Passover SederPhoto: Tom Le Goff / Getty Images
And though as Christians we may not commemorate these holidays in the traditional biblical sense, as we discover the significance of each, we will certainly gain a greater knowledge of God’s Word, an improved understanding of the Bible, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as recorded in the book of Exodus. On Passover, Jews also celebrate the birth of the Jewish nation after being freed by God from captivity. Today, the Jewish people not only remember an historic event on Passover, but also celebrate in a broad sense, their freedom as Jews.
The Hebrew word Pesach means “to pass over.” During Passover Jews take part in a meal known as the Seder, which incorporates the retelling of the story of Exodus and God’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt.
Each participant of the Passover Seder experiences in a personal way, a national celebration of freedom through God’s intervention and deliverance. Hag HaMatzah or the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Yom HaBikkurimor Firstfruits are both mentioned in Leviticus 23 as separate feasts, however, today Jews celebrate all three feasts as part of the eight-day Passover holiday.
Today, Passover begins on day 15 of the Hebrew month of Nissan (March or April) and continues for 8 days. Originally, Passover began at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nissan (Leviticus 23:5), and then the next day, day 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin and continue for seven days (Leviticus 23:6).
• See Bible Feasts Calendar for the actual dates of Passover.
Joseph, son of Jacob, after being sold into slavery in Egypt, was kept by God and greatly blessed. Eventually he was put into a high position—second-in-command to Pharaoh. In time, Joseph moved his entire family to Egypt and protected them there.
400 years later, the Israelites had grown into a people numbering 2 million. There were so many Jews in Egypt that the new Pharaoh was afraid of their power. To maintain control, he turned them into slaves, oppressing them with harsh labor and ruthless treatment.
Yet, through a man named Moses (great, great grandson of Jacob), God came to rescue his people.
At the time Moses was born, Pharaoh had ordered the death of all Hebrew males, but God spared Moses when his mother hid him in a basket along the banks of the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby and decided to raise him as her own.
Later Moses fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian for cruelly beating one of his own people. There God appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush and said, “I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cries, I care about their suffering, and I have come to rescue them. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10, paraphrased)
After making some excuses, Moses finally obeyed God and confronted Pharaoh. But when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, God sent a series of plagues to persuade him. With the final plague God promised to strike dead every first-born son in Egypt at midnight on the 15th day of the month of Nissan.
But to Moses, the Lord provided instructions so his people would be spared. Each Hebrew family was to take a Passover lamb, slaughter it, and place some of the blood on the door frames of their homes. When the destroyer passed over Egypt, he would not enter the homes covered by the blood of the Passover lamb.
These and other instructions became part of a lasting ordinance from God for the observance of the Passover Feast, so that the generations to come would always remember God’s great deliverance.
At midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, and that very night Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Up! Leave my people. Go.” They left in haste and God led them toward the Red Sea. After a few days Pharaoh changed his mind, and decided to send his army in pursuit. When the Egyptian army reached them at the banks of the Red Sea, the Hebrew people were afraid and cried out to God.
In Luke 22, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his apostles saying, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16, NLT) Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover. He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed to set us free from bondage to sin. (John 1:29; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) His blood covers and protects us, and his body was broken to free us from eternal death. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
In the Jewish tradition a hymn of praise known as the Hallel is sung during the Passover Seder. In it is Psalm 118:22, speaking of the Messiah: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (NIV) Jesus said in Matthew 21:42, one week before his death, that he himself was the stone the builders rejected.
As God commanded the Israelites to always commemorate his great deliverance through the Passover meal, we Christians were instructed by Christ as well, to continually remember his sacrifice through The Lord’s Supper or Communion.
More Facts About Passover
- Jews drink four cups of wine at the Seder. The third cup is called the cup of redemption, the same cup of wine taken during the Last Supper.
- The bread of the Last Supper is the Afikomen of Passover, or the middle Matzah which is pulled out and broken in two. Half is wrapped in white linen and hidden. The children search for the unleavened bread in the white linen. Whoever finds it brings it back to be redeemed for a price. The other half of the bread is eaten, ending the meal.
- Learn how to prepare the Passover Seder Plate.
- Check out these online guides for implementing a Christian Seder:
Passover in the Bible
- Passover in the Old Testament: Exodus 12; Numbers 9: 1-14; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16: 1-6; Joshua 5:10; 2 Kings 23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 30:1-5, 35:1-19; Ezra 6:19-22; Ezekiel 45:21-24.
- Passover in the New Testament: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 2, 22; John 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19; Acts 12:4; 1 Corinthians 5:7.
By Mary Fairchild.