That Passover dovetails with Easter this year is just as it should be. The two feasts should never have been separated.
Thought to derive from an old word for “east” in celebration of the onset of spring sunshine, Easter was introduced as a distinctive Christian feast by the early Church Fathers in an apparent bid to distance Gentiles from the Hebraic roots of their faith.
The unfortunate consequence of this was that, in time, it created the completely false impression among much of the Gentile world that Jesus had forsaken the Jews because of their supposed deicide (killing God).
But the so-called Last Supper was a celebration of the annual Jewish Passover feast with his disciples (Matt 26:17f), one of whom he knew would betray him. He knew he was about to die on the cross as the sacrificial Lamb of God, taking the sins of the world on himself so that all who believe in him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
It happened on Good Friday, rightly coinciding with the beginning of Passover this year – a rare occurrence, although they usually fall close to each other. And it was at 3pm that day, around 26AD, when the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered for the feast, celebrating the original Passover when they were set free from slavery in Egypt.
At that precise moment, Jesus gave up his spirit and exclaimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). This proved beyond doubt, as did his resurrection that followed three days later, that he was Israel’s long-promised Messiah, prefigured in Egyptian exile 1 500 years earlier.
Pharaoh repeatedly refused to let the Israelites go despite a series of divinely-ordered plagues. But the 10th plague – death of the first-born – proved too much for him. Through Moses, God had assured his people that the angel of death would pass over them if they placed the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. And so it proved.
Jesus was nailed to a Roman execution stake as the ultimate fulfilment of Passover. It was also a picture of the bronze snake lifted in the desert so that all who looked on it were healed of snakebite (see Numbers 21:8f, John 3:14f). The sacrificial death of Jesus would also bring healing from the poison of sin and disease for all who look to him, and who now share in the bread and wine of communion instituted by our Lord at the Last Supper. This is effectively a continuation of Passover through which, figuratively speaking, we mark the door of our hearts with the blood of Jesus which washes away our sins and frees us from bondage to Satan.
The crucifixion was also the perfect fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” — Isa 53:5
Passover is still a dangerous time of the year for the chosen people, providing fresh incentive for murderous intent among their enemies, as happened 20 years ago when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a Netanya restaurant, killing 30 and injuring 160 people celebrating a Passover seder.
Could it also be an appropriate time for Gentiles, including Arabs, to put things right by holding out an olive branch in recognition of our enormous debt to the ‘People of the Book’? The “olive branch” phrase is all about making an offer of peace or reconciliation and has biblical origins going back to the Flood of Noah’s time. The sign that it was over was an olive leaf brought back to the ark by a dove (Gen 8:11).
The dove is also representative of the Holy Spirit who came down on Jesus at his baptism, the olive tree symbolises Israel and the ark is a picture of all those saved from the wrath of God.
Jesus is an embodiment of all these things, for salvation can be found in no-one else (Acts 4:12). The wrath of God has been borne at Calvary, and all who put their trust in Jesus can know true peace, both now and for eternity, bringing an end to the flood of evil, violence, lawlessness and lies that has hitherto led us astray.
The late Bible teacher Derek Prince pointed out that “It is finished” is translated from just one Greek word, tetelestai, which effectively means “perfectly perfect” or “completely complete” and proved a breakthrough for him when suffering from an apparently incurable skin condition while serving with the British Army in Egypt during World War II.1
He realised there was no need that could not be met by Christ’s death at Calvary – that not only were his sins forgiven, but his sick body was also covered by Jesus’ wounds. And he was duly healed as he meditated on God’s words which “are life to those that find them, and health (or medicine) to all their flesh” — Prov 4:22.
The cross of Christ brings sinful man into a relationship with a holy God as well as reconciliation with his enemies, creating “one new man” out of the two by destroying the dividing wall of hostility, thus making peace (see Ephesians 2:14-16). What a warring world needs now is the peace of God which comes through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).
1Heroes of the Faith (New Life Publishing), January-March 2022
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