The modern Easter celebrations commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, although in truth this festival was originally hijacked or “Christianized” by the church to replace an existing pagan celebration. The word “Easter” comes from the name “Ishtar” who was the Babylonian goddess of fertility. It is this pagan festival that led to the tradition of Easter eggs, Easter bunnies (all symbols of fertility) and these have nothing to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The correct time to remember and commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the same time as the Jewish passover – not the pagan festival of Ishtar. The writers of the New Testament make it clear that Jesus Christ is the Passover lamb for the Christian:
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8, emphasis added)
The Jewish Passover was a solemn feast that was performed prior to their rescue from Egypt. The penalty of not correctly displaying the blood of the lamb would have been the death of the firstborn of the household, so this was taken very seriously. This is the first of seven feast days on the Jewish yearly calendar and passover has been commemorated ever since that first passover. There is undeniable imagery and strong symbolism that connect the passover and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Both events paint a picture of a sacrificial lamb being used to protect an individual from the judgment of God and from death. Many of the details of the passover “predict” in amazing detail many of the precise events of Jesus sacrificial death. There are striking symbolic parallels between the Jewish Passover and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus performed the ultimate fulfillment of the passover. Here, we will examine the smaller details of the Jewish Passover and how Jesus Christ precisely fulfilled these requirements in a way that could be no accident.
Take a lamb from the congregation of Israel
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: (Exodus 12:3)
Jesus directly qualified as a worthy and suitable sacrifice as He was of the congregation of Israel and His credentials are confirmed by John the Baptist:
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! (John 1:36)
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the baptist was already actively preaching repentance of sins and appealing to people to be baptised, thereby preparing the way for Jesus. After Jesus’ baptism, John the baptist’s ministry effectively came to an end as the arrival of the “lamb” who would take away the sins of the world had been declared!
Incidentally, Jesus “presented” Himself at the temple after His triumphal entry in Jerusalem on the tenth day of the first month as stipulated in the above verse from Exodus. Amazingly, the precise date of Jesus triumphal entry in Jerusalem was predicted by Daniel 500 years earlier!
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (Daniel 9:25)
This permission was given by Persian ruler Artaxerxes Longimonus in March of 445BC (see Nehemiah 2:1-9). Precisely fulfilling this prophecy, Jesus presented himself as the Messiah to the religious leaders in Jerusalem to be “inspected” until the fourteenth day of the month. Unfortunately, much like today, the religious leaders did not take their Scriptures literally anymore and “missed” Him as a result.
The lamb must be male and without blemish
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: (Exodus 12:5)
Jesus obviously qualified as a firstborn male. When the lamb is referred to as being “of the first year”, this is a way of demonstrating the innocence of the lamb and that it was in the “prime” of its life. We are told in many places that Jesus was without blemish and at the age of 33, could be described as in the “prime” of his life.
Jesus was also blameless and without sin. He was the only person to have ever lived who could not be accused of any wrongdoing. Even Pontius Pilate, the civil leader at the time, pronounced that after examination, Jesus was without fault:
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (John 19:6, emphasis added)
Peter used language in his epistle that clearly connected Jesus with the passover lamb:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18-19, emphasis added)
Jesus therefore precisely fulfilled this condition of being without blemish and this was confirmed by both the religious and civil authorities of the day.
The Passover must be kept until the 14th day of Abib (Nisan) and then killed in the evening
And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. (Exodus 12:6)
All four of the gospels record that Jesus was killed on the day of the passover – see this record from John’s gospel:
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. (John 18:28)
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! (John 19:14)
Not only this, but the lamb would have been kept in the house of the family who would kill it for a period of four days prior to the sacrifice. This was so the lamb could be inspected regularly for any blemish. Jesus “presented” Himself to the religious leaders on the tenth day of the month after the triumphal entry in Jerusalem. He then presented Himself at the temple as was “questioned” by the religious leaders on each of the days leading up to His crucifixion on the fourteenth day of the month. This process fulfilled the requirement for the lamb to be questioned and examined for any fault (or blemish). None of the religious leaders could find any fault in Him and as detailed above, even the civil authority of the day, Pontius Pilate, declared that no fault could be found in Him.
The blood of the lamb should be sprinkled on the side posts and the upper door post
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. (Exodus 12:7)
This condition was fulfilled dramatically in the method of Jesus’ execution. His head was pierced with the crown of thorns, thereby sprinkling blood on the upper post of the wooden cross and the two side posts of the cross were sprinkled with His blood due to the nails. No other execution method could so precisely have fulfilled this condition!
