Have you thought about what it means that Jesus is our Passover lamb?
Let’s look at why this metaphor is so important and why its depth of meaning is often overlooked.
Early in his gospel account, the apostle John wrote:
29 The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
(John 1:29-31 NIV)
Hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ birth, it had been prophesied that One would come to be sacrificed for the sins of the people.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
(Isa. 53:4-7 NIV)
The Passover lamb from the Law of Moses (Ex. 12) was a shadow of Jesus.
The purpose of the physical lamb was to point us toward the Spiritual Lamb.
In the context of rebuking the Corinthian Christians about their tolerance of a willfully sinning brother, the apostle Paul wrote:
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
(1 Cor. 5:6-8 NIV)
Likewise, Peter wrote the following regarding our redemption payment:
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Pet. 1:17-21 NIV)
The truth that Jesus served as our Passover Lamb is a powerful truth in and of itself. But let me show you an even deeper meaning when we consider the timing of Jesus’ crucifixion in relation to the Passover Feast.
I have previously written an article entitled “Timing of the Last Supper, Crucifixion” in which I lay out my understanding of when the various events surrounding Jesus’ death occurred.
Here’s a quick synopsis for you…
When we read Matthew, Mark and Luke’s account of Jesus’ final evening with His disciples, it seems clear that they were celebrating the annual Passover feast meal together.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
(Matt. 26:17-19 NKJV)
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.” So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:12-16 NKJV)
Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?” And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Luke 22:7-13 NKJV)
But when we read John’s account, he is perfectly clear that these events happened prior to the annual Passover meal.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him…
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
(John 13:1-2, 26-29 NKJV)
And a few chapters later, the Holy Spirit says:
Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.
(John 18:28 NKJV)
As I explain in “Timing of the Last Supper, Crucifixion,” the Scriptures show that Jesus died upon the cross at precisely the hour that the Jews began slaughtering their physical Passover lambs in Jerusalem: 3:00 PM. Here’s the quote from the first century Jewish historian, Josephus:
So these high priests, upon the coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh…
(War of the Jews, 6.9.3)
If this is accurate—and Josephus had firsthand knowledge of the custom—then the timing of the sacrifice of the first Passover lambs recorded in Exodus 12 aligned perfectly with the timing of Jesus’ death.
When I “discovered” this, it gave me chills.
Praise GOD for His indescribable gift!