The Jewish Passover and the Christian

In about 1490 BC God sent Moses back to Egypt from the land of Midian with a plan to free the Jews from Egyptian slavery. God used Moses to announce each plague before He sent it upon Egypt. In all there were ten plagues:
(1) The plague of water turned to blood: Exodus 7:20-25.
(2) The plague of frogs: Exodus 8:1-15.
(3) The plague of lice: Exodus 8:16-19.
(4) The plague of flies: Exodus 8:20-32.
(5) The plague on the cattle: Exodus 9:1-7.
(6) The plague of boils: Exodus 9:8-12.
(7) The plague of hail: Exodus 9:12-35.
(8) The plague of locusts: Exodus 10:1-20.
(9) The plague of darkness: Exodus 10:21-29.
(10) The death of the firstborn in all the land: Exodus 11:4-10.

It was out of the tenth plague that God instituted the Passover. (Exodus 12:1-4).

The Passover is the oldest continuously observed holiday in the entire human race. The Passover has been observed for over 3500 years without interruption. Wherever the Jews were dispersed, they still observed the Passover.

The perpetuation of the Passover can be traced to Exodus 12:25-27; "When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, What does this ceremony mean to you? Then tell them, It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians....."

Passover is observed in the Jewish month of Nisan, which corresponds roughly to our April. However, the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar unlike our solar calendar. So the Passover comes at a different time each spring as far as our calendar is concerned.

Regrettably, in the early centuries of the Church Age, when so-called christendom gave the dates for Easter, they deliberately gave the date for Easter so that it would not correspond with the Jewish feast of Passover. They did not want people to see any association with the Jewish feast of Passover and the Christian Holiday of Easter. The first church council of Nicea in Bithynia was held in 325 AD (Bithynia is in present day Northern Turkey).This council set the standard by which we observe Easter. Its date varies from year to year. The council declared that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. It cannot come before March 22 or after April 25. The result of the first council of Nicea also established or confirmed the true divinity of Christ and the identity of essence between the Son and the Father, plus other doctrinal issues. These were discussed and voted on by the attending bishops because of the many heretical teachings coming from many false teachers at that time. But along with doctrinal issues, they also set the date for Easter. And this procedure for setting the time for Easter lasted for over 1100 years. After the Reformation, Bible believers had varied views concerning Easter. Which we will discuss later. However, we must keep in mind that these two holidays are eternally interlocked.

Why should Christians be interested in a Jewish Holiday?

First of all, only hours before going to the cross Jesus said in Luke 22:15, "With desire I have desired to eat the Passover with you before I suffer." In the Greek that statement is very emphatic. It literally says, "With GREAT desire I have desired to eat the Passover with you before I suffer."

The Passover Lamb had to be perfect, without a spot or a blemish, and Jesus was actually saying that, "With great desire, I desire to eat the Passover before I become the Passover."

When Jesus observed the Passover in the upper room, it would be a reminder that that lamb which had suffered, had by its suffering and dying provided redemption, or freedom for the Jews in Egypt. That suffering lamb had secured redemption by its death, and as proof of the death of the lamb, its blood was collected and placed on the door posts of the homes of all those who were positive and believed the plan of God. All those who believed and did as they were told were saved. And as Jesus anticipated going to Calvary and dying for the sins of the entire world, the observance of the Passover and the realization that that suffering lamb had secured redemption and freedom, reminded Jesus of the redemption and freedom that He would purchase for all mankind as He was offered on the Roman cross.

There is strong historical evidence that because of the large number of people returning to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, the Passover was actually observed on two separate days to accommodate all the people. One day for the out-of towners, and one day for the locals. The consensus is that our Lord observed the Passover the first day, and HE WAS THE PASSOVER on the second day. And even today, the first two days of the Passover week are the most significant to Jews.

The second reason why Christians should be interested in knowing and understanding the Passover is that the apostle Paul (a great Jew of the first century) wrote to the church at Corinth and said in I Corinthians 5:7, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." In other words, "The Messiah our Passover is sacrificed for us."

To truly understand the purpose of the death of Christ, we must understand the purpose of the death of the Passover Lamb in the Old Testament.

Thirdly, it was out of the Jewish Passover that our Lord introduced the Lord's Table, also called the Eucharist or Communion. It is impossible to fully comprehend what God intends for us to comprehend relative to the Lord's Table unless we see it from out of the Jewish Passover from which it was instituted.

Fourthly, if we want to intelligently witness to any Jewish friends, then understanding something of their ritual of the Passover will help. In fact, in witnessing to Jews you must realize that the use of the New Testament should be very limited. In Acts chapter eight, when Philip was witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch, it says that he took the book of Isaiah and "Preached Jesus to him." So anytime you desire to talk to a Jew about Jesus, you should start with the Old Testament.

