FRC Blog » How Christ transforms the Passover
Today begins the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread, better known as Passover. For Christians, today is observed as Good Friday, a less visible counterpart to the Resurrection Sunday that follows. However, while Christians do not celebrate Passover, the main feast of the Old Covenant is rich with the symbolism of Christ. Otherwise, why would Paul, “a Hebrew among the Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), proclaim: “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7)?
To understand the meaning of the Passover for Christians, let’s go back to Exodus 12, where God ordained the first Passover. In nine plagues, God devastated Egypt, showing his power over the pharaoh and all the idols of the nation, but the Israelites were still in bondage. God had promised that a tenth and final plague would kill all the firstborn in Egypt and force Pharaoh to finally let them go. To prepare for the tenth plague and the exodus, God instructed the people to observe the Passover feast, a strange setting for a feast. They were to “eat it in haste” (Ex. 12:11), ready to begin their journey at any time. They were to eat unleavened bread and even remove all leaven from their homes (Ex. 12:15). And they were to kill a year-old lamb to eat it and sprinkle its blood on their door frames (Ex 12:6-8).
The order to sprinkle the blood of a lamb may seem strange at first, but it was not without purpose. God explained: “The blood will be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall overtake you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13). When the angel of God saw the blood, he literally passed over these Israelite houses, sparing them from judgment. They had to stay inside all night (Ex. 12:22), so that the bloodstained door literally stood between them and death. It was an act of obedience and faith; they defiled their gates not because the blood had magical properties, but because God had commanded it. They had to believe the word of God that he would pass over houses sprinkled with blood.
Significantly, the sign of the blood was for the people of Israel, not for God. God knows everything, including the hearts that trust him. He needs no physical symbol to guide him. No, this sign visibly represented to the people the distinction that God made between those who believed and obeyed him, and those who did not. The form of this sign was the blood of a sacrificial lamb.
The blood also served to teach the people of Israel that God did not spare them because of their inherent goodness. Abraham had asked God, “Do you really want to sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23). The answer to the rhetorical question is, of course, no, because “God is a just judge” (Ps. 7:11). If the Israelites were righteous, they would not have needed blood to protect themselves from God’s judgment.
In fact, “none is righteous, none is righteous” (Rom. 3:10). We too are guilty of sin against a holy God. We, like the Israelites, need forgiveness, and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). So, like them, we need the blood of another to stand between us and the righteous wrath of God. The Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches (because we are naturally inclined to deny) that we are powerless to atone for our own sins.
But there is good news! “God will provide a lamb,” Abraham said (Gen. 22:8) – and God provided a lamb, both for Abraham (Gen. 22:13-14) and for us. God sent John the Baptist to testify of his Lamb. When John saw Jesus, he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
The inspired writers of the Bible leave no doubt about how Jesus resembles the paschal lamb. Just as the blood of a “blemless” lamb (Ex. 12:5) stood between the Israelites and death, so Christians are “redeemed…by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish.” blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus was crucified on the “day of preparation for Passover” (Jn 19:14), the very day the paschal lamb was killed. Even Jesus’ silence before his accusers (Mat 26:63, 27:14) fulfilled the type of the paschal lamb, as Isaiah prophesied, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before those who shear it, so he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). This is the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was studying when the Holy Spirit providentially guided Philip to his char, where we read: “Beginning with this scripture, he declared to him the good news of Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Jesus’ gentleness, his perfection and even the day of his death prove that he is truly ‘Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’.
Jesus typed the Passover lamb in his death (Matthew 5:17), but before he died he transformed the Passover into something new. At his last supper with his disciples, which was a Passover meal (Lk 22:15), Jesus “took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. . Do this in memory of me. So also he took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Just as the Passover served as a perpetual memorial of God delivering his people from Egypt (Ex. 12:14,17), so the Lord’s Supper is a perpetual remembrance for Christians of Jesus Christ delivering us from sin.
Thus, for Christians, the Lord’s Supper replaced Passover; the substance replaced the symbol; reality has replaced the shadow (Heb. 10:1). Jesus abolished the annual calendar of sacrifices when he “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (Heb. 10:12). Through God’s deliverance, the people of Israel left their slavery in Egypt and sojourned in the desert en route to the promised land of rest. Through Christ’s deliverance, God’s people now leave their bondage to sin (Romans 6:18) and live in the world as strangers (1 Peter 2:11) until they come to rest. end promised by God (Heb. 4:6-10).
This is our hope: to see our precious Lord Jesus with uncorrupted eyes, and rejoice in his glorious presence for all eternity. There he is in heaven, “a Lamb standing as if he had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). Although a Lamb, he is also “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the offspring of David,” who “overcame” (Rev. 5:5). Our hope in him is sure, without any shade of hesitation. He will be victorious over all his enemies. As Paul reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?
How does seeing Christ at the Passover apply to the daily life of a Christian? You may remember that one of the features of the Passover meal was to take the leaven out of the house and eat unleavened bread. The reason Moses gives for this instruction is the urgency of their exodus, “because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait” (Ex. 12:39). To this, Paul adds another, enduring reason:
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be new mass, for you are truly unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, was sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
In the context of the passage, Paul criticizes the Corinthian church for tolerating incestuous adultery in the church and not expelling the unrepentant sinner. Now that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we belong to him and must be holy like him. “Old leaven” is our old sinful passions and habits, which can operate throughout our lives, spoiling our testimonies. Throwing away the old leaven represents a clean break from our old nature and living for God alone. Citing Levitical law, Paul exhorts the Corinthian congregation to “drive out evil from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13). And also purge the evil from your heart.
Christ is dead. Christ is risen. Christ will return. Christ rose from the dead as the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20), God’s guarantee that those who trust in him will also be raised when Christ returns and live with him forever. Because it is certain, we must all consider this question: is there anything in your life that you would be ashamed to do in the presence of a holy God? Now is the time to repent. Those who harden their hearts (like Pharaoh) will weep when Christ returns. Those who repent now will rejoice when Christ returns. Risen Lord Jesus, come quickly!