Christians and Passover


Not too long ago I wrote a post about Yom Kippur and other Jewish feast days, and how they relate to the New Testament.

Since today begins the Jewish Passover, I felt it necessary to address it as well, even though the argument will be essentially the same. 

When the average person considers the Passover, the specific details of the feast and how it was celebrated is likely lost, but many people probably have some familiarity with the story in Exodus about what the Passover commemorated: the Holy Spirit saving the first-born from all those who had the blood of a lamb marked on their doors (Exodus 12: 1-4). The Spirit passed over the Jews, hence, the Passover week was inaugurated to celebrate this divine mercy.

Deuteronomy 16: 1-8,

“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it.

This feast was a commemoration of the deliverance, specifically, from the Holy Spirit’s judgment. The two primary elements of the festal celebration were the sacrificial lamb, and the unleavened bread.

The killer question for Christians is: should we continue this feast today? The answer is simple: absolutely not.

1 Corinthians 5: 1-8,

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For 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 (Emphasis mine).

Paul could not be more clear about the nature of Christ to the Passover: He is the substance; Christ is the Passover. He is what the Passover pointed toward, and it is fulfilled in Him. To celebrate the Passover according to the Law is no less than proclaiming Jesus’ work as insufficient; it is a denial of Christ. And that is why when Jews celebrate this today it is a grave, and blasphemous sin. 

However, Paul does mention that there is a way in which Christians do celebrate Passover. But it is not as Jews and other modern cults suggest (strict adherence to the external Sabbath festival code reserved for the Old Covenant people of God), rather, we celebrate it spiritually. 

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.

Paul clearly identifies New Covenant Passover as being celebrated in church every week through a spiritual fulfillment. We worship in holiness, sincerity and truth, and believe the Gospel.

Our need to have a spotless lamb sacrificed is fulfilled in believing in the Gospel, in having Jesus be our permanent, once-for-all sacrifice.

Secondly, our unleavened bread is not a material dough we consume, but is spiritually fulfilled in the local church’s holiness, sincerity, and truth. (This is why church discipline is so important.)

So, how do you celebrate Passover today? Join a biblical, local church, grow in sanctification, meet regularly in the unity of faith, and believe the Gospel. 

Paul’s pointing to Jesus as fulfilling the Passover feast is one example of Christ’s entire ministry of fulfilling the entire Law (Matthew 5:17). The Passover is only one way Christ fulfills the Law. The book of Hebrews makes clear that all of these ceremonial regulations and feasts were fulfilled in Christ.

Hebrews 10: 1-18,

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Emphasis mine).

Again, the author of Hebrews speaks to this issue with the same clarity and force as Paul. To practice these rituals today is to love shadows rather than substance.

The analogy I used in my last blog will be recycled here:

Suppose a women’s husband leaves for war on a 6-month tour. All she has while he is gone are pictures on her phone of him. Now imagine the absurdity of, after returning home, her husband finds our she no longer loves him or wants to be married to him, because she loves the pictures of him more so.

That kind of absurdity is the exact absurdity people engage in when these O.T. ceremonies are adhered to now. Our Husband has come home; we have the real thing. The shadows and types should not fulfill us. In fact they were never intended to.

In these offerings and sacrifices there are only shadows which cannot forgive us. But the substance, Christ, has come. And He has given us a once-for-all sacrifice which actually does forgive. Therefore, we do not need the repetitive sacrifices of the O.T. which cannot do what Jesus did, for they were never meant to do what Jesus did. The author of Hebrews says where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any offering for sin. Are your sins forgiven? Then according to Scripture, there is no need for a sin offering.

Matthew 26: 17-30,

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

The final Passover ever partaken of fundamentally changed worship of God forever. Rather than partaking in the codes found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, we have a superior form of worship in the New Covenant Communion.

I call it superior for two reasons:

1) It is part of a covenant which is explicitly said to be better (Hebrews 7: 18-22).

2) This form of worship continues into eternity (Matthew 26: 30), while the Passover feast, along with its Covenant, has been put away (Hebrews 8:13).

Christian: the New Covenant is better, it is permanent, and in it, we are united to Christ, not to His shadows.

Do not fall away. Do not be tempted into sentimental, historical, nostalgia and fall back into shadows which now reject the once-for-all sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross.

Your sins are forgiven! Take the cup, and when you do so, remember that. Remember what Christ has done. Celebrate the Passover through worship of Christ within your local church. That is how you honor God.

 

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