The Passover is mentioned among the feasts in Leviticus 23, but the details are given with the record of the first occasion on which it was celebrated – Israel’s release from Egyptian slavery (Exo 12). For them, it was a memorial feast, a vivid reminder of the night when their firstborn sons were sheltered from judgment, and the whole nation embarked on freedom’s highway, “a night to be much observed unto the Lord” (Exo 12:42). They were to “remember this day” (Exo 13:3). When He had observed that sacred ordinance for the last time, the Savior introduced a remembrance event for this present Christian era (Mat 26:19-28). Passover anticipated His death, while the loaf and cup would commemorate it. Passover was an annual occurrence, whereas the Lord’s Supper became a weekly fixture of the early Church (Act 20:7). Passover would always be on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year, irrespective of the day of the week; the Breaking of Bread would be connected to a day rather than a date, the first day of the week.
The retrospective aspect of Passover was vital for Israel, but throughout their history, in periods of backsliding, it was ignored. It is significant that in the revivals under Hezekiah and Josiah, Passover was reinstated (2Ch 30,35). These godly kings realized that the memory of redemption and the blood of the lamb would galvanize the people into greater devotion to Jehovah. Similarly, cooling affection for Christ can be set ablaze by revisiting the cross. Viewing the wounds of Calvary transformed doubting Thomas and prompted the confession, “My Lord and my God” (Joh 20:26-28).
While celebrating Passover involved a backward look, within the framework of the seven feasts it was pointing forward to something yet future. It anticipated the coming of the One who is the Lamb of God (Joh 1:29), and in particular, His death on the cross; “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1Co 5:7). Without hesitation, we see the paschal lamb as a type of the Lord Jesus.
Passover is the best known of the feasts because it is frequently used to illustrate gospel truth and is often employed in devotional reflections on our beloved Lord; we are navigating familiar territory. Consider, then, how the Passover lamb illustrates Him of whom Abraham said, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 22:8).
- It was selected (Exo 12:3), “a lamb for an house.” Peter says of the Lamb of God that He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1Pe 1:20), not now a lamb for a household but for the world, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Joh 1:29).
- It was spotless, “without blemish” (Exo 12:5). Peter declares the Savior to be like “a lamb without blemish and without spot,” that stainless life equipping Him to pay redemption’s price in His own blood (1Pe 1:18-19).
- It was strong, “a male of the first year” (Exo 12:5) in all its vigor. The moral, spiritual and physical strength of the Lord Jesus is evident in each Gospel, not least in John’s account, which has frequent allusions to the Passover. Significantly, there is no mention of Simon of Cyrene there, with the simple statement, “He bearing his cross went forth” (Joh 19:17). John depicts Him as the strong Son of God.
- It was stately, for an alternative to a lamb was a young goat (Exo 12:5), and the he-goat is said to be “comely in going” (Pro 30:29-31). “Then came Jesus forth” (Joh 19:5).
His meek, majestic bearing,
The mocking purple wearing,
In lowliness submitting
His face to shame and spitting!
(Isaac Y. Ewan)
- It was scrutinized; “ye shall keep it up” (Exo 12:6). I use the word “scrutinize” because, according to James Strong, embedded in the term “keep it up” is the concept of watching as a sentinel. As is often mentioned, observation did not make it blemish-less, but simply proved that it was! Similarly, our Lord was growing up before His Father God (Isa 53:2), and the verdict on these years of obscurity was expressed at His baptism, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mat 3:17). Divine scrutiny found only perfection. Possibly, though, the inspection of the lamb anticipates the last few days of the Lord’s life. He rode into Jerusalem on the colt on the day that the Passover lamb was selected, and between the Triumphal Entry and His crucifixion there was a daily public examination in the temple. During these days, under perpetual verbal assault, He displayed nothing but wisdom, righteousness and grace.
In every feature flawless,
In every aspect fair,
The search of sinners lawless
Could find no blemish there.
(Isaac Y. Ewan)
- It was slain, “in the evening” (Exo 12:6), literally, “between the evenings.” Significantly, Matthew cites two evenings: “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” (26:20); “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea” (27:57). And between these two evenings, the Lamb of God had been slain.
The Blood and the Bones
The roasting of the lamb foreshadows the intensity of judgment that the Savior experienced at Calvary; this was “the day of his fierce anger” (Lam 1:12). Mention is made of the lamb’s head, legs, inwards, blood and bones. Each detail points to Him as the One who “knew no sin” – the head; who “did no sin,” exhibited in His walk – the legs (“ye should follow his steps: who did no sin,” 1Pe 2:21-22); in whom is no sin – the inwards.
The lamb’s blood was caught in a basin, and applying that blood with a sprig of hyssop provided shelter from the destroyer. The word “basin” could equally be translated “threshold” (see Jdg 19:27; 1Ki 14:17), so possibly the blood was caught in the worn hollow of the doorstep and applied from there. If so, it would possibly explain why Jewish apostates, having professed to take shelter under the blood of Christ and then re-emerging from that house of refuge, are said to tread the Son of God under foot, and count His blood unholy (Heb 10:29).
Care had to be taken to avoid breaking any bone of the paschal lamb: “neither shall ye break a bone thereof” (Exo 12:46), a Scripture that was fulfilled at the cross. It is another link that John makes with the Passover, as he explains why two men had their legs broken and the other was treated differently. Scripture had to be fulfilled.
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.