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This year (2021) Passover is March 28, but it starts at sundown on March 27 because the Hebrew or Biblical day runs from sundown to sundown. Passover is then followed by a 7-day feast called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Over time, the two feasts have been grouped together and simply called Passover.
But, what is Passover, or Pesach (PAY-sach)? You may know it as something that the Jewish faith celebrates every year, but what and why are they celebrating?
Passover is one of the seven appointed times (meeting appointments with God) that He scheduled with the Israelites (Jewish people) in Lev. 23:1-2. Through each of these meetings, He reveals more of Himself and calls His followers into a deeper relationship with Him. All seven yearly Feasts or festivals commemorate His faithfulness and the many miracles of deliverance that He performed as He set Israel apart as His own special people. They serve to remind us of His holiness, our impurity, and that, despite the disparity between God and man, He wants us to be in fellowship with Him.
But, you ask, “I am a Gentile, why should I care, even if I follow Yeshua as my Savior?” Well, I’m a Gentile as well, so I’ll try to provide a brief answer to your question.
The fact that these festivals are part of the Old Testament, or better yet Bible Part 1, they are often considered as being irrelevant for New Testament, or Bible Part 2, believers. However, they open up a complete understanding of the continuity of the Scriptures and just how central Yeshua is to all the festivals. And, Yeshua faithfully observed each of these seven festivals. If we are a follower or disciple of Yeshua shouldn’t we follow His example? After all, a disciple emulates his leader.
So, without digging deeper into that question (we’ll cover that in a future post), let’s move on to the subject of this article, the Feast of Passover. God introduced Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread in Ex. 12:1-20 and Lev 23:5-8. As you probably recall from Sunday school, the first Passover occurred, on the night of the last plague when God was releasing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Now, He could have easily accomplished this very quickly without doing the “plague thing.” However, He wanted the Egyptians to know without a doubt that He was greater than every god they worshipped. Each of the plagues was a direct assault on one of those gods. I encourage you to read the story of the plagues and the first Passover for yourself. It is found in Exodus 6:28-12:32.
The Passover was the defining moment in Jewish history. God called them out of slavery and delivered them from 400 years of bondage in Egypt to give them a land of their own and make them not only a people but a nation. Now, that is something to celebrate! It even surpasses our Fourth of July. 🙂
Even better, though, is that the Passover is prophetic of the coming of Yeshua. It presents a scene or a shadow of something yet to come. The Feast of Passover looks back to the liberation of Israel from the land of Egypt, and it looks forward to the saving work of the Messiah, Yeshua, our Passover Lamb. Because Yeshua came 2000 years ago, we, Jew and Gentile who follow Him, can celebrate Passover as a celebration of His death as our Passover Lamb and Resurrection as our Savior. There is nothing more worth celebrating than the sacrifice of Yeshua. It completed His purpose of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand and His call for all mankind to repent of our sins and turn to Him, our once-and-for-all sacrificial Lamb.
The celebration of Passover is centered around a meal. What’s a “feast” without food? The story of the first Passover is retold with various food items as symbols of the suffering and sacrifice associated with the first Passover. Leaven is not permitted at the Passover meal and during the following 7-day Feast of Unleavened bread. Leaven, or yeast, symbolizes impurity, sin. The Passover feast includes a specific remembrance service called a Seder (SEY-der). The order of the service is outlined in a booklet called a Haggadah (HAH-gah-dah), which means “telling”. It guides the service and prayers using the symbolic food items while it explains the significance of the event. A full-blown Passover Seder can last for hours, though most are only an hour or two.
In future posts, I plan to cover the meaning of the symbolic items in a modern-day Seder, Yeshua’s last Seder before His crucifixion, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Until next time…“May the LORD bless and protect you…May He give you Shalom.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Scriptures related to Passover:
Exodus 12:1-20, 39; Leviticus 23:4-8; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; Luke 22:1, 7; Acts 20:6; 1 Cor 5:7-8; Hebrews 11:28
For further study:
Arlene Bridges Samuels, “Passover and Easter”, The Christian Broadcasting Network
Barney Kasdan, “God’s Appointed Times”, Lederer Books
Jewish Voice Ministries, International, “The Spring Feasts and Purim”, JVI Publications
Kevin Howard, Marin Rosenthal, “The Feasts of the Lord”, Thomas Nelson, Inc.