Passover. It is such a beautiful time of the year. Gruesome, painful, full of sorrow and grief…and yet powerfully rich and beautiful!
Passover is the command of Torah that first caught our hearts. First, it is an appointed time that we see Yeshua himself participating in. Second, we are told that Yeshua actually is the true Passover Lamb. Finally, we were first drawn to Passover because it is so rich with symbols that employ all the senses. In remembrance of the great time in history when God miraculously freed his people from Egypt, we smell, taste, and feel the redemption for ourselves. Since we saw no reason to keep us from exploring this holiday that some view as merely “Jewish”, we slowly learned to incorporate this appointed time into our lives. Little did we know this special celebration would begin to open our eyes to the power and beauty, and divine orchestration of YHWH’s story!
Passover is the first of the four appointed times that occur in the spring season. These feasts of YHWH are all connected to each other. They are commanded for us to remember so that we see and understand that the power of YHWH is at work providing in every way, spiritually and physically. These feasts also serve as a beautiful picture and sign of what YHWH would accomplish through the Messiah and the Spirit. There is a set of appointed times in the fall, as well, making the total come to seven, but those I’ll have to leave for another post. Each appointed time has both a historical significance as well as a future fulfillment in the Messiah.
These are the appointed times of YHWH, the holy gatherings, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.
Most of us know the historical significance of the first Passover, as recorded in Exodus 12. It was the final stage of YHWH’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Moses and Aaron, as YHWH’s messengers, petitioned Pharaoh to let the people go. After nine plagues that defied the gods of Egypt, Pharaoh still refused to listen. Moses then prepared the Israelites for the final plague. He instructed them to kill one lamb per household, or share together with a neighbor. The people were to take the blood of the lamb and, with a hyssop branch, wipe it on the lintel and two doorposts of the house where they would eat. They were to roast the lamb and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The people were to eat dressed to travel, belts fastened, sandals on and staff in hand. The meal was to be eaten quickly. At midnight, YHWH passed through the entire land of Egypt, killing all the firstborn of man and beast except those in the houses covered with blood. The blood on the doorposts was a sign for YHWH to pass over, or extend protection against his own wrath. By morning all of Egypt was in agony, begging the people of Israel to leave them in peace. This is YHWH’s Passover.
YHWH instructed his people to order their entire cycle of the year around this celebration. Starting with the first Passover and the Exodus from Egypt the calendar of YHWH was established. Each year, for every generation, the people of YHWH, and those joined to his people through the covenant, were to remember YHWH’s Passover. On the 10th day of this first month each family was to take a perfect male lamb into their care until the 14th day. At twilight on that day the whole assembly of Israel was to kill their lambs. The people were to eat the lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They were to spend the meal telling their children the meaning of this remembrance.
In addition, there is a second completely separate and yet related appointed time, called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Starting on the 15th day of the first month, for seven days everyone was to eat bread without rising agent, in remembrance of when YHWH brought the Israelites out of Egypt. During each of the seven days all leaven was to be taken outside of the houses and not seen in all the territory. On the seventh day there was to be a Feast unto YHWH. Passover and Unleavened Bread were to be remembered as a sign, just as significant as if the reminder was wrapped around your hand or tied to your forehead, so that the law of YHWH may be in our mouths. Eating symbolic foods and physically rehearsing YHWH’s story, enables us to remember his law. It also, as we see many generations later, enables us to see how the Messiah is was woven into this story right from the start.
And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of YHWH may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand YHWH has brought you out of Egypt.
The third appointed time was instructed to the people of Israel once they had taken possession of the Promised Land. This was called First Fruits. The people were to bring a sheaf of the first fruit of the harvest to the priest to wave before YHWH. No one was to partake of grain in anyway before the first fruit was presented to YHWH. This was to be the first day after the Sabbath after Passover. As YHWH would perfectly orchestrate, after his people entered Canaan they celebrated Passover for the very first time in the Promised Land. The following day was Unleavened Bread and they also presented the first fruits of Canaan before YHWH. They ate from the bountiful provisions of the land. On that very day the manna ceased to come from heaven. So beautiful!!
The fourth appointed time in the spring feasts is Shavuot. I will be writing a separate piece about the beauty of this appointed time later. As this day comes many weeks after Unleavened Bread, my main focus here will be on the times surrounding Passover and Unleavened Bread.
So, as generations passed, Israel followed YHWH and rebelled. They experienced peace and destruction many times over. During the reigns of wicked kings and times of exile the Torah was lost and so were the remembrances of YHWH’s appointed times. When wise kings found the Law the first services to be reinstated were the appointed times. YHWH desires all of his people, everyone who has joined in the covenant relationship with Israel and YHWH, to remember and rehearse each of these appointed times for every generation.
Let me fast forward to the time of Yeshua, the Messiah. By this point in time the entire time of celebration of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits was called Unleavened Bread. Close to 1,500 years after the first Passover Yeshua and his disciples were preparing to celebrate like they had year after year. This year would be unlike any other. This year Yeshua would fulfil this feast as the Sacrificial Spotless Lamb and through his blood would save his people from the punishment of death.
