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New Testament meaning of the Passover
What is Passover?
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Jewish Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, and is celebrated for seven days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.
The Passover Story
In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plaques upon the Egyptians. During the 10th and worst plaque, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb and, upon seeing this, the death angel would pass over their homes, hence the name of the holiday. ( Exodus 12:11-13)
The Passover Meal
The Passover feast included the meat of the sacrificed lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and wine. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread was eaten, for which reason it is called, "The Festival of the Unleavened Bread.”
The Meaning of Passover
Everything in the New Covenant is the fulfillment of some aspect of the Old. Jesus dying on the cross is the fulfillment of the Jewish sacrificial Passover Lamb. It was during the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before the crucifixion (which was the Passover meal – see Matthew 26:17) that Jesus instituted what is known as “the Lord’s Supper.” Most churches today do not actually practice the Lord’s Supper as it was instituted by Jesus in the context of the Jewish Passover (a full meal) but have replaced it with a more formal ceremony that we call “communion.” Whatever our particular persuasion regarding the practice of this ordinance, when we drink the cup and eat the bread we remember three things:
1. Jesus Himself became the sacrificial Passover Lamb, slain for the sins of the world
2. The cup represents the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of sin
3. The bread represents His body broken for us, for our healing and restoration.
The Passover Easter Relationship
The new Testament teaches that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith. Easter is linked to the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt through the Last Supper and crucifixion that preceded the resurrection. According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death in the upper room during the Last Supper. He identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed.
The Spiritual significance of Jesus as the Passover Lamb
1 Corinthians 5:7 states that Christ is our Passover lamb, and was sacrificed for us. It is likely that Jesus, as the Passover lamb, was being crucified at roughly the same time as the Passover lambs were being slain in the temple.
The Passover lamb had to be without blemish. Before it could be was slain, it had first to be examined and approved by the temple priests. It was examined for four days, from the tenth day of the first month to the fourteenth day of the first month, after which it was offered. I don’t know all the details of what was involved in examining the lamb, but you can be sure if it took 4 days it was a pretty stringent examination. The spiritual significance of this, is that Jesus – as our Passover Lamb – was examined on our behalf, and we don’t have to undergo that stringent examination. There is a passage of scripture (1Corinthians 11) which makes reference to a man examining himself during the Lord’s Supper to see if he is worthy. But this is often misapplied and removed from the context in which it was given. (Refer to the notes on "Breaking Bread & The Lords Supper" associated with a communion song I wrote that relates to this issue.)
God has provided for Himself a Lamb for the sacrifice, and that Lamb has been examined and approved. We do not need to examine ourselves, we are not about to be sacrificed. In the Old Testament when a sinner came to worship he brought an animal without blemish to be examined by the priest. The priest did not examine the sinner, he examined the sacrificial animal. If the sacrifice was without blemish, both the offering and the sinner were accepted. In the New Testament God does not examine us, He has already examined Jesus and found Him to be a perfect substitute for our examination. That is why we are “accepted in the Beloved!” We are not the lamb, neither are we the priest examining the lamb. God is the only judge and He has already pronounced judgement on His own Son who took our place. For more about this erroneous teaching on “Let a man examine himself” go here … Breaking Bread & Lords Supper.
God announced His approval of His Son for sacrifice in Matthew 3:17, "And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." It is interesting that at the same time that God announced His approval, the Holy Spirit was upon Jesus. This simply fulfils the Old Testament type that the sacrifice must be examined, approved and sealed. God accepted Christ as the perfect sacrifice, and that approval was followed by the seal of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, sealing Him as the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of man.
John 6:27, "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed."
As believers, not only are we “accepted in the Beloved” because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, but we have the same seal of God’s approval as Jesus Himself received.
Ephesians 1:13 "In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise."
Romans 12:1 says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
No one can offer themselves as a living sacrifice until they have first become inspected and examined. This examination is done after the believer has put on Christ and become the righteousness of God in Him. He then immediately receives the seal of God’s approval, which is the Holy Spirit. Now that the believer has been examined and declared righteous, he is fit for sacrifice and service, and God will accept this living sacrifice as holy and acceptable.
Communion Songs – “Present yourself a glorious church”
Breaking bread & the Lord’s Supper – What it really means to examine yourself
The Passover Lamb – The spiritual significance of the Jewish Passover story