I don’t usually publish this type of post, but as we approach the season of Passover and Easter, I thought it would be good to take a closer look at Jesus, who is the Passover Lamb. Too often, we are amazed at the way Jesus fulfilled Scripture in what He said and did. However, we tend to forget that Jesus preexists the written Word. Jesus did not actually fulfill the requirements of Passover. Instead, God instituted the Passover to point the way to Jesus.
All the feasts listed in Leviticus 23 point to Jesus, who fulfills them in God’s perfect timing. Jesus fulfilled the first four feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) in the last days of His life. Likewise, His second coming will fulfill the remaining feasts of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles. By taking a closer look at God’s instructions regarding Passover, we can see not only the historical elements of the feast, but also understand their spiritual applications.
1. Passover was the beginning of months (Ex. 12:2). Nisan is the first month of the religious calendar. Until the Exodus, Israel marked the New Year according to the agricultural or civil calendar, which began after the harvest in the fall. After the first Passover, Israel observed two new years, one agricultural and one religious. The religious New Year takes place in Nisan (March-April), while the civil New Year takes place in September-October, during Rosh Hashanah, which means ‘Head of the Year.’
When we accept the blood of Jesus into our lives as atonement for our sins, we begin a new covenant relationship with God. Passover is the first of the feasts, and our repentance from our sins and belief in the sacrifice of Jesus is the first step in our walk with God, marking a new beginning. Since Nisan is only the beginning of months in their religious life with God, it also shows that God has more in mind for us than simply our acceptance of His sacrificial Lamb.
2. The lamb was hidden for four days (Ex. 12:3, 6). God commanded Israel to take a lamb from their flock on the tenth day of Nisan and set it aside until the fourteenth day of Nisan. The Egyptians regarded lambs and kids as gods. Jewish sages explain that when the Egyptians saw their gods tethered outside the houses of the Jews and inquired, “What is the purpose of this?” The Jews explained they were preparing the animals for slaughter as an offering to the Lord God Almighty. In effect, they were saying, “Our One God is bigger than all your little gods, and we are going to sacrifice your gods to the One True God.” The Egyptians may have been furious at this, but miraculously they were not able to do a thing about it.
Jesus fulfilled this commandment of setting aside a lamb for four days during Passover by going to Jerusalem and entering the temple, the house of God, and appearing publicly for four days — from the tenth to the fourteenth of Nisan. Furthermore, 1 Peter 1:19-20 says that Jesus was a lamb without blemish or defect, who was “chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
3. The lamb was to be without blemish (Ex. 12:5). Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is “without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). The Jewish families in Egypt had four days to inspect the lamb for blemishes and defects that would disqualify it from being an acceptable sacrifice to God. During the week before His crucifixion, many different people examined Jesus in fulfillment of this Scripture, including Pilate (John 18:28, 38; 19:4-6), Herod (Luke 23:8-12), Annas (John 18:13, 24), Caiaphas (John 18: 13-14, 19-24, 28), the Centurion at Calvary (Matt. 27:54) and the repentant thief (Luke 23:39-43). In reality, He was without any defects, and the only charges brought against Him were false ones. Jesus is our Savior “who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
4. The lamb was to be a male (Ex. 12:5). Paul said it was through one man’s sin that sin came into the world (Rom 5:12; 1 Tim. 2:12-14). Because Adam, the first male and seed-bearer for the entire human race, sinned, so a male, Jesus, died to pay for the sin that the race of Adam inherited.
5. It is to be one lamb per household (Ex. 12:3-4). God intended to cover entire households by the saving power of the Lamb of God, and so His instructions were a lamb “for each household.” By believing in Jesus and the blood He shed, we become “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:19).
6. The Passover lamb was to be killed between the evenings (Ex.12:6). Biblical evenings go from sundown to sundown, or approximately 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Jews divided this twenty-four hour period into two twelve-hour periods. The evening goes from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and the morning runs from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Furthermore, each twelve-hour period is divided into two smaller periods. From 6:00 a.m. to noon is the morning part of the day and noon to 6:00 p.m. is the evening part of the day. The phrase “between the evenings” or “twilight” refers to the part of the day that goes from noon to 6:00 p.m., which is exactly 3:00 p.m. This would be the ninth hour of the day, counting from 6:00 a.m. Matt 27:45-50 says, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ — which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’ Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.'”
7. The whole assembly must kill the lamb (Ex. 12:6). Every person on earth is responsible for the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, because Jesus died for all sinners (Rom. 3:10). Many people today continue in the erroneous and horrifying belief that the Jews killed Jesus. There are “Christians” today who refer to Jews as “Christ killers.” They forget that I killed Jesus, just as everyone on the planet did, because He died for everyone’s sin (Rom. 5:8, 12). At the time of Jesus, a whole assembly of people was involved in the death of Jesus. The four Gospels show how the Sanhedrin, the priests, the Romans, and the people of Israel all had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus, and were all partakers in shedding His blood.
8. The blood must be applied to the door (Ex. 12:7, 13). The blood was evidence that a death had taken place, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). What the people did with the blood was very important to God. First, they must shed the blood. This was evidence that a death had taken place. Then, they had to apply the blood, for without the application of the blood, the shedding of the blood has no effect. Next, they had to apply it to the door. Jesus stands at our door, called the human heart, and He knocks. Do we simply hear and profess that His blood was shed, or do we continue in our obedience to God by opening our life and applying His blood to the door of our heart?
