Passover: A Time of Remembrance that points to the Gospel

The time of Passover is a reminder of God’s goodness and that He saved the Israelites from Egypt. It is no coincidence that it is also the same time of the year that Jesus died and was raised almost 2000 years ago, thereby offering salvation to the world as the Passover Lamb. God expected the Israelites to celebrate the Passover every year. Before Jesus died, He told us how we should remember Him and His death…through the Lord’s Supper, which we are later told to do each first day of the week when we assemble. May we always remember God is good and Jesus saved us: each day, each week, and also each year, whether on a day of remembrance or just a typical day.

The Passover was established after God saved the Israelites from the Egyptians. Pharaoh would not relent and allow for the Israelites to leave to worship God and so God sent the plagues. I’m sure most are familiar with the story. Pharoah continued to refuse, despite nine devastating plagues on the people and the land (Exodus 5-11). Sadly, Pharoah remained stubborn and God sent the final plague. It wasn’t until the death of all the first born of Egypt that he finally relented. The tenth plague would kill every first born in all the land (Exodus 12).

God provided a means for the Israelites to be spared from this awful plague. The Israelites didn’t have any power over death or ability to save themselves from the angel of death by their own strength. They only had the ability to respond in obedience to God’s offer of protection. To be saved from the death that was coming they had to sacrifice a lamb and use the blood to mark the doorpost of their home (Exodus 12:7,12-13). Anyone without the mark, who didn’t follow God’s instructions would be subject to the wrath of God. Even an Israelite, one of God’s special people, who chose not to respond would not be safe.

From the time of the beautiful rescue from Egypt, God established the Passover as a time of remembrance.

“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to theLord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” Exodus 12:14

God laid out how they should celebrate this time in a very specific way…an unblemished lamb, special bread without leaven (yeast) for 7 days, a removal of all leaven from the home, a feast of unleavened bread, etc.

After that time, the Israelites had a long history of falling away and returning to God. When King Josiah began his reign at 8 years old (BC 640), the people had forgotten about God. Josiah turned the people back to God and began to restore the temple. While repairing it, they found the book of the Law (think long scrolls). King Josiah had the law read to the people and they repented and reinstituted the Passover for the first time in years (2 Kings 22 -23).

Many years later, Christ entered Jerusalem to celebrate the week of the Passover as all Israelites were instructed to do. During a meal leading up to the Passover celebration, Jesus foretold His coming death, though most of it was not understood by His disciples at the time. That night, Jesus explained many things to them about the importance of what was about to happen and how Jesus wanted them to live. He washed his disciple’s feet to show them that He expected them to love and serve one another. And He performed what is now called the Lord’s Supper, explaining that the bread represented His body and the wine represented His blood, which would be given for them by His death. He told them to have this ritual to remember Him and His death, all before it ever occurred (Luke 22).

Then He died, was buried and raised from the dead. The Jewish leaders insisted his body be removed prior to the special Passover Sabbath. The resurrection occurred on Sunday. Just the 24 hours of Jesus’s death and burial alone fulfill 25 different prophecies recorded over 500+ years, not to mention several more about Jesus’s life and position (Messianic Prophecies about Jesus’s Death, Burial and Resurrection).

So let’s walk through some of the connections between the remembrance of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

The Passover was instituted to remember that God saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Through Christ’s death, we are no longer slaves either…to sin. Paul speaks about this in Romans: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18

Just like the Israelites who couldn’t have escaped the coming death by their own power, we could never have saved ourselves! We do not have power over the death that we will all face one day. We all sin and could never be perfect or good (Mark 10:18, Romans 3:23 and Hebrews 10:14). We needed Jesus to be saved from our slavery to sin. So Jesus, through His death and resurrection, conquered death and sin (Hebrews 2:14). He invites us to join Him and offers to intercede to make us clean (Hebrews 7:25-28).

In order to mark your doorposts and be spared from the tenth plague, the Israelites had to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and Jesus’s sacrifice is described in the same way… “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” 1 Peter 1:19. And in 1 Corinthians, Jesus is called the “Passover lamb” (5:7).

But understanding the connection with the mark that will spare you goes further than that. The Bible tells of other times when people are marked. In Ezekiel 9, God says to mark and spare those who mourn all the horrible things happening in Jerusalem before it was destroyed in the time of captivity. Then again in Revelation 13 -14, people are given either the mark of the beast or have “his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (14:1). In all cases, God’s mark indicates those who are spared but the last one is a picture of eternal judgement, not life on this earth. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In order to have God’s mark in Heaven, we need to believe and obey Jesus.

