JESUS AS OUR PASSOVER
By Tom Moore
On that stormy Tuesday of controversy, before the Lord was crucified the following Friday, Jesus asked some of His antagonists: “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” (Mat. 22:42). The Lord’s adversaries on this day were unable to satisfactorily answer the question for they did not understand the true nature of Jesus and His work. There are many today who are still unable to answer this question adequately. For this reason no greater study can one be involved in than that of Jesus, the Son of God, the one who came and gave His life on the cross for all mankind. It is important to understand that the more we know Jesus, the more we will love Him and remain faithful to Him.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the apostle Paul declared, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are leavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” What does Paul mean when he says that Christ is our Passover? To help us better understand how Christ is our Passover, we need to begin by going back and studying the Passover Feast that began while Israel was in bondage in Egypt.
THE PASSOVER FEAST
You will remember that “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exo. 1:8), and being fearful of Israel because of their great number, he had God’s people placed into bondage. Over time Israel began to cry unto God because of their suffering (Exo. 2:23), and God hearing their cry, sent Moses to free His people (Exo. 3:9-10). Pharaoh was not willing to free God’s people, so God sent plagues upon Egypt. Each time a plague came upon Egypt, Pharaoh would harden his heart and refuse to let Israel go. In Genesis 11 we read, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether” (Exo. 11:1). This final plague would be the death of “all the firstborn in the land Egypt” (Exo. 11:5). The reason for this was that Israel would know that “the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exo. 11:7).
The death of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt would be upon the children of Israel as well, if they did not follow the instructions of the Lord. In Exodus 12 the Lord institutes the Passover. The primary purpose of this feast was to commemorate the Lord’s “passing over” (Exo. 12:13) the houses of the Israelites as He “passed through” (Exo. 12:12) the land of Egypt to slay the firstborn in every house (Exo. 12:11-12). The month when the Passover Feast occurred became thereafter the first month of the Israelites’ religious year (“Abib” – Exo. 34:18; and later called “Nisan” – Esther 3:7). This was by design because the Passover was the occasion of Israel’s liberation from Egypt, it started a new era in Israel’s history.
On the tenth day of the month (Exo. 12:3), each household was to chose a yearling lamb or kid without blemish (Exo. 12:5), and it was to be set apart from the rest of the flock until the fourteenth day of the month, on which it was to be killed (Exo. 12:6). The choosing of the Passover lamb ahead of time seemed to serve several purposes. First of all, this advance selecting directed the minds of the people to the coming feast, and thus, would become a topic of discussion and reflection. This visible presence of the lamb would also encourage the people to do the necessary jobs in preparation for the coming Passover Feast. But most importantly, it depicted the fact that Jesus our Passover Lamb was chosen and foreordained to be our sacrifice long before He died on the cruel cross of Calvary. Peter declared, “But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:19-20). Without a doubt, our Lord’s sacrifice was foreknown before the foundation of the world.
Before the lamb was to be eaten, its blood was to be sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop on the lintel and door-posts of the house. This was the divinely appointed sign that would cause the Lord to “pass over” that house, when He “passed through” the land to destroy the Egyptians (Exo. 12;13). Each family was to select a lamb to be sacrificed, and thus, many lambs would be sacrificed. It is interesting to note that throughout Exodus 12 the lamb is referred to in the singular (not lambs). This seems to be no accident, but it was God’s way of helping His people to look to the one true passover Lamb, Jesus Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7).
The people, who were forbidden to go out doors until morning, were to eat the lamb, roasted and not boiled, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exo. 12:8). The bones were not to be broken (Exo. 12:46), but they were to consumed by fire in the morning, along with any of the meat that was not eaten (Exo. 12:10). The people were to eat in haste, and be equipped for their coming journey (Exo. 12:11). For seven days after the feast they were to eat only unleavened bread, and were to have no leaven in the house. A violation of this would bring the death penalty.
THE PASSOVER FEAST IS A TYPE OF CHRIST
As one looks back over the Passover Feast and compares it to Christ as our Passover, we note some remarkable parallels:
(1) The Passover in Egypt was the start of a new year (Exo. 12:2), and Christ as our Passover is the start of new life for those in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
(2) In the Passover in Egypt each family, led by the father, kept the feast (Exo. 12:3), and in Christ as our Passover each person and family keeps “the feast” (1 Cor. 5:8).
(3) In the Passover in Egypt an unblemished lamb was used (Exo. 12:5), and Christ as our Passover, the lamb of God (John 1:29) was without sin (Heb. 4:14-15).
(4) In the Passover in Egypt a lamb was pre-selected (Exo. 12:3), and Christ as our Passover was foreknown (1 Pet. 1:19-20).
(5) In the Passover in Egypt a lamb was slain (Exo. 12:6, 21), and Christ as our Passover was slain (Rev. 5:6; 13:8).
