The Jewish Passover is the most important holiday of the year. It commemorates when God rescued his people, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt. Many people know some version of the story because of various hollywood renditions - God’s people were trapped in slavery in Egypt, oppressed and forced to perform hard labor. After 400 years, God began a rescue mission to bring his people out of Egypt and into a new amazing land! He brought them from slaves to sons.
As part of God’s rescue plan, he performed a series of miracles designed to display the Egyptian gods as false and position the Jewish God as the one true God. The tenth miracle performed during this rescue operation is referred to as the Passover.
During the Passover, God gave his people the command to kill a pure, innocent lamb and to brush it’s blood upon the doorposts of their homes. That evening, an angel of death went through the land. If a home had the blood of the lamb, the angel passed over (hence, passover) the home. If the home did not have the blood, the angel killed the firstborn son. When Pharaoh, the egyptian ruler, awoke to find his son dead, he told the Israelites to leave.
The passover, and the mass exodus of God’s people out of Egypt, became the paradigm for almost all of Hebrew thought and religious writing. Throughout the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible or what you might think of as the Old Testament), God refers back to the passover and the exodus.
The theme of deliverance and blood runs throughout the pages of these texts. Why? Because, according to Hebrew teaching, without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness for sin and, therefore, no appeasement of God’s wrath against sin. Year after year, the Israelites would celebrate the passover, remembering when God pardoned their firstborn sons because of the blood of an innocent lamb, and recalling the freedom from slavery that followed thereafter.
About 1,500 years or so after these events, a man named Jesus was born. Jesus made bold statements, claiming to be God, that eventually got him killed, but it is the timing of his death that is so fascinating. See, the night before Jesus was crucified, he celebrated this passover meal with his friends - remembering the innocent lamb, whose blood was poured out so slaves could become free men. The next day, Jesus became the passover lamb. He was nailed to a cross as a guilty man although he had done nothing wrong. The innocent one’s blood was poured out so slaves could become sons of the living God. This is why John the Baptist, a prophet, upon seeing Jesus shouted, “Behold, it is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
What people missed - what people still miss - is that we are born into slavery as well. Our slavery is not to flesh and blood, but to sin and death. Death is the evidence of the reality of sin in our world. To free us from this slavery - a slavery far worse than Egypt - we needed a rescue plan as well. We needed much more than a lamb. We needed an innocent one whose blood would be sufficient for a world of slaves. Only Jesus, the God who was man, could provide what was needed. The historical passover was always designed to point towards the real passover - when Jesus would die for the sins of the world to freely give us sonship and a place in God’s family. All who trust in his blood will be passed over as well.