Passover

The Passover

Introduction

Think about your kitchen or dining room. What happens there? What happens in those
rooms? Think about that fellowship hall downstairs. What has happened down there in the
past? What will happen there shortly? Eating will definitely happen, but so much more.
I do have a fourteen year old boy in the house, so I am often reminded of the importance of
food. Some people eat to live while others live to eat. Meals are important to us all. Essential
for life.

Today, I want you to specifically think about holiday meals. What do they do? Yes, they stuff
us to the gills, but they do so much more. They bring together family and build tradition. Your
kitchen or dining room is a hub. A center. A core. A nucleus. It is where people gather to
connect the past to the future. It is a place where our histories and our hopes for the future are
shared. Your kitchen table, your dining room table, is an anchor, especially during the holidays.
In Exodus 12, God institutes an important tradition. It is a very important holiday. It is a
memorial day. He says, “You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations,
as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” Did you hear that? A feast. How does that
sound to you? What do you think of when you hear the word “feast”?

What was this feast called? The Passover. What is its purpose? Why did God institute this
important holiday and meal?

The Ten Plagues and God’s Deliverance

God expected His people to observe this holiday with their families forever. He told the
Israelites, “When your children ask why?” Tell them, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover,
for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians
but spared our houses.”

This feast celebrates God’s deliverance.

As you read through Genesis and Exodus, you see epic stories. Amazing stories. At the heart
of each is deliverance. We see the nation of Israel delivered by God through Joseph. A famine
leads the people to Egypt where they find food. Now, 400 years later, all of that peace unravels
in one key verse – Exodus 1:8. “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know
Joseph.” God’s people had been fruitful and increased greatly in Egypt, but things began to
change.

The new Pharaoh despised the Israelites. He enslaves them with ruthless labor. Their lives are
filled with bitterness and hard work. The disgust of this Pharaoh leads to a harrowing story of
death. The hardness of this Pharaoh is extreme. He tells Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby
boys born to the Israelites, but thankfully, his plan is foiled. The Hebrew midwives do not
follow the Pharaoh’s instructions. However, this doesn’t stop the evil plan. The Pharaoh then
commands all his people to throw the Hebrews’ baby boys in the Nile.

This is a dark time for the Israelites. Could you imagine?

I do need to remind you that God is in the business of deliverance. Do you remember what
happens at this point in Exodus? In the midst of this dark narrative, there is deliverance. I
would like to take a moment to remember what we talked about last week. Even when things
seem to be at their darkest and you are filled with questions, cling to God. Over and over
again, we see the victory of light and defeat of darkness in the Bible. God takes a crazy
incomprehensible situation and flips it. That river, the Nile, that Pharaoh uses to destroy the
Israelites, God uses too. Pharaoh uses it to inflict fear. God uses it to manufacture hope. Out
of this river comes a deliverer.

Moses. Deliverance is pulled out of the Nile. God takes a situation flooded with death and
despair and delivers life. Hope is always at hand when God is close.

I don’t have time to look at the life of Moses or march through the ten plagues, but most of are
familiar with the story. We know that God heard the cries of the Israelites. God doesn’t ignore
His people. So, God uses Moses to deliver the Hebrews from the severe bondage of the
Egyptians. Pharaoh is a man of power, pride, and arrogance; his heart is hard. God chips
away at the hardness of Pharaoh with the plagues. Over and over again, Moses delivers the
message of God, “Let my people go.” Over and over again, Pharaoh defies God’s request.
After the trauma of nine plagues, Pharaoh’s arrogant boldness is still intact. Then God delivers
the final knockout blow. Death of all the firstborn.

God finally brings the Pharaoh to his knees. Pharaoh had to reap what he sowed. The same
hands that cast the Hebrew children in the watery grave of the Nile would now have to bury
their own children. Pharaoh got what he gave.

Strict obedience to the Passover saved the Israelites from the tenth plague and the fate of the
Egyptians.

Salvation. A holiday – all about salvation. A meal – all about salvation. God saves his people.
In this Exodus story, people are saved from captivity. In this Exodus story, people are saved
from the destroyer that demands the life of the firstborn. In OUR exodus story, we are saved
from captivity and our lives are passed over too! We are saved from an evil captor. We are
saved from death.

An exit. A holiday, a meal that remembers a grand exit. We are talking about a time of
memorial. What is the Passover? A celebration of deliverance. The Passover is a holiday
celebrating FREEDOM. Now, think about your kitchen. Think about your dining room. Do they
celebrate freedom? Think about the fellowship hall, does it celebrate freedom? I hope so.

The Passover Meal

I would like to briefly look at the Passover meal. What do you know about it?

The Jews celebrate it every year with a seder meal. How many of you have participated in a
Passover seder? I personally have not been part of a formal Passover, so I don’t have all the
details on lockdown. But, I do believe a brief overview could help us understand our story of
deliverance and exodus from sin on deeper level.

Jesus was a Jew. He participated in a Passover meal with his disciples just before his betrayal
and crucifixion. The passages outlining this are very familiar to us. Matthew 26:17-29, Mark
14:12-25, and Luke 22:7-23. When we read those passages, we most often think of the Lord’s
Supper. Please, take note, Jesus was celebrating the story of the Exodus in those passages.
As they broke the bread, drank from the cup, prayed, and sang, they were most likely
pondering the ancient story of deliverance. As they shared in the joys of the holiday and food,
FREEDOM was on their mind.

What was included in this ritual? For the ancient Hebrews, the Passover was a process. They
had to purchase a lamb. They had to kill the lamb at twilight. They had to take the blood of the
lamb and paint the doorposts and lintel with it. The flesh of the lamb must be roasted and
eaten completely overnight. They also had unleavened bread and bitter herbs to eat with the
meat. As they ate, the Jews were to be fully dressed and standing. The goal was to be ready
to leave Egypt!

