Pesach is a well- known feast carrying an important message, since it not only speaks of freedom from slavery, but also points to Messiah in so many ways. The timing of the Last Supper and death of Yeshua, coincided with Passover, and this is clear and documented in the gospels. The message is one of life and death, freedom from sin, deliverance, God’s faithfulness and living a life pleasing and acceptable unto God.
New year and new life
Exodus 12:2 tells us that this month would be the beginning of the year and we must remember that the Biblical calendar is different from the one we typically use in the UK. Aviv is the beginning of the religious year (March-April), although Tishri, (September-October), is the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar and is around the time of Tabernacles, or more specifically, Rosh Hashanah.
Nonetheless we are used to having a financial year which runs from the start of April and a school year which runs from early September which in terms of timing, is pretty similar. Thinking spiritually though, the Lord liberates us from slavery (akin to coming out of Egypt) and this gives us new life. Some believers talk about their second birthday meaning when they received new life because they started to trust in Messiah.
A Perfect and complete sacrifice
A lamb was taken for each household though smaller households would share with other ones. The requirements concerning the lamb appointed for sacrifice, direct us to Yeshua the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
The lamb without blemish reminds us that the Lord Jesus was perfect and sinless.
Of the first year: This most likely symbolises our lord who was cut off whilst still young.
Killed on the 14th day: Dates, months and years are all important, especially with respect of the Biblical calendar. On the 14th of Nissan whilst lambs were being sacrificed at Pesach, the Messiah was slain. The lamb was killed at twilight between the 9th-11th hour and Jesus was killed at the 9th hour.
Blood was applied on the doorposts and lintel. Our Lord took the cup on the night He was betrayed explaining that it represented His blood of the new covenant, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 27:28).” It is as though our sin was as scarlet, yet He cleanses us and makes us white as snow. Messiah Yeshua paid the debt of our sin in full, and we owe everything to Him.
The flesh of the lamb was eaten, and we need to feed of the lord for spiritual nourishment, fellowship, and growth. Celebrating and eating Passover and sharing the Lord’s Supper does not and never will involve mystical properties in the food itself, yet it helps us remember these crucial events. The lamb was roasted in the fire and Yeshua the Messiah bore the wrath of God shielding the believer from God’s judgement. The lamb would not remain until morning since this was not an ordinary meal and spoke of things far greater.
The Passover was eaten in haste with belt on waist, sandals on feet and staff in hand. This draws to attention the four questions asked every year at the Seder meal. Why the need for questions? Asking questions help us to think, remember and understand. The youngest person at the Seder meal asks four questions which helps them and equally all of us, to remember the events.
Why on this night, do we eat only matzah? There was not enough time for the dough to rise so unleavened bread was eaten.
Why on this night, do we consume bitter herbs? To commemorate lives of bitter slavery.
Why on this night, do we dip twice? Dipping parsley into saltwater reminds us of the tears of slaves and dipping herbs into charoset (nut mixture) reminds us of the mortar that the slaves used to build structures for Pharaoh.
Why on this night, do we eat whilst reclining? It is a luxury of free people and Passover commemorates the journey from slavery to freedom.[i]
Those questions and their responses are all important and useful and help us to remember although there is a deeper spiritual significance which we shall return to.
Judgement of the gods of Egypt
Interestingly this plague would go beyond striking the firstborn of Egypt since it was also directed at the gods of Egypt. All the plagues specifically targeted the gods they worshipped, making a difference between them, and evidenced that the God of the Hebrews was far greater. Similarly, in 1 Kings 18, Elijah had an emphatic victory over the prophets of Baal.
Pass over you!
When the Lord saw the blood on the doorposts He would pass over the Israelites and not destroy them. Since we have all sinned and broken God’s commandments, we justly deserve God’s wrath and the sparing of the lives of the believers is an undeserved mercy. The lord sees the finished work of His Son as the atoning sacrifice was made, sees those trusting in Him and passes over judgement. Nothing else can deliver us; and our record of our perceived rights and wrongs, are to no avail. Only the blood of Messiah that was shed is sufficient (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).
