Exodus 12:1-6: The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
God’s commandment was to separate a lamb from the flock and to take care of (quarantine) it for four days. After four days, this purged lamb became like a member of the household. By the time they were to sacrifice it, it had become more like a pet than just some animal they were going to eat. This was to symbolize the relationship God had with Christ and how difficult it was for God to sacrifice His Son for mankind’s sins. The difficulty that many of the families had in killing the lamb was symbolic of the agony God went through sacrificing his Son. Christ, the Lamb of God, was killed during the day of Passover. The Last Supper with His disciples was at twilight the evening beginning the 14th of Nisan. Later that night he was arrested. During the day about 3:00 PM (before sunset), he was crucified. Christ was literally mankind’s Passover lamb because he was killed on Passover day. For centuries, the sacrificing of the lamb on the 14th of Nissan was symbolic of Christ being the ultimate sacrifice so eternal death could pass over all of mankind in this (Egypt-type) world.
The Spiritual Meaning of Passover
Christ’s sacrifice was the first step so mankind could have an intimate relationship with God the Father. Christ taught this truth and was killed for it. The Passover lamb was eaten, but Christ eventually taught what the true spiritual symbolism meant. The disciples of Christ were in dismay when He taught the message of eating His flesh.
John 6:47-58: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Later this symbolism was understood when Christ had His Last Supper with the disciples.
Matthew 26:26-28: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Christ was more clearly understood by His disciples as he poured out His soul to God the Father on their behalf.
John 17:9-11: “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”
He prayed that His disciples may become one as He and the Father are one, and to be one with God. Christ was one with the Father, for He obeyed the Father and submitted to the Law of God. This sets the stage to understanding the meaning of the seven days that follow right after Passover.
John 17:21-23: “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Christ died so that by having one’s sins washed clean one could have access to God the Father. Sin cuts mankind off from God, but Christ died so all of mankind could be brought back to God.
1 Peter 3:18: For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
Later in the day when Christ’s death occurred, there was a miracle that gave a strong message that access to God was now available to mankind.
Matthew 27:50-52: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The Earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Luke 23:44-46: And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the Earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when
Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
The curtain, or veil, was before the innermost part of the temple that represented the throne of God. By law, only the high priest could enter, and only at certain times. Now all had access to the throne of God, permission to approach God directly.
Hebrews 4:15-16: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Christ, the Passover Lamb, died so that all of mankind may have access to God. The eating of the unleavened bread on Passover night is symbolic of Christ within. Christ replaced the eating of lamb’s flesh with his flesh, symbolized by the unleavened bread. The drinking of the wine is symbolic of Christ’s blood, which represents the forgiveness of sins. Sin separates mankind from God. Now, even that barrier is gone. Christ instituted new symbols for keeping the Passover. The Passover is the most important memorial Christians can keep yearly, as instructed by Christ.
John 13:1-15: Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said unto him, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” Peter saith unto him, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Simon Peter saith unto him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus saith to him, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, “Ye are not all clean.” So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
Every year Christians should assemble and partake of the symbols of Passover. Those symbols are the foot-washing ceremony, the symbols of unleavened bread and the red wine.
Mark 14:22-25: And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
It was Passover, not Easter, that was the right and proper way to honor Christ’s sacrifice for mankind.
Why did Christianity switch from observing the Passover, as instructed by Christ, to keeping the pagan holiday of Easter? Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, taught baptized Gentiles to keep the Passover. History shows that the churches in Asia Minor continued to keep the New Testament Passover long after
most other churches had abandoned the practice for Easter. This became a controversy when Anicetus was the head of the Church of Rome in AD 154. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, “had a conference with Anicetus” over questions concerning the Passover. “Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by apostles in Asia bishop of the church of Smyrna…. He also was in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received from the apostles this one and only system of truth.” Polycarp discussed the Roman practice of observing a pagan festival in place of the Passover. Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed (the Passover) with John the disciple of our Lord and the other apostles with whom he had associated (Ecclesiastical History, book IV, chapter 14, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1). The controversy over the Passover showed up again 35 years later. Victor, the Bishop of Rome, tried to excommunicate every church that observed the Passover instead of Easter. The bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, held to the old custom handed from the Apostles. Polycrates wrote in a letter, addressed to the Victor and the Church of Rome, explaining how the tradition had come down to him. But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates (a later bishop of Ephesus), decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: “We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles…moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord…and Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr…. All these observed the fourteenth day…the Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates…do according to the tradition of my relatives… My relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven [before the Feast of Unleavened Bread]” (Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XXIV).