It’s a holy time.
But you know what? God’s Word calls this week–Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread–a party!
True story. And to tell you all about this holy party that God throws every year, I’ve asked my friend Pastor Dan Brown, a missionary with The Navigators and former humanitarian worker in Israel–to tell you the marvelous story of Passover.
So without further ado, give it up for Pastor Dan!
Do you like to hear a good story? Better yet, do you like to hear a good story while seated at a dining table, awaiting a scrumptious meal? If so, then …
Welcome to the story of Passover, and the setting in which it is told every single year!
Without a doubt, one of the greatest stories recorded in the Bible is the account of Moses and the Israelites and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, as recorded in the Book of Exodus (chapters 1-15). Very few are unfamiliar with this amazing story that includes:
- Moses hearing the voice of God from a burning bush that was not consumed;
- Aaron coming alongside his brother, Moses, who kept questioning why God would choose him to deliver the Israelites;
- Pharaoh maintaining a hard heart and refusing to let the Israelites leave Egypt, in spite of a series of ten horrific plagues that were visited upon the Egyptians through the hands of Moses;
- Israelite families being instructed to sacrifice a lamb and place some of its blood on the doorposts of their homes, while the death angel passed over Egypt;
- The parting of the Red Sea and the Israelites passing through it on dry ground, while Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the water as they pursued God’s people.
This is the story of Passover, known in Hebrew as Pesach (פסח) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Passover is a story of love and deliverance that even the finest novelist or Hollywood writer could not conceive on their own!
It is also the historical event that established the Hebrew people—the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham—as God’s chosen people; the ones who would forever inherit the Promised Land, the land of Israel.
Passover was so momentous that God commanded His people to reflect on it annually throughout all of their future generations (Exodus 12:14). The events of Passover are as important to the Jews as the death and resurrection of Jesus is to Christians. And the truth is, both of these acts of God were indispensable for the salvation of the world.
If God had not intervened in Egypt, the Hebrew people might never have survived, and the future Messiah and Savior of the world might not have come!
And without the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, the entire world would have remained in their prison of sin!
With all of this in mind, let us reflect a bit longer on the ramifications of God’s mighty intervention in the history of an oppressed people and a sin-hardened world …
• It is the 14th of Nisan in about the year 1,440 B.C.
• It was the culmination of some of the most amazing miracles ever performed–utterly devastating one nation while ushering in the birth of another; a nation specially chosen by God and for whom He fought in extraordinary ways.
• It was a dramatic beginning for a people who had lived under slavery and oppression for over 400 years—a people who cried out to their God, a God they barely knew, and watched Him raise up an initially tentative leader who challenged a powerful ruler and was used by God to unleash unheard-of miracles that led to their release and deliverance.
• It is a true story involving the plundering of a people (the Egyptians) who willingly gave of their belongings and treasures. It is also the story of how the Israelites had to slaughter young, spotless lambs to obtain the blood they needed to place on the door posts of their homes, so that the Angel of Death would leave the Israelites untouched while he killed all the firstborn of men and animals in the land of Egypt.
• It is the story of how more than a million people left Egypt at once and passed through a thin corridor of dry ground, with walls of water on either side, as if they were in an aquarium! Every single Israelite passed through this miracle highway unharmed, but the pursuing Egyptians all drowned!
Almost 3500 years later, this historic event is still remembered and celebrated.
Passover is still the central event in the lives of the Israelites’ descendants! To this very day, these descendants re-enact the baking of bread without leaven, reminding them of the haste with which they left Egypt, and of the need to rid their lives of sin and of the bondage of Egypt that had held them for so long.
Passover—and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which starts on Nisan 15 and continues for seven days—is the first of the two bookends of God’s redemptive work in the world.
These two events show God dramatically revealing Himself to a defeated, downtrodden people–and also to a ruthless, power-hungry ruler and his subjects. It was an event that foreshadowed God’s imminent unveiling to a sin-sick, war-weary modern world.
And for Jewish descendants and those God grafted in:
Some of you reading this are the flesh-and-blood descendants of those who saw and experienced the very first Passover. The rest of us, if we have given our lives to Jesus and made Him our Lord and Savior, have been grafted into this historical event (Romans 11) that lives on to this very day!
We, too, have experienced Passover!
• We, too, were oppressed and held as slaves by an enemy far greater than Pharaoh—an enemy that used us, abused us, and would not let us go. An enemy that relentlessly pursued us until we made our way through the waters of baptism into the Promised Land of eternal life and freedom!
• We, too, need to remember the bitterness and oppression of sin; to remember the lengths to which God went to deliver us from the clutches of Lucifer, Satan, the serpent of old.
• And we must daily remember the Sacrificial Lamb who came to give us life, and to cover us with His life-saving blood. Death has passed over us and has passed us by! WE now have life eternal!
Because the sacrifice of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Who would have known that the young, spotless lambs—lambs that lived for a few days with each family and then were sacrificed for their blood—would foreshadow a human lamb: the Incarnate Son of God who was the Lamb of God? The Lamb of God who would dwell among His people for a few years, then willingly sacrifice Himself so that death would be defeated and would no longer have a hold on those who are covered by His blood?
“Christ, our Passover,” as Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 5:7, provided the way of deliverance for multitudes around the world who would place their faith in Him! Christ, our Passover Lamb, was slain before the foundation of the world!
Do you see why Passover is an event every Christian should celebrate with joy, right along with the Jewish people?
The greatest events that we as believers can celebrate are the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. However, celebrating such momentous events as Passover brings us closer to our spiritual forefathers, giving us a greater appreciation for the work of redemption that God has done for His people through the ages!
Out of all the Jewish feasts that are celebrated throughout the year, this is the one in which every Christian should be encouraged to participate!
Is it required that we celebrate Passover and participate in a Seder in order to be a “good Christian”? No, of course not! Again, the proper way to respond to the annual feasts is, “we get to,” not “we have to.” We don’t have to, but celebrating God’s work and His feasts is a privilege we can enjoy!
And celebrating a Passover Seder is so much fun!
If you have never participated in a Passover Seder (pronounced “say-der”), make it a priority to find one hosted by a church or a family you know! From the Hebrew word for “order,” a Seder is a ceremonial dinner held on the first evening of Passover (April 10 in 2017) in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt.
Using a printed order of service, called a haggadah, the Passover story is retold using Scripture, songs, and summaries of all that God did, interspersed with special blessings, prayers, and the eating of foods that represent the events of Passover.
The Passover Seder is so much fun–and it’s a wonderful time with the Lord! It takes awhile to go through the whole ceremony, too. If you attend one, be sure and allow yourself at least three hours for the feasting and celebrating!
“Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,” as 1 Corinthians 5:8 says, “not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
As Christians, we celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread because Messiah, our Passover, has been slain. Messiah, our Passover, is risen!
Have you ever celebrated Passover? If so, please leave a comment below and tell us about your experience! And if you never have noticed this wonderful holiday, why not start this year? You’ll be glad you did.
Clovis, New Mexico
Dan Brown has been in full time ministry for 34 years as a pastor, church planter, missionary and teacher. He and his wife, Jan, are currently serving with The Navigators for Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. They have previously served in California, Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee as well. (Pastor Dan is also on the From His Presence® board.) 🙂
Dan graduated from Golden Gate Seminary in Mill Valley, CA (now Gateway Seminary in the L.A. Area) with an Master of Divinity in 1986. He received a strong call to Israel in 2007 and he and Jan served for two years in Jerusalem with Bridges for Peace.
Dan’s passion is still for Israel and for the Jewish people, and he anticipates additional ministry there in the future. Dan and Jan have one daughter and two young grandsons.