The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
– John 1:29
Growing up in the American South, it’s pretty simple – we eat. Whether it be celebratory or mournful, birthday or funeral, happy or sad, Southerners bond over meals. Growing up in the Bible-Belt, it’s also pretty simple – we eat. Potlucks, Thanksgiving, Christmas, random weekdays, it doesn’t matter. We will gladly accept any excuse to feast. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I have fallen in love with the God-given celebrations and feasts of Scripture, or maybe it’s because I came to know my savior through the greatest biblical feast.
Like many Christians, I knew little of Passover and the Jewish background of my religion. As a youngster, I figured that, since the Church is supposed to resemble Christ, it just seemed natural that Jesus would look like the American Church. You know, celebrating Easter and Christmas, singing hymns written 1000 years after His death – duh. It’s laughable when you think about it that way; however, isn’t it true? I find myself imagining the 1st century was very similar to our own (sometimes I naturally find myself imagining Jesus and His disciples driving a car as they roamed Israel or something comparable). While it’s funny to realize these occurrences, it’s also important that, as intentional bible-readers, we seek to understand what Scripture was saying 2000 years ago, which leads us to Passover. Why was this such an important topic and motif for the Apostles and Jesus, and does it even matter for a predominately Gentile Church?
As instructed in the Torah, the Jewish people celebrated Passover each year on the 14th of Nisan in order to remember how YHWH delivered the people out from Egypt. While there have been many iterations of how the feast should be conducted, the foundational elements of unleavened bread, lamb, and wine carried rich ethnic and spiritual significance for its participants. For the Disciples, celebrating Passover was just such an occurrence; however, as they celebrated what God had done, Jesus did something that had never been done before.
Jesus took the familiar elements of unleavened bread, wine, and lamb and reworked it around Himself. Akin to the famous Isaiah 53:5 verse, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed,” the unleavened bread, which represented Jesus’ sinless and pure body, was broken, and the wine, His blood, was poured out on our behalf. With these two elements, Jesus proclaims, “Take and eat; this is my body/blood.” With such a scandalous claim, Jesus requires that His followers intentionally and willingly participate in His sacrifice. The final element of Passover, a spotless lamb, was to be sacrificed in order for the Angel of Death to Passover the people. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, and through this, the curse of sin and death are removed from our existence.
This year, Passover begins on March 30th, which coincides with Good Friday, the celebration of Jesus’ crucifixion. Many Christians know the Passover story, but few participate in this divinely mandated meal. While I do not believe it to be a necessity of the Christian faith, the worshipful and instructional power of Passover is so commanding that even Jesus chose it to reveal His Messianic mission to his disciples. This Passover, as it leads into Resurrection Sunday, know that you have been bought with the ultimate price. Jesus’ death invites you into new life if only you choose to take and eat.