Summary: How does the Passover observance point to Christ?
You've heard it said, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Indeed, there are things we can grasp by means of a visual aid far easier than we can in any other way.
When God taught His covenant people, the Jews, He used visual aids. For over 400 years, they'd been slaves in Egypt. As slaves, they weren't privileged to learn how to read or write. It's likely the only one who could read or write was Moses, who had been educated in the home of Pharaoh. So God gave the people various laws and rituals to observe. Eventually, the Jews became one of the most educated people on earth. But for 1,500 years, they learned about God through visual aids.
But the Bible makes clear, these were to be shadows of a reality yet to come. The time would come when they would put away these symbols and enter into the spiritual reality they portrayed. The transition from shadow to reality, was provided through the person of Jesus Christ.
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." - Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV)
Now, this doesn't mean the visual aids given in the Old Testament are no longer valuable to us. Indeed, as we're able to now examine them with 20/20 hindsight, we not only see clear portrayals of Christ, but can be helped to learn significant truths about our Savior. That's why today, we're starting a series on seeing Jesus in the seven feasts of Israel. One of the clearest visual aids given the Jews was their religious holidays.
Leviticus 23 lists the seven feasts of Israel, and they are centered in the Lord Jesus. In this chapter, you find the phrase "unto the Lord." Jesus is at the center of it all. Let's start with the Passover.
The Israelites were held as slaved in Egypt. They cried out to God, and God sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. But Pharaoh's wanted to keep the Israelites enslaved. So a series of 10 judgments came against Egypt, culminating with the death of every firstborn male child. As a result, Pharaoh let the Israelites go, then change his mind and pursued them with his armies into the Red Sea, where God destroyed them. But our focus is on how they escaped the judgment of having the death angel take their firstborn male child.
In Exodus 12, God gave steps to be taken so they wouldn't be struck by the final plague. They were to select a year old male lamb without flaw or defect from the flock on the 10th of the month Nisan and keep it until the 14th. Many believe this was to allow time for the family to grow attached, so when it was killed, it wasn't just a lamb, it was their lamb. This made the sacrifice very personal. Then on the 14th, the lambs were killed and the blood applied to the doorpost of each home. The blood made it possible for God's judgment to "pass over" them. So God instituted the Passover as "a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:42).
1. The practical significance of this feast for Israel.
The Passover involved a lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs; and would answer questions so the Exodus story could be passed to each generation. Several centuries before Christ, a traditionalized Passover service emerged, called the Seder, from the Hebrew word meaning "order." It prescribes the order of the Scripture readings, prayers, symbolic foods and songs. It's observed still today. This is the order:
The first cup - Four cups of wine are used to reflect the fourfold joy of redemption. The leader pours the first cup and recites the Kiddush, a prayer of sanctification. Jesus, as the leader of His disciples, said the
Kiddush: "Then He took the cup, and gave thanks" (Luke 22:17).
First hand washing - A pitcher of water, bowl, and towel are given to each person. This is a symbolic act of purification. It's probably here that the Bible says Jesus "got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him" (John 13:4-5). This demonstrated that He was to become the suffering Servant, who would provide for their cleansing (Isa. 53).
The dipping of the karpas (green vegetable) - Usually a piece of lettuce or parsley, it's a reminder of the hyssop with which the door posts were smeared with the blood of the Passover lamb. It's dipped into a bowl of salt water, which is a reminder of the tears shed in Egypt and of the deliverance through the Red Sea.