In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD's Passover."
On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord, a lasting ordinance."
Passover begins on the first full moon in the first month of the year, Nisan. This generally falls in March or April on the Gregorian calendar. At the time of writing, it will begin at sundown on the 22nd April.
It's often know as the Feast of Freedom because it celebrates the exodus from Egypt. Moses was instructed by God to petition Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go free. Pharaoh refused and so began the plagues sent by God to demonstrate his power. The 10th and final plague before Pharaoh was persuaded to let the people go, was the death of the firstborn children in the land.
and every first born in the land shall die."
Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it."
In order to avoid this terrible happening, God's people were told to sacrifice a lamb and smear it's blood over the doorframe or lintel of their dwellings. When the angel of death passed over these marked houses no death would occur. Thereby the faithful, be they Israelite or even Egyptian were protected by the blood of a lamb.
Those who didn't put the lamb's blood on their doorframe were subject to the judgement of this last and terrible plague.
The Hebrew word 'Pesach' means to pass over. The angel of death passed over the houses of those who had put the blood of a lamb on their doorframe thus they were spared from suffering the death of their firstborn.
the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you."
The Jewish people observe this ritual each year as a reminder of their deliverance from the plague that killed the firstborn in each household. The blood of the lamb that was sacrificed was important to the Israelites on the first Passover, it was the symbol on their doorframe that gave them life instead of death.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls.
The significance goes deeper because it was a sign of far greater things to come that would be fulfilled on a future Passover when Yeshua's blood would be shed to bring deliverance from death once and for all.
Practice and Traditions
The lamb that each family sacrificed was to be unblemished. It was set aside on Nisan 10 and checked to ensure it had no defects. During this time prior to it's death the lamb would become known and familiar to the family. It was then no longer just any lamb but "their lamb", set aside for a specific purpose.
On Nisan 14 the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel was to kill their lamb publicly. The blood from the lamb was to be smeared on the door frames of their homes.
The lamb was roasted whole that night, (with none of it's bones broken) and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The meal was to be eaten quickly in readiness for departure from Egypt. God instructed that Passover should be celebrated each year to remember the deliverance from oppression and slavery in Egypt.
The instructions on how this should be done were given to Moses and Aaron, Exodus 12:1-14.
Today the Passover is celebrated with the Seder meal to include a specific symbol:
- The shankbone of a lamb represents the sacrificial lamb.
- The unleavened bread is a reminder of the bread they ate in haste without yeast and the bitter herbs reflect the bitterness of the slavery that they suffered.
- There is also a roasted egg which signifies springtime and renewal, although some cultures suggest that it's interpretation is to show that like the Jewish people the hotter the the situation, the tougher it gets.
- There are four glasses wine, two are consumed during the meal and two at the end.
The items partaken in a prescribed order, each symbolise the deliverance given by God. The meal beings with a blessing over the first glass of wine.
Preparations for Passover are made on Nisan 14 and the Seder meal eaten after sundown which is Nisan 15 because the new day starts at sundown.
Jews celebrate the Passover Seder meal to remember the deliverance from slavery, as Moses led them out of Egypt. Christians and Messianic Jews also remember the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Yeshua/ Jesus and the deliverance from sin.
In Luke 22:17-18, we are told that Yeshua blessed the first cup of wine. This is the Kiddush, meaning sanctification, that begins the ceremony and the reading of the Haggadah.
Then second cup, or the cup of Deliverance or sometimes the cup of plagues signifying the 10 plagues that befell the Egyptians, is drunk and the story of the exodus recited.
The third cup is drunk after the meal. This is the cup of Redemption or sometimes the cup of Blessing. The innocent blood of the lamb brought redemption from the death that would strike all firstborn. This cup also signifies the plan God has to redeem all mankind, not just the Israelites fleeing Egypt.
Yeshua spoke to his disciples about this cup in Luke 22:20, saying: "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."" He was going to pour out His own blood for them and us, later that very day.
The fourth cup is Hallel, which means 'praise' in Hebrew. This refers to the praises in Psalms 115 - 118 which are sung at the conclusion of the ceremony. The disciples sang a hymn at the conclusion of their Passover with Yeshua, Matthew 26:30. This cup is sometimes referred to as the cup of Acceptance.
