The Children of Israel knew bondage. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God heard the cry of Jacob’s descendents. He sent a (somewhat unwilling) deliverer; Moses. And then He motivated Pharaoh to let His people go, through traumatic and brutal plagues. The Passover, a single event that coincided with that final, brutal plague, was expected by the Israelites. They knew it was coming, and each family prepared, according to very detailed and specific instructions.
Finally, the night came. Each family gathered in their homes, and the final act, before closing the door, was to cover the top and sides with the blood of a spotless lamb.It was a defining moment. This single event changed history, forever. From those blood-stained doors, closed by slaves, emerged a new nation; the nation of Israel. The traditions of this holy day are sacred. Every word, each item has special significance. Even Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, celebrated Passover. And, according to tradition, the order of service He would have followed is much like what is practiced through out the world today. Time does not permit a detailed review of the symbols and traditions. But two points are worth highlighting. The Passover seder is the foundation of the Christian tradition of Communion; it was the “Last Supper.” When Jesus took the bread, it may well have been the Yachutz. He said “This is my body, broken for you.” The word “afikomen” is the only Greek word in the otherwise Hebrew seder. It’s meaning is unclear, but the message Jesus gave was clear enough – He was sacrificing Himself for our sake, and He wanted people to remember. The other part of the Passover Seder that has been adopted by Christians in the Communion service is the cup. Jesus took a cup, after supper (which is significant), and said, “This cup is the new covenant, in my blood.” 1 Corinthians 11:25 ESV The cup that Jesus took is the third cup in the Passover service; the Cup of Redemption. And when Jesus took that cup, He was proclaiming Himself the Redeemer…our Redeemer.
So, why should 21st century American Christians care about a Jewish celebration commemorating an event that happened over three thousand years ago? For those of us who were not born Jewish, the preciousness is laid out most clearly in Ephesians 2:11 and 12. We are, or were separated from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in this world.
According to Romans 3:23, we are all sinners. We have fallen, and continue to fall, short of God’s standard. According to Romans 3:10-12, none of us are righteous, none of us seek after God on our own, and none of us does good on our own. According to Romans 3:20, we can’t be justified by keeping God’s (or any other) law.
Romans 6:23 says that we have all earned death (or eternal separation from God); we can’t be justified by keeping God’s Law. We can’t be justified by keeping any other law, either. We can not meet God’s righteous standard. We just can’t.
And, because of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, we don’t have to. According to Ephesians 2:13-14, and 18-19, those who have received Jesus’ free gift of salvation have been brought new, we have peace through Jesus Christ, the dividing wall has been broken down, I have access to God through Jesus, and even better, I am no longer a stranger or an alien (outsider), but I am a fellow citizen and a member of God’s household. I am still not “Jewish.” But I have been adopted by a very old, and well established Jewish family.
So, why do I care about this millennia-old observance of an ancient event? Because it has completely transformed my life. Jesus, as my Passover, paid the penalty for my sin. The grave is empty…the cross is, too. And the blood of the ultimate Passover Lamb holds the promise of truly knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3). What could be better than that?