Christ, Our Passover Lamb, Has Been Sacrificed

The celebration of the Passover, instituted by Moses under the Old Covenant, was in the first month of the Hebrew Calendar. The annual cycle of Feasts and holy days commenced with the celebration of the deliverance from bondage in Egypt and culminated in the feasts of the seventh month – the feast of trumpets, the solemn Day of Atonement and finally the feast of tabernacles.

This cycle illustrated the process by which we first need to be delivered from bondage to sin before we can effectively be cleansed from sin and walk in fellowship with God. The cycle of Feasts actually served as an annual reminder of sins (cf. Hebrews 10:3) because the deliverance from bondage to sin would only be accomplished through the Redeemer. If we are only cleansed, but not set free from bondage to sin, we are like a sow that is washed going back to wallowing in the mud (2 Peter 2:22).

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Anyone who failed to celebrate the Passover, without good reason, was to be cut off from the covenant community(excommunicated): When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. But if a man who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, that person must be cut off from his people because he did not present the LORD’s offering at the appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin (Numbers 9:12-13).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread coincided with the celebration of the Passover. After the destruction of the temple lambs were no longer sacrificed for Passover. In Rabbinical Judaism the unleavened bread came to represent the Passover lamb just as in the Christian celebration it represents the body of Jesus, our Passover lamb who was slain for us: For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1. Cor. 5:7).

Surely this is more than coincidence. The yeast in bread was symbolic of the sin which puffs people up with pride and conceit. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross destroys all human pride and self-righteousness: Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are… Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Our participation in the Christian celebration of Passover (commemorated in the breaking of bread / Holy Communion) demonstrates our participation in the body and blood of Christ: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16). According to the principle taught in the Law of Moses, anyone who failed to participate in the celebration of Passover would be cut off from the covenant community and would bear the consequence of their sin.

Just as it would have been pointless for someone to have participated in the first Passover if they had no intention of leaving Egypt, participation in the body and blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, without genuine faith and repentance will render one accountable for their sin. That is why we are warned against partaking in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27). In the same way, failure to participate in this celebration of the new covenant effectively places us outside of God’s covenant community.

Since the old covenant was made obsolete by the new and better covenant there is only one way that we may celebrate the Passover – and that is by participating in the breaking of the bread and the cup instituted by Christ which represent his body that was broken for us and his atoning blood shed for us. Unless we participate in this communion with our Redeemer (not in a merely ceremonial fashion, but actually making him our life), we have no part with him and remain cut off from his covenant people who have been redeemed from a life of sin.