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The Passover

Why Did Jesus Christ Have to Die?

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Most of us have heard that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but what does that really mean? Why was His death necessary? What part does Christ’s sacrifice play in God’s plan for mankind? How is Jesus Christ’s death reflected in God’s holy festivals? This chapter on the New Testament Passover will address these important questions.

Christ’s sacrifice is the pivotal event in God’s plan to save humanity. Jesus 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 John 3:14-16 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 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.
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).

We see here that Jesus’ sacrifice, the central message of the Passover, was a supreme act of love for humanity. This important event laid the foundation for the annual festivals that would follow. It is the most momentous step in God’s plan.

Just before the Passover feast that would see His execution, Jesus 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 John 12:27Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I to this hour.
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, John 12:32 John 12:32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me.
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).

The day on which this profound event, the crucifixion, transpired was the 14th day of the first month of God’s calendar, the very same day on which the Passover lambs were to be slain (Leviticus 23:5 Leviticus 23:5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.
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). Paul would later tell the congregation at Corinth that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
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).

Now let’s look back through the Bible for the instructions and meaning God gave concerning this day. Doing so will help us understand why God expects us to continue observing the Passover.

God’s Passover instruction

As previously mentioned, God through Moses told Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1 Exodus 5:1And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.
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). Through a series of plagues, God displayed His great power and delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. After nine plagues He gave Israel specific instructions about the next and final terrifying calamity and the steps each Israelite family would have to take to escape it.

The unblemished male lamb represented Jesus Christ as the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sins.

God said that on the 10th day of the first month (in the spring in the Middle East) each Israelite was to select a lamb or goat large enough to feed each household (Exodus 12:3 Exodus 12:3Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
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). The animal chosen was to be a yearling male without any sort of defect. On the 14th day of that month at evening, the Israelites were to kill the animals and place some of their blood on the doorposts of their homes. The animals were then to be roasted and eaten along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 

The Creator further instructed the Israelites that on this evening He would kill all the firstborn of Egypt to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. The firstborn of each Israelite family would be protected if the sign of the blood were on the entrance of their homes. God would “pass over” their homes to spare them—thus the meaning of the name of this observance (Exodus 12:13 Exodus 12:13And the blood shall be to you for a token 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 smite the land of Egypt.
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).

God said this day would be to the Israelites 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” (Exodus 12:14 Exodus 12:14And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
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). Bible writers later explained that the annual Passover observance symbolized Christ. Paul, as we just saw, referred to Christ as “our Pass-over” (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
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), and the apostle John recorded that John the Baptist recognized Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
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).

The unblemished male animal represented Jesus Christ as the perfect, sinless sacrifice who died in our place, His death paying the penalty for our sins and reconciling us to God. Hebrews 9:11-12 Hebrews 9:11-12 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
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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.” Jesus Christ bought us with His blood, pouring out His life as our Passover lamb so our sins could be forgiven.

Why did Jesus Christ have to die? Our Savior had to die because in this way God could mercifully forgive our sins while maintaining the integrity of His law and perfect justice. The Bible tells us that sin is the violation of God’s law of love (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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). We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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). We have each earned the death penalty for our disobedience (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
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; Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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).

Paul illustrated the profound love of Jesus Christ in giving up His life on our behalf (Romans 5:6-8 Romans 5:6-8 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
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). All would be doomed eternally had not the penalty for our sins been paid somehow. Christ, who lived a perfect life as the unblemished Lamb of God, substituted His death for ours. In fact, His death was the only possible substitution for ours. His sacrifice became the payment for our sins. He died in our place so we could share life with Him forever. We can no longer live according to our own desires. We become God’s redeemed, or bought and paid-for, possession (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? 20 For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
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).

Both Jesus and Paul made it clear that the Passover is to continue as a Christian observance. Jesus Himself specified elements of the Passover meal that must still be ceremonially partaken of to teach Christians important truths about Himself and God’s continuing plan of salvation.

The Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament foreshadowed Christ’s crucifixion. The New Testament Passover memorializes that crucifixion. By observing the Passover, we “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26 1 Corinthians 11:26For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
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). Now let’s examine Christ’s specific instructions concerning the Passover ceremony and the lessons we should learn from it.