By the time of Jesus, the meal included the preparation of a lamb, unleavened bread, and the
fruit of the vine. There aren’t a lot of details in the text about the Passover meal Jesus and his
disciples shared.

However, there is a ton of information about Passover seders. God commanded the Israelites
to observe this holiday forever. So, Jews have a very structured ritual they perform every
Passover. The rituals practiced today started after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., so
Jesus did not practice a modern day Passover seder. To be clear, a Jewish seder meal is not a
Christian event, but it does have some elements Christians can appreciate.

I would like to briefly look at each element and consider the rich symbolism. Let’s see if there
is anything we can glean from the Jewish ritual…

Cleansing the Home of Leaven

Jews start the seder by cleansing the house of all leaven. Leaven is equated with sin in the
Bible. The holiday had to start with a complete spring cleaning. The apostle Paul was well aware
of this process.

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven
that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover
lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven,
the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Unleavened Bread

One of the core elements in the meal was unleavened bread. Unleavened bread was symbolic
of purity. It must be 100% leaven free. It also was pierced as it was baked in the oven. During
the meal, (3) pieces of unleavened bread would be placed in a bag. One loaf was called the
bread of affliction. It was broken in half and one half was wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden
or “buried” – the celebration could not end until that loaf was broken, buried, and brought
back. Does this remind you of anything?

Think about the words of Jesus.
Luke 22:19
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them,
saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Drinking from the Cup

Everyone participating in a seder drinks four cups of wine or grape juice. The first cup of the
celebration symbolizes sanctification. The second cup is used to remember the ten plagues.
The third cup signifies blessing and redemption. The final cup was a cup of praise and
expectation.

Once again think about the words of Jesus.

Matthew 26:27-29
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it,
all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the
forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day
when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Greens

Every seder meal would have some kind of greens. You might think of a garnish, like parsley.
They represent life. During the meal, the greens are dipped in salt water. This is symbolic on a
few levels. The salt water represents the tears of life, and this process reminds the Jews that
their ancestors were under a heavy burden in Egypt. The tears of slavery. It also reminds them
that a life without redemption is full of tears. Lastly, the salt water would remind them of the
parting of the Red Sea and how God saved them through salt water – life being drawn out of
salt water and tears.

Bitter Herb or Horseradish

A piece of unleavened bread is used to dip in the horseradish. Have any of you ever eaten
pure horseradish? What does it do to you? Well, if you get enough, it will make you cry. This
element symbolizes the tears of bitterness.

I am reminded of Matthews account.

Matthew 26:20-25
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he
said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and
began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped
his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for
that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I,
Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

As they dipped the bread, was there sorrow?

Apple and Nut Paste

This paste represented the mortar the Jews used to make bricks for Pharaoh. The point was to
remember that even the bitterest trials in life can be made sweet by God’s redemption.

Egg

A hard boiled egg is used to remember the festival sacrifice expected to be performed in the
tabernacle or Temple. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., the Jews would slice the
egg and dip it in the salt water to mourn the loss of the Temple and sacrificial system.

Shank Bone of a Lamb

Reminds the Jews of the Passover lambs that were central to the first Passover in Exodus.
The lamb had to be a firstborn male. It had to be pure and without blemish. It could not have
any broken bones. Does that remind of anything? A pure unspotted lamb without broken
bones?

Another important illustration was the blood of the Passover lamb. It had to be applied to the
lintel and door posts. Every home where the blood covered the lintel and doorposts was safe.
Think about that imagery with me. Some have said that the application of blood to lintel and
doorposts is a foreshadowing of the cross.

Open Door

I think the end of a Passover seder is fascinating. Do you know what they do? One of the
youngest participants will be told to go to the front door of the home and open the door. They
leave the door wide open. Why?

They are anticipating another guest. Do you know who it is? They are looking for the prophet
Elijah! They are anticipating his presence. They are expecting the forerunner of the Messiah to
arrive and tell them, “Hold on, the Messiah is coming!”

Application

Every year, Jews all across the world wait in expectation. Just let that settle in your mind for a
moment. Think about how many Passovers have come and gone! Have you ever waited on
something? How patient are you? Year after year, they sit around their table remembering the
Egyptian bondage. They cerebrate the release of their ancient ancestors and look forward to a
day of personal and national redemption. They are looking forward to FREEDOM.

I stand before you confident. I have faith. I believe Jesus is THE Passover lamb.

You do not have to WAIT for freedom. God’s redemption is not a future action, something that
you have look forward to. It is a PRESENT reality in Jesus the Christ.

Do you remember the words of Paul to the Corinthian church? Christ, our Passover lamb, has
been sacrificed. Deliverance is closer than you realize. The day of salvation is here!

2 Corinthians 6:2
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Is anyone held captive today? Are any of you slaves to sin? If so, I know the way out.
It is Jesus. I feel sorry for our Jewish friends. They have missed the boat. They are waiting on
something that has already happened. We do not gather around a table to celebrate the
Passover because we know Jesus has provided that pure atoning sacrifice for sin, once and
for all. We know that our captor has been defeated. We know that we have been set free from
death.

Are you looking for release?

I hope so. God’s mercy is sweet. It is new every morning, and it can only be had through the
Christ.

John 10:7-11
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All
who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am
the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and
have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the
sheep.

Now, is the favorable time. Now, is the day of salvation.

God saves his people. In the Passover, the Exodus story, people are saved from captivity. In
this Exodus story, people are saved from the destroyer that demands the life of the firstborn.
In OUR exodus story, we are saved from captivity and our lives are passed over too! We are
saved from an evil captor. We are saved from death.

Praise be to God through Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb!!!

Passover