What is the Passover, and What is its Relationship to Easter?

I heard a speech by President Trump on Facebook last week, and he was calling Easter Passover.  In English, we call it Easter, but in several other languages, they call this holiday Passover. Easter is just a German word that was passed to us by our ancient ancestors.  When Jesus went into Jerusalem and was crucified, he actually went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, a holiday celebrated by the Jews that began when they were slaves in Egypt. We wonder why the whole world seems to be celebrating a Jewish holiday, but there is much more to it than we realize.  First I will explain what the Passover actually is because when you learn what it is, it makes sense for it to be connected to Christianity.

If you go back to your Bibles, yes, the dusty book on the shelf many people never read, go to Exodus chapter 12. Exodus is the second book in the Bible.  We read verses 1 -30.  It is the story of the first Passover.  The Israelites, the Jews, had gone to Egypt and gotten caught and used as slaves.  They wanted out of slavery, and God sent Moses to get them out of Egypt.  Most people have heard of the plagues in Egypt.  Moses would go into Pharaoh and say, “Let my my people go,” and Pharaoh would say “no.” Every time, God would sent a plague on the land like excessive frogs or flies or something else that made their lives unbearable, and Moses hoped it would dislodge Pharaoh’s mind and make him more cooperative, but Pharaoh just refused to cooperate.   Finally, God sent the angel of death to convince Pharaoh. He planned on killing every first born of every family.  However, since it was the Jewish people he was trying to save, it didn’t make sense to kill their first born also.  God made a plan for the death angel to pass over the houses of the Jewish people and let them all be safe.

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They were given instructions to kill a baby lamb without blemish and take the blood of that lamb and mark the top and sides of their door frames so the angel of death would know they were inside and leave everyone in that house alone.  They were told to stay inside all night long, and they were told to have a specific meal eaten in a specific way.  This sacrificial lamb became Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus died so our sins could be forgiven (John 3:16). Jesus was without sin, without blemish, and it made him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This lamb was supposed to be cooked whole over a fire, not boiled, but roasted because it was quicker because the feast symbolized that the Jewish people must leave Egypt quickly.

person slicing biscuit using stainless steel butter knife
Crackers are bread without yeast.  Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

They were to eat bread with no yeast or baking powder.  This is because they were getting ready to leave quickly, and it symbolized that they didn’t have time to let the bread rise.  This is taken into Christianity, and in Christianity, the yeast in the bread symbolizes sin.  In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the people are told to get rid of the yeast, and Paul defines the yeast as “malice and wickedness.”  This is why many churches don’t use yeast in their bread when they take communion.

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The Jewish people were also supposed to eat “bitter herbs.”  What are “bitter herbs”?  According to the modern Jews, “bitter herbs” are romaine lettuce, horse radish, and endives (escarole).  They are not to cook these herbs at all. They can’t even soak them because they must remain bitter to remind them that what the Egyptians did to them was bitter, and it keeps them thankful to God for what he did for them.  Perhaps Christians should also eat these bitter herbs to remind us what God did for us when he sent his son to take away our bitterness, our sin. The Jews have a woman’s name “Mara” which means “bitterness.”  They call these bitter herbs they are supposed to eat “maror.”

person wearing gray hoodie jacket watching lake
The clothing was different then, but if the same instructions were given today, the people may be asked to wear something like this, clothes made for traveling. Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

They people were given instructions to wear their traveling clothes, and wear their shoes, to be ready to go at a moment’s notice during this feast.  They were supposed to be ready to leave bondage quickly.  This is like we are told to live our lives in such a way that Christ could come back at any time, that the world could end at any time. Once we repent and have our sins washed away in the blood of the lamb (baptism), then we need to live a life worthy of being called a Christian to the end of our lives because no one knows when they will die or when the world will end.  We need to be ready for the day of judgement.

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The Passover holiday is actually seven days long. Perhaps that is where we got the idea of Easter vacation or Spring break in America.  The Passover holiday actually began with a feast and ended with a feast.  Between the feasts, the people are supposed to rest. During the feast, there is a conversation that is supposed to go on.  A kid is supposed to ask why they are doing it, and one of the older people are supposed to tell the story of the Passover in Egypt.  The feast is supposed to begin at twilight on one evening and end at twilight the next evening.  It mentions the twilight in the passage in Exodus, and it is also written in Numbers 9:2 that the meal is supposed to begin at twilight. Perhaps this is part of the reason so many modern Easter celebrations are at night.  The Orthodox church has church services in the middle of the night, and in America, a lot of churches have sunrise services. During the Passover meal, no one was to go outside. They all had to stay inside to be saved from the angel of death because their house had been marked with the blood of the lamb.  As Christians, baptism washes us in the blood of the lamb, our sins are covered just as that door frame was covered with the blood of the lamb.

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Jesus took part in the Passover, and when he did, he gave instructions for us.  He began what we call Communion or the Lord’s Supper.  Read Luke 22:17-18 and Matthew 26: 26-29.  Jesus gave instructions during the Passover meal that when we eat the unleavened bread and drink of the fruit of the vine (some drink wine, and some drink grape juice), that we remember his sacrifice.  The bread symbolizes his body, and the fruit of the vine symbolizes his blood that was shed for us.  If you read church history, the early church actually took Communion every Sunday because it was the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  If you look at Acts 20:7, Luke records that they gathered together on the first day of the week to take Communion and Paul preached.  If you read Acts 2:42-47, it is the first day of the church, and one of the things they were dedicating themselves to is the “breaking of bread” (Communion).  1 Corinthians 11 also has an example of them coming together to remember the sacrifice of Christ with Communion. Jesus connected the Passover to Christianity because he instituted Communion during Passover and was killed during Passover.

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Passover was so long ago. How do we know we get the dates right when we celebrate Easter?  If you read the Exodus 12 passage, the first verse says it was in the first month, and the feast was to last from the 14th day to the 20th day.  If you go on to Deuteronomy 16:1, it calls that first month, the month of Abib.  The month of Abib is from the Canaanite calendar.  The Jewish calendar calls the month of Abib Nisan, and the Babylonian calendar calls it Nisanu.  This month on our calendars is March and April.  Most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, and this is the corresponding time on the Gregorian calendar.  The Orthodox use the Julian calendar that only has ten months instead of twelve, and that is why the Orthodox celebrate this holiday close to when we celebrate it, but often they celebrate a week before or after.  We may not have the exact time right, but we have it close enough.  We know when Passover was, so we know when Jesus died, was buried, and resurrected on the third day.  Passover and Easter are indelibly connected.  This is why many people say that Easter is the true Christian holiday.  It is all about Jesus’ crucifixion and rising on the third day.  The Roman emperor even posted guards because they knew that Jesus prophesied that he would rise from death, and they thought his followers would steal his body and then say he had risen from the death. The tomb was guarded, so no one could get in, but Jesus got out. Even death couldn’t hold him. He rose from the dead!!!

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