So many have asked the simple question: Why Passover? In Exodus 12:13-14 we read, The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord. Throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
As we approach the celebration of PASSOVER we must remember that Passover is a celebration designed by God! This Feast and event was given to increase our faith and prepare us to enter into the fullness of His blessing! Passover was commanded by God for the Jews in the Old Testament to teach them the importance of redemption by the blood. But it was also observed by Christians in the New Testament to remember and understand God's redeeming work. The Bible tells us it is to be a permanent ordinance…a celebration for all time.
Many Christians don't realize that Passover is just as much a New Testament Feast as an Old Testament Feast. It's all through the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles all celebrated Passover. The original Lord's Supper was a Passover meal. The apostles taught the Gentile churches to celebrate Passover. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to a predominantly Gentile church and said: "Christ OUR Passover Lamb has been slain, therefore let us celebrate the feast!" For hundreds of years, Passover was the most important yearly celebration in the early Church.
What Makes Passover So Important?
Derek Prince once said that the most powerful faith declaration for deliverance is this: "I am redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy!" He said that if you can make that declaration in faith, and keep on making it, something will happen. You will be delivered from the power of the enemy. That's really the message of Passover. The Feast of Passover is a faith declaration that we are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. It does something in us when we celebrate Passover. When we come together to remember God's great works of redemption, and declare the power of redemption in our lives today, it ALWAYS does something!
Passover is very important to God. But satan HATES Passover. The enemy has worked diligently to steal Passover away. The good news is: God is restoring Passover. But it is a battle! The battle for Passover is the battle for the Blood. Satan wants to give us a bloodless religion, because a bloodless religion has no power. The power is in the Blood!
There's always a battle for PASSOVER. We see it in Church history. In the 4th century, when the emperor Constantine tried to merge Christianity and paganism, it sounded like a good deal to many. He legalized Christianity. You could go to church without having to fear being thrown to the lions. And Constantine didn't mind Christians having a celebration of Jesus' resurrection…but he did have an issue with PASSOVER. He demanded that Christians not celebrate Jesus' resurrection at the time of Passover. At the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), he declared, "This irregularity [observing Passover] MUST be corrected!"
At the council of Nicea, Constantine outlawed Passover and directed that Christ's death and resurrection be celebrated on "the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox," which is a time associated with the spring festival of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar also known as Eastre. (That's why in the Church today we celebrate the resurrection at Easter instead of Passover.) Constantine's goal was to remove Jesus from the context of Passover.
The Battle Continues! Many in the Church resisted Constantine's edicts, so for many centuries after Constantine, the battle for Passover continued. In the sixth century, for example, Emperor Justinian sent the Roman armies throughout the empire to enforce the prohibition on Passover. In his attempt to wipe out the "heresy" of Passover, thousands of men, women and children were brutally murdered. Entire cities were massacred for refusing to stop celebrating Passover. (The battle for Passover has had many casualties.) Pressured by the government, the Roman Church joined in the attempts to stamp out Passover. Notice some of the decrees passed against Passover by various church councils.
A Curse Pronounced!
THE COUNCIL OF ANTIOCH (A.D. 345) – "If any bishop, presbyter or deacon will dare, after this decree, to celebrate Passover, the council judges them to be anathema from the Church. This council not only deposes them from ministry, but also any others who dare to communicate with them." (The word anathema means "cursed." The Church actually pronounced a curse on Christians who would celebrate Passover!)
THE COUNCIL OF LAODICEA (A.D. 365) – "It is not permitted to receive festivals which are by Jews."
THE COUNCIL OF AGDE, FRANCE (506) – "Christians MUST NOT take part in Jewish festivals."
THE COUNCIL OF TOLEDO X (7th century) – Easter must be celebrated at the time set by the decree of Nicea.
