. The Jews were required to take the blood of the lamb and offer it at the temple each year during the Passover. However, after the temple was destroyed, Orthodox Judaism finds that the bread stands in AS the lamb because there is no place to offer the sacrifice for Passover. Again, let me emphasize, Jesus takes the “Afikomen” (αφικομην) which is a Greek word meaning, “Coming one” or “I am come” and he says, “Take, eat, this is my body.” This is the lamb that made the Israelites strong and ready to be delivered. It is the lamb that healed them. It is the blood that kept them from death.
Let us get back to the dates and connect what Passover should mean to the Christian. Passover has been celebrated for nearly 5000 years. It is always on the 14th of Nisan. It is based on the lunar calendar and it is unchanged. It is not based on a solar calendar or in an Eastern or Western church. Passover was implemented before Christ came. For the Christian, Passover is a prophetic sign of Christ’s coming and resurrection. For the Christian, Passover is also a historical remembrance of Christ’s coming and resurrection. Christ is our Passover Lamb. The Eucharist, the “Thanksgiving,” the “Communion” is what Passover entails. We truly are celebrating the death angel’s “passing over” us when we place Christ’s blood on the doorpost of our hearts. We commemorate His intercession for us as we participate in the Eucharist, which is truly the Passover.