Recognizing the connection between Passover and Easter, many churches of all types of denominations will celebrate both within the same week. In Florida and many other states, there is the unique opportunity to attend both a Passover Seder and a sunrise service in the same church.
Churches across the world will use the words of the angel at the tomb in Matthew 28:5-7 as a part of their liturgy. The leader will quote the angel, “He is risen!” and congregants will reply, “He is risen, indeed!” Other churches present a passion play, portraying the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Just as Christ’s death and resurrection celebrates victory over sin and death, the passover celebrates God’s victory over the Egyptian gods through a number of miracles God did through Moses. Passover, like Independence Day, is a celebration of freedom from tyranny. As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites worked every day of the week, every day of the year for Pharaoh’s benefit. Moses warned Pharaoh of the consequences of not heeding God’s warning, yet Pharaoh ignored the warning. Instead he chose to make their lives even harder. God, through ten miracles targeting the gods of the Egyptians, convinces Pharaoh that it is in his best interest to release the Israelites from their bondage. Pharoah does but later decides the Israelites should be his slaves once again.
The Red Sea
Pursuing the Israelites was not as easy as Pharaoh had presumed. God placed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night between the Egyptian army and the Israelites. In spite of this, the Israelites complained to Moses, “Are there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die in the wilderness?” God’s response was not to rebuke the people but to encourage them through Moses. “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again’” (Exodus 14:13 NKJ). God parted the water when Moses lifted his hands, and the Israelites crossed unharmed. Having survived the attack, they danced and praised the Lord who had delivered them. This story is told every year as part of Passover festivities.
The forgotten feast within a feast
Passover is considered part of a festival, not simply a celebration day, in Scripture. For seven days the Israelites were to eat only unleavened bread, and on the first day, a lamb was sacrificed and eaten. This lamb was sacrificed both in obedience to God’s command and in remembrance of the deliverance of the first-born sons of Israel from the angel of death. Within this feast is contained the first fruits of the barley harvest, traditionally celebrated by Orthodox Jews the 16th of Nisan. Scripturally, however, the feast falls on the first day of the week starting within the feast of Passover. (Leviticus 23: 11-16) This is one of two feasts that fall on the first day of the week; the other is the Feast of Weeks (also known as Pentecost). Both feasts are called first fruits in Scripture, one for barley, the other for wheat.
Messiah, our Passover
In the Scriptures, Jesus is called our Passover.
“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5: 7)
There are several reasons Jesus is called our Passover.
First, unleavened bread is an inanimate type of Messiah, as leaven often represents sin in Scripture. He was also a Passover sacrifice for our lives, just as the Passover lamb originally was killed to provide blood for the doorpost in Moses’ time. This is referred to in John’s gospel twice: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1: 29 and John 1: 36, both allusions to Isaiah 53) It is no mere coincidence, his death on the twilight of Passover reminds us of sin’s tyranny and the price required for freedom.
Are there no graves? None that will hold the first fruits!
There were no graves for the Jews who went through the sea on dry ground. There was, however, a grave prepared for Jesus. He remained there until first fruits, (the first day of the week, starting within the feast of Passover) when He appeared to the women who came to put spices on his body. They were quite surprised to see the tomb opened and an angel proclaiming the news: “He is risen!” Meeting Jesus later, they declared the news to his disciples, “We have seen the Lord!” Fulfilling both the Passover’s purpose and the First Fruits festival, he rose from the grave, proving there are no graves that could prevent the fulfillment of the promise (and no armies, either!). There are no graves that will indefinitely hold his followers either, a fact to rejoice in at all times!
Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers and their faith. She can be reached at [email protected].