How the Passover Reveals Jesus Christ
by Rich Deem
Introduction: The festival of the Passover has been celebrated by Jews for thousands of years. It is the retelling of the great story of how God redeemed the Jewish nation from enslavement in Egypt.1 The celebration itself was given to the Jews while they were still in Egypt.2 The original celebration centered around the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed and its blood put over the doorposts as a sign of faith, so that the Lord passed over the houses of the Jews during the last plague poured out on the Egyptians – the killing of every firstborn.3 To a large degree, the Passover lamb has been eliminated from the Passover festival (with the only remnant being the roasted lamb shank bone).4 The New Testament says that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb.5 The Passover lamb was to be a “male without defect,”6 which is the same description given to Jesus.7 In addition, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken.8 This fact was also prophesized for the Messiah, whose bones were not to be broken.9 It was customary during crucifixion to break the leg bones of the person after a few hours in order to hasten their death. The only way a person could breathe when hanging on a cross was to push up with his legs, which was very exhausting. By breaking the legs, death followed soon by asphyxiation. However, in the case of Jesus, they broke the legs of the other two men, but did not break His, since He was already dead.10
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Passover symbolism: Much of the symbolism of Jesus’ last Passover week is lost to us because we are unaware of the customs of the time. For example, Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem five days before the lamb was killed in the temple as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel. Five days before the lamb was to be sacrificed, it was chosen. Therefore, Jesus entered Jerusalem on lamb selection day as the lamb of God.11 The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches12 and hailed Him as King,13 shouting “Hosanna,”14 which means “save us.” However, they were not looking for a spiritual Savior, but a political savior. Palm branches were a symbol of freedom and defiance, since Simon Maccabeus had entered Jerusalem with that symbolism.15 Jesus’ reaction was to weep,16 since He realized that they did not understand the Messiah’s purpose in coming.
Passover sacrifice: The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar (ram’s horn) at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. At 3:00,17 when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished”18 – at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from the Temple. The sacrifice of the lamb of God was fulfilled at the hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice usually took place. At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies19) tore from top to bottom20 – representing a removal of the separation between God and man…