Monday, March 29, 2010

How to view Passover

Sunset today marks the beginning of the Passover for Jews worldwide. It is of course one of the most important celebrations for Jewish families, marked by a number of ceremonies and traditions. It is a huge deal for Jews and I get the impression that it is true even for less observant families.

As Christians, how should we view the Passover?

First I think we need to recognize what the Passover is all about. It is a celebration of the sovereign work of God to free the Jews from captivity in Egypt. When the final plague struck, slaying the first born males in all of Egypt, the wrath of God passed over the homes with blood on the doorway. It was the blood that caused the wrath of God to pass over the homes of the Jews in Egypt:

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12: 12-13)

There are clear implications for the Passover in Christianity. Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper while celebrating the Passover with His disciples, a key event that appears in all four Gospels preceding the crucifixion (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13). As importantly, at the cross Jesus shed His blood and that blood serves in a similar fashion for those covered by it through faith: it covers us from the judgment and wrath of God. Through His blood we have forgiveness of our sins and at the judgment it is that blood-bought forgiveness that will cause God’s wrath to pass over the elect. So the Passover is very important in Christian theology as well, although for a different reason.

It certainly seems that for the last two thousand year, post-Calvary, the celebration of the Jewish Passover has been an empty ceremony. The Passover as understood by Christians in light of the cross was a preparatory ceremony that prefigured the cross of Christ. We read that Christ has fulfilled the role of Passover lamb on our behalf:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Cor 5:7)

So how should we view the Passover? I think it provides a great opportunity to recall Christ and Him crucified. It is a wonderful reminder of the promises of God to His people, fulfilled in Christ Jesus once and for all time. It is also a great opportunity to discuss Jesus with Jews. The celebration of the Passover is an obsolete ceremony and a reminder of an old covenant that has been fulfilled in a far greater way. For all of these centuries Jews have been celebrating the Passover while missing the great fulfillment of Christ. God can never be satisfied with the sacrifice of a literal lamb. He is only satisfied with the cross of His Son who became a perfect sacrifice provided by God for His people.

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