By Pastor Stephen Hess –
Have you ever wondered why the date of Easter each year corresponds to the Jewish celebration of Passover? Did you ever notice that when Jesus sat down with his disciples for the “last supper” (Luke 22:7-23) they were not just eating a regular meal, but a “Passover” meal? When we read the Bible closely, we see that Jesus wanted us to understand his death in light of this Jewish festival.
The Jewish Passover was a festival that was celebrated to remember the Israelites’ exodus from their slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians for over 400 years but the Lord did not forget about his people. God sent Moses to lead his people out of Egypt and along with Moses God sent a series of ten terrible plagues to punish the Egyptians and demonstrate his power (Exo. 7-12). During the tenth and final plague God passed through Egypt in the night and struck down every firstborn male in the land as an act of his judgment. However, God told the Israelites that if they slaughtered a lamb and smeared its blood on the doorposts of their homes he would “pass over” them and not execute judgment. This is why the Jewish festival is called “Passover,” because it commemorates the time when the Israelites were saved and freed from slavery through the blood of these lambs.
So what does any of this have to do with Easter or Jesus? It is no coincidence that Jesus’ crucifixion took place during the time of the Passover because his work on the cross had some important connections with this Old Testament event.
First, at both the Passover and the cross, the problem was God’s judgment. Just as the people in Egypt were facing the judgment of God, all of us also face God’s judgment because of our sin. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us but we have all rebelled against him and separated ourselves from him in our sin. Consequently, we all face God’s judgment and the punishment of death for our sins (Rom. 6:23).
Second, at both the Passover and the cross, salvation came through substitution. Just as God provided a way for the Israelites to avoid his judgment, he has also provided us a way! This time, however, it is not by the blood of a lamb on our doorposts, but by Christ’s blood on the wooden posts of the cross. The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). In other words, God cannot just sweep sin under the rug. Since God is committed to justice, sin must be punished. The good news of the gospel is that Christ took the punishment that we deserved by shedding his blood on the cross!
Third, at both the Passover and the cross, a personal decision is required. It was not enough for the Israelites to slaughter the lambs—they had to personally appropriate the sacrifice by smearing the blood on their homes. In the same way, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to atone for all of our sins, but we must personally embrace him as Savior and Lord in order for us blood to cleanse us. It is only by trusting in Jesus and his blood shed for us that God’s judgment “passes over” us and onto Christ.
Apart from Christ we are slaves just like the Israelites, except our slavery is bondage to sin. Just like the Israelites it is still through a lamb’s blood that we can be saved. The lamb is Christ, who is called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Through Christ, God’s judgment “passes over” us, we are set free from sin, and we are given the gift of eternal life. But you have to trust in his blood shed for you to be saved. So tell me, have you been passed over?