The lamb shall be roasted in fire and its body eaten
And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover. (Exodus 12:8-11)
Due to the horrific treatment of Jesus leading up to His crucifixion, it could be said that his body was roasted. Both the Old and New Testament describe God as a “consuming fire” and urge believers to recognise the holiness and justice of God in addition to His unfathomable love, mercy and patience:
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29, emphasis added)
His body was beaten and scourged beyond recognition and Jesus then experienced the “consuming fire” of God where He exclaimed in anguish and agony that He had been “forsaken” by God. This is a strong connection between the “roasting” of the lamb at passover and God “consuming” the sins of the world through Jesus Christ.
Another very strong symbolic picture of the passover is the eating of the lambs body. There are many places in the New Testament that allude to the fact that the communion is strikingly symbolic of the passover meal.
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
Jesus Himself bears witness that the Christian symbolically takes part in the passover meal with the body of Jesus being the passover lamb.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:53-54)
These words of Jesus will sound strange in our cultural setting but it impossible to deny the strong link between these New Testament references to “feeding” on Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins to protect us from judgment and the Israelites feeding on the passover lamb to also protect them from judgment. This passover meal taught the Israelites that without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins. We can only receive forgiveness and avoid eternal punishment by pointing to Jesus shed blood in our place.
Not a bone of the passover lamb was to be broken
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. (Exodus 12:46, emphasis added)
This subtle requirement was also fulfilled incredibly precisely. The Roman soldiers were commanded to break the bones of Jesus and the two thieves, but as Jesus was already dead they did not break His legs, thereby fulfilling this requirement!
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. (John 19:31-36)
This condition would have been impossible to for Jesus to have direct control over and yet was fulfilled in precise detail.
Surely more than coincidence
The conditions associated with the passover lamb were so precisely fulfilled with the death of Jesus Christ that we would suggest that this alone conclusively proves divine authorship of the gospels – who would be able to record the life of Jesus Christ whilst contriving to fit it in with the conditions of the passover lamb? This cannot be a coincidence.
This brief study points to the fact that everything in the Old Testament prophetically points forward to Jesus’ death and resurrection and that everything in New Testament points back to these central events. We believe it is staggering that an obscure Jewish festival would require specific preparations to minute details (that would possibly make no sense at the time) would be literally replicated with the passover lamb of mankind.
There is a strange phrase in Exodus 12:38 where a “mixed multitude” are referred to:
And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. (Exodus 12:38)
This “mixed multitude” would demonstrate that some that took part in this first passover were non-Israelites and maybe this is a hint that when Jesus performed the role of passover lamb, gentiles as the “mixed multitude” were included in having their sins “passed over”. In addition this, we are nowhere told that the passover was ONLY to be performed by the Israelites prior to their escape from Egypt – any household could have escaped the “angel of death” by presenting the blood of the lamb, this was not exclusively for the Israelites.
Both the Old and New Testaments consistently teach that our human sinful condition can only be dealt with through the shedding of blood:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrew 9:22)
At the last supper, Jesus made it very clear that His own blood was going to be shed for the remission of sins:
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
Very soon after these words, Jesus was killed in a way that perfectly fulfilled the conditions of the passover lamb. Jesus is OUR passover lamb! With the blood of Jesus Christ atoning for our sins, we can be confident that on the final day, God’s judgment will “pass over” us and we will be spared from death in the same way it saved the Israelites from death during that first Passover meal. Every individual remains under the judgment of God without symbolically “displaying” the blood of Jesus by having faith in Him. The result of judgment is death – it resulted in death for those that did not display the blood of the lamb in the time of passover and it will also result in death for those who do not point to the blood of Jesus Christ on the day of judgment.
Jesus the “firstfruits”
It is very important to remember the account of Jesus Christ does not end with His sacrifice on our behalf. On the day after the first “weekly” Sabbath after the passover, the Israelites were instructed to take part in the offering of “firstfruits”. This symbolically pointed forward to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to demonstrate the complete defeat of sin and death for those in Christ Jesus. Paul makes this point to the church in Corinth:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, emphasis added)
What else could Jesus Christ have done to demonstrate He really is Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Not only did He take it upon Himself to die in our place – He demonstrated power over sin and death in His resurrection. What a staggering gift for those who will accept Him!
See our How to be Saved page to learn how to escape the judgment of God and how we can secure eternal life on account of the death AND resurrection of Jesus Christ.