Passover: Foreshadow of a Greater Deliverance

Of all the Jewish holidays we celebrated as I was growing up, Passover was my favorite.  I have fond memories of our Passover Seders and recounting the story of the Israelites’ great deliverance from slavery.  It was not until years later, however, that I came to understand that Passover was a wondrous foreshadowing of a far greater deliverance to come.

As told in Exodus chapter 12, when the Israelites were to leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses, after nine plagues upon the Egyptians, God instituted the Passover as the tenth and final blow: The Israelites were to kill a lamb, sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes and God would “pass over” those homes marked by the blood on the door.  In contrast, it was to be a night of horror and grief for anyone who had foolishly disregarded God’s command.  But those who had the blood of the lamb applied would be spared from the plague, protected from the judgment, and finally released from bondage in Egypt. 

Passover is a beautiful, yet often mysterious celebration.  The amazing parallels between the Passover story in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christ story in the New Testament are notable.  For example, in the Passover story we discover:

— God commanded the Hebrews to take a lamb (Exodus 12:3)
— The lamb had to be spotless and without blemish (Exodus 12:5)
— The lamb had to be tested (Exodus 12:3; 6)
— The lamb had to die (Exodus 12:6)
— No bone of the lamb could be broken (Exodus 12:46)
— The blood had to be applied (Exodus 12:7)
— The Hebrews would be saved by the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12:13)

Was it just coincidence that centuries after this annual memorial was established Jesus died on the Passover?  Was it coincidence that the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before being crucified was the Passover?  Knowing the significance of what was about to take place, Jesus declared, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).  For it was at this Seder that Passover at last obtained its real meaning and deepest significance.

Passover was the memorial of the physical, historical redemption, but only a shadow of the ultimate redemption about to take place.  Jesus was about to become the ultimate sacrifice, to die once for all (Hebrews 9:26).

As one reads through the Hebrew Scriptures (or what we know today as the Old Testament) one finds it is an endless revelation of seemingly strange sacrifices.  Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God was pleased with that sacrifice.  Later Abraham made offerings to God.  The children of Israel were also taught to bring certain animals to slay and offer the blood and meat of those animals to God.  Many are offended by the fact that the Old Testament is replete with animal sacrifices and of actual blood being spilled.  Yet the themes of blood and sacrifice run through the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures.  But nowhere are these sacrifices ever explained.  In Leviticus we read, the life of the flesh is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there can be no atonement (Lev 17:11). 

But finally, someone would come who would supply that explanation.  Now there would be an answer to the cry of Isaac who — as his father Abraham took him up on the mountain to sacrifice his only son — asked, “Father, where is the lamb?” and Abraham replied, “God himself will provide a lamb” (Genesis 22:7-8). 

In the New Testament, we read that as John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him, knowing who he was, he says to the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  Here is the one who will fulfill all the promise of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

The Passover was but a foreshadowing of a far greater deliverance to come.  By calling Jesus the Lamb of God, John identified him both as the Passover lamb of Exodus 12 and the Lamb of God in Isaiah 53.  Peter too portrayed Jesus as “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  The Apostle Paul similarly notes that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Revelation speaks of Christ as “the lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:12). 

The Passover lamb, whose sprinkled blood protected Israel in the Exodus account, points to him whose blood would one day put an end to all sacrifices once and for all.  As believers in this Messiah, we not only have the true Passover, but through the true Passover, we also have the true freedom.

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About Alex Haiken

Born to a Jewish family in New York City, I came to faith in Christ in 1982 after trying to disprove the Bible. I found so much evidence in support of the claims of Jesus and the Bible that it required more faith to reject it than to believe it. I hold a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and among other things am a lecturer, teacher, blogger and conference speaker. I came out as gay at a young age but was taught when I came to faith that I could not be both Christian and gay. I served for a time as a leader of an ex-gay ministry but shifted my views after recognizing that when the few passages generally appealed to in this debate are examined more closely and in context, the traditional anti-gay interpretations do not hold up to scrutiny. I learned that the ex-gay route is a scripturally unsound mirage, a specious illusion that deceitfully draws people not to a life-giving oasis but to a deeper and deeper spiritual desert. Seeing the immense need for education in this area, I began to speak and write about my experience and new-found convictions. I am also passionate about helping the Church better understand her rich Jewish roots; helping other Jewish people understand Jesus as their Jewish Messiah; and helping other gay people integrate a theologically sound, committed Christian faith with their sexuality. It is my hope that the reflections in this blog will prompt you to explore the paths they suggest, leading to your own more eloquent thinking, exploration and action. If you want, visit the “Contact” page and let me know what you think.
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One Response to Passover: Foreshadow of a Greater Deliverance

  1. Mark says:

    I’m not Jewish or gay but I want to say that this is such a good summary! I’ve never put this altogether before and it really strengthens my faith. Thanks so much.

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