(6) In the Passover in Egypt not a bone of the sacrifice was broken (Exo. 12:46; Num. 9:12), and Christ as our Passover had not one bone broken (John 19:33, 36).
(7) In the Passover in Egypt the blood was applied to the doors (Ex. 12:7, 22), and the blood of Christ, our Passover, was sprinkled upon our hearts (1 Pet. 1:2; Heb. 12:24).
(8) In the Passover in Egypt a lamb was eaten (Exo. 12:8-10), and we must spiritually partake of Christ our Passover (John 6:53).
(9) In the Passover in Egypt Israel had to be ready to leave (Exo. 12:11), and in Christ as our Passover we must be ready to obey (Tit. 3:1).
(10) In the Passover in Egypt all the firstborn died, except those under the blood (Exo. 12:12-13, 29), and in Christ as our Passover none under His blood perish (Heb. 9:22; Rom. 5:9).
(11) In the Passover in Egypt leaven was to be removed (Exo. 12:15, 19-20), and in Christ as our Passover we are to purge out the old leaven (1 Cor. 5:8).
(12) In the Passover in Egypt the holy convocation was to be kept (Exo. 12:16), and in Christ as our Passover we are not to forsake the assembling of the saints (Heb. 10:25).
(13) In the Passover in Egypt there was deliverance from bondage (Exo. 12:30-33), and in Christ as our Passover there is deliverance from sin (Heb. 2:14-15).
(14) The Passover in Egypt was made available to those circumcised (Exo. 12:43-48), and Christ as our Passover is made available to those who are baptized and are of the spiritual circumcision (Col. 2:11-13).
(15) In the Passover in Egypt the children of Israel were to speak always of the Passover (Exo. 12:24-27; 13:8-9), and in Christ as our Passover we are to always speak of our hope (1Pet. 3:15).
Thus, we see very clearly that the Passover in Egypt is a type of Christ, our Passover. Could there be a more meaningful and beautiful betrayal of our Lord?
THE BLOOD OF THE PASSOVER AND THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Outside the homes of God’s people there was nothing but darkness and death. The death of the countless number of the firstborns of the Egyptian families and their cattle was a deserved judgment for their rejection of God and His wishes. The blood that was on the doors of the Israelites was evidence of the divine favor, love and protection that God would reveal to them. While there was sorrow, fear, and death on the outside, inside there was the experience of joy and protection, because of the blood of the passover lamb. The words, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exo. 12:13), are glorious words. This blood that was on the lintel and on the two side post outside the door of the house represented a God-required sacrifice. This blood had to be shed and applied for their salvation to be possible. Without the blood of this sacrificial lamb the families in Israel had no hope, they would perish as the Egyptians’ firstborn.
This Passover in Egypt is a type of what the blood of Jesus our Passover provides for us today. It is imperative that we realize there is no substitute for blood, for the Hebrew writer declares, “and almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). This is one of the great unchanging, immutable principles of divine truth, that “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Jesus said, “that this is the blood of the new covenant which he shed for many for [unto] the remission of sins” (Mat. 26:28). Then Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for [unto] the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul declared that in Christ “we have redemption through his blood” (Eph. 1:7). John wrote that Jesus has “loosed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). Again, Paul said, “being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9). Peter announced, “knowing that you were redeemed not with corruptible seed, with silver and gold from your vain manner of life, handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood as a lamb without blemish, and without spot, even the blood of Christ, who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake” (1 Pet. 1:18-20). It is through the blood of Christ our Passover that our sins are forgiven, it is through His blood that we are reconciled, and it is through His blood that we are redeemed.
Just as the blood of the sacrificial lamb had to be applied to the doors in the Passover in Egypt for there to be salvation, so today must the blood of Jesus be applied for there to be remission of sins. The simple shedding of blood is not enough, it must be applied properly. Just as the door post and lintel had to come in contact with the blood to save those in the house in Egypt, so today we must come in contact with the blood of Jesus in our earthen vessel to be saved. But how is this done? We know that Christ’s blood was shed at his death (John 19:34), thus we must come to Christ’s death to be able to come in contact with His blood. Paul tells us how we do this, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). It is in baptism that we come in contact with the blood of Jesus that will wash away our sins. If we refuse to apply the blood, come in contact with it in baptism, we cannot be saved!
