Posted by: austend | Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover

Starting at sunset this evening [Wed April 8] is Pessach (Passover).  It is the very special holiday that commemorates the Israelites being supernaturally delivered from the house of bondage as slaves in Egypt by God.

You recall the story in Exodus 12.  The Israelites were warned of a final plague against Egypt, one that would finally break Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  The Israelites gathered a lamb for each family, sacrificed it, and put its blood on the doorposts of their home.  That night, the Destroying Angel went throughout Egypt and struck down all the firstborn males, but He passed over the homes with blood on the doorposts.  From that point onward, all the firstborn males of Israel belonged to the Lord, because He had spared the Israelites’ firstborn, thus all Israelite firstborn males must be redeemed (bought back) [Exodus 13].

Passover was one of the appointed feasts, the pilgrimage feasts, which all men were required to visit Jerusalem yearly to observe (Leviticus 23:4-8).  The feast began the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasted another 7 days, during which time there could be no leaven in the house.

Several noteworthy celebrations in Scripture of Pessach include Numbers 9 with Moses, Joshua 5:10-11 when Joshua entered the Promised Land, 2 Kings 23:21-23 with Josiah, 2 Chronicles 30 with Hezekiah, and Ezra 6:19-22 with Ezra and the exiles.

According to Deuteronomy 16:1-8, a sacrifice from the flocks or herds was to be offered at sunset.  The meal was to be eaten in haste, to remember the Exodus from Egypt.  The animals was only to be sacrificed in Jerusalem, at the Temple.

Significantly, it was at Passover that the Lord Jesus was crucified.  He was the ultimate Passover sacrifice–the ultimate substitute sacrifice.  It is especially appropriate to remember that this week as Easter looms near.  There is debate whether Christians are supposed to “keep” Passover or not (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8), however at the very least I think it is highly appropriate to remember Passover, though not necessarily to “keep” it as the Jews do today.

Tonight Jews around the world will gather as families to celebrate this most special holiday.  There is no more sacrifice, but a special family meal will be held to remember what God has done for them.  Usually the meal will last many hours, until midnight.  There is an entire “ceremony” rich with symbolism to remind them of God’s miracle for them so long ago.  A book called a Haggadah (“telling”) guides the ceremony.  A plate with several foods represents different things.  On the plate is a bone reminding of the sacrificed animal; some fresh greens to represent life; some bitter herbs or horseradish to remind of the bitter tears of slavery; some sweet paste to represent the mortar of the bricks from their slave labor; some unleavened bread; and several cups of wine, each with a specific meaning.  After the ceremony, rich with symbolism and memory, is completed, the Hallels from the Psalms are sung.  It is a beautiful ceremony that reminds them of their debt to God.  Read more about the holiday ceremony {here}, {here}, {here}, {here}, {here}, and {here}.

Again, for us Christians today, I do not think we should celebrate the Passover as the Jews do today, for that Passover that they remember is not ours.  Our “Passover” revolves around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I think it is most profitable to remember the Exodus story today, and to celebrate with our Jewish friends, but our thoughts should automatically shift toward our Lord.  This evening I challenge you to read the Passover story (Exodus 12, Deuteronomy 16:1-8), consider Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, bless the Lord in the Hallel Psalms (Pss. 113-118), and remember our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself for us!  It would be good for you to read up on the Jewish celebration of Pessach also so you can be more culturally literate (see above)!

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