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The Spring Feasts
The Feasts of the Lord were given to Israel by God after their deliverance from bondage. The Feasts, or “High Holy Days”, fall into 2 basic subsets: the Spring Feasts, and the Fall Feasts. The Spring Feasts begin with Passover and end with Shavu’ot/Pentecost. After a seasonal gap the Feasts of the Lord commence in the fall.
Passover/Pesach & Unleavened Bread: Though these are two separate Feasts they are combined as they run concurrently. Passover (14th of Nisan) falls in the March/April time-frame on the Gregorian calendar: Leviticus 23:5 tells us: “‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes the Pesach of the LORD.”
This Feast celebrates the deliverance of the Israelite slaves from Egypt. It is a tale of redemption through the killing of the Passover lamb whose blood was to be applied to the doorposts of their houses – an act of faith which would spare their firstborn from the curse of death. God promised that His own wrath, as well as “the messenger of death”, would “pass over” those houses with the blood on the doorposts, and spare the first born (Exodus 12:1-13). Those Israelites with the blood of the lamb on their doorposts were spared and were subsequently led from slavery in Egypt into freedom through the Exodus. Anyone (Egyptian or Israeli) without the blood of the lamb applied, would be targeted for God’s wrath.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do. “ Exodus 12:12-16
Though the “Exodus generation” died in the wilderness because of their unbelief and sin, God provided all that was needed for redemption through their faith & obedience in applying the blood of the lamb to their dwelling places. Passover commemorates this act of redemption and the freedom God provided through the blood of the lamb.
Prior to the Passover/Feast of Unleavened bread, all leaven or yeast is removed from the house of the participant. Unleavened bread, or “matzah”, is eaten. In Scripture this bread is often called the bread of affliction because it is born out of affliction. In other words, since the Jews fleeing Egypt had no time to let the bread rise on account of their affliction it is called the bread of affliction. So the unleavened bread is not a token of bondage but freedom from bondage and affliction.
Matzah also represents purity, since leaven is a metaphor for sin. None of Egypt’s leaven was to invade this bread of redemption. Through the redemption realized in the blood of the lamb, Israel was to experience a “new lump” of dough as it were – without the old leaven.
The Mystery of the “Afikomen”:
During the Passover meal (or seder), three pieces of matzah are placed in a compartmentalized bag. At the beginning of the Seder the middle piece of matzah (or second piece of the triad), the “afikomen”, is removed, broken in half, and wrapped in a white linen cloth. It is the final food eaten at the end of the Seder. The Seder cannot continue or conclude until this afikomen is eaten.
At the beginning of the Seder, after it has been broken and wrapped in linen, someone hides the afikomen and, during the meal, the children are sent off on a mission to find this hidden piece of matzah. The child that finds it receives a reward. Please keep the afikomen in mind as we continue…
Cup of Redemption:
A central item of the Passover seder is the cup of redemption. Messianic Jewish scholar David Brickner explains it this way:
“The Passover cup is one of the central symbols of this holiday known as the Feast of Redemption. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures the cup is often used as a symbol of God’s judgment. For example, the cup of fury, the cup of judgment, the cup of trembling and the cup of horror and desolation appear throughout the Old Testament. Yet we also find the Psalmist crying out, I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:13). So the symbol of the cup carries with it pictures of both wrath and redemption, of judgment and blessing. Yet, how the cup became a Passover symbol remains a mystery. We do know that by the time Jesus observed the Passover, drinking a cup during the meal was an official part of the observance. In fact, an ancient rabbinic source, the Mishnah, instructs those celebrating to drink from the cup four times during the Passover seder (Pesahim 10:1). That tradition remains to this day. This cup embodies the problem of judgment as well as the promise of redemption.”
Yeshua fulfilled this Feast on the very day of Passover – down to the hour. His embodiment of the Sacrificial Lamb is declared from the beginning of John’s Gospel narrative:
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
In one profound sentence of introduction, John summarizes the whole redemptive program revealed throughout the Old Testament.
In ALL 4 GOSPELS, the so called “Last Supper” is identified as the Passover meal (Matt 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22, John 13:1). The phrase “last supper” simply does not do justice to the relevance of Messiah’s fulfillment of Passover and divorces it from the beautiful richness of the context – turning the Passover shared between our Lord and his disciples into an arbitrary snack.
“Hey Peter, what have we got in the fridge?”…. “Oh, just a little pita bread and some grape juice”…. “Well, I guess that’ll do”. Heaven forbid! The holy day being observed and every element on the table was relevant beyond comprehension!
An in-depth look at Luke’s account of the Last Passover gives us some interesting insights….
Luke 22:14-15: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus, observing the Passover with his disciples before He goes to the cross, lifts the matzah – without leaven or sin – the bread born out of affliction which brings redemption, and declares that it is His Body. And just as everyone at the Seder MUST eat the afikomen, all who desire heaven must partake of Yeshua’s body in the atonement. The Cup of Redemption, the third cup in the seder, which is taken after the actual meal, was likely the cup that Yeshua took at his last seder saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus declared that this new covenant would be poured from the cup of salvation in His blood. In Messiah this cup is ultimately fulfilled. More than mere physical redemption from Egypt, it now also represents the plan and purpose of God in redeeming lost man from bondage to sin.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life…” — John 6:35. And like the middle piece of the matzah triad known as the afikomen (hint: Father, Son, Spirit), His body was broken and wrapped in a white linen cloth. He was hidden away, buried in a grave and brought to life again. And those who find Him, like the child who finds the Afikomen, receive a reward (eternal life).
Yeshua died ON PASSOVER, as the Lamb of God to free those who were in bondage to sin. When we apply the blood of the lamb, we are set free and led into the Promised Land.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul takes it a step further, admonishing the gentile believers there to live without leaven (sin) and to remember Jesus as our Passover – even admonishing them to KEEP THE FEAST in remembrance of Him!
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:6
In light of this, how can Passover NOT have relevance for New Covenant believers??