9. The body of the lamb must be eaten (Ex. 12:8-10). Here we see that the lamb was to be completely eaten on the same night that the blood was shed. It was to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and it was not to be eaten raw or soaked in water or boiled, but roasted over a fire. The Christian must feed on the virtues of the lamb. The head, the legs and the inward parts are to be fed upon. So the believer feeds on Christ’s mind (the head), the walk of Christ (the legs) and the motives and affections of Christ (the inward parts).
10. The lamb must be eaten in haste (Ex. 12:11). There was nothing casual in the manner of those who ate the Passover lamb. They were to tuck their cloak into their belt, put sandals on their feet and keep a staff in their hands. This was a nation ready for a quick getaway. They were prepared to move and move fast. They were ready for departure.
Paul says that the believer is to have, “the belt of truth buckled around your waist . . . . with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace . . . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14-17) in our hand, ready to advance the kingdom of God. Our heart, our walk, and the power of God’s Word is to be ready in our lives as we make a quick exit from our life of bondage to sin and travel to the land God has prepared for us. God did not call us to hang out in Egypt and enjoy its produce, but to be quick in our walk out of the ways of the world and into the ways of Jesus.
11. It is the LORD’S Passover (Ex. 12:11-13, 23). With the blood applied to the doorway of their home, no Israelite had to fear being struck down by the LORD as He passed over, because death had already done its work. The purpose of the destroyer is to pass through the land looking for people to kill. But the LORD will not permit the destroyer to “enter your houses and strike you down” (12:23) if the LORD sees the blood. This also indicates that in Christ we have passed over from death into life.
Furthermore, God’s eye was not upon the house, nor upon those people who were in the house, but upon the blood, for He said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13). It didn’t matter what kind of house it was. It could have been a strong and lofty mansion, or it could have been and aged, decaying hovel. It made no difference because God is not looking at our houses or possessions or our bank account, but upon the blood! Nor was God looking at who was in the house. No ancestry, genealogy, education, title or religious history of our parents and grandparents is going to impress and influence God, because His eye is only upon the blood. That is what Jesus was referring to when He said many will try to impress Him with their works and their miracles, saying, “‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers'” (Matt. 7:22-23). He never knew them because He looked and He never saw the blood.
12. It is a memorial (Ex. 12:14; Luke 22:1, 7-8, 13-15, 19). We celebrate Passover so we may remember how God has delivered us out of our slavery to sin and into the freedom of life in the Son.
13. It was to be observed at the going down of the sun (Deut. 16:2, 6). God told the prophet Amos, “‘In that day,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping'” (Amos 8:9-10). When Jesus hung on the cross, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land” (Matt. 27:25), He fulfilled this commandment.
14. It was to be observed only in the place where God would put His name (Deut. 16:2, 6). The place where God put His name is Jerusalem, for 2 Kings 21:4 says, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.“ This is the reason Jesus had to travel to Jerusalem. It was only there that the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb could take place.
15. Not a bone of the lamb was to be broken (Ex. 12:46). In order to quicken the death of a person undergoing crucifixion, the soldiers would break their legs, prohibiting the victim from standing up on the nail in their feet and expelling air from their lungs. However, when the soldiers came to Jesus, they already found Him dead and did not break his legs. Jesus was not an unruly sheep who needed discipline like the thieves crucified on each side of Him, but willingly placed His will, spirit, and life into the hands of the Father.
16. There was to be an explanation of the service (Ex. 12:25-28). Jesus also explained each part of the service to His disciples, only this time they began to see the true significance of the Passover Lamb. It also remains the responsibility of parents and the leadership of the church to explain the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover, as it pertains both to the work of Christ on the Cross, and to the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
17. We must be circumcised to eat the Passover (Ex. 12:43-51). This included hired workers, temporary residents, and foreigners. Circumcision was a mark that both distinguished the children of Israel from the rest of the world and indicated a departure from their former way of life. In the New Testament the believer is circumcised in heart, for Paul wrote to the Romans, “a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (2:29). The physical act of circumcision was only a black and white photograph of the spiritual circumcision that God wants us to have. Paul said, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:17).
18. The Passover was to be a sacred assembly, and no work was to be done (Ex. 12:16). As believers in the work of Christ, we must cease trying to do our own good works and rest in the finished work of Christ the Passover Lamb.
19. Egyptians were plundered at the Exodus (Ex.12:35-36). God instructed the children of Israel to ask their Egyptian masters for articles of gold and silver and clothing, and they took those items and put them to good use in their new life as God’s people. Among those items were many images of Egyptian gods and clothes used in pagan religious ceremonies. Later, we read that when God wanted to build His Tabernacle, the people gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop giving (Ex. 36:2-7). Where did they get so much gold, silver, brass and animal skins? From the Egyptians. This was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham four hundred years earlier when the Lord said, “‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions'” (Gen. 15:13-14).
God instructed Moses to use these possessions to construct a beautiful Tabernacle and a place of worship. God used those things that were dedicated to other deities and reformed them into something beautiful in His sight. And this is what He does for us. After Jesus fulfilled the Passover, He plundered the powers and principalities of the earth through His “exodus” from death and His triumph over sin, and now all believers may participate in the spoils won through the death of our Passover Lamb. This is what the psalmist was referring to when he said, “When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious — that you, O LORD God, might dwell there” (Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:8). God can dwell even among the rebellious when those same rebels have turned and applied the Lamb’s blood upon the door of their hearts. He can also take our talents and possessions, which once were used to glorify Satan, and use them to glorify Himself.
This is just a brief look at the Passover that God instituted. It is wonderful to see that God, thousands of years before the event at Calvary, had the complete plan of redemption put in motion, and offered us a way to come out from our bondage to sin and enter into His promised land of rest.