Leaven represents sin and this is the deeper reason concerning why the children of Israel ate bread that contained no leaven at Passover. Before Pesach, homes are meticulously searched for any trace of leaven and great effort is made to find it and remove it. In the same way, we must learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates. The seven days eating unleavened bread speak of perfection and completion and also living lives of holiness, avoiding sin. When we trust in the Lord, we want to please Him by shunning sin and walking in His ways.
There is a remarkable tradition that occurs at Passover that helps us to recognise Messiah. Three wafers of unleavened bread are used and the middle one (afikomen) is broken. It is put inside a napkin and then hidden. At the end of the meal, the children search for it. When they find it, the adults redeem the afikomen by paying a small price and then they eat it and share it together.
The body of the Lord Jesus was broken and hidden, wrapped in grave clothes and they searched for Him. The timing occurred during Passover when countless lambs were sacrificed in Jerusalem. The disciples and all believers are to eat the bread and drink the wine until He comes.
What do you mean by this service?
We have already considered that at Pesach, the youngest member asks the four questions. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:1-8 remind us that the Bible gives clear commands as to how we are to teach our children. The responsibility is primarily with parents though it is also a priority for the local congregation.
The death of the firstborn
The Egyptians had received numerous warnings and seen a whole array of miracles, yet many refused to take heed of these warnings. God has spoken through the prophets and His Son. We all have an appointment with death and there is a day of judgement (Hebrews 9:27), so we must trust and follow the Saviour who gave Himself for us.
The only way to escape judgement is through the good shepherd, the door of the sheep whose blood was shed. We are required to trust in Him and His atoning sacrifice for forgiveness of sins and to be reconciled to God. Faith is a gift of God though faith needs to be exercised. Using hyssop to paint the doorway with blood was an example of faith in action and trusting the Lord for deliverance. This shows that faith is not merely verbal recognition or intellectual assent since it also involves obedience to God.
The mixed multitude
The Israelites left in haste but not empty handed! They even found favour with the Egyptians and left with silver, gold, and clothing. Not only did God fulfil His word but He provided back wages and provision for the journey. God provided for their needs whilst displaying His mighty works.
The children of Israel had grown to a few million despite the four hundred and thirty years of slavery. They were accompanied by a mixed multitude, which probably involved intermarriage. This caused them no end of trouble and helps us make sense in part concerning how they had seen so many wonders yet were influenced by the rabble and complained constantly whilst they were in the wilderness (Numbers 11:4-6). Similarly the company we keep will affect us for better or worse and we should think carefully who we choose to spend our time with.
The Lord’s timing is perfect.
Some take issue over the number of years the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 refer to this period as 400 years whilst Exodus 12:40 and Galatians 3:17 refer to it as 430 years. This need not trouble us. 400 years was a rounded figure whilst 430 years the exact duration. By comparison, ‘the hundred years war’ took place from 1337 to 1453 but there is much more in view here. It was actually 430 years to the day when the Israelites went out from Egypt (Exodus 12:41)! Exodus 12:2 tells us that this was the beginning of the year. The Passover lamb was sacrificed on the 14th Aviv and Messiah Yeshua was crucified the same day. No wonder it is a night of solemn observance to the Lord from bringing them out of Egypt for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
When eating the Passover lamb, not one of its bones was to be broken (Exodus 12:46). This reminds us of the prophecy in Psalm 34:20, “He guards all His bones; not one of them is broken.” This was fulfilled in John 19:31-37 at the scene of the crucifixion of Messiah when the soldiers had no need to break His legs since He was already dead.
Foreigners were excluded from the Passover unless they were circumcised. But since Messiah has come, those who believe in Him have been brought near to God and Yeshua is our peace. Jewish and Gentile believers are united through Messiah (Ephesians 2:18-20). What a remarkable plan the Lord has for Israel and the nations and what an incredible plan of redemption and reconciliation through the Saviour. The Lord Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is our righteousness and takes us from slavery to freedom.
[i] MJL Passover The Four Questions How to say the Nishtanah https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-four-questions/