The Passover Festival

The Passover Festival or celebration is central to a biblical understanding of who Jesus was and what He did. The Passover originated when God passed over the land of Egypt and took the life of “every firstborn male in the land” (Ex. 11:5). In order to escape this final judgment on Egypt, each Hebrew household was to sacrifice an unblemished animal from “either the sheep or the goats” (Ex. 12:5). The animal was then to be eaten and a portion of the animal’s blood was to be “put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they eat them” (Ex. 12:7).

Trusting in the Blood

By placing the blood over the entrance to their homes, the people were symbolizing their trust in the blood of the sacrifice. It was this final “plague” on Egypt that convinced Pharaoh to let the people of God leave Egypt. The Passover event, therefore, became the defining act of God that secured their freedom from slavery. This event and the associated celebration was to become an annual festival and would mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year (Ex. 12:2).

The Passover observance actually began on the 10th day of their month with the selection of the sacrificial animal (Ex. 12:3). It was then killed and eaten on the 14th day (Ex. 12:6). The Passover Festival was arguably the most important festival celebrated in the Jewish annual calendar. It commemorated their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and was an annual reminder of God’s great saving power.

Jesus Is the Lamb of God

Jesus deliberately chose to be crucified during the Passover observance. What we call the “Last Supper” (or “Lord’s Supper”) that Jesus shared with His disciples was the Passover meal being observed by all of the Jews that same evening. Thousands of Jews would come to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Passover. John 12:12-13 tells us “the next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet Him.” The “festival” to which the large crowds had come was the Passover Festival. This New Testament event is what we now call Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. This happened on the Sunday before His crucifixion. We remember this day as “Palm Sunday.”

By choosing to be crucified during the Passover, Jesus was identifying Himself as the final Passover sacrifice. Just as the early Hebrews were to trust in the blood of the first sacrificial animal, so we are now to trust in the blood of the final sacrifice of Jesus. And, just as those early Hebrews consumed the sacrificial animal and claimed its saving power, so God’s people today observe the sacrifice of Jesus symbolically by partaking in the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The Passover and Easter

When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized, he declared, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul referred to Jesus as “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7). The Easter season is when most Christians observe the New Testament “Passover” today. When Jesus died on the cross, He was the final Passover lamb who was sacrificed for our sins. Now we trust in His blood to bring us salvation and celebrate that sacrifice that occurred on Good Friday.

Rick Edwards
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher

See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.

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