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What is Passover?

Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival commemorating the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and their freedom from slavery. The Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were the first festivals God commanded Israel to observe (see Exodus 12). Today, the Passover Feast is a special meal called the Seder, which includes unleavened bread and other foods symbolic of different key aspects of the exodus.

Among both the Jewish people and other believers, Passover is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. God commanded three "pilgrimage" festivals in Scripture: Passover, Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). For these festivals, the Jews were commanded to travel to Jerusalem to observe the feasts together.

Passover always takes place in the spring, during the Hebrew month of Nisan. In the Western world, Passover is celebrated in early- to mid-April, in close conjunction with the date Easter is celebrated that year.

The Origin of Passover

The congruence between the events that brought about Passover and the events that would come centuries later, at the end of the Messiah's life on earth, is both beautiful and chilling. Seeing the similarities between these significant moments in time proves God's foresight and sovereignty in restoring His relationship with humankind.

The book of Exodus records the Israelites' bondage under the Egyptian King and how God followed through on His promise to redeem them from a life of slavery (Exodus 6:6). Acting under orders from God, Moses went to Pharaoh and demanded, "Let my people go" (Exodus 8:1). Pharaoh refused, so God brought ten plagues upon the land of Egypt (Exodus 7-12). Despite being warned repeatedly that the plagues would only get worse, Pharaoh stubbornly refused to release the Israelites. The last and worst of the plagues would cause the death of every firstborn in Egypt.

Before the tenth plague fell upon Egypt, God gave the Israelites specific instructions for that fateful night: sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark your doorposts and lintels with its blood (Exodus 12:21-22). When the Lord passed through the nation to take the lives of the firstborn children, He would "pass over" any households that had been marked by the sacrificial blood (Exodus 12:23). Quite literally, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from God's wrath, as it kept the destroyer from coming into their homes.

The Egyptians did not mark their doors with lamb's blood, and the firstborn children died at midnight (Exodus 12:21-29). "There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead" (v. 30). This horrific judgment finally changed Pharaoh's stubborn heart—but at great loss to the people of Egypt. The Israelite slaves were at last released from their 400-year enslavement (v. 31-32).

How Passover Reflects Christ

After the Israelites were freed, from that point on, God commanded that every firstborn (both man and beast) belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Exodus 13:1-2, 12). This was to be a reminder for generations to come of when God took the lives of all firstborn in Egypt yet passed over the Israelites because of their sacrifice (Exodus 13:14-15). Centuries later, Mary and Joseph brought their young son Jesus to the temple for this precise Jewish tradition (Luke 2:22-24).

In addition to marking their doors that night, the Israelites were instructed to fire-roast the lamb and consume it along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8). This specific meal commemorated that moment in their history, and they were to "observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever" no matter where they lived (Exodus 12:24). Centuries later, Jesus gathered His disciples for the Passover supper, His last meal with them before He would be crucified (Luke 22:7-8). Throughout the generations and to this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to God's command.

When we look at the life of Christ, we can't help but see the parallels between the spotless lamb the Israelites sacrificed for salvation from slavery and death and the spotless life of Jesus, who willingly gave His life as a final sacrifice that would fulfill the law once and for all (Matthew 5:17). Jesus became our Passover lamb, who would save us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:12).

The Israelites who, in faith, applied the Paschal lamb's blood to their doors, became a model for future Christians. It was not their ancestry or good works or nice personalities that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb. When we recognize Christ's sacrifice and (spiritually) apply His blood to our lives in faith, we trust that God will "pass over" us in judgment for our sin, a judgment which would result in eternal separation from Him (see John 1:29; Revelation 5:9-10).

"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." —Romans 6:17-18

TL;DR

Passover is a Jewish festival commemorating the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and their freedom from slavery. The first Passover is described in Exodus 12. Before the tenth plague upon the land of Egypt, God commanded His people to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doors with its blood as protection. When the Lord came to take the lives of the firstborn in all of Egypt, He would "pass over" any door that had been marked with blood. After this final, horrific judgement, Pharaoh granted the Israelites their freedom. Jesus Christ is a parallel of the spotless lamb the Israelites sacrificed for salvation from slavery and death. Indeed, Jesus lived a spotless life, then willingly gave Himself as a final sacrifice to fulfill the law once and for all and save us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death (Matthew 5:17).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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