By J. Oliver Jones.
You are strongly encouraged to read Exodus 12:1-36 as an introduction to this article!
For most Christians the term “Passover” has little meaning, and almost no significance. Most know that it was a festival that the Jews celebrated in Bible times. Some might recall that it was during the week of Passover that Jesus was crucified. A few have read how it began on the night of the tenth plague in Egypt when God sent the angel of death to claim the first born of every living creature that was not protected by the blood of the sacrificed lamb. Everyone who took God at His word had followed the command for each household to sacrifice a lamb, and to smear the blood on the entrance to the home. When the angel of death saw the blood, he would “pass over” that dwelling and spare the first born. It is difficult, however, to find non-Jewish Christians who understand the significance of this event as it relates to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
God gave instructions to Moses and Aaron concerning the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Moses is to tell all the congregation of Israel that on the 10th day of the month Nisan every household is to choose a young male lamb without spot or blemish, and separate it for four days, until the fourteenth day of Nisan. On the evening of the 14th day, the lamb is to be sacrificed (a lamb for each household), and the blood of the lamb is to be placed on the doorposts of the house:
For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).
They are also told how they are to prepare and eat the flesh of the lamb, and that none of it shall be left till the morning:
They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste–it is the Lord’s Passover (Ex 12:8-11).
This is all to be done that Israel not be judged with the plague and judgment that is to befall Egypt. God gave specific instructions to Israel in regard to both the blood (spiritual) and the flesh (physical) of the sacrifice. The result of obedience to the command of God concerning the Passover lamb: The applied blood protected against the judgment and wrath of God; the eaten flesh brought health and strength to all of Israel as we are told in Psalm 105:37, “…and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” Thus all of Israel received strength for the journey that God had called them to make.
It is apparent that God placed great importance on this event, the symbolic meaning of this event, and the remembrance of this event for all generations to follow, not just Israel. “This day shall be unto you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever” (Ex 12:14). God knew that one day the perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish, would come and offer his body and blood for the redemption of man. God wanted the people to know and understand the symbols instituted on this night so when the Messiah came, they would know and understand His role as the Passover Lamb.
Let us move forward now to the time of Jesus and examine the Scriptures concerning the Passion Week of Christ. We have already stated that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb. There really is no dispute from any Christian source as to this claim, although most do not understand its real significance. Nevertheless, let us document this with Scripture:
1) John the Baptist proclamation, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world“ (John 1:29).
2) Peter the Apostle declared, “But with the precious blood of Messiah, as a lamb without blemish and without spot“ (I Peter 1:19).
3) John the Apostle in the Revelation refers to Christ 25 times as the “Lamb”, including these verses, “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…” (Rev. 5:6a). “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” (Rev. 7: 9). “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship Him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world“ (Rev. 13:8).
4) Paul writing to the Church at Corinth, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us“ (I Cor. 5:7).
Jesus is the fulfillment of the type of the Passover Lamb. As such, He presented Himself to the priests at the Temple on Sunday, Nisan 10 and went there daily for the four days of observation. His Last Supper with the disciples occurred on Wednesday evening after sunset (which was in Jewish time the beginning of the day of Passover). After supper, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. He prayed there three times, and sometime early in the morning, before sunrise Thursday, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. Jesus was then taken before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate who sent Him to Herod, who in turn sent Him back to Pilate. After finding no fault with Him, Pilate gave in to the cries of the people to crucify Him. Jesus was whipped, beaten, and forced to carry His cross to the place of the crucifixion, where at 9:00 am (the third hour Hebrew time, Mark 15:25) He was nailed to the cross and placed between two thieves. At the temple, at 9:00 a.m., the High Priest led the Passover Lamb up the steps to the altar and tied it there. At noon (the sixth hour, Mark 15:33-34) darkness fell upon the face of the earth, and lasted until the ninth hour, or 3:00 p.m. This is seen as the time Jesus became our sin, and the Father turned away form the Son. At 3:00 p.m., “knowing that all things were accomplished” (John 19:28), Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” According to Jewish tradition, at the temple, at 3:00 p.m., the High Priest would sacrifice the Passover lamb, and declare to the congregation, “It is finished.”
Joseph of Arimathea sought Pilate for the body of Jesus, and it was hurriedly prepared for burial, as the day of preparation was almost over, and the Sabbath day approached. However, this was not the regular weekly Sabbath, but as John 19:31 declares, this was a High Sabbath, the Sabbath that occurs on Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day following Pasover. Passover was called the day of preparation of the sacrifice, which was to be eaten after sundown, the beginning of the High Sabbath. On this week, there would be two consecutive Sabbath days, the annual High Sabbath on Friday, and the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. Jesus lay in the tomb through these two Sabbaths, and the women waited for the first day of the week to arrive so they could go and anoint the body. But when they arrived, Jesus was not there. He had been in the grave for three nights, and had risen on the third day (on the Feast of First Fruits), just as He had said. He had fulfilled the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41). All things that had been written of Him, and all things He had declared of Himself, had come to pass…completely, literally, perfectly! Jesus would appear several times to his disciples before his ascension to the Father forty days later. Before He ascended, He told them to go and wait for the promise of the Spirit who would come. Ten days later, on the Feast of Weeks, (i.e. Pentecost), the Holy Spirit came, and the Church, the Bride of Christ was born.
There are yet three “Feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:4) to be fulfilled, called the Fall Feasts. All seven of God’s feasts tell one part of God’s plan for the redemption of man. The four spring feasts have been fulfilled literally:
- Feast of Passover – Christ’s death
- Feast of Unleavened bread – Christ’s removal of sin
- Feast of First Fruits – Christ’s Resurrection
- Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) – Coming of the Holy Spirit and Birth of the Church
The three remaining feasts, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles are yet to be fulfilled. But my guess is they will be as literally fulfilled as the first four. Just possibly the Rapture (Trumpets), Second Coming (Atonement), and the Millennial Kingdom (Tabernacles) might have some part in their fulfillment, but that remains to be seen. But without question, God’s ways are always pure, perfect, and precise. Jesus was and is our Passover Lamb. By the grace of God, Jesus’ blood, when applied by faith to our lives, protects us from God’s wrath against sin. Likewise by the grace of God, His body, when we properly discern and partake of it in faith, provides strength for the journey to which God has called us. Praise God for His marvelous provision!
For more detailed information on Jesus as our Passover Lamb and the events of His final week, read the author’s booklet titled, Christ and the Passion Week, available through LOLM.