In order to be spared during the Passover, the Israelites had to respond in obedience to God’s instructions. Likewise, we must consider whether we will respond in obedience to God’s call for us to be spared. God is calling (Ephesians 4:1-6 and others). 1 Peter 3:21 discusses baptism and salvation as an answer of a good conscience. What will our answer be?

2 Thessalonians discusses the coming judgement this way,

“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-8

Our response in this case is not as clear cut as a marked doorpost. It is much harder than an outward sign and requires us to be all in. Will we repent when we fall short? Will we grow in grace and knowledge? Will we turn to God to direct our paths? Will we diligently seek him until the end? Though the Bible explains God’s expectations, only one person truly knows if these things are true…you. We are the only ones that know our hearts.

Remember the command for unleavened bread during the Passover? Exodus 12:19 says “If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land.” In the New Testament, we have the connection made clear in 1 Corinthians.

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:7

We must seek to remove the leaven from our hearts, because even a little leaven causes all the bread to rise (paraphrase of Gal 5:7-9). For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We must obey in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We must write the law on our hearts (Romans 2:15). And we are the only ones who know our hearts before God.

Have we forgotten God’s law like the Israelites in the time of King Josiah? Though we may have a Bible in our home, are we acting like we have forgotten what we are called to do and never opening it or studying it? Are we changing our life in response to what we read in God’s word?

On that final judgement day, Jesus will look for His mark, by assessing our inward character and heart (Proverbs 21:2) for God, our obedience and our devotion to God. God never expects us to be perfect, but rather that we rely on the Perfect One. He knew we were powerless to save ourselves and by grace, through faith He made the way of salvation for us before He even made us (Ephesians 2:8).

God established a plan of redemption for all people before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Passover and all the specific rituals God instructed were intentional and signified a future fulfillment. As with many of the rituals, laws and commands of the Old Testament, they were instituted to teach and remind us (Rom 15:4), but also to be fulfilled in the New Covenant that Christ ushered in. In Luke’s recording of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus explains that the sealing of the New Covenant is with his blood when he passes the wine (Luke 22:20). After his resurrection before he ascended, Jesus himself said, ” all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44b). All of these are pieces to the puzzle of God’s plan, described as a mystery, that is now revealed and complete in Jesus.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:7-10

The Israelites were expected to celebrate the Passover each year as a reminder of God’s goodness and His rescue. Jesus asks us to remember His death by taking the Lord’s supper. After the Holy Spirit is sent to the Apostles, they gave further instruction. We are told to have the Lord’s supper (break bread) on the first day of the week when we assemble (Acts 20:7). We use bread without leaven because of the importance of the symbolism during our remembrance. The first day of the week is Sunday, the same day as Jesus’s resurrection, which is also why Christians do not worship on the Sabbath (Saturday).

Consider how important God must feel it is to remember Christ’s death if He said remember it every week instead of every year as most of the rituals God prescribed to the Israelites in the past. The earlier times of remembrance were pointing to Jesus and His coming. Now that He has come, we have a more important remembrance and we can see the significance by the increased frequency we are told to partake of it. Jesus death, burial and resurrection is the Gospel (Good News!). It is the center of the Christian belief.

Jesus washed his disciples feet that same night. He taught us to be servants and to serve others. There is no timeline established for us regarding being a servant and loving one another. It is another aspect of our obedience to God that we are to do all the time.

Do you see the beauty in God’s plan shining through…throughout history and throughout the entire story of the Bible? And there’s more…so many more. But we will save those for another day.

I pray we see the beauty of God’s plan to save us through Christ and we seek to take time for remembrance.

Its a wonderful thing to remember Christ’s death each year. I personally found it hard to keep my focus on remembrance this year, since staying-at-home leaves lots of time for distraction.

It’s also important that we seek to obey Jesus’s command to remember Him through the Lord’s supper regularly. But remembering Jesus’s death is about more than a day on the calendar or even 52 days on the calendar. It’s about how we live our lives EVERY DAY.

It’s even more important that we remember why Jesus died and how we are called to live every single day of our lives granted to us on this earth. Jesus offers salvation to us all through His death! And all He asks of us is summed up by Jesus himself in His answer:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

The greatest way we show our love is to keep His commandments by obeying from the heart! Won’t we show Him and others our love every day in response?! Today, just as much as the celebration of the resurrection yesterday.

If you would like to know more about how to “obey the gospel” (2 Thess 1:7-8), please reach out to us to walk through God’s scriptures on the topic.

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