When the Jews observe the Passover today they read from the HAGGADAH, a book that is the non-legal part of the Talmud (the book of Jewish history and traditions). It describes the redemptive work of God, the plagues on Egypt, His power in delivering them out of Egyptian slavery, and how He opened the door to the promised land and gave them their freedom.

When the Passover is being observed, the head of the home will be seated at one of the ends of the table, and he will have a pillow beside him, and on a number of occasions during the course of the meal he will recline on the pillow beside him, he will place his head on it. REASON: back in Egypt the Jews were slaves, and slaves were not permitted to recline and eat as freemen could in a leasurely way. But at the Passover the Jew is reminded that he had been redeemed, he had been redeemed by the mighty hand of God, he was no longer a slave. So to remind the Jews that they were no longer slaves, the head of the home will place his head on the pillow, and in doing that he is saying, "We are not slaves, we are freemen." It is very possible that this is what was being enacted when a disciple placed his head on the Lord's bosom at the last supper in the upper room in John 13:23.

Before the cross Jesus was called "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (John 1:29). But after the cross He is called "the bread of life," (John 6:35).

It was out of the Jewish Passover that our Lord instituted the Lord's table, known as the Communion or the Eucharist.

Matthew 26:26-30;

(VS 26) And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

And as they were eating - This refers to eating the Passover meal.

Jesus took bread - This is the unleavened bread of the Passover table. This is where the changeover occurs. The bread actually replaces the Passover lamb in this ritual. Before the cross, the lamb was used to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. After the cross the bread is used to represent our Lord.

And blessed it - If you look at this closely, this is different. Here we see a blessing in the middle of a meal. But in reality Jesus is beginning a new meal. Jesus always blessed food at the beginning of a meal (Matt 14:19). And here we see Jesus beginning a new meal. So as they were finishing the old meal (the Passover) Jesus began a new meal. This is a way of announcing a new dispensation or a new era.

And brake it - The breaking of the bread is a picture of Jesus Christ bearing the sins of the world. The breaking of bread is a custom in the middle east that goes back as far as history is recorded, and that custom still exits today. Since bread is the main form of food there, and represents life, it isn't cut with a knife or any other instrument. It is always broken with the hands.

And he gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body - The word "take" comes from the Greek word that means "to take to one's self." And the word "eat" comes from the Greek word meaning "to eat, to consume, to chew and swallow." This word also has the connotation of digestion. To eat, to swallow, and to digest or metabolize food. Eating is analogous to faith.

PRINCIPLE-- All normal people can eat. It is non-meritorious. We don't earn it or deserve it. Good people as well as bad people can eat. So eating becomes a picture of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This command to "take, eat," comes down to us today, and whenever we eat at the Lord's Table we are simply saying, "I have personally believed in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I have placed my faith and trust in Him, and as a child of God, I recognize what He has done for me.

This is my body - Literally, "This represents my body."

For over 1500 years the Jews observed the Passover by the killing and eating of a spotless lamb. But now "The Lamb of God" was provided and died on the altar of a Roman cross. He died for the sins of the entire world. The reality has come, no longer are animal sacrifices necessary. They were only shadows of the reality.

When Jesus said to those Jews who were with Him "Take, eat, this represents my body," He meant that they no longer needed the animal as a symbol, the bread He was serving would become the symbol.

If Christians in the beginning would have interpreted the Lord's Table in the light of the Passover, false doctrines such as "transubstantiation" would have never come into being.

In Exodus chapters 12 & 13 the Lord said that the Passover observance would be a memorial. There was only one real Passover, and every one after that was simply a memorial of the first one.

The unleavned bread became the symbol of the sinless One, the One who died, "the just for the unjust."

(VS 27) And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it.

And he took the cup - In the original Passover they took the blood of the slain lamb and sprinkled it on the sides and on the top of the door. Then after the Exodus and for the next 40 years the Jews didn't have doors because they lived in tents.

So in the second Passover and each year thereafter, they used the cup, and they used wine in the cup. But the wine was unfermented. No leaven was to be used in anything on the Passover table, because leaven spoke of sin. Since leaven was used in fermenting wine, the wine had to be unfermented. Therefore, the cup of wine took the place of the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door post. The cup took on a symbolic meaning referring to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus said to two of His disciples in Matthew 20:22, ".....are you able to drink from the cup that I shall drink from.....?" Then in Matthew 26:39, Jesus said, "...O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

In these two passages, "the cup" referred to a container that was filled with all the sins of the world. While Jesus was on the cross, God the Father took that cup and poured it out on Jesus Christ, and at that time Christ tasted death for every human being. A substitutionary spiritual death. Now our partaking of the cup during the communion service symbolizes Christ drinking of the cup of our sins. By drinking from that cup we are saying that we recognize that Christ took all of our sins to Himself, and paid for them in full by His substitutionary spiritual death on the cross.