An interesting tradition of some Passover tables is the inclusion of a fifth cup, which is never drunk from. This cup is called the cup of Elijah, after the great Old Testament prophet. After finishing the Seder meal, it is customary to open the door and see if Elijah indeed will join the Seder meanl. Why is this significant in the Passover celebration?
According to the Scriptures and tradition, it is Elijah who is a messenger of the coming messianic era: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse". - Malachi 4:5-6.
The Passover is immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts for the following seven days when no yeast is to be eaten. Sometimes, the term Passover is used to describe both Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread combined as the latter starts the day after the Passover meal.
On the day of preparation for Passover, Jewish women clean their houses and throw out everything that is leavened, that is everything that contains yeast. There is to be no yeast in the house or even owned for the next seven days. Yeast represents sin. See Galatians 5:9.
As the yeast can work through a batch of dough, so sin can work through a person, church or nation, spreading its affect. When a small amount of yeast is present it affects the whole batch of dough and likewise sin that is overlooked will eventually permeate the whole body.
Messianic and Prophetic Fulfilment
Yeshua spoke these words recorded in John 11:25-26: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die yet shall he shall Iive, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die".
He is reassuring us that when God judges, we will be saved by the blood of the lamb of God if we put our faith in the Messiah.
The blood of the lamb of God, Yeshua, is the blood that will save us from judgement that leads to death. The lamb of God was unblemished as was the passover lamb.
John 1:35-36: "The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!'."
The sacrifice of blood on the alter is no longer practised by Jewish people and the role of blood being the means to redemption and forgiveness today is not recognised in the Passover meal. Its importance in the first Passover is remembered and it is in that part that we see the prophetic sign of the role of Yeshua and His shed blood for our redemption and salvation.
The timing of Yeshua's death is no accident. He is the fulfilment of the Passover through the ultimate shedding of His blood. He tells His disciples: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." - Luke 22:14-15.
As Yeshua entered Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan, (we call it Palm Sunday), He was welcomed with "Hosanna". This is the day on which those celebrating Passover would be selecting their lamb, one without blemish ready to be slaughtered four days later.
While the Passover lambs were each scrutinised for blemishes, Yeshua was examined and interrogated to look for fault with Him. But, in Luke 23:4, we read that Pilate declared: "I find nothing wrong with this man".No blemish on the Lamb of God.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
On the 13th day of Nisan, the Disciples followed the instructions given by Yeshua and prepared a room in the city for the Passover meal. After sundown (now Nisan 14) Yeshua ate the Passover meal with His disciples.
The first cup was blessed by Yeshua and the bread was eaten along with the bitter herbs and the second cup. On taking the third cup, Luke 22:20, Yeshua told his disciples that this represented the new covenant in His blood.
Later in the evening while Yeshua was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He cried out "Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done" - Luke 22:42. Although the cup He refers to isn't a physical cup it is highly significant. A cup of judgement that should be drunk by everyone but, is only partaken by the One who doesn't deserve it, our Saviour. In taking the cup of judgement on our behalf we now receive a cup of blessing.
God gave instructions for the institution of the Passover in Exodus 12. The lamb that was slaughtered for its blood then roasted, was not to have any of it's bones broken, Exodus 12:46.
In the same way Yeshua died without a broken bone. We are told in John 19:33, when the soldiers came to break His legs to bring about death, they found He was already dead and pierced His side instead. They did not break His legs. Hence Yeshua fulfilled the prophecy to the letter.
The celebration of Passover is a blessed remembrance of God's mercy and deliverance. He has completed the redemption with the greatest gift of love.
This feast is of great significance to the Jewish people. It's fulfilment is of great significance to believers in Yeshua. Our prayer must be that when this feast is celebrated those who partake will recognise Yeshua as the sacrificial Lamb and the blessed means of salvation.
Yeshua gave up His life to be a blood sacrifice for the redemption of the sins of all who call upon Him. He is the final enactment of the Passover sacrifice. The beautiful and perfect fulfilment of the Passover.