Passover: Origin, Practices and Christian Significance

The Israelites were in bondage to Egypt for over 400 years. There came a time when God finally raised up a man to deliver them. Through this man, Moses, God brought plagues on Egypt to incentivize Pharaoh to free the Israelites. 9 plagues of the worst kinds were not enough to completely convince Pharaoh to release his captives. 

This is when the 10thand final plague was issued against Egypt. God decreed that He would go from one home to the next across Egypt and have the destroyer kill every first born male. In Exodus 12:12 God says that by doing this He was executing judgements on all the gods of Egypt. But He prescribed a way in which the Israelites could cause the destroyer to “pass over” their homes without killing their sons. 

This entailed killing a male lamb, a year old and without blemish, one for each household. The lamb was to be killed at twilight on the 14thday of what was now the first month for the Israelites. They were instructed to sprinkle blood from the lamb on their door posts and on the lintel of their houses. This blood from the lamb was to be the sign God was looking for in order to “pass over” their homes without harm. They were also instructed to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 

The judgements came on the night God said they would. From the least to the greatest, everyone’s firstborn male and the firstborn male of even their livestock died in all of Egypt with the exception of Israel. These judgements were enough to cause Pharaoh, even that very night, to release the Jews. And the Jews got the Egyptians to hand over silver and gold before they left, thus plundering the Egyptians.

Throughout the Old Testament the Passover was observed by Israel in remembrance of this mighty move of God.

                                     Jewish Passover Today (In A Nutshell)

Today, Jews all over the world are beginning the celebration of Passover. It starts at sundown April 19th2019 and ends at nightfall April 27th2019. Before it begins, they do a thorough cleaning of their home, removing all chametz—which is leavened food—from their homes. The first two nights are spent indulging in the feast of seder. Those two days and the last two days are set apart and no work is allowed. The rest of Passover time, restricted work is allowed. 

In the feast of seder, they have very specific foods and rituals. Matzo is the unleavened bread. They have bitter herbs that symbolize the bitter time Israel spent in the desert during Exodus. They have Charoset which is a mixture of nuts, fruit and wine. This symbolizes the mortar the Jews used while enslaved in Egypt. They dip vegetables in saltwater to remember the tears the Jews shed in Egypt. Instead of sacrificing a lamb, they have a lamb shank-bone at the feast which symbolizes this rite. This only covers some of the main foods they use. It varies from family to family according to their traditions. 

The Exodus story is always told during the seder meal. The youngest child reads off the four questions that are asked and answered at every seder feast. Another ritual is searching for the afikomen. Three pieces of matzo are stacked on the table. The middle one is broken in two. The largest of the two pieces is the afikomen. It is wrapped and hidden by an adult early in the evening. Later, the children will search for it and the finder receives a prize. 

They also have a tradition of opening the door for Elijah which they get out of one of their books called Haggadah. Dayenu is a song many sing that celebrates God’s blessings during the Exodus.   

                                   Fulfillment Of The Passover 

As a Christian, I recognize that what happened in Egypt and what has been observed by Jews throughout the ages, were types and shadows of what Jesus fulfilled through the time of Passover by His crucifixion and resurrection. 

He is the Lamb without blemish. He was sacrificed and gave His blood to cause the destroyer—death—to pass over us. The sentence of spiritual death which was passed onus has now passed overus if we receive the life that comes from the resurrection of Jesus. Before we receive resurrection life, we need to die to our own flesh and be washed in the life-giving blood of Jesus. The life is in the blood and Jesus gave us blood that does not die. There is nothing corrupt in His blood which could lead to death—it cannotdie.  

Jesus also instructed us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. We do this symbolically when we have communion. It also is a fulfillment of the symbol given to Israel in Egypt when they roasted and ate the lamb they sacrificed. 

So this Passover, let’s eat of the Lamb and be full of Him. Let’s drink deeply of the blood and be refreshed. And let’s honor God through Jesus for all He has done for us and made available for us. We don’t deserve any of it, but we receive it by grace through faith.

Sources:

History.com

Chabad.org

pjlibrary.com

Exodus 12

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