The Significance of Passover
“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” (v. 27).- Exodus 12
Yesterday we briefly introduced the Lord’s Supper, noting that it was instituted at the last meal our Savior enjoyed before His death (Matt. 26:26–29). This sacrament is central to the life and worship of Christ’s church, but, unfortunately, it is something that divides Christians more than it unifies them. The importance of the Lord’s Supper makes it worthy of closer study, and Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Kingdom Feast will guide our investigation of it.
The church of Jesus Christ has always prized the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Early Christians partook of the sacrament at the end of their agape feasts, meals that celebrated the love of God and the love they had for one another. Many refer to the Lord’s Supper as “Holy Communion” because it pictures the union believers have with the Savior and with one another.
Yet we must look to a period earlier than the first century to understand the significance of the Lord’s Supper. Just as our view of baptism is informed by its link to circumcision (Col. 2:8–15), so too does the link between Passover and the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted at a Passover seder, help explain the purpose of eating the bread and drinking the wine. A brief look at the background of Passover in Exodus 12 will enrich our view of the meal Jesus gave us.
Passover was established when God rescued His people Israel from Egyptian slavery. After nine plagues did not move the pharaoh to let the Israelites go (Ex. 7:14–10:29), the Almighty sent one final plague that provoked the king of Egypt to relent temporarily and free the Israelites. This plague, the death of all of Egypt’s firstborn sons (Ex. 11:1–10), gave only a short window in which to escape; thus, the meal preceding it had to be something that could be eaten in haste. Unleavened bread was essential to the Passover as the people had no time to wait for the dough to rise if they were to get away (Deut. 16:3).
The blood of the Passover lamb was also a part of the feast. Though the people did not consume the blood, they did spread it on their door posts so that the angel of death would “pass over” their households (Ex. 12:7–13). In so doing the Israelites marked themselves off as God’s people, saved from His wrath.
Though God elected to save the Israelites, their sin did not make them any less worthy of death than the Egyptians. But the Lord provided a way for them to escape His wrath in those days. Ultimately, this looked forward to the time when the Lord would eternally save His people from judgment. We are saved from God’s wrath by God Himself. Let us never forget the righteous character of our Creator, who, despite our sin, mercifully chooses to redeem His people.
Passages for Further Study
1 Cor. 5:6–8