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.
The book of Exodus tells the story of the passage of freedom for the Israelites, as God delivered them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Passover, also referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Feast of Freedom, commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
It memorializes the night when the faithful were protected by the blood of the lamb sprinkled on their doorposts. 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 from the bondage of slavery because “the life of the flesh is in the blood… for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
The feast of Passover is meant to continually recall the story of the miracle of God’s provision for His people. The holiday centers around a story and a meal involving four simple questions on what makes the night of Passover different from any other night.
There are four cups of wine paralleling four promises and some specific foods that point to some distinguishing elements of this story of deliverance. The Passover meal is an educational opportunity. Future generations were commanded to observe the Passover, so this feast was intended to remind God’s people of their deliverance and bridge a connection to their past.
The Scriptures often recount the miracle of the Exodus when God delivered Israel with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Even Stephen, in Acts 7:36 recounts the story of the Passover. “This man [Moses] led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.”
At this point you may still be asking, “What is the connection to me as a believer in Jesus?” I am glad you asked. Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, is all over the Passover!
As with all the biblical festivals, Passover foreshadows the coming of Jesus, our Deliverer, our Savior, the One who made eternal atonement for ours sins. You may recall John the Baptizer, when he sees Jesus coming toward him cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
He is the Lamb 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 unblemished, the Scriptures record that not one of Jesus’s bones were broken. He was unblemished.
Though we don’t know all the elements observed in that meal, we do see reference to bread and to a cup. Yeshua tells His disciples, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20) Remember, it is the blood that makes atonement for sin, says Leviticus. It is the blood that brought you and me into the family of God. It is the sacrifice of Yeshua that brought us in; it brought us near.
This is the occasion from where we take our communion meal. The Apostle Paul recounts this night in 1 Corinthians 11 where Jesus observes the Passover meal with His disciples. In fact, Paul says that every time we take this meal we do this in remembrance of Jesus’s death and resurrection. We do this to honor Him. We do this to remind ourselves that it is not what we do, it is what Yeshua did on the cross. No one else can do that. Just any lamb cannot that. I cannot do that. 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)
Passover is about so much more than the Exodus of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It is about my exodus journey of freedom from the bondage of slavery in sin. It is about Jesus, my Passover Lamb. He is my freedom. He is my deliverance. And He invites us to share in remembering His death and resurrection through remembering His broken body and His shed blood.
Every time we observe the elements of Passover or the communion meal, we remember it was His sacrifice that brought us in. 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 and afforded all the provision of His Kingdom.