We begin to understand the significance of Passover when we realize that the word is actually two words: pass over. Passover originated in one the greatest events records in the Old Testament, when the people of Israel were released after four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. God ensured the nation’s exit from bondage with a tenth plague on
those who had mistreated his people for centuries: an angel of death visited the homes of Egypt and killed the firstborn males (Exod 11:1-12;42). God instructed his own people to begin keeping a new calendar because their release from bondage would be such a history-making event. Passover would be the first event in each year. commemorating the birth of a nation.
SALVATION THROUGH BLOOD
The exodus was activated with blood and remembered with a feast. Each family unit was told to chose an unblemished lamb whose blood was to be painted on the doorpost of their house and whose meat would become the centerpiece of their journey meal. God let them know through Moses that the angel of death would “pass over” any home that had been market with blood, and the firstborn in that family would be safe. The life of the lamb, represented in the blood, substituted for the firstborn’s life. The tragedy that fell on the Egyptian people was the crisis that expelled the people of Israel from captivity.
The significance and is ultimately replaced by the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Just as the lamb’s blood painted on doorjambs protected those whithin, so the blood of Jesus, painted on our lives, represents God’s acceptance of his sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Jesus’s death was the ultimate Passover, making exodus from sin a possibility for humankind. Peter makes this connection explicit, saying, “Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections” (1 Pet 1:19).
The original Passover meal featured two elements: the lamb and the unleavened bread. the food symbolized God’s supply for the journey and his promise of freedom. Eating had a hurried aspect. The bread was not allowed to rise, and the meat was meant to be entirely consumed. No leftovers were kept because no one whould be left to eat them. Over time several other elements were added to the meal: cups of wine, bitter herbs, and a mixture of fruit and nuts called cheroseth. The wine cups (four or five of them, depending on particular traditions) are shared throughout the meal. Two of these were used by Jesus during the Last Supper to draw attention to his special role. The bitter herbs symbolize the hardship of bondage and are eaten to remeber that dark chapter in the nation’s history. The nut and fruit paste is reminiscent of the mortar used between the bricks that were produced daily by enslaved Jewish ancestors. Though these elements symbolize hardship, the tone of the Seder meal is one of joy and gladness, seeing God as the liberator. God and his judgment passed over the faithful people of Israel, and he continues to “pass over” those who have been marked by the blood of his Lamb.