Posted by: Michael Stevenson on Thu, Mar 1, 2018
are you ready
MOST of all of us have heard that Jesus Christ had died for our sins, but what does this really mean? Just why was His death actually needed? Just what part does Christ’s sacrifice really teach us in God’s Holy Day plan? This is something very important that we want to look at and find the answers to these questions.
Christ’s own sacrifice was a turning point in the plan that God has to save mankind. Jesus had foretold the fact that He would be “lifted up” in crucifixion so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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 3:14-16.
We therefore see that Jesus’ sacrifice, which is the main theme of the Passover was a supreme act of great love for mankind. This very important event has laid the foundation for the remaining annual feasts. It is the most awesome step in starting His plan that God has outlined for us.
Just before the Passover that would be His final Passover, Jesus had said that “for this purpose I came to this hour…And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself ".
John 12:27, 32.
The day on which this event was to take place was the 14thday of the first month on God’s calendar, the very same day upon which the Passover lambs were to be killed (Leviticus 23:5). Paul then later would tell the congregation in Corinth that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us”—1 Corinthians 5:7.
New let’s look back through the Bible for our instructions and the meaning by which God has given us concerning the Passover and just why it is so critical to us. Doing so will help us to further know just why God expects His people today to continue to observe the Passover—a day which has great significance to the Christian Church today!
God’s Instructions for the Passover As we indicated previously, God through Moses had told Pharaoh to “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness”—Exodus 5:1. Through a series of plagues, God showed His great power and had delivered Israel forth from bondage within Egypt. After nine plagues took place, he gave Israel great instructions about the next and final disaster which would hit Egypt and the steps that each family of Israel was to take to avoid it.
God said that on the 10thday of the first month (in the early spring in the Middle Eastern land) each family of Israel was to select a lamb or a goat large enough to feed each household (Exodus 12:3). The animal that would be selected was to be a yearling male without any type of blemish or impairment. On the 14thday of the first month, at evening, the Israelites were then to take the animals and kill them, placing some of the blood on the doorposts of their homes. The animals were then to be taken, roasted and then eaten along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.The Eternal had further instructed Israel that on this evening, He was going to kill the firstborn of Egypt to show to them that He would protect His own people. This would then finally convince Pharaoh to set God’s people go from bondage. All the firstborn of Israel was then protected if the families complied with what God instructed. God would “pass over” them to spare them—thus the meaning of the name of this festival (Exodus 12:13).
God then went on to say that this day would be to the Israelites as an annual memorial “and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance”—v.14. When we find God commanding something to be kept as a covenant that would be everlasting, He always means just that—that it is to be kept and observed forever—that there would be NO END to whatever it is that He commands to be kept. Later, writers of the Bible explained that this annual Passover observance would show Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Paul, as we seen, had referred to Jesus Christ as “our Passover”—1 Corinthians 5:7 and then John had said that “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”—John 1:29.
The unblemished male animal had represented and showed to us Jesus Christ as the very perfect, sinless sacrifice who would die in our place, thus His death paid the very penalty for our sins and thus brought us to be reconciled to God. Paul tells us that “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come...not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption”—Hebrews 9:11-12. Jesus bought us with His own blood, purchasing us so that we could go free. He poured out His own life as our sacrifice so that we could avoid the death penalty. We then could find eternal salvation through His sacrifice—which would then be a real turning point for us—for through this, the whole plan of redemption would begin—thus showing to us that the whole plan of redemption hinges upon this one thing.
Why did Jesus have to die for us? Our Savior has had to die because that was the only way that God Himself could have mercifully given to us a way to escape our bondage in sin while maintaining His awesome law and His perfect justice. The Bible tells to us that sin is the violation of God’s law of which is love (1 John 3:4). We have all sinned and have all fallen very short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have each earned the death penalty because of our real disobedience toward God (Romans 5:12, 6:23).
Paul showed to us the awesome love of Jesus Christ in giving up His very life on our behalf (Romans 5:6-8). All would then be doomed eternally if it had not been for the penalty of our sins having been paid through such a perfect sacrifice. Jesus, who lived a great life that was so perfect as the unblemished Lamb of the Eternal God had substituted His own death for our stead. In fact, His own death was the only way possible for our sins to be paid for. His own sacrifice then became the payment for the ransom which was brought about. We then can no longer live in accord to our own desires. We become God’s redeemed, His bought and paid-for possession (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Both Jesus and Paul had made it very obvious that the Passover is to still be kept by Christians. Jesus had specified to us the elements of the Passover supper that would still be taken of by Christians—thus marking for us the truths about Himself and God’s awesome plan of redemption.
The Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament was foreshadowing Christ’s death while the New Testament Passover now gives us an annual memorial of His death. By keeping the Passover, we are to “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes”—1 Corinthians 11:26. Now then, let’s examine Christ’s own instructions concerning this very Passover ceremony and then learn the lessons that we need from it so that every year, we can keep the Passover just as we are supposed to—in great reverence for what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Humility and Service—A Lesson of Love One of the most important lessons that Christians can learn from the Passover is that there is love in all that God does. John has described the events of Jesus’ last evening with His disciples by saying that “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” During this supper, Jesus then “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girdled Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded”—John 13:1-5.
Washing the feet of the disciples was an act of great and humble servitude (1 Samuel 25:41). Jesus had stooped down, washing the feet of his own disciples and teaching them a great spiritual lesson. The account goes on to say that “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then be your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”—vs. 12-14.
Jesus gave to His disciples a lasting remind of why we are to be in humble service to others. This reinforced an earlier lesion that He had given them found in Matthew where He had admonished His disciples abour the wrong and right types of leadership when He said “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet is hall not be so among you; but whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”—Matthew 20:25-28.
This simple act of foot washing of each other, teaches to us a great lesion that is humbly associated with the Passover. Jesus further went on to say that “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you”—John 13:15. How many Christians in our day even follow this example of Jesus’ and obey His instruction to keep the foot washing each year on the Passover, exemplifying that same attitude Jesus’ had in their own lives? As the redeemed has also possession of God through Jesus’ own literal sacrifice, our lives should also be devoted to service of God and our own fellow man.
A Symbol of His Body—the Bread Did you know that the bread of which was used at the final Passover supper has great significance? Most churches won’t even teach on it—they don’t even use the right type of bread. The bread used was unleavened—made without any agents that puff up. Later, while His disciples had been eating, Jesus had taught that one of them would be betraying Him. So then, Jesus took of that bread, blessed it and then He broke it and he gave it to each one of the disciples saying “Take, eat; this is My body”—Matthew 26:21-25. Thus, this unleavened bread which Jesus used and which was always used during the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread BEFORE that final Passover that Jesus kept was unleavened. At this special Passover that Jesus was observing, there was now a new meaning for the disciples—a meaning by which Jesus was showing them something more special—something more remarkable than what they were used to.
Jesus’s own body was to be a sacrifice made on our behalf—made for our own sins. We read that “we have been sanctified [made holy and clean] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man…offered one sacrifice for sins forever…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified”—Hebrews 10:10-14. By our accepting Jesus’ own sacrifice in our stead as our own death upon our repentance and our faith, God has forgiven us and thus has made us clean and holy—setting us apart—for the holy purpose of obedience toward Him.
Our own decision as to eat the Passover means that we then understand Jesus Christ has therefore “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”—Hebrews 9:26 and that he thus willing allowed Himself to suffer great and horrible pain and agony in death for our own sins. Christ thus bore in His body great mental and physical suffering—more than any of us have ever known—which was brought to pass by our sins.
His sacrifice is also associated with our healing. Peter had written that Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, tht we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed”—1 Peter 2:24. Isaiah had also prophesied that Jesus’ own suffering for us would mean that “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed”—Isaiah 53:4-5.
Matthew, recording incidents within Jesus’ ministry of healing, stated that He helped “many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”—Matthew 8:16-17.
Jesus therefore showed that He is the Messiah by His healings. But, furthermore, besides showing His great love and compassion, such as healing people, Christ further cast out demons—thus showing that He takes away sins (Matthew 9:2-6).
Sin has brought suffering upon the whole world, bringing about torment and anxiety. Jesus therefore had to be the only possible solution to healing us of our sins—bringing about a real reconciliation of us toward God—thus, making the way possible by which we could gain eternal salvation. Thus, Jesus has been able to overcome mental, emotional, and physical sufferings that have resulted from our sins.
Through His own forgiveness of our sins, Jesus has also made the way possible for us to gain eternal life. “I am the bread of life” Jesus said and “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness [the nourishing substance that God gave Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness], and are dead. This [Himself] is the bread which comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world”—John 6:48-51. Therefore, can you ever comprehend the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf—a sacrifice which would set us free?
