Christ in the Passover

PESACH Passover feature

christ-in-the-passover-sliderThis day is to be a memorial for you, and you are to celebrate it as a festival to the LORD. You are to celebrate it as a perpetual ordinance from generation to generation. You are to eat unleavened bread for seven days. On the first day be sure to remove all the leaven from your houses … You are to observe this day from generation to generation as a perpetual ordinance.

— Exodus 12:14–17, ISV

This Friday evening begins Pesach or Passover.

This important event in Israel’s history represents deliverance and new beginnings: deliverance from Egyptian slavery and new beginnings as a nation (Exod. 12:1–13).

For Israel, the blood of a slain lamb applied to the doorposts and the lintels of their homes would be a sign to the death angel to pass over and not slay their firstborn. It was the blood that protected them.

The Passover is a symbol of Christ our Redeemer, the Lamb of God who shed His blood for the sins of the world. Those who trust in Him as Savior are delivered from the bondage of sin and are given a new beginning, a new life in Him.

Get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough, since you are to be free from yeast. For the Messiah, our Passover, has been sacrificed.

— 1 Corinthians 5:7, ISV

How does the Passover fit into the larger biblical narrative? Annual observance of Passover makes it a hallmark of Jewish identity. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery describes the regulations regarding Passover as a command for Israelites “to reenact much of what originally took place in Egypt … the single most important event in their early history.” The Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words observes that “it was impossible for Israel to identify herself without this ritual depicting her salvation and deliverance from Egypt.”

The New Testament connects the Passover celebration to Christ’s death, and both Jesus and Paul use the event as an interpretive framework. For instance, Jesus shares a Passover meal with his disciples just before his crucifixion, referring to himself through the elements of the ritual meal. For Jesus, bread from the meal becomes “my body” (Mark 14:22), and wine becomes “my blood of the covenant” (Mark 14:24). Paul is even more explicit when he affirms that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). The original Passover event contained all the elements to point forward to Christ.

Paul’s declaration comes in a passage in which he was instructing the Corinthian Christians to purge the yeast from among them. (Note: Yeast represents pride because it corrupts by puffing up.) If Christ is the fulfillment of Passover, Paul reasoned, then his followers are to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in a different way as well. He explained:

So let’s keep celebrating the festival, neither with old yeast nor with yeast that is evil and wicked, but with yeast-free bread that is both sincere and true.

— 1 Corinthians 5:8, ISV

This verse, as well as verses 6 & 7, spoke of leaven as malice and wickedness.

On the other hand, Paul described the unleavened bread as sincerity and truth. The Hebrew word matzo (unleavened) means “sweet, without sourness.” The unleavened bread typified the sweetness and wholesomeness of life without sin. It foreshadowed the sinless, perfect life of the Messiah, who would come to lay down His life as God’s ultimate Passover Lamb. In Passover observances after the cessation of the Temple sacrifices, the matzo took on added significance when the rabbis decreed it to be a memorial of the Passover lamb.

Thus, for the Hebrews, the putting away of all leaven symbolized breaking the old cycle of sin and starting out afresh from Egypt to walk as a new nation before the Lord. They did not put away leaven in order to be redeemed. Rather, they put away leaven because they were redeemed. This same principle applies to the redeemed of the Lord of all ages. Salvation is of grace “not the result of actions, [but] to put a stop to all boasting.” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

For Christians, Passover foreshadowed redemption in Christ, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread looked to the life of holiness that should follow—not just for a week, or for a month, but forever. The point is that a life purged of corruption is evidence of a deliverance begun; if that was true in the old covenant, how much more is it true in the new.

via eNews for March 30, 2015.