Summary: The feast of Passover foreshadowed Easter in several important ways.
There are many kinds of sermons. One is the kind you hear from ministers on Sunday mornings. Another is what Saint Francis of Assisi was referring to, when he said, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." Saint Francis, who lived in the thirteenth century, understood that those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ are constantly preaching – by our words, by our attitudes, by our conduct, by our choices. And so we ought to be continually examining our lives to make sure that the message we are proclaiming is the gospel. By God’s enabling power, we should seek to live so that the sermon others hear and see in us is indeed the good news. That’s a very powerful kind of preaching. And this morning, we’ve heard still another kind of preaching, the beautiful sermon in song that the choir has gifted us with. The words and the music, and the spirit in which the cantata was presented, all expressed very eloquently what we have come here to celebrate – the fact that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and that therefore, so shall we.
In the time we have remaining, I’d like to make my own contribution to our worship by talking about Easter, a Christian holiday, but by way of Passover, a Jewish celebration. Most of us realize that there’s a link between Passover and Easter – from the accounts in the gospels, we know that Christ was crucified at Passover, and that the Last Supper he shared with his disciples was a Passover meal. We know that the date of Easter varies from year to year. That’s because it always coincides with Passover, which is scheduled according to the Jewish lunar calendar. But you may not realize that the connection between Passover and Easter runs much deeper than this; that Easter is actually the fulfillment of Passover. The Bible tells us that Easter is the reality, of which Passover was only a picture; a kind of advance preview. The same is true for all of the Jewish feasts and festivals. As the apostle Paul writes, concerning all the ceremonies and celebrations of the old Testament:
"These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." – Colossians 2:17
The Passover celebration was a shadow of things to come. The real meaning of Passover is found in Christ; and specifically, in the events of Good Friday and Easter. This is made explicit in several New Testament passages; for instance, First Corinthians 5:7, which says that,
". . . Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." – 1 Corinthians 5:7
Now, with that in mind, let’s look at Passover and consider some of the ways in which it foreshadows the work of Christ. You’ll remember that the first Passover was observed when Israel was about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. God had spoken through Moses, demanding that Pharaoh release his people, but in spite of a series of devastating plagues, Pharaoh refused to do so. And so now, in preparation for the final and most terrible plague, the death of every first-born, God gives Moses specific instructions for how the Israelites are to be saved. Listen as I read from Exodus chapter twelve:
"The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ’This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’" – from Exodus 12:1-13