A Right Relationship that Leads to a New Way of Living The Passover bread therefore reminds us of the type of relationship that true Christians are to have with Jesus Christ. We read from Paul that “we should no longer be slaves of sin” but that we “should walk in newness of life”—Romans 6:1-6 and therefore, eating the bread which shows to us our commitment to allow Jesus to live within us.
Paul had described this unity with Jesus when he wrote that “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”—Galatians 2:20, KJV. Paul had known and understood that pursuing his own desires was no longer the focus of his own life. Rather, he knew quite clearly that his relationship with Jesus Christ was more important—and that the relationship we have with Jesus means that we are to change our whole way of living.
Paul has said that Christ desires of us in our relationship with Him to “know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments…He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked”—1 John 2:3-6.
Therefore, when we partake of the bread at Passover, we understand that Jesus Christ is the real “bread of life” and that He has to live within us, enabling us to live a whole new way of living that is shown to us through His marvelous sacrifice for us. Thus, God forgives us of our sins and makes us holy and clean, pure without spot—setting us apart for a holy purpose, redeeming us with a price which has been paid through Jesus Christ’s own sacrifice. Now then we belong to God so that He can fulfill His own purpose within us.
Why the Wine at Passover? Just why is it that Jesus had commanded for His own disciples to drink wine as a symbol of His blood during the Passover? What does this show to us?
It was a tradition among the Jews to drink wine during their meals on special and sacred times, including the Passover. But, Jesus further gave a very special meaning to this wine on this very night. “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom”—Matthew 26:27-29.
So then, just what should we learn from this? First, Christ had known that drinking a little wine as a symbol of His blood being shed would impress, deeply upon our own minds that His death was for the forgiveness of our sins. “This do, as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of Me”—1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus then “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood”—Revelation 1:5. God had forgiven us of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
Most people have come to understand this important principle—that God forgives our sins through Jesus’ shed blood—but they don’t really realize just how it takes place. Paul has said that “according to the law…all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness [of sin]”—Hebrews 9:22, NASB.
The Old Testament gives to us a record of God’s instructing the priesthood to conduct those duties that were to include the cleaning and the purification that used the blood of animals that were sacrificed, thus giving to us a type of a Christ—foreshadowing for us the death of Jesus Christ—our real ultimate sacrifice for sin. He then commanded Israel to follow the temporary system of this ritualistic cleaning of sin (Hebrews 9:9-10). These sacrifices therefore had served as a type of the one and only real and future sacrifice that would be offered by Jesus Christ that would finally result in the full payment of the ransom of our sins.
The Bible tells us that someone’s life is in his blood (Genesis 9:4). When someone loses enough blood, they then die. Therefore, blood, when it is spilled out makes an atonement for sin, which has produced death (Leviticus 17:11). Jesus had lost His blood when He was crucified and even while He was being scourged before being taken to the cross (Luke 22:20; Isaiah 53:12). He had freely gave His blood, dying for the sins of all mankind.
Thus, when we partake of the wine during Passover, we should therefore consider carefully the true meaning. That small portion of wine will represent for us the very life blood which has flowed from His dying body for the remission of our sins (Ephesians 1:7). With this comes freedom from eternal death—thus giving to us life eternal.
Not only does Jesus’ own blood cover our sins completely, but it also makes the way possible for the removal of all of our guilt. We find that Hebrews 9:13-14 compares the physical sacrifice of an animal with the blood of Jesus: “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The word here conscience comes to us from the Latin word conscire which means “to be conscious of guilt.” Our awareness is therefore of the right from the wrong within this setting.
When we therefore partake of wine in the New Testament Passover, it is an expression of faith that God really has indeed forgiven us. We therefore are freed from sin and guilt (John 3:17-18) and our hearts are then “made free from the sense of sin”—Hebrews 10:22, BBE. We therefore live in newness of life with a conscience which is clear (Romans 6:14) and therefore, we need to be in remembrance always of what was done at the death of Jesus Christ when He gave up His blood for us.
Some people, however, have felt guilty, even after they repented of their sins. Although our consciences should always convict us when we sin, we should not continue to condemn ourselves over sins that God has thus already forgiven us of. Instead, we need to be confident completely that in our freedom from our guilt, God has forgiven us and has removed those sin stains (1 John 1:9, 3:19-20).
