The word co-incidence is, according to the rabbis, not a kosher word. Indeed, as we examine the striking parallels between the Passover and Jesus’ death for us on the cross, we can see nothing less than the very hand of God at work orchestrating the details according to His sovereign plan.
A Divine Appointment
After their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, Israel was commanded to commemorate what God had done for them in the Feast of Passover. The word ‘feast’ is from the Hebrew word ‘moed’ – which doesn’t exclusively mean a ‘celebration’, but rather carries the deeper meaning of a ‘divine appointment’. As Israel remembered this very day for 1500 years from the time of Moses, it was also foreshadowing the greatest act of salvation which was yet to come.
A First Century Passover
At the beginning of His ministry, John the Baptist prophetically identified Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29). Yet it was really only in the final week of Jesus’ life that His identity as the Passover Lamb would have become increasingly clear to observant onlookers.
Let’s begin by taking a fresh look at the events of Palm Sunday. That very day as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem to an exuberant welcome, hundreds of thousands of lambs were being brought into the Temple in preparation for the annual Passover sacrifice. And these lambs did not come from just any old place in Israel – they came from Bethlehem, the city that raised lambs for the temple sacrifices. So as these Passover lambs arrived in town, Jesus – the true Passover Lamb from Bethlehem - also entered the city in preparation for the greatest Passover Israel would ever see.
Examining the Lambs
The lambs for the sacrifice were commanded to be ‘without spot or blemish’, and having been brought into Jerusalem they would be carefully checked in preparation for the sacrifice.
During the very time when these lambs were being examined, Jesus faced tough questions from some of the very same people who were in charge of examining the lambs. Ultimately no fault was found in Him, qualifying Him to fulfil His role as the Passover Lamb. Pontius Pilate succinctly summed it all up by saying ‘I find no fault in this man’ (Luke 23:4).
Contrary to our way of measuring time, the Jewish day goes from evening to evening. Like Jesus and His disciples, many Jewish families would therefore gather to eat the Passover on Passover eve, while the following day was when the lambs would be sacrificed for the nation.
Why is this night so different?
As Jesus and his disciples gathered that evening, it would have been customary for the youngest person present (in this case, possibly John), to ask the question ‘why is this night so different from every other night’? What a question to ask on the night of Jesus’ betrayal!
As Jesus and His disciples finished the traditional Passover meal together (which itself is rich in prophetic symbolism), Scripture records that they sang a hymn (Matt 26:30). What did they sing? In all likelihood, they would have sung what Jewish people had already been singing for generations on this very special night – Psalms 113-118. The final lines Jesus would have sung would have included these words: “(v22) The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone….(v26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!.... (v27) Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.”
Can you imagine Jesus, the disciples and the rest of Israel singing these words that night? Jesus knew well what was about to happen, yet He would also have sung the words from verse 24 saying ‘This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it…..’.
How could Jesus find joy in this moment? Hebrews 12:2 explains that He fixed His eyes on ‘the joy that was set before him’. In other words, He looked forward to the reward – and that reward was our salvation and our reconciliation to God. Many believers sadly walk through life struggling with a poor self-image and feelings of worthlessness. Yet Jesus paid the highest price possible – with joy – for you and I to be saved. Far from being worthless, you and I are truly precious in God’s sight, so let us remember with gratitude what He has done for us.
There were 3 Lambs
On the day of the Passover, three main lambs would be sacrificed. The first was at the third hour (equivalent of 9am) – and it was at this very time that Jesus was crucified. Then at the 6th hour (or 12 noon) right at the time of the second lamb being killed, darkness began to cover the entire land as Jesus hung on the cross. This darkness lasted until the final sacrifice was completed in the 9th hour (or 3pm). According to his custom, as the High Priest now finished his final sacrifice of the day, he would stretch out his hands in the sight of the people and declare with a loud voice ‘it is finished’. And at the very same time at Golgatha, as Jesus completed the ultimate Passover sacrifice for all mankind, He cried out in agony those very same words – “It is finished!”.
More Divine Appointments
We have seen how the Passover in great detail set the stage for Jesus’ death on the cross as the Lamb of God. Furthermore, the Feasts of God also predicted Jesus’ burial (feast of Unleavened Bread), His resurrection (on the Feast of First Fruits), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) and His return in glory (the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles).
If God kept His appointment of Passover in such detail through the death of Jesus, then I expect that He will also keep and quite literally fulfill the remaining feasts.
So as we remember Passover this year, let us remember that God keeps His appointments, and that He will surely come again!
For more on this topic and on the Jewish feasts, see our teaching series 'The End Times Through Jewish Eyes', available now on DVD.