It was the night of the great killings. On the eve of Israel’s Exodus from the land of Egypt, yearling lambs were sacrificed and their blood spread on the door posts of their homes believing that the angel of death would pass them over. And so it happened. The angel of death entered countless homes in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s palace home, to kill their firstborn sons and daughters while passing over the Jewish homes marked by the blood of the lamb – that’s how the name “Passover” for the annual Jewish spring festival came about.
Do you think it was coincidence that Jesus’s last night on Earth was the night Jews celebrate their freedom from Egyptian slavery? Jesus did not think so. Here is what He said to His friends, at the beginning of the Passover (Hebrew: Seder) meal (Luke 22:14-16):
“Then, when the time came, he took his seat at the table with the apostles, and spoke to them, ‘With all my heart I have longed to eat this Passover with you before the time comes for me to suffer. Believe me, I shall not eat the Passover again until all that it means is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”
Jesus was anxious to celebrate the Seder meal with His closest friends, the apostles, who had been with Him 24/7 for the past several years. He wanted to spend some quality time with them before He died. While going through the rituals of the Seder meal something remarkable happened: As Jesus took the bread and wine He announced that His body was going to be sacrificed and His blood was going to be shed, thus taking on the role of the Passover lamb (Luke 22:19-20):
“Then Yeshua took bread and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He broke the bread, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this to remember me.
When supper was over, he did the same with the cup. He said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new promise made with my blood.”
Accepting the role of the Passover lamb, Jesus actually fulfilled the meaning of Passover. The blood of the lamb spread on the wooden door posts was an indicator of things to come, pointing to the blood of Jesus, shed on two wooden beams centuries later. The lamb was sacrificed and its blood shed to ward off the angel of death – and the angel of death will pass us over today if we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. Rising from the grave, Jesus conquered death once and for all, especially death in the sense of separation from God.
Jesus’s death and resurrection wrote history, and nothing has been the same ever since. The nations of the world took notice by changing their calendars. The idea of counting years is not a new one, but the idea of syncing up where everybody starts counting definitely is. To have an international standard based on a traditional reckoning when Jesus was born (the A. D. and B. C. system) is a phenomenon which goes to show what a profound impact Jesus has made. His precious gift which keeps on giving: our friendship with God.
“Why is this night different from all the other nights? That on all other nights we eat both chametz and matzah – on this night we eat only matzah. That on all other nights we eat many vegetables – on this night only maror. That in all other nights we do not dip vegetables even once, even once – on this night we dip twice. On this night we dip twice. That in all other nights some eat sitting and others reclining – on this night we are all reclining.” (Mah Nishtanah – Passover by The Maccabeats)