We Now Have Access to the Father Christ’s own shed blood also has made it possible for our access to the very throne of the Father—something which we needed so that we could go on our own to the Father and ask directly for forgiveness. Under the Old Covenant, only the high priest was allowed to enter the area of the tabernacle which was known as the Most Holy Place or Holiest of All (Hebrews 9:6-10). The “mercy seat” was put in a manner that it represented God’s throne. Leviticus 16 gives to us a description of the ceremony that would take place each year on another of God’s Holy Days—the Day of Atonement. At this time, the high priest would take the blood of a goat which would represent the future sacrifice of Jesus and would sprinkle it on the mercy seat so that the Israelites would be symbolically cleaned of their sins (vs. 15-16).
Since the blood of Jesus removes our sins, making us completely pure before God, we then are able to enjoy direct access to the Father (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus then, as our High Priest, has entered into the Most Holy Place through His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-12) which was shed forth for us. We then are now allowed to approach the Father without fear of rejection, but with great confidence and assurance that He will hear us and accept us (Hebrews 10:19-22).
We find in Hebrews 4:16 that it speaks clearly of this great confidence that we can have in approaching God. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus has therefore made the way possible for us to have a one-on-one relationship with the Father.
We Make A Covenant With the Father The blood of Jesus Christ further shows that He has entered into a covenant. As we have seen already, when Jesus presented the wine to His disciples during His final Passover supper, He told them that “This is My blood of the new covenant”—Matthew 26:27-28.
Why is this wine the “blood of the new covenant”? The writer of Hebrews has said that after God at Mount Sinai had enjoined on Israel what we now refer to as the Old Covenant, and after the Israelites’ response of obedient commitment, the covenant was then ratified by the ceremony of the sprinkling of blood. The Bible tells us that this is the “blood of the covenant”—Hebrews 9:18-20, 13:20; Exodus 24:3-8.
We need to come to understand that repentance, baptism and the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus—along with the belief in His great promise to forgive us of our sins—thus is what is making a covenant with God. Through this very covenant, which we have gratefully accepted and can therefore rely on (Hebrews 6:17-20, God therefore grants to us eternal life. By therefore accepting the sacrifice of Jesus for the remission of our sins, we then enter into a covenant relationship with the Father. The terms of this covenant then are absolute, because it has been sealed with Christ’s shed blood upon the cross (Hebrews 9:11-12, 15). We then are given a reminder of this covenant each year when we partake of the cup of wine at Passover.
But, just what are the terms of this relationship? “’This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He further goes to say that ‘Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more’”—Hebrews 10:16-17.
Ancient Israel never had the heart to be faithful in keeping God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29). Under the New Covenant, however, God writes His law in the hearts of man and in their minds. His laws are not those of physical purification that is contained within a system of sacrificing animals, washings and rituals in the tabernacle. Rather, they are the holy and righteous laws that truly define for us righteous living—a way of life that is more perfect and just and holy toward both God and neighbor (Romans 7:12) and that will lead us toward life eternal (Matthew 19:17). Our drinking of the wine at Passover is symbolic of our own acceptance personally of this covenant relationship that is ratified by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The Annual Observance in the Early Church Within the pages of the New Testament is an awesome and marvelous revealing to Christians about the continuation of keeping the annual Holy Days at the appointed times by God. As a youth, Jesus kept the Passover each year as commanded (Luke 2:41) and He continued on into adulthood with His disciples. The early Church further continued to practice the observance of the Holly Days as commanded. For example, we find that “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”—Acts 2:1. In other words, the apostles were in agreement while in a place for the Holy Day.
Further, there is no hint of the early Church ever adding to or changing dates that God had given for His festivals. Paul’s wording in 1 Corinthians 11:26 “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” only means “every time you eat this bread and drink this cup”—New Living translation—thus being one time a year at the Passover.
The Bible further goes on to tell us that the yearly keeping of the Passover and the history as is recorded in the annual observance as the practice and custom of the Church. Passover is literally the annual memorial of Jesus’ death which is to be kept on an annual basis—indicating to us that it is to be kept on the same date—Nisan 14—the 14thday of the first month of God’s given calendar. Neither Jesus nor His own apostles ever changed when or how often we keep any of God’s given and appointed feasts.
Thus, following on in their very examples, we are to continue to keep the Passover just as we are commanded—at the beginning of the 14thday of the first month (Nisan/Abib) of the Hebrew calendar.
During His final Passover with the disciples, Jesus said that the observance has great implications for the future as well. We find that He said that “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom”—Matthew 26:29.
Thus, when we observe the Passover each and every year, we are reminded then that God is the real forgiver of our sins and is the one who has granted to us eternal life in His awesome and glorious Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—our Passover. This celebration is a memorial of our Creators awesome plan for the redemption of mankind—the very start of a plan that gives to us real meaning for hope!
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