Many Christians know about Passover. It is one of the most famous Jewish holidays, celebrating God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal also happens to be the same Last Supper Jesus ate with his disciples before His death. The symbolism and deep meanings seen in the Seder meal are less well known but just as incredible. As a Messianic Jew, I grew up learning all sorts of amazing ways the Jewish Passover really pointed to Yeshua (Jesus), and could be seen as a remarkable allegory for God’s deliverance of us from our slavery to sin.
The Lamb who was slain
Colossians 2:16-17 calls the festivals given in the Law “shadows of things to come.” Passover was partially fulfilled in many ways through Jesus’ death on the cross. The beauty of shadows is that they help us see how God knows the end from the beginning. He established Passover to remind the Israelites of His deliverance, and yet also instituted the feast as a prophecy, pointing to Jesus, the Light of the World. When we celebrate Passover, we gain a deeper insight into God’s wisdom and graciousness.
The Passover lamb traditionally eaten at a Passover Seder is a deep symbol for the Jews, representing the lamb killed by the Israelites whose blood was put on the doorposts and lintel of the houses they stayed in. This was a command from God so that the Angel of Death when it came to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians as the tenth plague would pass over the houses of the Israelites. The lamb was killed at the threshold of the house, and the blood applied to the two doorposts and the lintel form the points of a cross. Can this shadow be any clearer? John the Baptist called Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” Our Messiah was crucified for us, shedding His blood, dying a bitter death, so that Death would pass over us and we would be saved from the just punishment of our sins. Jesus was crucified the exact day and hour when the traditional Passover lamb, killed every year by the Jewish people to commemorate the Feast, would have been sacrificed.
The symbolism of matzah
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which directly follows the actual Passover meal, the Israelites were commanded to get rid of all leaven in their houses. Instead, they were to eat matzah, another name for unleavened bread. Symbolically, leaven is sin. 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 says, “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. Therefore let us keep the Feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Passover is a reminder that we, as Christians, are to live lives without sin, since we no longer serve sin but Christ. In addition, Jesus was the only One who lived a truly “unleavened” life, free from sin, and we see Him represented by the unleavened bread.
There are three traditional pieces of matzah that are used in a Seder and placed in a special cloth holder. These are symbols of God, the high priest, and the people. The middle matzah is removed at one point and broken in half. After the meal, we take this middle matzah—called the Afikomen, which comes from a Greek word meaning “the coming one” or “he who has come”—and eat it, along with a cup of wine or grape juice. The shadows are stark.
Hebrews 7 calls Jesus our High Priest. The high priest was the one who would mediate between God and the people, which is exactly what Christ did for us. He is also the One who has come and the One who will come. The institution of Communion, beginning at the Last Supper, the Passover meal, involved this Afikomen and the cup of wine, representing Jesus’ body and His blood.
Shadows of things yet to come
Passover is one of my favorite holidays because of all this rich symbolism. I remember my Messiah who was truly unleavened, paying for my sin with His own blood as the Lamb who was slain, my High Priest who is coming again. And during the Feast of Unleavened Bread I remember that I am called, as a child of the Most High, to live a life that is unleavened, to the glory of the Father.
Another amazing realization is that the Passover is not even completely fulfilled yet. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:16, “For I say to you, I will no longer eat of [this meal] until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” How I look forward to that day where the shadows will be fully understood and completed. Until then, this Feast serves as a beautiful reminder of the Son of God and our Salvation.
Maggie Nelson is a staff writer for the Daily Runner.