What is the meaning of the Passover celebration?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Passover celebration holds profound significance in Christian theology, symbolizing liberation, redemption, and the covenant between God and His people. This essay will explore the meaning of the Passover celebration from Christian perspectives, drawing upon references primarily from the Bible.

Introduction to Passover

The Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the foundational event of the Exodus from Egypt, where God liberated the Israelites from slavery under Pharaoh’s rule. It marks a pivotal moment in Jewish history and faith, demonstrating God’s faithfulness, deliverance, and establishment of a covenant relationship with His chosen people. Understanding this event involves exploring its historical context, rituals, theological implications, and its fulfillment in Christian belief.

Historical Context of Passover

1. Exodus from Egypt

The origins of Passover are rooted in the Book of Exodus, recounting God’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt:

  • Exodus 12:27 (NKJV): “That you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’”

This verse highlights the foundational event of the Passover, where God spared the Israelites from the final plague of death upon the firstborn by instructing them to mark their doorposts with the blood of a sacrificial lamb.

2. Establishment of Covenant

Passover signifies the establishment of the covenant between God and Israel, marking them as His chosen people and promising to be their God:

  • Exodus 6:7 (NKJV): “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

This verse emphasizes God’s covenantal relationship with Israel, demonstrating His sovereignty, faithfulness, and commitment to deliver and protect His people.

Passover Rituals and Symbolism

1. Sacrificial Lamb

The sacrificial lamb is central to the Passover observance, symbolizing redemption and atonement:

  • Exodus 12:5 (NKJV): “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”

This verse outlines the instructions for selecting and preparing the Passover lamb, emphasizing its unblemished nature as a representation of purity and innocence. To commemorate the Passover, the Lord instituted that on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) a lamb would be slain and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts (Exodus 12:1–10). That same night the flesh of the lamb was to be eaten under specified conditions (Exodus 12:11). The lamb was to be entirely roasted (Exodus 12:9) and whatever remained of those parts that could not be eaten was to be burned (Exodus 12:10, 46).

2. Unleavened Bread

During Passover, unleavened bread (matzah) is consumed to commemorate the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt:

  • Exodus 12:15 (NKJV): “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”

This verse underscores the symbolic removal of leaven (representing sin and corruption) from households during Passover, emphasizing purity and obedience to God’s commands. Bread was also to be consumed but it had to be unleavened (Exodus 12: 19, 23). Leaven produces fermentation which is a symbol of impurity, moral corruption and sin (Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1-12). Bitter herbs were also to be eaten with the meal (Exodus 12:8) to remind the participants of their bondage and bitter suffering in Egypt.

Theological Significance of Passover

1. Redemption and Salvation

Passover symbolizes God’s redemption and salvation, foreshadowing the ultimate deliverance through Jesus Christ:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV): “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

This New Testament verse draws a direct connection between the Passover lamb and Jesus Christ, identifying Him as the ultimate sacrificial Lamb whose death and resurrection bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

2. Freedom from Bondage

Passover represents freedom from bondage—both physical and spiritual—through God’s intervention and deliverance:

  • Galatians 5:1 (NKJV): “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

This verse highlights the spiritual freedom believers experience through faith in Jesus Christ, analogous to the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Passover in Christian Context

1. Fulfillment in Jesus Christ

For Christians, Passover finds fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is recognized as the Lamb of God:

  • John 1:29 (NKJV): “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'”

Although the Passover memorialized Israel’s departure from Egypt, it also looked forward to “Christ our Passover,” who was to be “sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). On the cross, Jesus made provision for everyone to be saved. Therefore, the Christian must assimilate completely the life of the One represented by the slain lamb and accept His character. And because Christ is “the living bread which came down from heaven,” of which a man must eat if he would “live forever” (John 6:51), those who eat His words must also live a life of victory over sin by His enabling grace.

2. The Lord’s Supper

The Last Supper, which Jesus shared with His disciples before His crucifixion, is understood as a Passover meal, instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist:

  • Luke 22:19-20 (NKJV): “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.’ Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.'”

The New Testament counterpart of the Passover is the Lord’s Supper, or the communion service. After Christ came and fulfilled the symbolism of the Passover, there was no more need to slaying the lamb because it foreshadowed His coming. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remind us of the provision made for our redemption on the cross. Like its model, it points both backward and forward—we are to remember Calvary till he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Practical Application of Passover Celebration

1. Spiritual Reflection and Renewal

The Passover celebration encourages believers to reflect on God’s faithfulness, redemption, and ongoing presence in their lives:

  • Psalm 105:1-5 (NKJV): “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.”

These verses inspire believers to praise and thank God for His deliverance and to recount His marvelous works throughout history.

2. Commitment to Obedience

The Passover celebration calls believers to obedience and faithfulness in their relationship with God:

  • Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NKJV): “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

These verses emphasize the importance of teaching and obeying God’s commandments, ensuring future generations remember His faithfulness and live in accordance with His will.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Passover celebration holds profound theological significance in Christian faith, symbolizing liberation, redemption, and covenantal relationship with God. Rooted in the historical events of the Exodus from Egypt, Passover commemorates God’s faithfulness, deliverance, and establishment of a covenant with His people.

For Christians, Passover finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrificial Lamb whose death and resurrection bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The Passover celebration continues to inspire believers to reflect on God’s faithfulness, commit to obedience, and proclaim His redemptive work throughout history. As believers commemorate Passover, they are reminded of God’s enduring love and promise of salvation, embracing His call to live in faith, obedience, and gratitude for His unending grace.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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