by Issa Haddad

The Samaritan woman who talked with Jesus at the well was waiting for the Messiah to come. Six hundred descendants of the ancient Samaritans who now live in Israel and Jordan still wait. Every year they gather for Passover at their temple at Mount Gerizim in Israel, still convinced that they have the true faith. They pray for the coming of the Messiah, not realizing that He came long ago.
In the New Testament John write, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12) pictures Christ as the great lamb who was slain for our sins. The writer of Hebrew writes in 10:10 “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
The History of Passover

The Passover is a major festival held in the spring to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The term is often used of the entire festival celebration (e.g., Exodus 12:48; 2 King 23:21). It may also designate the Passover sacrifice to be eaten (Exod 12:11; 2 Chronicles 30:18) and the animal victim, i.e., the “Passover lamb” (Exodus 12:21; 2 Chronicles 30:15). The word Passover in the Hebrew is pesach it mean “pass” or “leap over” (Exodus 12:13, 23, 27). At the time of the Exodus, each Israelite household that had blood smeared on its doorposts was “passed over” (i.e., omitted, left out) by God when He struck down the Egyptians.

The Passover is the oldest of Jewish festivals, originating over three thousand years ago. Passover appears originally to have conflated two separate spring festivals. One rite involved unleavened bread, the other a sacrificial lamb. The Old Testament (Exodus 34:18, 25) distinguishes the festivals by using the terms “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and “Passover Feast”. The New Testament (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1) refers to both of these as “the Passover” and the “Feast of the Unleavened Bread. These festivals were held in immediate sequence. Passover was celebrated at twilight of the 14th day of the month (Exodus 12:6) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the seven days following, namely, the 15th to the 21st (Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 23:5f.; Numbers 28:16ff; 2 Chronicles 35:1, 17).

The First Passover as a Religious Festival

The Exodus was the redemptive event in the life of God’s covenant people. The Passover reminded the people annually the greatest miracle the Lord performed out of grace for His chosen; and it became the focal point of Jewish history. The Passover festival retold the story of freedom after more than four hundred years of Egyptian bondage. The numerous references in the Old Testament to that deliverance indicate that it was a spring of hope for the nation’s future redemption.

Instructions regarding the observance of Passover are found mainly in the Pentateuch. The account in Exodus 12:1-13:16 outlines the historical setting and ordinances governing the last meal in Egypt: (1) Celebration was to be at the full moon (Exodus 12:6) on “the first month” (12:2) of spring (i.e. Abib; cf. 13:3ff; Deuteronomy 16:1; later called Nisan). It marked the start of the barley harvest. (2) On the 10th day of the month a year-old male lamb or kid, of the household (12:3-5). (3) On the 14th of the month at twilight (lit. “Between the two evenings”) the lamb was to be killed (12:6). (4) Blood from a basin must be applied by hyssop (a leafy plant) to the doorframes and lintels of the houses where the people gathered to eat the lambs (vv. 7, 22). (5) The lamb must be roasted over the fire – head, legs, and inner parts, no bones broken (vv. 9, 46). (6) Bitter herbs and bread made without yeast must also be eaten (v. 8). (7) Any remains of the meal not consumed were to be burned (v.10). (8) The meal was to be eaten in haste with cloak tucked into belt, sandals on feet, and staff in hand (v.11). (9) All future generations of Israelites were to celebrate Passover as a lasting ordinance (vv. 14, 24, 42, 47). (10) Slaves and resident aliens were permitted to join the meal, provided they had been circumcised (vv. 44, 48).

On the next day, the 15th of Abib (Nissan), the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. This feast, distinct from Passover, was to last seven days. During this time all bread made with yeast was to be destroyed and only unleavened bread eaten (12:15, 17-20; 13:6ff). The first and seventh days were for holding sacred assemblies; no work was to be done, except to prepare the food (12:16).

The Type and Antitype of the Passover

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was considered by New Testament writers to be typical of the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The blood of every innocent victim and faith of every Old Testament offerer were now made perfect through the offering up of the perfect Lamb of God for the sin of the world. Without His coming, the Old Testament sacrifices would have been meaningless and worthless.

The Passover lamb, whose blood was sprinkled on the doorposts as a sign of deliverance, was early considered a type of Christ. Paul, in his fight against the pagan morals of his day, reminds the Corinthian Christians that “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us celebrate the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). Further, the passing over of the destroyer who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians began with the Jews slaughtering a lamb and smearing its blood on their doorposts. The Christian Passover began with the slaying of Christ on the cross and the pouring out of his blood. The Passover lamb was not a sacrifice in the strictest sense of the word, but it became associated with atonement (cf. Ezekiel 45:18:22). The timing of Jesus’ death in the Passover season and the conviction that his death was the atoning death of “blood poured out for many” (Mark 14:24) assisted linking his atoning death to the Passover sacrifice. As the Israelite was delivered from the bondage of Egypt through the blood of the Passover lamb, so the Christian is saved from sin through the sacrifice of Christ; but Paul further adds that continual victory over the sins of the world means a continual observing of the Feast of Redemption. After the sacrifice, the people consecrate themselves as holy in eating the Passover, which sustains and sanctifies them. Moreover, Peter also reminds his readers that they are redeemed not with silver or gold (cf. Isaiah 55:1), but “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19). No doubt he is here referring to the Passover lamb which, according to Exodus 12:5 is to be without blemish.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is very concerned to make clear that the Old Testament sacrificial system was transitory and unsatisfactory. But through it all God was teaching His children that there was no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. Christ’s sacrifice is, of course, the perfect fulfillment of the Levitical sacrifices. In Hebrews 9:13-14 we read, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience form dead works to serve the living God?”

Conclusion

In the Old Testament a sacrifice seemed to be a necessary part of the covenant-establishing ritual (Genesis 15; Exodus 24). But the covenant made between God and His people on Sinai was broken by the people faithlessness and a new one had to be made, as Jeremiah indicates in chapter thirty-one. Christ, through His death, becomes the mediator of this new covenant which is eternal and unbreakable (Hebrews 9:15ff.)

In chapter ten of Hebrews the author again reiterates how ineffectual the sacrifices of the Old Testament were. But here he also includes the “whole burnt offering” which had inherent in it the idea of the complete surrender and consecration of the offerer to God, shown by the burning of the victim on the altar. In this way Christ also perfectly fulfilled this sacrifice, for God had given Him a body which He in turn offered it in obedience to His good daily and in His death on the cross (cf. Romans 5:19; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:8).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Desmond T.; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Downers Grove, IL: InerVarsity Press, 2003.
Barrett, C. K. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Reprint of 1968 ed. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.
Bromiley, Geoffrey W. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Fully Revised. Illustrated. In Four Volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1986.
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary of the New Testament. Grand Rapid, MI: William Eerdmans, 1987.
Fritsch, Charles T. “Biblical Typology,” Bibliotheca sacra. 87-100. 104:413. Jan, 1947.
Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapid, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.
Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1990.
Lowery, David K. “1 Corinthians.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. Vol. 2. Ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 505-549. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.
“Passover.” In The New Bible Dictionary, eds. I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, 512-13. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1962.
Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapid, MI: William Eerdmans, 2000.

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