He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ”And the disciples did as Yeshua had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
I want to quickly look at the big picture timeline of the Passover festivities and then delve into the actual Passover meal itself.
The timeline above displays how the events surrounding Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits line up with significant fulfilments of Messianic events. It makes perfect sense YHWH would work out his story so deliberately. It is no stretch of the imagination to see that Yeshua, the Messiah, is the true focus of these events. YHWH was preparing his people, through repeated celebration of these appointed times, to embrace Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah. Not everyone did. But those who did, without a doubt, grasped the awesome orchestration and symbolic nature of all of these events.
As accounted in the Gospels, five days before Passover, Yeshua mounted a humble donkey. He proceeded down the Mount of Olives, into the crowded streets of Jerusalem. The climate of the city was tense, as the people prepared for the feast of Passover, and now more than ever yearned for the Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of the Romans. The officials of Jerusalem felt the tension, too, and reminded guards and soldiers to stand down so as not to agitate the crowds.
As Yeshua entered into Jerusalem, on the day specified to select the lamb for Passover, people began to throw their cloaks on the path in front of him. In anticipation of a fierce deliverance from Rome and crowning of their new King, they grabbed palm branches waving them and laying them down before him. “Hosanna, hosanna! Save us, please!” But, Yeshua wept for Jerusalem. He wept that his people failed to grasp the bigger picture, the one YHWH was orchestrating even then.
The Messiah riding on the donkey would save them. He would deliver them. But, this deliverance was from the power of death that had a crushing hold on creation since nearly the dawn of time. Just as the blood of the lamb on the first Passover offered protection to anyone who remained in the covered house, the blood of Yeshua, the true Passover Lamb, was shed for his people. His sacrifice offer protection from eternal death that was, and is, inevitable because of our sin.
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26
We, all of YHWH’s people for all generations, are called to remember this day. Not just for the historical significance of deliverance from Egypt, but for the fulfilment that Yeshua brought through his precious sacrifice to save us from slavery to sin and death.
As Yeshua was laid in the tomb at the close of Passover and remained through the first days of Unleavened Bread, we are reminded of the Messiah’s spotless sacrifice. His body was as the unleavened bread, without sin. Just as the people of YHWH passed through the water of the Red Sea on their way to a renewed life in the Promised Land, so too the Messiah passed through the tomb of death to be raised to new life.
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.
1 Corinthians 5:6–8
We, all of YHWH’s people for all generations, are called to remember this day. Not just to remember the Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea on their way to a new life. We are to remember Unleavened Bread because of the fulfilment of Yeshua the Messiah, who through his sinless life and death brings us to a new life. We are called to remember, as we sweep out every speck of leaven in our homes, to sweep out every speck of sin from our hearts in preparation for our new life.
As the celebration of First Fruits dawned, a few women who were followers of Yeshua approached the tomb. They had waited until after Sabbath to finish preparing his body- and found that Yeshua had been raised from the dead. It was no coincidence that YHWH had planned First Fruits to be the day that the Messiah was raise to new life. On this day, where YHWH’s people worshipped him for his provisions for the coming season, we are reminded that Yeshua is the first of many to be raised from death. In the ultimate provision of the Father through the Son, all the people of YHWH will conquer death and abide in YHWH forever.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 20:19-20
We, all of YHWH’s people for all generations, are called to remember this day. Not just to remember YHWH’s provisions of the barley harvest. We are to remember First Fruits because Yeshua is the First Fruit. And we are to follow in a coming resurrection. In a sense we already do partake in this blessings of being raised to new life in Messiah. But it is not complete. We still have a death ahead of us, but this death will not keep us down. We can be confident of this because of the witness of Yeshua as the First Fruit of many to rise.
I originally had anticipated working through the complexities and stunning beauty of the actual Passover Seder. The accounts of the “Last Supper” in the Gospels just jumps to life when we begin to understand the pattern of the Seder. Each part that is mentioned has significant Messianic implications. I am not able to walk through each aspect of this step by step in this post. I am, though, including a graphic displaying various aspects of the Passover meal and the significance to Yeshua’s last Passover with his disciples. It is in this context, on this amazing day of celebrating the Sacrificial Lamb, that Yeshua commands his disciples to do all this in remembrance of him.
Not only has YHWH instructed us to remember the Passover year after year, and Yeshua commanded us to do it in remembrance of him, but the Word reveals that Passover will be part of our future worship of YHWH. We should never cease to remember the Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. Not just because YHWH’s people are commanded to remember them for every generation, but because we see with fuller clarity how the Messiah fulfills the whole story written by YHWH.
Understanding the whole story is what makes the appointed times awesome and beautiful. This story, from start to finish, is one that we are to know by heart, celebrate year after year and pass on to the next generation. YHWH himself gave instructions for how to incorporate his story into our daily lives, how to remember his history with his people and how to look forward to the future fulfilment of that story through his Son.
Why would anyone truly seeking to know YHWH more intimately refuse this invitation, let alone ignore this command, to meet with him as he asks?