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Passover

The cen­tral event of the entire Old Tes­ta­ment his­to­ry is the passover and exo­dus.

Abraham’s son Isaac was the father of Jacob whom God named Israel which means “he who strives with God.” (Gen­e­sis 32:28) God renewed His promise to Isaac and Jacob, and con­tin­ued the covenant with them that He had made with Abraham.

Jacob had twelve sons who became the lead­ers of the twelve tribes or hous­es of Israel. The sons of Jacob sold their youngest broth­er Joseph into slav­ery in Egypt. With the help of God, Joseph gained the favor of the Egypt­ian pharaoh and became a great man in Egypt. In a time of famine, Joseph’s broth­ers came to Egypt for food. Joseph rec­og­nized them and brought all of the peo­ple of Israel into Egypt with him. When Joseph died, the peo­ple of Israel were put into slav­ery by the Egyp­tians for four hun­dred years. (See Gen­e­sis 24–50)

God raised up Moses to lead His peo­ple out of bondage in Egypt. He appeared to Moses in the burn­ing bush and revealed His Name to him.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the peo­ple of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say to the peo­ple of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the peo­ple of Israel, ‘The Lord (Yah­weh), the God of your fathers, the God of Abra­ham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remem­bered through­out all gen­er­a­tions.” (Exo­dus 3:14–15)

Moses returned to Egypt and after many tri­als with the Egypt­ian pharaoh and after many plagues, which God sent upon the Egyp­tians, he led the peo­ple of Israel out of slav­ery. The exo­dus, which means the escape or the depar­ture, from Egypt took place on the night called the passover.

God, through Moses, ordered the Israelites to select lambs, to kill them and place some blood on the two door­posts and the lin­tel of their hous­es. Stand­ing up, clothed and ready to escape, they were to eat the lambs in the night.

In this man­ner you shall eat it: your loins gird­ed, your san­dals on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat in haste. It is the Lord’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite 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, upon the hous­es where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. This day shall be a memo­r­i­al day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; through­out your gen­er­a­tions you shall observe it as an ordi­nance for­ev­er. (Exo­dus 12:11–13)

Thus, the passover and exo­dus took place. At mid­night the Lord slew the Egypt­ian first­born. The hous­es marked with blood were spared when the Lord passed over. Dur­ing the tumult, the Israelites began to escape. They made their exo­dus through the Red Sea. By this time, the Egypt­ian horse­men were in pur­suit. ;kt the sea, Moses prayed to God. He lift­ed his rod over the waters and “The Lord drove the sea back by a strong East wind all night, and made the sea dry land…” (Exo­dus 14:21) The Israelites passed through the sea on foot. The pur­su­ing char­i­ots of the Egyp­tians were caught in the waters and were drowned.

And Israel saw the great work, which the Lord did against the Egyp­tians, and the peo­ple feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in His ser­vant Moses. (Exo­dus 14:31)

In the wilder­ness on the oth­er side of the sea, the peo­ple of Israel began to com­plain. There was no food and drink in the desert. Moses prayed to the Lord, Who pro­vid­ed water for the peo­ple to drink and man­na, the “bread from heav­en,” for the peo­ple to eat. (Exo­dus 15–16) God led the peo­ple through the desert by a cloud and a pil­lar of fire.

On Mount Sinai, Moses received the Ten Com­mand­ments and the laws of moral­i­ty and wor­ship from the Lord Who “used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exo­dus 33:11) Moses was allowed to behold the glo­ry of the Lord in the smoke and clouds on the moun­tain­top and he him­self shone with the majesty of God. (Exo­dus 34:29)

Moses was not grant­ed to cross the Jor­dan and to enter the promised land. He died and was buried near Mount Nebo in the land of Moab. This is where he had looked across the Jor­dan Riv­er into the land where his suc­ces­sor Joshua would lead the people.

The passover and exo­dus was the cen­tral event in Israelite his­to­ry. It was remem­bered in all gen­er­a­tions as the great sign of God’s fideli­ty and favor to His Peo­ple. It was sung about in the psalms and recalled by the prophets. It was cel­e­brat­ed annu­al­ly togeth­er with Pen­te­cost, as the chief cel­e­bra­tion of the Peo­ple of God. And, con­se­quent­ly, it was also the main event of the Old Tes­ta­ment to be ful­filled per­fect­ly and eter­nal­ly in the time of Christ, the Mes­si­ah of God.

In Jesus Christ the ulti­mate mean­ing and uni­ver­sal pur­pose of the passover and exo­dus are revealed and accom­plished. Jesus Christ is Him­self the New Passover. He is the Passover Lamb, which is slain for the deliv­er­ance and lib­er­a­tion of all men and the whole world from the pow­ers of evil. The real “pharaoh” is the dev­il. He holds all men in slav­ery. The real deliv­er­er is Jesus. He leads the peo­ple from the cap­tiv­i­ty of sin and death into the “promised land” of the King­dom of God.

As the peo­ple pass through the wilder­ness of life in this world, they are fed by Jesus, the true Bread of Life, the true “bread from heaven.”

Jesus said to them, “Tru­ly, tru­ly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heav­en; my Father gives you the true bread from heav­en. For the bread of God is that which came down from heav­en, and gives life to the world.”

I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall nev­er thirst.”

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the man­na in the wilder­ness and they died. This is the bread, which comes down from heav­en that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the liv­ing bread which came down from heav­en; if any one eats of this meal, he will live for­ev­er; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Tru­ly, tru­ly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eter­nal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the liv­ing Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heav­en, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for­ev­er.” (John 6:25–59)

Jesus is not only the true “bread from heav­en,” He is also the true “liv­ing water.” He is the One Whom, if men drink of Him, they will nev­er thirst again.

