What does the Passover mean to you? Do you really know why Jesus had to suffer and die — and what is required of us?
Paul wrote to Christians: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (I Cor. 11:26-27). Paul was writing about the Passover, the annual memorial of the death of Jesus Christ, which God commands His people to observe. How few professing Christians understand! If you have not been aware of God's annual festivals, read our free booklet Pagan Holidays - or God's Holy Days - Which? Many have not fully comprehended the significance of Paul's warning. Some, feeling they were not worthy of Jesus' sacrifice, have not taken the Passover. Others have taken the Passover in a casual or ritualistic manner. It's time we all understand! The Passover is the first of the Christian festivals commanded by God (Lev. 23:5). It is not to be taken lightly.
Purpose of the Passover
The Passover originally represented the turning point in the separation of Israel, God's chosen people, from Egypt, which symbolized sin. The blood of the Passover lamb, sprinkled on the doorposts, distinguished those whom God was sparing (Ex. 12:13-14). The Passover for Christians today is a memorial, an annual reminder or renewal of our spiritual covenant with God. It reminds us not only of when God called ancient Israel out of Egypt, but, more important, of God calling us today out of sin. Let's make the meaning of Passover clear by examining what the Bible says. What was required to free us from the bondage of sin? God's sacrifice of His firstborn, Jesus — the blood of the Lamb. Why? Why couldn't God just forgive our sins without a sacrifice? Why did Jesus have to give up His glory with God, take upon Himself the form of a servant, become a human being and suffer and die for our sins (Phil. 2:7-8)? Because there was no other way to save man from the consequence of sin.
God will not compromise His law
God can do all things, but God will not compromise His law (Matt. 19:26, 5:18). God's law is perfect (Ps. 19:7). It would, if kept, produce and maintain a peaceful and happy society. Tragically, no human has kept God's law perfectly — all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). The Bible likens sin to leaven — if sin is not disposed of, it grows and spreads rapidly (I Cor. 5:6). The whole world is suffering under the curse of sin (Gal. 3:10)! Death is the penalty for sin — breaking God's law (Ezek. 18:4, 20, Rom. 6:23). God will not allow anyone into His holy Family and Kingdom who will compromise His law (Gal. 5:19-21, I Cor. 6:9-10, Rev. 22:14-15). God's law requires that blood be shed for the remission of sin (Heb. 9:22). Thus blood had to be shed in order that the sins of every human might be forgiven, upon repentance.
The sacrifice of Jesus
The only way God could redeem humanity — all of us! — from the death penalty without compromising His law was to have our penalty paid. Enter Jesus Christ. Notice what God's Word says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.... when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son... through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Rom. 5:8, 10-11). Our sins had separated us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). We had the death penalty hanging over us. But Jesus' sacrifice paid the death penalty for sin in our stead (Rom. 3:24-25). Does Jesus' death save us, then? Let's see what the Bible tells us.
What is required of us?
What is our responsibility, given Jesus' sacrifice, in God's plan of salvation? Notice Acts 2:38: "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Jesus' sacrifice does not redeem us from the death penalty until we have repented of breaking God's law, turned from sin and accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master. We must submit to God's government over our lives and begin to live God's way. Then what happens? Notice Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Jesus actually lives His life in us (verse 10). We strive to follow Jesus' example as revealed in the Bible (I Pet. 2:21). We shall, then, be saved by Jesus Christ's life (Rom. 5:10)! By obeying God's law with the help of God's Holy Spirit and by submitting to God's government, we actually begin to take on God's very nature. We gradually overcome sin — sin no longer has power over us. We are God's servants rather than the servants of sin (Rom. 6:12-16). We have embarked upon a new way of life that leads to every blessing and joy for eternity. To turn back from it — to reject God's way and Jesus' sacrifice, which paid our death penalty — brings the death penalty on us again, this time with no chance for redemption (Heb. 10:26-29). Now what about observing the Passover?
Are you worthy?
God's redeemed people are commanded to observe the Passover annually, in its New Testament symbolism, as a memorial of Jesus' death and to picture what God has done in our lives (Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:14-20, John 13:2-5). And we are to do so in a "worthy" manner, as we have seen from I Corinthians 11:26-27. What, exactly, does it mean to be worthy? Paul warned, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup" (I Cor. 11:28). What is your attitude? John wrote: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:15-17). As long as we live in this evil, Satan-ruled society, there will be tests and temptations to break God's law. We are tempted through our own lusts (Jas. 1:14) to cheat, to lie in business, to boast, to swear, to gossip, to commit adultery (Matt. 5:28) and to put other things before God. And we as Christians — yes, as truly called and redeemed Christians — will slip occasionally and sin! But, as long as we are repentant, striving to overcome sin, God accepts us, applying Jesus' sacrifice (I John 1:9). God continues to lead us. We live under grace (Eph. 2:8). No one is worthy of Christ's sacrifice, but not to take the Passover is to deny Christ. To take the Passover in a worthy manner, we must repent of our evil desires and ways, come to hate the sin that Jesus had to suffer and die for and set our will not to compromise God's law. "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned [judged] with the world" (I Cor. 11:29-32). Our goal, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:48, is to become perfect, as God the Father is perfect. Keeping the Passover and understanding all it pictures, as well as striving to keep all of God's other laws, is vital to attaining that perfection. So, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 5:8, "Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"!