The name “Passover” is a combination of the two words “pass” and “over”. What is it that passes over? We can understand this by looking at the origins of the Passover during the time of the exodus.
Old Covenant Passover
During the days of Jacob, the Hebrews moved into the land of Egypt which had abundant food despite the ongoing famine at that time. There, they were mistreated as slaves for four hundred years as prophesied (Genesis 15:13). They cried for emancipation, and finally, their cries reached heaven. God sent Moses the prophet to bring His people out of Egypt.
Moses boldly went to Pharoah and asked him to release the Israelites, but he refused repeatedly. God was enraged and brought upon the land of Egypt nine plagues: the plague of blood, of frogs, of hail … During every plague, the Pharoah could not endure the sufferings and promised to free the Israelites. However, once the plague ceased, his heart became hardened again and he broke his promise.
Finally, God decided to send the tenth plague – the killing of the firstborn. In order to protect the Israelites from this terrible calamity, God told them to keep the Passover.
The blood (of the Passover lamb) will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.Exodus 12:13
God commanded the Israelites to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses. When the destroying angels saw this sign of God’s people, they passed over the houses without harming them. On the other hand, loud wailing resounded throughout the land of Egypt as all the firstborn, including the firstborn of Pharaoh, were killed. After this great disaster, Pharaoh finally permitted the Israelites to go.
Hence, the name “Passover” means “disasters pass over”. God commanded the Israelites to commemorate this day every year as a lasting ordinance (Exodus 12:1-14).
2) When it was kept
“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.Exodus 12:2
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month … at twilight.Exodus 12:6
The Israelites first kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month a twilight. God also appointed this date as the time of the Passover under the law of Moses.
The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.Leviticus 23:5
It is noteworthy that in today’s context, the commonly used Gregorian calendar, which originated in Rome, differs from the calendar used during the Biblical era. Hence, the date of the Passover does not correspond to 14 January in the Gregorian calendar.
3) How it was kept
… take a lamb … year-old males without defect …Exodus 12:3-5
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.Exodus 12:7-8
A lamb without defect was sacrificed for the Passover. Then, the Israelites ate its meat and painted its blood on their houses as the sign of protection from the disaster.
New Covenant Passover
In the final year of Jesus’ ministry, on the day of the Passover, Jesus sent two disciples to prepare for the feast.
Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”Luke 22:7
When evening came, He reclined at the table with the Twelve. That night was to be His last night on the earth.
And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.Luke 22:15
Jesus, who knows the end from the beginning, predicted His own death. Before leaving this earth, He eagerly wanted to establish the new covenant to give life to His children.
… This cup is the new covenant …Luke 22:20
Thus, He established the Passover of the new covenant. After this last supper, He was betrayed by one of His disciples and captured by the Roman soldiers. The very next day, He was crucified on the cross.
2) When it was kept
… when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”Mark 14:12
The date and time of the New Covenant Passover are the same as that of the Old Covenant, that is, the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight.
3) How it was kept
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.Luke 22:19-20
Instead of sacrificing a lamb, Jesus kept the New Covenant Passover with bread and wine which symbolise His flesh and blood. That is because Jesus came as the reality of the Passover lamb.
… For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.1 Corinthians 5:7
The next day, Jesus was sacrificed on the cross to validate His promise given through the Passover. Thus when we keep this precious feast, we will surely receive all the blessings just as He promised.