The original Passover, found in the Bible, is a memorial to God passing over the houses of the children of Israel when He killed the firstborn of man and beast in Egypt. This miraculous event and its meaning occurred during the night of the fourteenth of the Hebrew month Nisan. It is not a memorial of the Israelites' exodus out of Egypt.
'On that night I will go through the land of Egypt, killing every first-born male, both human and animal, and punishing all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood on the doorposts will be a sign to mark the houses in which you live. When I see the blood, I will PASS OVER (from where we get the term Passover) you . . . (Exodus 12)
The Bible meaning of the Passover, for the New Testament Christian, revolves around the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a memorial of his death 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.
"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, see also 1Peter 1:18 - 19, 1Corinthians 11:23 - 26 and Matthew 26:19 - 20, 26 - 29).
Sharing in Jesus' death
Jesus instituted a ceremony, to be undertaken each year by converted believers, whereby those who celebrate it partake of 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).
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 the following.
"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 symbols instituted by Jesus, they again participate or share in his death. For the Christian, the meaning of Passover is that it is a reminder of the commitment made to God at baptism.
At sunset which began Nisan (Abib) 15, twenty-four hours after the children of Israel observed the Passover, they left Egypt and Egyptian slavery (Numbers 33:1, 3 - 4, 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.
"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 12:40 - 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 Exodus 12:42. 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 . . . (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 (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 (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.
"But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you;
And having been delivered from sin, you became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17 - 18).
According to the Bible, Christians are to consider themselves "dead to sin" and strive to obey 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).
The Biblical 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.