For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed…[1 Corinthians 5:7]
The parallels between the Passover and the Passion of Yeshua the Messiah simply are astounding. The Passover Feast paints not only the big picture of God’s redemptive work through the Messiah but also satisfies even the most intricate details.
As a disclaimer, I will say that this post will not attempt to harmonize the exact timing of the crucifixion of Jesus as it coincided with the offering of the passover lambs in Jerusalem. I will admit that while some scholars have gone to great lengths to prove that Jesus was literally crucified the exact day and hour of the Passover (14th of Nisan), there are some Scriptural nuances and complexities that create clear challenges — challenges that go beyond the scope of this article.
Although we know Jesus most certainly was crucified during the week of Passover, it is difficult to prove from the Biblical text that He was being sacrificed at the very moment the Jews were offering their own passover lambs at twilight on the 14th of Nisan.
For example, the Gospels clearly portray Jesus sharing a Passover meal (Last Supper) with His disciples the night before He is betrayed and crucified. The Gospels also agree that He died on the day of Preparation before a Sabbath (which may not have been Saturday but rather a High Sabbath rest on the first day of Unleavened Bread).
So one obvious question is, “if Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples, then how could He have already been at killed on Passover?”
Like I said, this is just one of many complex issues that requires scholarly attention, which is not my aim here. I for one believe that there are sufficient answers to reconcile these challenges but either way, I don’t want to lose focus from the bigger picture, which is how God purposefully and powerfully reveals Christ in the Passover Feast.
The Big Picture
“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”[1 Peter 1:18-19]
Paul calls Jesus our “Passover lamb.” John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. Peter likens Christ to a “lamb without blemish or spot.” The Apostle John in a vision heard the host of heaven glorifying the Risen Lord Jesus, saying “Worthy is the Lamb!” [Revelation 5:12]
All of these descriptions are directly connected to the Feast of Passover and the fulfillment found in Christ, our Passover. Let us consider many of the big picture elements found in the Passover.
The Exodus account portrays a people enslaved in sin, in bondage to a cruel master (Pharaoh) and trapped in the evil Egyptian system of oppression (i.e. the world). The Israelites are without hope and powerless to save themselves, and yet the LORD hears their cries and pleas for mercy and comes in power working wonders to bring judgment on Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, to redeem Israel out of slavery, and to claim them as a people for His own possession — giving them new life, a new home, a hope, and a future.
At the same time the LORD raises up a deliverer for Israel — Moses — who takes on the roles of Prophet, Deliverer, Ruler, Mediator, Judge, and Shepherd of God’s people. The many parallels between Moses and the Lord Jesus deserve a separate study altogether, as Moses is one of the great Old Testament types of the Messiah.
Now compare the Exodus story to the greater redemptive work of Christ Jesus, who entered His own creation — brining light into this dark and evil world — so that He might preach the good news to the poor and set the captives free and proclaim liberty the oppressed.
It is Jesus who looked down with mercy upon this world, seeing us in our sinful condition, unable to save ourselves and trapped in a world system under the heavy hand of a cruel master, the devil, who is the ruler of this world.
It is Jesus who came declaring the Word of God and the Way of salvation to all people, working wonders and miracles to validate His message.
It is Jesus who came to destroy the works of the devil and openly put to shame the spiritual rulers and principalities of evil in this dark world. It is Jesus who came to redeem a people out of bondage for His own possession, delivering us from the domain of darkness into God’s Kingdom.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”[1 Peter 2:9-10]
Jesus will lead his people into the greater Promised Land, a better country (Hebrews 11:16), as He has gone to prepare a place for all who belong to Him. Jesus came as God in the flesh, the Prophet greater than Moses, and remains our Great High Priest and One True Mediator between God and man.
Ultimately, Jesus gave His own life as a ransom for many, shedding His precious blood on the cross as the atoning sacrifice necessary and sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. It was through this one heroic act of self sacrifice, as Jesus stretched out his arm, where the love and justice of God converged, providing salvation for all mankind.
And they sang a new song: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them into a kingdom, priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth.”[Revelation 5:9-10]
Down to the Details
Let us not forget the purpose of establishing these feasts as holy convocations, or dress rehearsals, for God’s people. Every detail of the Passover Feast was meant to invoke an image or a symbol of the coming Messiah, and when we examine the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the substance of every shadow picture portrayed in the Passover.
- Passover lamb was male – Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The angel told Mary that she would bear a son and call Him Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.
- Four days of examination – just as the Passover lamb had to be brought into the home and cared for and examined for four days before the sacrifice, Jesus entered into Jerusalem four days prior to being crucified so that He could be closely watched and examined by the Jews one last time.
- Without Defect or Blemish – the one-year old male lamb most importantly could have no defect or deformity or infirmity. Even the smallest spot of its wool would disqualify the lamb for acceptable sacrifice. In the same way, no one could convict Jesus of sin. As Peter says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” [1 Peter 2:22]. Because Jesus was perfectly righteous and without sin, He alone could qualify as the acceptable Sacrifice of God for the sins of the world.
- Sacrificed at Twilight – the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed by the priest at twilight, just before sundown. Jesus died during Passover week at 3 pm, which was considered the beginning of the twilight window for sacrifice.
- Hyssop Plant – The Israelites were to smear the blood of the lamb on their doorposts with a hyssop plant. Ironically, as Jesus agonized on the cross, the Roman guards offered Jesus sour wine on a hyssop plant (John 19:29).
- Atoning Blood Sacrifice – The Passover Lamb was innocent and yet its blood would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. In the same way, Jesus was offered as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, our substitute. He died in our place so that we may live.
- Smearing the Blood on the Doorframes – As the Israelites took the hyssop and smeared the blood on the wooden doorframes of their homes, they were symbolically drawing a crucifix in the blood the lamb — another picture of the bloodstained cross of Christ as He was nailed to a tree.
- Saved by Grace through Faith – let us not forget that the Israelites were saved on Passover not because of any work they had done but only by believing the good news of salvation that the LORD had provided. They had to exercise faith and believe that what God had said was true and then obey His commandment. We too are saved by the grace of God – His provision through Christ – through faith.
- Only One Way – notice that there was only one way the Israelites could be saved from the angel of death. Any attempt to circumvent God’s way of salvation or attempt to be saved another way would have resulted in imminent death. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6].
- The angel of death passed over – Only the homes covered by the blood of the lamb were saved from the destroying angel, and likewise only those of us who have believed in God’s only provision for salvation and are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ will be saved from death and destruction. Jesus says that whoever believes in Him has not come into judgment but has crossed over from death into life! [John 5:24]
Obviously, entire books have been written to compare and contrast the Passover with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ; therefore, I won’t dare attempt an exhaustive examination of this sacred appointed feast.
My primary goal is to demonstrate how Jesus of Nazareth perfectly and completely fulfilled the Passover Feast in His first coming — during the actual Passover Feast! The Appointed times and seasons of these feasts are not at random but have prophetic purpose.
And as we will see with the Feast of Unleavened Bread and following, Yeshua the Messiah fulfills all the Feasts of the LORD, giving further validation that He is the Jewish Messiah and True Savior of the world.