Feast 1: Passover:
Lev. 23:4-5, “These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover…’” (NASB)
Passover is the foundational Feast. The other six Feasts that follow are built upon it. Passover occurs in the spring of the year, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month, Abib/Nisan (March/April).
You’ll remember that the first Passover was observed when Israel was about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. God had spoken through Moses, demanding that Pharaoh release His people, but in spite of a series of devastating plagues, Pharaoh refused to do so. And so now, in preparation for the final and most terrible plague, the death of every first-born, God gives Moses specific instructions for how the Israelites are to be saved. Let’s look at the first Passover in Exodus 12:
- Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you…” (Exodus 12:1-2. NASB)
In the first verses of this chapter we see the significance of this Feast in that Yahweh changes the calendar with its introduction. The month that God was referring to was the month of Abib/Nisan. Prior to God’s establishing the month of Abib/Nisan as the first month in the religious calendar, it was the seventh month in the civil/agricultural calendar. Right in the middle of the year, God gives them a new beginning. The relevance, of course, has to do with Redemption.
As we look at the Passover, please keep in mind that it is a type, or picture of something much greater à it pictured the redemption of God through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus:
- 3 ”Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 ‘And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 ‘And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 ‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 ‘And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 ‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is the LORD’S Passover. (Ex. 12:3-11. NASB)
Verse 3 tells us, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.” Who is the antitype of the lamb? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. A lamb is very symbolic in Christological interpretation. How do we know this? We learn this in the New Testament. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul draws the parallel for all time when he says,
- “Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us.“ (1 Cor. 5:7).
When Jesus first appears publicly, John the Baptist introduces Him as the “Lamb of God”:
- “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:28-29 NASB)
In this, John is referring to the Passover Lamb. All Israelites understood this. Jesus’ first introduction by John highlights His destiny as the Lamb of God who is to die for our sins. The Passover Lamb foreshadowed God’s final Passover Lamb and suffering Servant Jesus the Christ whom God would one day send to this world to be sacrificed so that His blood could be used to remove the sin and save all those who placed their faith in Him, not from the bondage of Egypt, but from the bondage of sin and guilt and condemnation to eternal death, and to deliver us into the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom of life, joy, peace, and love and relationship and fellowship, and the promise of eternal life in the afterlife in His very presence.
Yahweh tells the Israelites that this lamb is to be unblemished.
- “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.” (Exod. 12:5. NASB)
In the New Testament we see that Christ was the unblemished Lamb:
- “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:18-19. NASB)
Peter makes it very clear here that Christ is a spotless, unblemished Lamb. Paul also mentions Christ’s sinlessness in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “Him who knew no sin…”
There are several points of interest in our next verse:
- “And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” (Exod. 12:6. NASB)
Yahweh commanded Israel to take a lamb on the tenth day of Abib/Nisan and set it aside until the fourteenth day. These four days were fulfilled by Jesus during the Passover week. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the Temple, which was the house of God, and went on public display there for four days, from Abib/Nisan 10 to Abib/Nisan 14. During this time Jesus was examined by many in fulfilling this Scripture, including: The chief priests and elders (Matthew 21:23); Pilate (Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14, 17-26); Herod (Luke 23:6-12); Annas, and then Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:13, 19, 24).
- “And Pilate came out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’” (John 19:4. NASB)
- Christ was the perfect spotless Passover lamb.
Mark 15:25 tells us that it was at the third hour (Jewish time)(9 a.m. Roman and Hellenistic time) that Christ was sacrificed on the cross à the exact same time the Passover lamb was being bound in the OC temple for the OC Passover sacrifice Christ was being bound to the cross.
At the very same moment that they are binding the Passover lamb to the horns of the alter on the temple mount, they are binding Jesus to the cross (third hour). At this same time they are singing the Hallel, which are Psalms 113 – 118. Notice what it says in Psa. 118:27:
- “The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” (Psa. 118:27. NASB)
On this same 14th day of Abib/Nisan the OC Passover lamb was killed at twilight, or the 9th hour (Jewish time)(3 p.m. Roman and Hellenistic time) à at the same 9th hour Christ cried out and gave up His spirit. (Mark 15:34, 37)
This ninth hour was also an hour of prayer, and at this time they would again sing the Hallel:
- The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. (Psa. 118:14)
The word for Salvation is “Yeshua” (Christ’s Hebrew name). He is the final Lamb slain for the sins of the world.
