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The New Passover

“The disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.” Matthew 26:19-20

Our goal in this study is not to give an exhaustive description of the Lord’s Table, but simply to consider how Matthew connects this ordinance with the Passover. (Notice how he mentions it four times in 26:17-19.)

Exodus 12:21-28 records the time in history when the Lord instituted the Passover. By the time of Christ, Israel had observed this feast more than 1400 times. Thus, on the evening mentioned in Matthew 26:20, the Lord Jesus was observing the traditional Old Testament Passover feast with His disciples. While doing so, Jesus associated Himself with the Passover Lamb in four ways. First, Jesus connected Himself with the Passover lamb by the timing of His death (Matthew 26:2, compare with Luke 22:15). He would be crucified on the same night that the Passover lambs were slaughtered. Secondly, like the Old Testament Passover lamb, Jesus was sacrificed in Jerusalem. This was the city in which the Passover festival was celebrated, and the gospels make much of Jesus’ relentless march to that place and the death that awaited Him there. Thirdly, Jesus was just like the Passover lamb in that His people were to “partake” of Him. Just as the Israelites were to eat the Passover lamb, Jesus commanded the disciples to spiritually feed on Him (i.e., to trust in His substitutionary death; compare Matthew 26:26-28 with John 6:35-38). Fourthly, the wrath-bearing nature of Jesus’ death also associates Him with the Passover. God’s wrath was poured out on the sacrificial lamb so that it wouldn’t touch the people (see Hebrews 11:28). In the same way, Jesus suffered and entirely absorbed God’s wrath so that none of it would be left for us. God the Father crushed Him, punished Him, afflicted Him, and forsook Him so that He could pass over us. Jesus Christ is the perfect Passover Lamb: sacrificed at the Passover time, dying in the Passover city, nourishing us in the Passover way, and bearing God’s wrath like the Passover lamb.

Though these connections are clear enough in the gospels, Paul explicitly connects the Lord Jesus Christ with Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7. Although this passage is primarily about church purity rather than the Passover, Paul clearly recognized Christ as the Christian Passover Lamb.

Jesus Christ fulfilled and replaced the Passover lamb.  In the Old Testament, the Passover lamb was slain to deliver the firstborn and to redeem God’s nation out of Egypt. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb, slain in place of everyone who will believe to redeem us out of sin and death and the world. Yet, there are wonderful differences. Whereas thousands of Passover lambs were slain—lambs which could, in fact, never take away sin—Jesus was slain once, perfectly, and now we are redeemed.

And, just as He Himself had fulfilled and replaced the Passover lamb, when Christ instituted the Lord’s Table He fulfilled and replaced the Passover feast. Thus, just as the Israelites were to remember the one-time Passover event by perpetual Passover observances, so we are called to perpetually remember the one-time redeeming sacrifice of Christ for sins by eating reminders of His broken body and shed blood. The point is not to go through a transcendent ritual, but simply to remember Jesus.

“In remembrance of me” were His words as He established this new feast. Is it shocking to you that Christ would have to give us such a reminder? How could we forget that perfect God became perfect Man to bear my sin on the cross? But we do. Thus, we consistently observe the New Testament Passover feast in order to remember Jesus Christ, our perfect Passover Lamb. And as we do, we remind ourselves that when God sees Jesus’ blood spiritually applied to our lives, He passes over us. Hallelujah!

_____

This article is a summary of “The New Passover,” a sermon  preached on Sunday morning, April 22, 2007. It was transcribed with edits by Joe Tyrpak.

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5 Responses

  1. “How could we forget that perfect God became perfect Man to bear my sin on the cross? But we do.”

    I have often thought about this. God, in His goodness, condescends to our human frailties. He lovingly remembers we are but dust.

  2. Another neat thing–Jesus entered Jerusalem (at what is called His triumphal entry) on the first day of Passover week, the day Jews selected their lambs. As Ray Vander Laan puts it in his book Echoes of His Presence, Jesus was saying, “Here I am, the Lamb of God, on My way to the throne by way of the Cross.Will you choose Me as your Lamb, as your sacrifice, and through that sacrifice, as your King?”

  3. Very nice, Elizabeth. Thanks for chiming in.

    I’m so struck by the propitiatory nature of the passover lamb. It was delivering people *from God*, that *He* might pass them by rather than pouring out His wrath. What a perfect prophecy of Christ’s absorbing God’s wrath for us!

  4. Thanks for your dedication to the Lord and for serving us His children appreceate you Helping to clarify the day of the passover in corelation to Jesus day on the Cross.

  5. […] between the Old Testament Passover and the work of Christ are striking (as I’ve noted here). Christ timed His death to coincide with the death of the Passover lambs in Jerusalem (John […]

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