It was Passover eve in Jerusalem, and a Galilean rabbi and his talmidim were sitting down to the Seder meal, eating the sacrificial lamb together as was the custom back then – this was at a time when the Temple was still standing, and we were still making the sacrifices prescribed in the Bible, including the unblemished lamb at Passover, the lamb that reminded us of that terrible night before our forefathers left Egypt, the night when God came down and killed all the firstborn in Egypt except for those who sheltered under the blood of a lamb without blemish.
Why did God tell us to remember this event, and to commemorate it year after year, telling our children about how God rescued us from Egypt, passing the story on from generation to generation? What was so significant about this event in the history of our people? And what’s with the lamb?
When God told our forefathers to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts of our houses – was this just so that God would know where the Israelites were? As if God doesn’t have the best GPS, as if he doesn’t know absolutely everything anyway… No, he didn’t need a visual aid to know which houses had Israelites inside and which ones didn’t. That can’t be it. We’re talking about the almighty, omniscient God!
So, why did he tell us to do this? And then to sacrifice a lamb every year when we commemorate the anniversary of the Exodus?
Because Passover wasn’t just a remembrance – it was also a looking forward: there was someone who was to come and be the ultimate Passover lamb, the promised Messiah who would, as prophesied in Isaiah 53, take our sins upon himself and die in our place. That would be the end of the temporary sacrificial system – the ultimate sacrifice of the only man who ever lived who was without blemish, without sin, who could provide the Kapparah for everyone forever.
Which takes us back to that Galilean rabbi in Jerusalem, eating the Passover lamb with his disciples, and then breaking the matza and telling them: take and eat, this is my body given for you. And then passing round the cup of wine and telling them: this is the New Covenant in my blood.
You might like to have a read of Jeremiah 31 and see what God had promised: a new covenant, one that wouldn’t be based on people memorising a set of written rules and trying to somehow live up to it – no, the New Covenant was to be a covenant of grace, where God would wipe away our sins and remember them no more! How would God institute this covenant? How would God square this with the need for justice? Astoundingly, he did it through sending his only begotten Son to die as the ultimate sacrificial lamb, so that anyone who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus died at Passover, and came back to life on the third day. He was the promised Messiah, come to institute the promised New Covenant.
Put your faith in him and you will receive forgiveness for all your sins, once and for all.
And yes, his offer is open to everyone, Jew and gentile alike.
If you’re Jewish (shalom! so am I!) you might find this helpful: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/answers
For anyone else, there’s this: http://www.gotquestions.org
Atonement and salvation through Jesus, the Messiah – that’s what gives me a very happy Passover, and I’d love you to have that too!