Lesson 3: Christ, Our Passover: The Beginning of God's Master Plan
Without this first step pictured by the Passover, there would be no hope for humanity. But because Jesus Christ gave His life as our Passover sacrifice, we have a potential beyond human imagination!
Jesus' last evening with His disciples before His crucifixion was one
of the most memorable and moving events in history. Instead of thinking
of Himself, He loved His disciples to the end. He told them:
"'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you
before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until
it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.'
"Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, 'Take this and divide
it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit
of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'
"And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them,
saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance
"Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the
new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. But behold, the hand
of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes
as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!'"
Jesus had much He wanted to teach them (and us), but through human
weakness they did not then fully grasp the eternal and spiritual dimensions
of His example and teachings. While they were still concerned about
which of them would be greatest, our Savior and King set the example
of a lowly servant and washed their feet (Luke 22:24-27; John 13:1-17).
This example of service was what He wanted these future kings over the
tribes of Israel to internalize (Luke 22:30).
He taught them about love, about building their relationships with
the Father, about responding to the leading of God's Spirit, about staying
connected to God and about having peace in the midst of persecution.
He taught them about persevering in prayer and yielding to the will
of God. And then He taught the ultimate lesson about God's awesome justice
and His amazing mercy and love by giving His life as the perfect Passover
His story made our stories possible.
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What Does the Bible Say About Passover?
What is the first annual feast of the Lord?
"'These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you
shall proclaim at their appointed times.
"'On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's
The first month on God's calendar includes the beginning of the spring
harvest season in the Holy Land, so Passover falls in March or April on
the Roman calendar. Click on this link for a calendar showing
the dates of the festivals and Holy Days of God. Also note that days in
the Bible started in the evening, not at midnight as we do now.
How did God reveal the Passover to Israel when they were enslaved
Exodus 12:5-7, 12-14
"'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.
You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
"'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.
Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it
"'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts
and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it...
"'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and
will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast;
and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the
"'Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you
are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague
shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
"'So this day shall be to you a 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.'"
The Israelites had cried out to God for deliverance from the harsh slavery
they suffered in Egypt. In spite of the nine plagues God had already sent,
Pharaoh (a type of Satan) still refused to let the Israelites leave. Even
when God warned him of the last plague, the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh's
heart remained hardened.
But God gave the Israelites instructions to sacrifice lambs and put the
blood on the doorposts as a sign and a symbol. Then He "passed over,"
or saved them from death.
What did the Passover lamb represent?
1 Corinthians 5:7
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
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold!
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
1 Peter 1:18-19
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver
or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the symbolism of the Passover lamb. Indeed, all
the sacrificial sin offerings represented and were fulfilled by Jesus
Christ (Hebrews 9:11-12).
How were our lives like the Israelites in Egypt?
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you
are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death,
or of obedience leading to righteousness?
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed
from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Even if we did not realize it, in God's eyes we have been slaves of sin
just as the Israelites were slaves of Pharaoh. God's plan is to set us
free, if we are willing to submit to His benevolent rule instead.
Why did Christ have to die?
1 John 3:4
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting
So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.
God is love, and His way of life is perfect, beautiful and beneficial.
His laws are for our good. But sin is the opposite of all that God stands
for. It is harmful, hateful and abominable to God. His eternal, perfect
justice requires the death penalty for those who commit sin—which means
all of us.
So the God of perfect justice, who is also the God of perfect mercy,
devised the incredible plan that allowed Jesus Christ to take our place
on death row—to actually die instead of us! This incredible act of mercy
teaches us how much God hates sin and how much He loves us.
The New Testament Passover Symbols
How did Jesus Christ introduce the New Testament Passover?
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.
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart
of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the
Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from
God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments,
took a towel and girded 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.
Note that many modern translations indicate this was before or during
the meal, rather than when it ended.
Washing feet was considered a kind service for those who walked the dusty
roads of the Holy Land, but it was one generally performed by lowly servants,
not by a leader or teacher. Peter was so shocked he at first refused to
have Jesus wash his feet (John 13:6-8). This surprising service was meant
to impress Christ's message on us.
