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Celebrate Easter or Passover?
"Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how Adonai freed you from it with a mighty hand…." Exodus 13:3
As Christians we look forward to and celebrate Easter every year as the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead and victory over sin and death. His sacrifice on the cross is what brought us freedom from bondage and release from captivity. That captivity and bondage is our slavery to sin and death apart from Jesus. Jesus broke the chains that bind us. His light and truth release us from darkness.
So, what was Passover and why was it celebrated? Passover was the festival that God instituted in order to commemorate the Israelite's deliverance by the hand of God from Pharoah (the taskmaster) and Egypt (the land of slavery). The literal circumstances of the Israelites foreshadowed and paved the way for the spiritual freedom that was brought by Jesus. It is no strange coincidence that the Passover was celebrated by Jesus Himself the very evening before His crucifixion. Jesus told His disciples that very night that He IS the passover lamb who was going to die in order to provide freedom from slavery. In Jewish tradition the day begins at sundown the evening before and continues to sundown the next day. Passover was the very day that Jesus gave His life for us. It began the evening prior when He sat with His disciples in an upper room and broke bread, saying, "Take and eat, this is my body," and passed the cup of wine, saying, "this is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."1 Jesus was proclaiming the ultimate fulfillment that His death and resurrection would bring to the feast of Passover. Sometimes, for Christians Jesus' use of language here, drinking blood and eating the body, sounds foreign and we wonder why He would use this imagery. For Jews, however, it served to fulfill all that had been revealed by God to them as His chosen people up to that point. They knew that this very night of Passover was when a lamb was slaughtered in order for them to be saved and delivered from Egypt. Jesus was explaining that He is the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. The purpose of every animal sacrifice made to God under the law was solely to be a pointer to and indicator of the Messiah, Jesus.
Jesus' death was the final, culminating focus of every Passover that had been celebrated up until that point. On the very first Passover the Jews were instructed to take a lamb on the tenth day of the first month, a year old male without defect, take care of it for four days, slaughter it on the 14th day, and paint the blood over the top and sides of the doorframe. It was by this blood that the Jews were protected and "passed over by death" from the plague sent upon the firstborn of Egypt. This plague was the last and final plague that led to the release from captivity of the Israelites by Pharoah.
Like the Passover lamb, Christ was one man, without defect (the only one in human history to be spotless and blameless) who was killed and whose blood provided victory over death and freedom from slavery to the enemy, the devil, the taskmaster. So, Exodus 13:3 above can be read in a new light when we view it through God's ultimate plan of redemption. To "Egypt" (the literal land of Israel's slavery) we add "sin and death" (which we are spiritually enslaved to) and to "the house of bondage" (where Pharoah kept the Jews in slavery) we add the "devil" or "enemy" our spiritual captor and taskmaster until we choose Jesus as Lord:
"Remember this day, on which you went free from [sin and death], the house of bondage [the enemy or devil], how Adonai freed you from it with a mighty hand…."
As Christians, this brings a fuller meaning to the cross of Christ and to the Word of God as a whole. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." His life, death, resurrection and second coming are (or, in the case of the Second Coming will one day be) the direct fulfillment of every feast instituted by God in the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets.) Why wouldn't we celebrate the fulfillment of God's plan?
1. Matthew 26:26-29
Other Excellent Resources on Understanding Passover and the Other Festivals
- The First Spring Festivals of the Lord - PASSOVER - UNLEAVENED BREAD and FIRSTFRUITS
There are more Christians gaining a better understanding of Old Testament origins and reconnecting with their Hebrew roots, as well as more people of the Jewish faith identifying with a "messianic" system of belief and doctrine. These things are of c
- Easter vs. Passover
A great comparative resource for anyone who desires to understand the history of both Easter and Passover.