THE EATING OF THE PASSOVER SACRIFICE
The children of God in the Passover in Egypt ate the sacrificed lamb which was roasted entire (not cut up), not boiled. Perhaps the significance of the lamb’s being roasted entire lay in the fact that Christ sacrificed Himself entirely, body and soul for all of us. The Israelites were to eat of the Passover in haste, and as they ate of the supper they were to be packed-up, clothed, and ready for travel, even though the hour was late. There were to be no leftovers, for the leftover fragments were to be burned. The instructions about the Passover were made forcibly by God’s declaration “it is the Lord’s passover” (Exo. 12:11). As Israel was to partake of the Passover lamb for their salvation, so are we today to partake of Christ our Passover that we might also have salvation. Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Who eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56). Here our Lord symbolically teaches us that through His sacrifice, as our Passover, He has given us the ability to live spiritually. Those who partake of Christ have life. This, I believe, does not have reference to the Lord’s Supper as many believe, for the context will not allow it. The context (John 6:27-51) has to do with the fact that salvation comes only in receiving Jesus as the Messiah (“the bread of life”), and this thought is set forth in various figures of food and drink. We eat of Jesus or partake of Him in the sense that we digest Him thoroughly through His words. Both Ezekiel (Eze. 2:10-3:3) and John (Rev. 10:9-11) ate rolls (books) symbolizing the digestion of the message they were to preach. For us to be like Jesus, and for us to have eternal life, we must partake of the life of Christ, we must thoroughly eat up and digest the words of Christ as our Passover. As the Israelites found life in the eating of the flesh of the Passover lamb, so we find life in partaking of Christ as our Passover. The Lamb of God, our Passover, has been slain; therefore, “let us keep the feast” (1 Cor. 5:8), let us partake of the feast of Christ!
LEAVEN AND THE PASSOVER
In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul declared, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” This figure of cleaning out the old leaven is taken from the Jewish Passover Feast, in which all leaven or anything leavened would be removed from the house. Paul says as the Jews removed the leaven from the homes, so must we remove the old leaven from our earthen vessels, and the purpose is that we may “be a new lump.” Paul is telling these Christians in Corinth that they were to be a “new” (“neos” – did not exist before, completely new; as opposed to “kainos” – a thing different from the old). They were to be “new” in a sense in which they had not before been. Thus, their character, their way of life, was to be completely new, they were to start entirely fresh. These Christians should have already done this, for Paul said “ye are unleavened.” To “be unleavened” is the Christian’s essential characteristic, for in becoming a Christian he is born again, he is a new creature (John 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:17). Paul is reminding the Corinthians of what they really are as Christians, namely “unleavened.” It would be altogether abnormal for such people to allow “the old leaven” to work again among them.
Paul then tells the Corinthians the greatest possible motive or reason for staying unleavened, which is “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” As the lamb was slain in the Jewish Passover, so Jesus our Passover was slain. Paul’s point is that when the Passover lamb was slain the Passover Feast began, and what a contradiction it would be for leaven to still be in homes of the Jews. If such a thing would be frightful in the case of the Jews who slew and ate only lambs which were merely types, how much worse is it for Christians who have a divine Lamb, the antitype, slain once for the deliverance of the world, to have the old leaven still among them?
After the Passover lamb was slain the feast could begin. Christ our Passover has been slain (1 Cor. 5:7), thus Paul says “let us keep the feast” (1 Cor. 5:8). The feast that we are to keep as a result of the Passover Lamb embraces the entire Christian life. But the feast is not to be kept with the “old leaven,” that is, anything that belongs to the worldly spirit. Paul says things such as “malice and wickedness” is leaven that must be removed and kept that way. But instead the feast should be kept with “the unleaven bread of sincerity and truth.” In other words there was to be no mixture of the leaven of worldliness in the Christian’s Passover Feast of life. The pure and unleavened cake that Christians are to feast on in their life consists of “sincerity and truth.”
It is so important for God’s people to be concerned with living their lives in “sincerity and truth.” Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Christians must examine themselves to see if they are partaking of the “feast” without the “leaven” of worldliness. This is accomplished by examining our lives to see if we are “sincere,” or pure, in our efforts to please God. Do we really want to please God regardless of the cost? Are we willing to remove any “leaven” from our lives that we might partake of the “feast” acceptably? Are we willing to “lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus” our Passover? Paul declared, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have had our conversation [behaved ourselves – ASV] in the world, and more abundantly toward you-ward” (2 Cor. 1:12). Can this be said of us? Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
Our “feast” in this life must also be according to truth. The apostle Paul declared, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). Since God’s word is truth (John 17:17), and it is truth that should direct our lives (John 8:32), we must realize that we cannot partake of the “feast” acceptably unless we do so in accordance with the word of God. The Passover Feast of the Jews would not have been acceptable unless it was done in accordance with God’s will. The same holds true today. Since Jesus our Passover Lamb is slain, the feast has begun, thus let us observe the feast without the “leaven” of worldliness, liberalism, and apathy.
The question, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” is much easier to answer when we come to understand the meaningful description of our Lord as our Passover. In the words of an unknown poet:
Under an eastern sky.
Amid a rabble cry,
A man went forth to die for me,
Thorn-crowned his blessed head,
Blood-stained his every tread,
Cross-laden on he sped for me,
Thus wert thou made all mine,
Lord, make me holy thine,
Give grace and strength divine for me.
Beloved, Christ our Passover has grace and strength to provide for all of us. Purging and pardon can be ours to enjoy. But these blessings come only through our Passover, removing the leaven, and partaking in the feast.