Therefore, the cup is used as a synonym for Christ's work on the cross.

And gave thanks - The Greek word is EUCHARISTEO, it means, "to be thankful, to give thanks." This Greek word is where we get our English word EUCHARIST, which is the name of the ritual of the Lord's Table, the Communion, or the Eucharist, which is another name for the Lord's Table or Communion.

And gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it - Note the emphasis on the words "All of it." Jesus Christ drank all of the cup of sins on the cross. There wasn't a single sin that He didn't take and pay for. And commemorating that event, we are to drink "all" of the cup.

(VS 28) For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.

For this is my blood - Literally, "For this represents My blood." In other words, the wine in the cup is used to represent the blood of Christ, and the blood of Christ simply refers to His work on the cross.

The Greek word HAIMA, translated "blood" in the New Testament is a technical word which refers to our Lord's substitutionary spiritual death on the cross, NOT HIS PHYSICAL DEATH.

Of the New Testament - Literally, "Of the New Covenant." Jeremiah 31:31, had promised that there would be a New Covenant.

Which is shed for many - In other words, this NEW COVENANT will go beyond the boundries of the Jew to include the entire world.

For the remission of sins - Literally, "For the forgiveness of sins." The Lamb of God would be the great sin bearer.

(VS 29) But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. In this verse we see the prophecy of the kingdom.

But I say unto you - Jesus is talking here.

I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine - The phrase "Fruit of vine" is another name for unfermented wine.

Until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom - He is saying, "I will not drink this fruit of the vine, I will not observe this Passover or Communion feast until I can do it in the Millennium."

He came to His own, and His own received Him not. He came to the Jews as their promised Messiah, but they rejected Him. And in their rejection of Him He was unable to establish the kingdom of God on earth. So He is saying here, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again, while I am here now, but I will drink it when I have come back a second time, and have established the kingdom of God on the earth.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

hymn - The Greek word HUMNEO means, "to sing praise." And the praise hymn of the Passover was called the HALLEL. This included Psalm chapters 115-118. The HALLEL was always used in the Passover, and also the feast of unleavened bread.

Psalm 118:22-24;

(VS 22) The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

The stone - This refers to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Which the builders - This refers to Israel.

Refused - This actually means "rejection" and refers to negative volition on the part the Jews.

Is become the head stone of the corner - The word for "head" is the Hebrew word meaning "to shake." But it is used to refer to the "head" (which is the most easily shaken). This word can be translated "captain, chief, ruler, top or head."

Stone - Not in the Hebrew text.

Head of the corner - Means "pinnacle, the top, a corner (because lower towers or pinnacles were erected on the corners of the wall). This word is used metaphorically to refer to the "prince or chief, the one who is over all."

Literally, "The stone (the Messiah) which the builders (Israel) rejected, has become the chief prince."

(VS 23) This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. In other words, this was the divine plan.

(VS 24) This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. In the upper room the Lord was observing the Passover before He became the Passover. This was only hours before His death on Calvary. He understood all the implications, and was fully aware of the suffering that would be His because of the separation from His Father for the first time (because the sins of the entire world would be placed on Him). He understood the physical agony that would be His when He would be crucified. It was concerning THAT DAY only hours away that He could sing in absolute triumph, "This is the day (a specific day) that the Lord has made." In other words, Jesus was saying, "I am here in the active will and plan and program of My heavenly Father."

"For this cause I came into the world."

Matthew 20:28; -- "I have not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to GIVE MY LIFE a ransom for many."

Jesus Christ came to die, that was His purpose, and only hours before His death He said, "This is the day that the Lord has made." This is an amazing statement regarding Calvary. ".....Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Because He totally understood that through His death, burial and resurrection, He would redeem a segment of humanity who would trust Him as Savior, He could "rejoice and be glad."

Calvary was not a defeat. It was a glorious triumph. Therefore, He sang, "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."

This tells us of absolute victory. Nothing was out of control and nothing ever will be. The Lord was in charge, and He possesses the power and the authority to always be in control of everything.

So when you watch the news on TV or read the news in the paper, don't panic, just take a deep breath af relief and relax and say, "I sure am glad that the Lord is in control."

Therefore, by interpretation, Psalm 118:24 actually refers to the day of Christ's crucifixion. But by application we can use it today, and every day. "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."

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Copyright 2000 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.