The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread was one of three Jewish annual feasts in the Law of Moses. GOD set up the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread as a memorial—a reminder of specific events in Israel's history. The Passover meal was a reminder of how GOD passed over the homes of the children of Israel on their final night in Egyptian bondage, sparing the first-born Israelite males from the plague of death He brought upon the land. Likewise, the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread that began with Passover was a reminder that it was on that day that GOD led Israel out of Egypt.
As a Christian, it has been easy to take for granted the simplicity of life in Jesus. The new covenant is infinitely better than its predecessor because of all of the blessings that come through Jesus. By studying the Law of Moses and the Old Testament, however, we can gain significant appreciation for what Jesus means to us, and the Passover Feast is a great example of that.
Here are five Passover-related observations for your consideration:
- The Israelites had to select their sacrificial lambs on the tenth day of the first month. They had to care for the lamb for four days, and the whole congregation of Israel had to kill the lamb on the fourteenth day at twilight. I don't know about you, but this would have been very difficult for me. I'm not a hunter. The thought of killing an animal, even for food, is so sad to me. Don't get me wrong—I love to eat meat...as long as someone else prepares it. If I had to prepare it, I would either get used to the task or I would be a vegetarian. In addition, it is very easy for us to grow attached emotionally to animals, even in a very short time frame. In four days, I imagine these lambs would often feel like part of the family.
- Animal sacrifices were messy and gruesome, by nature. Lev. 17:11 tells us that the life of a creature is in its blood, and Heb. 9:22 says that without shedding blood there can be no forgiveness. The sacrifice of an innocent animal to pay for the sins of a guilty person sent a very powerful message to the sinner—sin is ugly, gruesome, and somebody has to pay for the sin with the penalty of their life.
- The Passover teaches us about a number of spiritual topics, including holiness, mercy, atonement, forgiveness, obedience, sacrifice and thanksgiving. There were strict requirements for who was allowed to participate in the feast. Any unqualified person, such as an uncircumcised servant, was excluded. Likewise, any who were ceremonially unclean were disallowed (Num. 9:6-12). Mercy was extended because GOD could have easily killed the firstborn Israelite male when He killed the Egyptian firstborn on that night. Atonement is represented by the lambs' blood covering the Israelites' doorposts, signifying a household of believers. Forgiveness is displayed in the unworthiness of Israel in that they found acceptance despite their sins. Obedience was required in order to be spared from death. Sacrifice was required in order to have GOD's fellowship, approval and blessing. And thanksgiving was represented by the feast itself and the remembrance of what GOD had done for them.
- Israel was to eat the meal in haste, completely prepared for departure from the land. This meal was their final sustenance for a long time. Egypt was no longer their home and GOD wanted them prepared for departure.
- Sadly, over time Israel neglected this great tradition from GOD. 2 Chron. 35:18 says, "The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem." GOD told Israel through the prophet Isaiah, "Stop bringing meaningless offerings! ... I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them." (Isa. 1:13-14 NIV)
Everything in the Old Testament is a shadow of something in the New Testament, and ultimately representative of something in heaven itself (Heb. 8, 10). The Passover itself is a shadow of spiritual forgiveness as GOD passes over the death we are each due. The Passover lamb is a shadow of Jesus. The blood of the lamb is a shadow of Jesus' blood which forgives our sins and washes us clean.
Animal sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ, for only He could truly take away sins. Jesus is the ultimate teacher, showing us about holiness, mercy, atonement, forgiveness, obedience, sacrifice and thanksgiving. Like Israel, Christians are to live partaking of our Passover Lamb with a mindset of haste, knowing where we currently live is not our home, and that we will be leaving shortly. And like Israel, we must struggle to maintain keen awareness of what GOD has done for us and not forget our Passover.
Let's remember to read about the Passover and allow its significance to cause us to love Jesus even more.