Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan (also called Abib), and the first day of the sacred year on the Hebrew calendar (Rosh Hashana starts the civil year). This means Passover is exactly 14 days away. As we draw nearer this important holy day, I wanted to shift our focus onto why Passover is so important for Christians today.
As I started thinking about reasons to keep Passover, I realized I’d either have to make this a series of posts or be much more concise than the subject deserves. Instead of a series (though there will be other Passover posts coming up), I decided to just write a brief overview of some reason to keep Passover and then invite you to join me in exploring them further. If this post inspires any of you to study Passover, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments. And if you write a blog post about Passover, please share a link here so we can all read it.
It’s A Command
Exodus chapter 12 describes the events of the first Passover in Egypt, when the children of Israel were protected from the plague that killed all Egyptian firstborn. After delivering instructions specific to that Passover, the Lord reveals that Passover celebration will continue forever among His people.
So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. (Ex. 12:14)
Passover is also listed in Leviticus 23 with the other holy days and was observed by Jesus Christ Himself. While some will argue that ordinances to Israel don’t apply to the New Covenant church, the argument just doesn’t hold up (see my posts Are We Israel? and Unchanging Laws). Passover keeping is still a command.
Jesus reiterates the command to keep Passover when He instituted the New Covenant Passover symbols:
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:25)
The Passover has always pictured God’s redemption and “passing over” sins. Originally, the animal sacrifice of a lamb or kid goat pointed to Christ. Now, we remember Him as we keep the Passover. Keeping Passover “in remembrance” also hearkens back to the Old Testament observance, which was to remind the Israelites of God’s redemption and act as “sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth” (Ex. 12:26-27; 13:8-9).
Proclaim His Death
At Passover, we memorialize the fact that “ Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7) and we proclaim His sacrifice to others.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Cor. 11:26)
The Greek word translated “you proclaim” is kataggello (G2605). It means “to declare plainly, openly, or aloud” (Zodhiates) and “to announce” (Thayer). This, keeping Passover is part of how Christians are supposed to preach their Savior.
Three gospels and Paul’s Passover instructions in 1 Corinthians all describe Jesus talking about the wine as a symbol of “the new covenant in My blood” (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). Hebrews talks at length about the new covenant, and we understand that it was mediated by Jesus and sealed with His blood. When we partake of Christ’s sacrifice by eating the bread and drinking the wine at Passover, we’re reaffirming our commitment to the covenant.
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. … He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53-54, 56)
The covenant renewal is also connected with Christ’s High Priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 7:17). In this article “Celebrate the Feast of Passover,” Robert Somerville says “The exclusive use of bread and wine as symbols for the body and blood of our Lord at the last supper, was an indication that Jesus was actually re-instituting the Melchizedek order into this celebration (1 Co 10:16).” It hearkens back to Genesis 14:18, when “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine” before blessing Abraham.
John’s gospel records that after supper on the Passover, Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:1-5). Foot washing was normally the role of a servant and Peter tried to talk Jesus out of doing such a menial task.
Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” (John 13:8-10)
The foot-washing ceremony has to do with spiritual cleansing. Many in the churches treat it as a sort of re-baptism and a reminder of Christ’s ongoing work in each of us.
We wash each others feet at Passover for two reasons: to symbolize Christ’s work of spiritual cleansing and to follow Christ’s example of service.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)
Here’s a clear command to continue the foot-washing, though it was not a part of the original Passover service given in Exodus. Following Christ’s example of service includes more than just foot-washing, of course, but washing each others feet on this holy day reminds us of our commitment to following Him in everything.
While we’re supposed to examine ourselves and line-up our thoughts and conduct with God’s word year-round, it’s especially important at Passover.
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
This is closely connected with rooting sin out of our lives, or “de-leavening,” before the Days of Unleavened Bread — a holy week that immediately follows Passover (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Lev. 23:6-8). It’s too big a topic to get started on here, but one that’s very important as we approach this holy season of the year.
Your Turn: Don’t forget to post a link to your blog here if you’re writing about Passover! It would be awesome if we could get several bloggers together in a “related posts” list at the end of this article.