Passover is all about redemption. Each year, in Jewish homes across the globe, Jewish people gather together to celebrate the holiday during a traditional feast, which is called the Passover Seder. The seder commemorates God's redemption of Israel and retells the story of their liberation from Egypt. It not only recounts Israel's escape from their harsh enslavement under Pharaoh, but also presents a clear picture of redemption.
Jesus celebrated this feast with His disciples on the evening before His death (Matt. 26:17-30). During the celebration, Jesus used the elements of Passover to explain how His death and resurrection would provide redemption from enslavement to sin (Matt. 26:26-29). The seder speaks about redemption and is an easy way to introduce the Gospel in a Jewish context.
Any good story need a conflict, and the Exodus is a great story. Enslavement is a prerequisite for redemption. If Pharaoh had not oppressed Israel in Egypt, the story of Passover would not have been possible. Israel's enslavement prepared the way for the Exodus (Ex. 1:11-12; 6:6). As the Jewish people were slaves under Pharaoh, so too has all of humanity been enslaved to sin and alienated from God (Is. 59:2; Rom. 6:20-21; Eph. 2:1-3).
The story of Passover reminds the Jewish people of their oppression. The seder illustrates this bitterness through both salt water and bitter herbs, typically horseradish. Both elements encourage the participants to recall the tears the nation shed in Egypt. This bitterness leads God's people to look for their Redeemer. God did not design creation to be full of suffering - and just as in the same time of the Exodus, our affliction and the brokenness in creation cries out for a redeemer.
God poured out ten plagues upon Egypt, but redeemed Israel through the tenth plague. God instructed the people to kill a flawless lamb and spread its blood upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes with hyssop (Ex. 12:5, 21-22). God redeemed Israel through the death of the lamb. John introduced Jesus as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus is the Passover Lamb, who not only redeems Israel, but the entire world through His sacrificial death (1 Cor. 5:7).
No seder is complete without matzah, the unleavened bread (Ex. 12:19-20). The Jewish community refers to the matzo as the bread of affliction. It reminds the nation that they had to leave Egypt in haste. During the seder, each family places three special pieces of matzah in the center of the table. The leader breaks the middle matzah and hides it until after the meal. At the Last Super, Jesus handed each of His disciples a broken piece of matzah and told them that it symbolized His brokenness (Lk. 22:19). Yet Jesus did not remain broken; He rose from the dead. The return of the broken matzah during the seder can be an illustration of Jesus' resurrection.
During the seder, each participant drinks from four cups, reminding Israel of the four expressions of redemption (Ex. 6:6-7). The third cup is "the Cup of Redemption." Jesus handed this cup to His disciples and said it represents the New Covenant (Lk. 22:20; cf. Jer.31:31-34), which promises both redemption and forgiveness of sin.
The Feast of Firstfruits is a little-known holiday God prescribes during Passover (Lev. 23:9-14). God instructs Israel to offer the first part of their harvest on the first day after the Sabbath following Passover, which is the Sunday following Passover. It was on the Feast of Firstfruits that Jesus rose from the dead, giving hope to His people for the future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Though the story of Passover begins with oppression, God provides redemption and gives hope for future restoration.
Other JewishRoots.Net Passover related links include:
Chosen People Ministries Newsletter, April 2014 p.5
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Chosen People Ministries
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