The story of Passover

Those of us who believe Jesus is the Messiah find Passover an exciting holiday to celebrate, joining in with our Biblical heritage to observe the feast Jesus held with his disciples just before his death. It’s the night he broke bread and shared wine with them, telling them to remember it as his body and blood. This year the festival falls from March 27 to sundown April 4. As messianic believers, we have a Seder meal during Holy Week, which adds rich meaning and context to our Resurrection Day celebration.

Passover has been observed by the Jews since the eve of their release from Egypt almost 3,500 years ago. This special festival commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egyptian bondage and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land. In an amazing story, God uses Moses to convince the powerful Pharaoh to release the people of Israel, an entire nation enslaved to Egypt.

As Pharaoh’s heart remained hard against Moses’s appeals, God gave nine signs (plagues) to the Egyptians to demonstrate his power. God gave Pharaoh nine chances to turn away from his pride and change his mind. Through blood, frogs, lice, boils, livestock disease, flies, hail, locusts and darkness, Pharaoh was still unrelenting. God gave a tenth and final plague.

On that night, the people of Israel were commanded to take a lamb without defect, slaughter it, and smear its blood over the door and on the doorposts of their homes. They were to eat it roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. God told them to eat it hurriedly, with shoes on their feet and their staff in their hand, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. As the final plague of death swept the land that night, Pharaoh released God’s people to go free.

It’s a prodigious picture of our own release as believers from the bondage of sin and death. When the disciples gathered with Jesus for the Passover, he told them, “I have really wanted so much to celebrate this Seder with you before I die! For I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16 CJB) Jesus fulfilled the meaning of God’s ordinances for observing the Passover, setting us free from our bondage to sin and bringing us out into eternal life. He is our Passover lamb, and it’s his blood that “marks” us to be passed over by death.

The traditional Passover liturgy holds many allusions to the messiah, who we know to be Christ. We’ve put together a simple Messianic family Seder available for download here if you’d like to celebrate with us — I’ll share how we prepare for Passover in a post next week!