Thousands of lambs would be sacrificed on Passover, starting at around 9:00 am. The shofar would sound to announce to the surrounding areas that the last lamb of about 250,000 (over 40,000 per hour) had been slaughtered. This would be about 3:00 pm.
The high priest who had closely inspected the lamb, satisfied it was unblemished, would say: “I find no fault in him.” Look at what the NT scriptures say about Jesus Christ: John 18:38, 19:4, 6. The main lamb offering at the temple mount during Passover was made by the high priest after all the others had been made, about 3:00pm. After the high priest offered up the last lamb he would say “I thirst.” He would then wet his lips with water and proclaim that, “It is finished,” meaning the slaughtering of all of the lambs for Passover was now completed.
- It was exactly 3:00 pm when Yeshua (Jesus), our High Priest, gave up His Spirit and said the exact same words at the same time: “I thirst,” and “It is finished.” (John 19:28, 30)
Exodus 12:6 tells us that they were to “kill the lamb.” This was prophetic of the death of Christ. Israel killed the lamb at Passover, beginning the first exodus over 1,500 years earlier; and now, here in the NT, Israel killed the Lamb of God, Yeshua (Jesus), beginning the second exodus:
- “But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:7-8. NASB)
In John 19:19-20 it says that Pilot put up a sign over Jesus on the cross which said à Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. One of the languages it was written in was Hebrew à which was the acronym YHWY (Yahweh = God) à which now makes it all the more clear why the Jews were so furious. (God was beautifully starting the fulfillment of the OC types/shadows/pictures of His redemptive Festal calendar in Christ).
Although the Passover is filled with meaning, its primary emphasis is Redemption. The New Testament truth that “Christ died for our sins” is demonstrated well in the Passover. According to Exodus 12:7, the lamb’s blood was to be put on the two side posts and above the door. Why? Why were they to kill this lamb and put its blood on the door? Yahweh answers this question in the next two verses:
- “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments – I am the LORD. ‘And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; 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.” (Exod. 12:12-13 NASB)
The first thing I’d like you to notice is that the lamb was a substitute. If you were an Israelite, and you wanted your household to escape death when the angel of Yahweh passed by, you had to kill an innocent creature. You had to show that you had done so by smearing its blood on the doorway of your house. If you did that, then the Lord would accept the life of the animal in place of the life of your first-born child. In the same way, Christ gave His life as our substitute.
This idea of substitution: of Christ being condemned and suffering and dying in our place, is fundamental to the Christian faith. Because, in contrast to every other form of religion, we hold to a Gospel of Grace; a Gospel of God’s unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor. We are forgiven, but not because our so-called “good” deeds outweigh our bad ones. We have eternal life, but not because we do our best to live up to a moral code. On the contrary, we know that our good works are insufficient; that we constantly fail to meet Yahweh’s perfect standard of holiness; and that we deserve, not acceptance and approval from Yahweh, but rather rejection and condemnation. No, our hope is not based on anything we have done, or could do, but entirely on the fact that Jesus the Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, gave His life in exchange for ours; that by His physical death and shed blood on the cross, He paid the penalty for sin on our behalf. As Paul puts it:
- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” (Galatians 3:13 NASB. Cf. Deut. 21:22-23; Rom. 8:1-4)
Because of our sin, we owed a debt we could not pay. But Praise Yahweh – Christ paid a debt He did not owe by going to the cross and enduring the wrath of God in our place! He was, and is, our Passover Lamb. This is what the Gospel is all about, Christ died for us:
- But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8. NASB)
As we look at Passover and see its fulfillment in the Cross of Christ, this should increase our confidence in the Scriptures; these things are beyond coincidence. I do not believe there is any clearer example of salvation by grace in the OT scriptures than the typology and fulfillment of the Passover which we have just studied.
As Christians, we must understand that because Christ is our Passover Lamb, we are Yahweh’s possession. Christians have been redeemed by the Lamb of God, they do not belong to themselves, and we are therefore to live out our lives as a living sacrifice to Yahweh. When we come to faith in Christ, we cease to own ourselves, and we become Christ’s possession. We are not to live our lives independently or autonomously as Christians, but we are to live them out as those who have been bought with a price and as those who belong to Yahweh.
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 1 God’s Festal Calendar (Spring Feasts)”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”]