What does the foot-washing ceremony teach?
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, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also
ought to wash one another's feet.
"For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have
done to you."
Christians today who follow Christ's example and command still learn
this meaningful lesson of humble service. As the apostle Paul taught,
we should "be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself... Your
attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had" (Philippians 2:3, 5,
New Living Translation).
As we saw in the opening story (Luke 22:19-20), Jesus Christ instituted
new symbols at His last Passover. What did these New Testament Passover
symbols of broken unleavened bread and wine mean?
What is the meaning of the broken bread?
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and
gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
By that will we have been sanctified 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, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat
down at the right hand of God...
1 Peter 2:24
Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having
died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were
"I am the bread of life.
"Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
"This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat
of it and not die.
"I am the living bread which came 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."
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood
of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the
body of Christ?
For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of
that one bread.
Jesus said the bread represented His body, which He voluntarily gave
to be beaten and to die as part of His complete sacrifice for us. He suffered
that He might take our infirmities and bear our sicknesses (Matthew 8:16-17;
Isaiah 53:3-5) as our Healer. Bread is also associated with life, and
Jesus is the Bread that makes eternal life possible as we allow Him to
live in us (Galatians 2:20). And the fact that His followers all partake
of this symbol of Him highlights the unity He wants us to have.
What is the meaning of the wine?
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."
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, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve
the living God?
"This is the covenant that 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 adds, "Their sins and their lawless
deeds I will remember no more."
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood
of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through
the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house
of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed
with pure water.
The wine of the New Testament Passover represents Jesus Christ's shed
blood. His sacrifice made the forgiveness of our sins and the removal
of our guilt possible. This opened the way for the New Covenant that God
makes with Christians, writing His laws on our hearts. We make this covenant
when we are baptized and
renew it each year at the Passover.
Though the High Priest was the only one allowed to go into the holiest
place in the temple, the "Holiest of All" or the "Most Holy Place," and
only once a year, the blood of Jesus opened the way for us to pray directly
to our Father in the true holiest place in heaven at any time.
Should Christians continue observing the New Testament Passover
1 Corinthians 11:23-28
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that
the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat;
this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This
cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink
it, in remembrance of Me."
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.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink
of the cup.
Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, taught the Church to observe the New
Testament Passover with its new symbols of bread and wine as Jesus had
taught him. And the Church was to continue to "proclaim the Lord's death
till He comes"—until His second coming!
Paul instructs baptized Christians to examine ourselves to make sure
we do not participate in this solemn ceremony in a careless or unworthy
way. Obviously, no one is "worthy" of Christ's sacrifice, but Paul is
not talking about deciding we shouldn't take the Passover because we aren't
"worthy." We are to examine ourselves to make sure we see our vital need
to observe the Passover and to have a repentant, humble and respectful
attitude that allows us to take the symbols in a worthy manner.
Passover is the vital first step in God's plan of salvation. Without
Jesus Christ's sacrifice to make forgiveness of our sins possible, we
would all be doomed. But through God's incredible love and mercy, He has
laid out an awesome opportunity before us! We will discover more of God's
gracious plan in the next lesson.
This lesson covers a major aspect of God's plan of salvation and a number
of related passages. To help you understand the meaning of the Passover
more deeply, please read "The
Passover: Why Did Jesus Christ Have to Die?" from our booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for all Mankind. As you read that
chapter or reread this lesson, feel free to write down any questions you
may have. You can send them to our Personal Correspondence team at email@example.com.
Next Lesson: Feast of Unleavened Bread: Our Part in God's
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
Passover: Why Did Jesus Christ Have to Die? from the booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind
Christians Keep the Passover?
Was the Purpose of Christ's Death?
Annual Festivals of God from the booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind
should a Christian today celebrate the annual festivals observed by Jesus
Christ and the apostles?
Christ: The Real Story