If any­one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scrip­ture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of liv­ing water.”’ (John 7:37)

…who­ev­er drinks of the Water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eter­nal life.” (John 4:14)

Saint Paul, speak­ing of the exo­dus and the rock, which Moses struck, from which the spring of water flowed, says plain­ly that this refers to Christ.

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were bap­tized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spir­i­tu­al food and all drank the same spir­i­tu­al drink. For they drank from the spir­i­tu­al Rock which fol­lowed them, and the Rock was Christ. (I Corinthi­ans 10: 1–4)

Thus it is that Jesus Christ ful­filled the passover and exo­dus in the events of His life. This ful­fill­ment came to its cli­max at the time of His cru­ci­fix­ion and res­ur­rec­tion. Jesus was killed at the feast of the passover to show that the old passover has been com­plet­ed and the new passover has begun. When the paschal lamb was being killed in the tem­ple, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was being cru­ci­fied on the cross out­side the city. When the great day of the passover, which that year was the Sab­bath, was being observed as the rest from work, Jesus lay dead, rest­ing from all His work, in the tomb. When the “day after Sab­bath” dawned, the first day of the week, the day of God’s orig­i­nal cre­ation, Jesus arose from the dead.

All of this took place that the New Passover and New Exo­dus could be effect­ed, not from Egypt into Canaan, but from death to life, from wicked­ness to right­eous­ness, from dark­ness to light, from earth to heav­en, from the tyran­ny of the dev­il to the glo­ri­ous free­dom of the King­dom of God. The death and res­ur­rec­tion of Christ is the true passover-exo­dus of the Peo­ple of God. Those who are marked with Christ’s blood are spared from the vis­i­ta­tion of death.

Jesus inau­gu­rat­ed the cel­e­bra­tion of the new passover at the last sup­per with His dis­ci­ples, which was the paschal meal. He told them that no longer would they keep the passover feast in remem­brance of the old exo­dus. They now would keep the paschal cel­e­bra­tion in remem­brance of Him.

For I received from the Lord what I also deliv­ered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had giv­en thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is my body which is bro­ken for you. Do this in remem­brance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after sup­per, say­ing, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remem­brance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you pro­claim the Lord’s death until He comes. (I Corinthi­ans II: 23–26; See also Matthew 26:26–29, Mark 14:22- 25, Luke 22:14–19)

In the same let­ter, Saint Paul also says:

… Christ our Passover Lamb has been sac­ri­ficed. Let us, there­fore, cel­e­brate the fes­ti­val, not with the old leav­en, the leav­en of mal­ice and evil, but with the unleav­ened bread of sin­cer­i­ty and truth. (I Corinthi­ans 5:7–8)

Of great impor­tance also in the new passover of Christ is the new gift of God’s law, the law not writ­ten on tablets of stone, but on human hearts by the very Holy Spir­it of God. (See 2 Corinthi­ans 3, Jere­mi­ah 31:31–34, Ezekiel 36:26–27, Joel 2:28–29)

The giv­ing of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai is ful­filled in the time of the Mes­si­ah in the giv­ing of the Holy Spir­it to the Dis­ci­ples of Christ in the upper room on the feast of Pen­te­cost. In the Old Tes­ta­ment, this was the fes­ti­val of the recep­tion of the law, fifty days after the passover. (Acts 2) Thus, once again, in the time of the Mes­si­ah, the old event is com­plet­ed in the new and final one: the exte­ri­or law of Moses is com­plet­ed by the inte­ri­or law of Christ, the “per­fect law, the law of lib­er­ty” (James 1:25, 2:12), the “law of the Holy Spir­it.” (Romans 8:2)

For the law of the Spir­it of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God had done (in Christ) what the law (of Moses), weak­ened by the flesh, could not do: send­ing His own Son in the like­ness of sin­ful flesh and for sin… in order that the just require­ments of the law (of Moses) might be ful­filled in us, who walk not accord­ing to the flesh, but accord­ing to the Spir­it. (Romans 8:2–4, See also 2 Corinthi­ans 3, Gala­tians 3–5)

Thus the apos­tle John writes: “For the law was giv­en through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

With­in the total ful­fill­ment and per­fec­tion of the passover-exo­dus of the Old Tes­ta­ment in the time of the Mes­si­ah, it must be not­ed as well that the cross­ing of the Jor­dan into the promised land cor­re­sponds to bap­tism in Christ into the King­dom of God. Also wor­thy of note is the sym­bol­ic fact that the one who actu­al­ly crossed the Jor­dan and brought the peo­ple into the “land flow­ing with milk and hon­ey,” was not Moses but Joshua, whose name in Greek is Jesus, thus pre­fig­ur­ing the One Who was to come of the same name, which means Sav­ior, the One Who began His mes­sian­ic mis­sion of bring­ing the King­dom of God by His bap­tism in the Jor­dan River.

Thus, every aspect of the old passover-exo­dus is com­plet­ed in Christ, per­fect­ly, total­ly and for­ev­er. All of this is renewed and reliv­ed in the Church of Christ each year on East­er and Pen­te­cost, and on each Sun­day, the Day of the Lord. When­ev­er the Church gath­ers, it cel­e­brates the per­fect passover of Christ the Lamb of God, Who is also the divine I AM Who exists eter­nal­ly with God the Father and the Holy Spir­it, Who was slain for the life of the world. (See Book I on Doc­trine and Book II on Worship