In the Book of Exodus, the Bible tells us that God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release the Hebrews from their slavery, with the tenth plague being the killing of all the firstborn. This meant that everyone from the Pharaoh’s son to the firstborn of a captive in prison would be affected.
That is, of course, unless they listened to God’s instructions and trusted in Him. God had the Hebrews mark the doorposts and lintels of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the Spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, and they would be spared, hence the term “passover”.
Passover is actually a week long festival, with the Passover being the first day. The entire seven day period is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. It is called this because when Pharaoh eventually freed the Hebrews, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration of that happening, for the duration of Passover Festival, no leavened bread is eaten, and that is why matza (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.
When Jesus met with His disciples for The Last Supper, this was part of a Passover celebration. There are many similarities between the two, the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.
To see how the Passover reveals the Messiah, let’s first look at the Old Testament verse where the Passover is instituted, in:
The Passover Instituted
1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.
4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.
8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire– its head with its legs and its entrails.
10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.
11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.
12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
Three verses are key in this passage. Verse 5 is saying that the lamb they would choose had to be perfect. The smallest deformity or the tiniest defect would make a lamb unfit for sacrifice. This is what the Messiah had to be like, the perfect sacrifice. In verse 7, though the Israelites were sinners as well as the Egyptians, God was pleased to accept the substitution of an unblemished lamb as their sacrifice– the blood of which, being seen sprinkled on the doorposts, brought them mercy when the Spirit passed over them. By sprinkling the blood of a perfect lamb on their doorposts and lintels, it showed that they trusted what God said to do for them to be saved. In verse 13, for any home to be spared the judgment on the firstborn, they had to apply the blood just as God said they should do it. The blood of the lamb was essential to what God required, and they had to do exactly what God said must be done with the lamb and with the blood in order for them to be saved. Basically, they had to follow what God required. Just as it is with us, we are called to trust in the only provision that God has made for us to be saved.
That’s how the Passover was instituted thousands of years ago. And it’s been celebrated every year since.
Let’s now look at the New Testament verse where the Lord’s Supper was instituted two thousand years ago, in:
I Corinthians 11v23-26
Institution of the Lord’s Supper
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
What Jesus was doing here was having those who believe in Him to have something tangible they could do that would help them remember His sacrifice for them, and to do so until He returns. This was also a promise that He would return, and is a symbolic message for us that we believe He will return.
In Old Testament times, a variety of different things had to be sacrificed throughout the year. Because of that, the old sacrifices brought sin continually to remembrance, it was always being brought into the minds of the people what they had to do, and the sacrifices had to be done year after year after year, as none of the sacrifices were perfect sacrifices. They were never intended to be.
But the Lord’s Supper brings to remembrance not what we must do, but what Christ and His sacrifice did once for all, for the full and final remission of sins. No further sacrifices would have to be made any longer, Jesus had paid the price in full.
Both the Passover Seder and the Lord’s Supper are memorials. The Jews, and even Christians today who celebrate the Passover, they remember the liberation of God’s people from slavery and bondage. And in the Lord’s Supper, Christians remember their liberation from sin and death and Hell provided by Jesus. Both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper depend on the shedding of blood, and trusting in the provision that God had made.
These two institutions were designed for God’s people. The Passover centers around the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed and its blood put on the lintels and doorposts as a sign of faith, so that when the Spirit passed over the houses of His people during that last plague, they would be passed over, and they would be saved. In that Old Testament foreshadowing, the Paschal or Passover lamb was sacrificed to save God’s people. The New Testament tells us that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. And it is His sacrifice that saves His people.
In taking a look at the final week of Jesus’ life, we can see how the Passover reveals Jesus as the Messiah even more.
At the beginning of the Passover week, Jesus came into Jerusalem five days before He was to be sacrificed. Likewise, for the Passover, the unblemished lamb was chosen five days before it was to be sacrificed. Jesus entered Jerusalem on “lamb selection day” as the true Lamb of God.
During the Last Supper, which was part of a Passover seder, Jesus proclaimed that the meal represented Himself, and that He was now instituting the New Covenant, which was foretold hundreds and hundreds of years beforehand by Old Testament Prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. This remembrance celebration became the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
At the end of the meal at the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and said that it represented His body. Then He took the cup of wine, and said it represented the new covenant in His blood, poured out for us as the price for securing our redemption. At the Passover Seder, there is a cup of wine that is drunk that is called “The Cup of Redemption”.
Good Friday was the same day as the Passover celebration, and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years at the Passover feast, and on that Good Friday as well, the Temple priest would blow the shofar, the ram’s horn, at 3 o’clock, which was the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice made on their behalf for their sins.
On Good Friday at 3 o’clock, as Jesus was being crucified, in His last words on the Cross, He cried out, “It is finished”, and at that very same moment, the lamb for Passover was sacrificed. At that very moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple tore from top to bottom. And the blowing of the shofar would have been sounded as well, for all to hear.
All of this represented a removal of the separation between God and Man…
But the similarities don’t stop there at Christ’s death. God was working in not only these historical events, but He was working in the way they were to be celebrated.
Here are two of the interesting and symbolic elements shared by the Passover and the Atonement:
The Passover lamb was to be a “male without defect,” the same requirement of Jesus. He was the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice to end all need for further sacrifice.
During a Passover feast, when the lamb is roasted and eaten, none of its bones are to be broken. This was also prophesied for the Messiah, whose bones were not broken when He was sacrificed.
So, what’s the explanation for all these seeming coincidences?
Well, the only explanation is that all of these events, starting with the Passover and ending 1,200 years later with the Crucifixion, is that it was all orchestrated and attended to by an almighty God. Only a sovereign God could superintend such things. What this shows us is that God is in complete control. So when Jesus was betrayed, when He was taken prisoner, when He went before Pontius Pilate, it may have seemed that He was a man who was powerless, that His fate was beyond His control.
But that was hardly the case. He was in complete control. And it is only His love for us and His obedience to the Father that kept Him going to the Cross. by Alex Carmichael http://carm.org/alex-carmichael