Jesus' Last Passover Celebration

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Jesus’ final week unfolded against the backdrop of preparations for the Passover, a yearly festival that prompted many first-century Jews to travel to Jerusalem. The Passover feast, which commemorated God’s dramatic rescue of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, provided an important clue as to Jesus’ real mission: it involved the sacrifice of an innocent lamb.

The origin of the Passover Festival is found in ancient Egypt, where the family of Jacob (also called Israel) sought refuge from a famine. There, over hundreds of years, that family grew into a nation of Israelite people enslaved by the Egyptians (Exodus 1:6–14). The Old Testament book of Exodus tells us that when Moses asked for the freedom of these enslaved people, God sent a series of plagues to convince Egypt’s king to comply. In the last of these plagues, death swept across Egypt, taking the firstborn son of every family and firstborn male of all animals. Only the firstborn of those belonging to Israelite families were spared.  As commanded by the LORD, they sacrificed an innocent lamb and marked their doorposts with the blood of that lamb so that the LORD’s angel of death would pass over their homes (Exodus 12:21-23).

God instructed the people to commemorate the Passover yearly from then on. Each time a Jewish family celebrates the Passover, the children are invited to recount the story and all relive the event with a memorial meal.

Jesus, who anticipated his death (see Matthew 20:17–19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31–34), timed the decisive moment to coincide with the Passover Festival. His whole life seemed to be hurtling toward this moment, reinforcing his identity as the ultimate Passover Lamb, whose sacrifice has everlasting benefits. Years earlier, when Jesus was beginning his public ministry, John the Baptist called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And years later, the apostle Paul wrote, “our Passover Lamb is Christ, who has already been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Article taken from MESSAGES FROM GOD, which I created for Time, Inc and American Bible Society.


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