The battle for Passover is seen clearly in Church history! That battle against Passover is nothing new. We see the same thing in the Bible: satan always tries to steal away Passover, because he knows the celebration of the Blood releases power. Look what happened in Hezekiah's day:
Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He repaired and cleansed the temple, tore down the false altars, restored the sacrifices, and Davidic praise. Then Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, inviting them to come to celebrate Passover. Couriers went throughout Israel and Judah: "People of Israel, return to the Lord." The hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king had ordered. A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. They slaughtered the Passover lamb and celebrated the Feast for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites sang to the Lord every day, accompanied by instruments of praise. The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David, king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached Heaven, His holy dwelling place (see 2 Chronicles 29-30 for more).
The same thing was happening in Josiah's Day: Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. In the 18th year of his reign, while repairing the temple, they found the TORAH scroll in the temple. When the king heard the words of the Torah scroll, he tore his robes. He went up to the temple with all the people. He read in their hearing all the words of the Covenant. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The king ordered them to remove from the temple all the idols made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He tore down the quarters of the male prostitutes, which were in the temple…The king gave this order to all the people: "Celebrate Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this scroll of the Covenant." In the 18th year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem. Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had such a Passover been observed" (see 2 Kings 22-23 for more).
We see a Biblical pattern! In both of these passages, God's people had drifted far from the Lord and turned to idolatry, and the blessing of God was lost. They turned back to God and sought Him, and the first thing God did was restore Passover! As they turned from pagan idols and celebrated Passover, they were restored to God and experienced great joy and blessing. That's an interesting pattern. Over and over again in the Bible, we discover that Passover had been LOST. Even during the Old Testament era, and even among the Jews, generations lived and died without celebrating Passover.
Why had Passover been lost? Satan had STOLEN it away! Satan always wants to steal Passover. Then, as a new generation turned back to the Lord, and began to read the Bible, they read about Passover for the first time. It seemed strange to them. They said, "We've never done this!" (That's exactly what we see in much of the Church today.) But as the Holy Spirit moved on their hearts, they celebrated God's feast of redemption, and God's power and joy were restored!
Why Does Satan Hate Passover?
Satan hates Passover because Passover is the celebration of JESUS. When the Church gave up Passover, it invented other celebrations of Jesus. That is how we shifted the timing of our celebration to Christmas and Easter. It's not bad to celebrate Jesus on those other days. (It's always good to celebrate Jesus.) But the celebration of Jesus that God gave us is called Passover!
The New Testament tells us that Jesus IS the Passover Lamb. When John introduced Jesus He said, "Behold the LAMB!" Paul said: Christ, our PASSOVER LAMB has been slain! Celebrating Passover IS celebrating Jesus! As the Passover Lamb, He shed His Blood to redeem us from the enemy. When His Blood is "on the doorpost" of your life, God delivers you from the destroyer. So if you understand Passover, you automatically understand what Jesus did.
On the original Passover night, everything pointed to Jesus. Every father in Israel was told to stand at the door of his house with a basin containing the blood of the lamb. He was to dip a branch of hissop into the blood and smear the blood on the two doorposts of the house. Then he was to repeat the action and put the blood on the lintel over the door. If you can picture the motion he made with that blood-soaked branch of hissop, you'll see he was making the sign of the Cross!
On Passover night, every father in Israel made the sign of the cross in the blood of the lamb. And as result, the family experienced redemption from the power of the enemy! God's deliverance always comes by His Cross and by His Blood. That's what Passover celebrates. You see, it was not by accident that Jesus died on Passover. God could have had Jesus die any time of year. But it was God's will for Him to die at Passover, so we would recognize that He is the Passover Lamb!
Passover is so important to God that He chose to have the most important event in history (the death and resurrection of Jesus) take place at Passover. God went to great lengths to CONNECT the sacrifice of Jesus to Passover. (This is interesting: Constantine's goal was to separate the work of Jesus from Passover, while God's goal was to connect Jesus' work to Passover.) God wants us to think of Jesus in the context of the Passover celebration!
