The Godly Legacy of Passover, Part I
This is the first in a two part series on why Christians should celebrate the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
What is Passover?
Passover this year begins at sundown on Monday, April 14 According to Scripture, all of God’s people should be celebrating Passover. As explained in Leviticus 23, the Passover season consists of three distinct feasts: Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Matzot), and First Fruits. Here is what God said about them:
“‘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 [the month of Nisan] at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’”
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.’” (Leviticus 23:4-14 NKJV, emphasis added)
Note that there are three distinct feasts explained here, and that they cover an eight-day period. Remember also that in Hebrew reckoning, a day begins at evening (twilight, sundown), and continues to evening of the next day. With that in mind, here is how this Passover season progresses:
- Feast of Passover: 14th of Nisan, sundown to sundown.
- Feast of Unleavened Bread: 15th to 21st of Nisan.
- Feast of First Fruits: Begins at sundown on the first day of the week after the weekly Sabbath.
This season contains three distinct Sabbaths. Two are connected with the Feast of Unleavened Bread: the first and seventh days of that feast are Sabbaths, days of rest and corporate worship to the Lord. Then there is the weekly Sabbath which corresponds to our Saturday. Passover and Unleavened Bread will move around the week from year to year, falling on different days, but First Fruits always happens on a Sunday because it is the first day of the week following the Sabbath after Passover. Keep this in mind as we consider what Jesus did to fulfill the prophecies of these feasts.
When is Passover?
According to the way most of the Jewish and Messianic world count the days, Passover begins at sundown on Monday, April 14, 2014, which is the 14th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. There is some division of opinion on the exact day which comes from different interpretations of how we know the beginning of a month, or new moon. That is why some communities celebrate Passover on April 12, some on April 13, and some on April 15. Do not let this confuse us; such question about counting the days existed even in Jesus’ time, which is why He celebrated the Passover feast, or seder, one day earlier than the rest of the community in Jerusalem. Since we can be sure that He will set us straight when He returns, and since everyone recognizes that the season of Passover begins in this week of April 13, we will not concern ourselves with these differences of opinion, but will consider that Monday, April 14, is the beginning of Passover. With that in mind, here is how the Passover season progresses this year:
- Feast of Passover begins at sundown on Monday, April 14 and continues to sundown on Tuesday, April 15.
- Feast of Unleavened Bread begins at sundown on Tuesday, April 15, and continues to sundown on Tuesday, April 22. The Sabbaths of this feast occur on April 15-16 and 21-22 (sundown to sundown).
- Feast of First Fruits begins at sundown on Saturday, April 19, and continues to sundown on Sunday, April 20.
This is a “Jewish” Feast. Why Should Christians Observe It?
We should observe Passover because God commands us to do so. In truth, Passover and the other feasts are not “Jewish”, they are the Feasts of the Lord, according to Leviticus 23:2. That means all of God’s people should take notice. God commanded that we should observe these feasts as a statute forever throughout all our generations (Exodus 12:14-17; Leviticus 23:14). In fact, God said that about all His feasts, which include the weekly Sabbath (Shabbat), the spring feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost (Shavuot), and the fall holy days of Trumpets/Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot). Our concern right now is the Passover feasts, the prophecies of which Jesus fulfilled completely. We do well to learn what He did at Passover, and that should motivate us to learn the prophetic meanings proclaimed in the other feasts.
We should observe Passover because God’s priesthood recognized Jesus, the Passover Lamb. Passover is the feast of Redemption. We know that God saved and delivered His people in the first Passover. That is the story of the Exodus from Egypt. But the deeper meaning is in the Redemption God provided through Jesus in His sacrifice to pay the penalty for our rebellion. It required a Levitical priest of the sons of Aaron to recognize this sacrificial offering, and indeed that is precisely what happened with Jesus. His cousin John the Baptist, a Levitical priest (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80), as the gospels record:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV)
We should observe Passover because God’s Apostle Paul exhorts us to do so. Paul exhorted us to keep the Passover feasts as a way of remembering Jesus’ work and His identity. In Paul’s letter to the non-Jewish Greek believers in Corinth, he said:
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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 for us. Therefore 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. (I Corinthians 5:6-8 NKJV, emphasis added)
Jesus is the Bread of Life, pure and without sin (leaven), and therefore fit to be offered to God (Leviticus 2:11). That is why He commanded us, spiritually, to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-58; Mark 14:22-25). We also are to be pure and free from the leaven of sin. This is the lesson which we learn by eating unleavened bread for seven days.
Jesus is the First Fruits of those who sleep because He was the first to conquer death and the grave. As Paul explains:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (I Corinthians 15:20-23 NKJV, emphasis added)
By this testimony of three witness – God the Father, God’s anointed priest, and God’s apostle – we, God’s people, both Jew and Gentile, have much reason to celebrate Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. We all remember God’s salvation of His people from Egypt in the Exodus, and we remember God’s redemption of His people through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
 This is in accordance with the Hillel II Calendar in use throughout the Jewish community worldwide, as explained on Hebcal.com. For an explanation of this calendar see Demystifying the Calendar, posted on The Barking Fox February 2, 2014.