"Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, THE LORD WILL PASS OVER THE DOOR and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.
"It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who PASSED OVER the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’" So the people bowed their heads and worshiped." (Exodus 12:12-14, 21-27).
The New Testament Christian Passover is a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ as the true Lamb of God. Believers partake of unleavened bread and wine in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus' beaten body and shed blood. This sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of our sins. By partaking of the Passover symbols of bread and wine, we are proclaiming our continual faith in Jesus' sacrifice.
"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed CHRIST, OUR PASSOVER, was sacrificed for us. " (1Corinthians 5:7).
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! THE LAMB OF GOD who takes away the sin of the world! " (John 1:29)
". . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1Peter 1:18-19)
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "TAKE, EAT; THIS IS MY BODY WHICH IS BROKEN FOR YOU; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "THIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." (1Corinthians 11:23-26).
"So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared THE PASSOVER. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve . . . And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "TAKE, EAT; THIS IS MY BODY." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "DRINK FROM IT, ALL OF YOU. FOR THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW COVENANT, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom."" (Matthew 26:19-20, 26-29).
How can a person share in the death of Jesus?
Jesus instituted each year at Passover those who are converted believers partake of the unleavened bread and wine. The bread and wine are reminders that those who partake of them share or participate in the death of Christ:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread." (1Corinthians 10:16-17, NKJV).
The Greek word translated in 1Corinthians 10:16 as "communion" is koinonia. The word means to participate or share something with others.
The New American Standard Bible translates 1Corinthians 10:16 as:
"Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (1Corinthians 10:16, NASB)
When a repentant believer partakes of baptism, he shares in the death of Christ. His "old man" or former way of living dies. When they partake of the Passover symbols, they again participate or share in the death of Jesus. For the Christian, Passover is a reminder of the commitment made to God at baptism.
When did the children of Israel leave Egypt?
At sunset which began Nisan (Abib) 15, twenty-four hours after the children of Israel observed the Passover, they left Egypt and Egyptian slavery:
"These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron . . . They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the FIFTEENTH DAY of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians. For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had killed among them. Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgments. " (Numbers 33:1, 3-4).
"Observe the month of Abib (also called Nisan), and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT BY NIGHT." (Deuteronomy 16:1).
The Night to be much Observed
God commanded Israel to celebrate, each year, their departure from Egypt. This celebration was to occur on the anniversary of their exodus, right after sunset that began Nisan 15:
"Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children . . . Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years — on that very same day — it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. IT IS A NIGHT OF SOLEMN OBSERVANCE TO THE LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, A SOLEMN OBSERVANCE FOR ALL THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS. " (Exodus 12:37, 40-42).
Some people have referred to this nighttime commemoration of leaving Egypt as "the Night to be much Observed," which is based upon the King James Bible translation of a passage in Exodus 12:
"It is a NIGHT TO BE MUCH OBSERVED unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations." (Exodus 12:42, KJV)
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He was delivering them from slavery.
" I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their SLAVES; . . . " (Leviticus 26:13).
"And remember that you were a SLAVE in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. " (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Before baptism, we are in bondage and slavery to sin as Israel was to Egypt. Our freedom from the bondage of sin comes through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. During the New Testament Passover service, believers remember and commemorate the death of Jesus Christ that makes spiritual freedom possible. Believers who observe "the Night to be much Observed" celebrate their freedom and deliverance from spiritual Egypt, which is symbolic of sin.
As the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, we were slaves of sin.
"Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a SLAVE TO SIN . . .' " (John 8:34).
When baptized, Christians share in the death of Jesus by being "baptized into His death." When they partake of the Passover each year, they also share in the body and blood (the death) of Jesus Christ.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH?" (Romans 6:1-3)?
On the Night to be much Observed Israel began their new life by walking out of Egypt (Joshua 5:6; Judges 11:16). In like manner, this night pictures the beginning of a Christian's walk in the newness of life, a life committed to walking in obedience to God.
"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in NEWNESS OF LIFE." (Romans 6:4).
This night is also a reminder of a Christian's freedom from the slavery of sin, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus:
"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be SLAVES OF SIN . . .
"But God be thanked that though you were SLAVES OF SIN, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been SET FREE from sin, you became slaves of righteousness . . . What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been SET FREE FROM SIN, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. " (Romans 6:5-6, 17-18, 21-22)
Christians are to consider themselves "dead to sin" and strive to obey God:
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be DEAD INDEED TO SIN, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord . . .
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. " (Romans 6:8-11,13).
The Old Testament Passover was a memorial of God passing over the houses of the children of Israel when He killed the firstborn of Egypt. The New Testament Christian Passover is not a memorial of Israel's exodus from Egypt but a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ. Christians eat unleavened bread and drink a small cup of wine in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice:
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes." (1Corinthians 11:26, NKJV).
Israel was to celebrate their departure from Egypt each year. Likewise, the meaning of Passover for Christians is to celebrate freedom and deliverance from spiritual Egypt, or sin, made possible by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.