Friday, April 3rd, will mark two significant events in biblical history. Passover and Good Friday. Passover commemorates the events of Exodus 12 and Good Friday remembers the death of Jesus Christ. We will join together as a congregation on Friday to remember the passion of Jesus Christ who died in order to pay the ransom for our sin. Yet, the question arises, “Why don’t we celebrate Passover as Christians?”
First, we need to understand the meaning of Passover. God made a covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 that promised that all the nations of the world would be blessed through one of his descendants. Miraculously, the man who was nearly a centenarian had a son and was blessed with innumerable descendants. However, subsequent generations found themselves held in the bondage of slavery to their Egyptian masters. Yet, God remembered his promise to Abraham and commanded Moses to instruct Pharaoh to allow the people freedom to worship. However, despite nine epic plagues, Pharaoh's hard heart refused to obey the command of the Lord. The final plague was the angel of death passing throughout Egypt, killing the firstborn of every family as judgement for refusing to obey the command of Yahweh. However, God in his grace provided a way for the Hebrew people to avoid the judgement of death upon their families. A lamb would be slain and its blood spread on the doorposts and lintels. When the angel came to the house he saw the blood of the lamb and death ‘passed over’ the inhabitants of the home. The feast of Passover became a permanent reminder of the work that God wrought on behalf of Israel.
Second, as Christians, we must remember the Old Testament sacrifices and ceremonies serve as picture or a shadow of the things to come (Hebrews 10:1). Ultimately, on the first Passover God provided a lamb to die in the place of His people, as He did previously for Abraham (Gen 22) and on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). In the passover we see the significance of God providing a means to preserve the life of His people while bringing wrath upon those who refused to follow His commands. Consequently, Jesus takes the Passover meal and infuses it with a new significance as the symbol of the New Covenant (Jer 31; Luke 22:20). The bread symbolizes His body and the wine (or juice for us Baptists) His blood. Jesus takes the shadow that was the Passover celebration and reveals the substance to which it points to: Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’ who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:36). So in essence we are continuing the festival of Passover in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Just as the sacrifices of the Old Testament were a shadows of the ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus tells us that the Passover is not simply a meal to remember the deliverance of the Hebrews from bondage of Egypt but now has transformed it into a communion meal to remember His body & blood that were slain to deliver His people (Jew & Gentile) from the bondage of sin. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are celebrating Jesus as the lamb that was slain at Calvary so that the wrath of God would ‘passover’ all who were ‘in Christ’ (Rev 5:12).
Finally, Jesus did not abolish the sacrifices and festivals but fulfilled the purpose of them so that they were no longer necessary (Matt 5:17). They were pointing to the one who would come. Now that Christ has arrived; their purpose has been fulfilled and their practice is no longer necessary. It is as if a bride came to her wedding and refused to go to the ceremony because she was too busy reading her groom’s love letters. She no longer needs the love letters because her groom is present. The bride joyfully lays the letters aside in order to be in the presence of her beloved. The letters were valued because they were reflections of the love of her distant groom but now that he has arrived they pale in comparison to his presence. In the same way, the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament have accomplished their purpose of pointing people toward Christ. As Christians, we follow the instruction of Jesus Christ to remember the sacrifice of the ultimate Passover lamb that was slain so that we would not taste death but be delivered unto everlasting life. One day we will arrive in the rest of the Promised Land of Christ’s eternal kingdom (Hebrews 4:11-16). As Christians, we can appreciate the richness of the historical & theological significance of the Passover but we must never forget to what it is pointing; the death of Christ for the sins of the world (1 Timothy 1:15). He is the ultimate passover lamb that we celebrate.
Soli Deo Gloria