Passover is the celebration of God’s faithfulness, his rescue, and his power of evil. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s faithfulness, he is the embodiment of God’s rescue, and he is the Victor over the forces of evil in our lives and this world. Celebrate the Passover Lamb…
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
13 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.
26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 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.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
Exodus 12:5-7, 13, 26-27
Nestled in the middle of the Apostle Paul’s comments to the Corinthian church about dealing with immorality is this reference to Jesus as the Passover lamb. Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. The context there is more about the festival of unleavened bread than Jesus being the Passover Lamb.
However, there are actually very few references to Jesus as the Lamb of God in the New Testament. Most of them are in the book of Revelation, which was written close to the end of the first century based on John’s vision during his exile on the island of Patmos.
Why the Lamb of God? Why the Passover Lamb? Israel as a people was not waiting upon a lamb to come to be sacrificed. Their ideas and description of Messiah are more powerful than a humble lamb.
When the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt at the time of Moses, God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand the release of God’s people. Because of Pharaoh’s hard heart and defiance, God issued ten plagues against Egypt, with the tenth being the death of all first-born in the land.
God instructed the Israelites to eat a lamb meal (the Passover meal) and to use the blood of the lamb to mark their doorposts. When the death angel came, he would overlook any home which was covered by the blood of the lamb. The angel would pass over those homes, sparing them from death.
When we think about Jesus as the Lamb of God, the image of the Passover Lamb must be part of our understanding, based on Paul’s words here. The meaning of Passover, however, doesn’t line up perfectly with the sacrificial death of Christ for us. When Jesus ate the Passover meal (the Last Supper) with his disciples, we see him institute the service of Communion, in which he took bread and wine and connected them symbolically with his body and blood. His body was given for us and his blood the sign of a new covenant between God and humanity.
He did not take meat of the lamb and proclaim, ‘This is my body.’ No, he took bread. The bread and wine looked forward to his sacrifice on the cross. The elements were powerful and symbolic, yet also accessible to everyone on the planet. There is some form of bread and the juice of fruit in every community on earth.
Jesus the Passover Lamb is the symbol of the same thing for which the ceremony of Passover was to Israel. Passover is the celebration of God’s faithfulness, his rescue, and his power of evil. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s faithfulness, he is the embodiment of God’s rescue, and he is the Victor over the forces of evil in our lives and this world.
“Then the people bowed down and worshiped.” Indeed. Bow down to the Passover Lamb: Jesus.