The Timetable of Passover
It's interesting to compare the timetable of Jesus' crucifixion with the Passover celebration. According to the Torah, at the time of Passover a number of events had to take place in a specific order, and at very specific times.
1. The Passover Lamb had to be selected on a specific day. Exodus 12 instructs that the Passover lamb be chosen on the 10th day of 1st month. By the time of Jesus, only lambs from Bethlehem were considered eligible to serve as Passover lambs. So the lamb born in Bethlehem was chosen and brought into Jerusalem from the east (down the Mount of Olives) and entered the city through the sheep gate. On the 10th day of 1st month Jesus, the Lamb born in Bethlehem, came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem through the sheep gate. (This is called His "triumphal entry.") As He entered, the people waved palm branches and shouted "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD! Save us, Son of David!" By mass acclamation Jesus is designated as Israel's Messiah! The crowds had chosen their Passover Lamb!
2. The Lamb then had to be examined. The Torah instructed that once the lamb was chosen, it had to be carefully examined for blemishes. Only a perfect, spotless and unblemished lamb would suffice for the Passover. After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple to teach. While there, He was approached by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and the teachers of the Law. Each group posed difficult questions, trying to trap him. Essentially, they were looking for any blemish which might disqualify Him as Messiah. But no one could find fault with Him. He was without blemish.
3. The Leaven (impurity) must be cast out. Torah instructs that before the feast, all leaven (impurity) must be cast out of every Israelite home. Each mother took a candle and searched out impurity, removing it from her house. This regulation is still observed today. Passover is a time to cleanse every house. Every observant Jewish family carefully cleans their house before Passover. Every trace of impurity is removed. After Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He entered the Temple and cast out the moneychangers. He was following the Biblical instruction to prepare for Passover by cleansing His Father's house.
4. The Lamb is taken to the altar for public display. On the morning of the 14th day of the 1st month, when all has been set in order, the lamb was led out to the altar. At 9 a.m. that morning, the lamb was bound to the altar and put on public display for all to see. On the morning of the 14th day of the 1st month, when all had been fulfilled, Jesus was led out to Calvary. At 9 a.m. that morning, just as the lamb was being bound to the altar, Jesus was nailed to the Cross and put on public display at Calvary.
5. The Lamb was slain at a specific time. At exactly 3 p.m. the high priest ascended the altar. As another priest blew a shofar on the temple wall, the high priest cuts the throat of the sacrificial Lamb, and declared, "IT IS FINISHED!" At 3 p.m. on that high holy day, at the moment the Passover lamb was killed, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "IT IS FINISHED," and gave up His spirit. In Greek, "It is finished" is tetelistai! It means, "The debt has been paid in full!"
The Celebration of Jesus!
Do you see how God chose to connect Jesus with Passover? It's no wonder John introduces Jesus by saying, "Behold the Lamb!" It's no wonder Paul writes "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been slain!" Passover is all about Jesus! Do you see that Passover is all About JESUS?
Passover is the "JESUS" Celebration! The more you understand Passover, the more you appreciate Jesus! If you don't understand Passover, you have a hard time fully understanding what Jesus did. As you celebrate Passover, you are declaring your faith in the power of His Blood and His redemption. That's why one of strangest things in the world is that Christians all over the world have accepted satan's lie that Passover is not a "Christian" thing! Satan tries to steal away Passover, because he knows the celebration of the Blood releases power! When the celebration of Passover was stolen away, the power left! But when Passover is restored, the power RETURNS!
The Good News is—God is RESTORING Passover! All over the world churches are again celebrating Passover! And the POWER is returning! We invite you to celebrate the power of Jesus' Blood. We invite you to join with Christians all over the world in the restoration of Passover. Join with us in proclaiming: We are REDEEMED by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, out of the hand of the enemy!
If you would like to know more about Passover and see suggestions for celebrating it, we recommend the book The Messianic Church Arising! by Dr. Robert Heidler.
Chuck D. Pierce and Robert Heidler
Glory of Zion International Ministries