A lesson in humility and service

The apostle John described the events of Jesus Christ’s last evening with His disciples: “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 the meal Jesus “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” (John 13:1-5 John 13:1-5 1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He rises from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he pours water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
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).

Washing the feet of another was an act of lowly servitude (1 Samuel 25:41 1 Samuel 25:41And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let your handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.
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). Jesus stooped down to wash the disciples’ feet Himself to teach important spiritual lessons. The account continues: “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’ ” (John 13:12-14 John 13:12-14 12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said to them, Know you what I have done to you? 13 You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
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).

Jesus left His disciples with a lasting reminder of the importance of humble service to others. This reinforced an earlier lesson He had given them recorded in Matthew 20:25-28 Matthew 20:25-28 25 But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority on them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
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, where He admonished His disciples about the wrong and right kind of leadership: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And 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.”

The simple act of washing the feet of others teaches us a vital lesson intimately associated with the Passover. He concluded: “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 John 13:15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
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). How many Christians today follow Christ’s example and obey His simple instruction to wash each other’s feet, and exemplify that attitude in their lives? As the redeemed possession of God through Christ’s sacrifice, our lives should be devoted to serving God and our fellow man.

The bread: symbol of Christ’s body

Later, while the disciples were eating, Jesus explained that one of them would soon betray Him (Matthew 26:21-25 Matthew 26:21-25 21 And as they did eat, he said, Truly I say to you, that one of you shall betray me. 22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say to him, Lord, is it I? 23 And he answered and said, He that dips his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. 25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said to him, You have said.
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). But notice Matthew 26:26 Matthew 26:26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
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: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” So the unleavened bread eaten in the Old Testament Passover was to take on new significance for the disciples.

Christ’s body was to become a sacrificial offering for sin, for indeed “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 . . . offered one sacrifice for sins forever . . . For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10-14 Hebrews 10:10-14 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From now on expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
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). By accepting Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in place of our own death upon our repentance and faith, God forgives us and “sanctifies” us—sets us apart—for the holy purpose of obedience to Him.

Our decision to eat the Passover bread means we understand that Jesus Christ has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26 Hebrews 9:26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
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). He willingly consented to suffer an excruciating death for us. Christ bore in His body mental and physical suffering brought on by sin.

Jesus’ sacrifice is also intricately associated with our healing. Peter wrote of Christ’s suffering that He “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 healed” (1 Peter 2:24 1 Peter 2:24Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed.
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). Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf: “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 Isaiah 53:4-5 4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.
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).

Matthew 8:16-17 Matthew 8:16-17 16 When the even was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses.
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, describing incidents of healing in Jesus’ ministry, states 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.’”

Jesus showed that He was the promised Messiah by miraculous healings. But besides demonstrating His compassion, such healings showed that Christ possessed the power to forgive sin (Matthew 9:2-6 Matthew 9:2-6 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said to the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemes. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Why think you evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Your sins be forgiven you; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.
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).

Sin brings suffering! The ultimate healing made possible by Christ’s complete sacrifice includes the whole person, alleviating and eliminating the mental, emotional and physical sufferings that result from our sins.

Through the forgiveness of our sins, Christ also made possible our receiving eternal life. “I am the bread of life,” He said. “Your fathers ate the manna [the nourishing substance God provided throughout Israel’s 40-year desert wandering] in the wilderness, and are dead. This [Christ referring here to Himself] 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” (John 6:48-51 John 6:48-51 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
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).

A relationship leading to a new way of life

The Passover bread reminds us of the close relationship Christians have with Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:1-6 Romans 6:1-6 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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Paul shows that, once we are symbolically united with Jesus in death through baptism, “we should no longer be slaves of sin” but “should walk in newness of life.” Eating the bread demonstrates our commitment to allow Christ to live in us.

The apostle Paul describes this uniting with Christ in Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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.
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: “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” (KJV). Paul understood that pursuing his own ways was no longer his life’s focus. His relationship with Jesus Christ became supremely important to him.

The apostle John tells us what Christ expects of us in our relationship with Him: “Now by this we 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 1 John 2:3-6 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
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).

The Passover bread reinforces our understanding that Jesus Christ, the true “bread of life,” must live within us, enabling us to live an entirely new life. God forgives our sins to sanctify us—to continue to set us apart for a holy purpose, to redeem us (that is, purchase us for a price). We now belong to God so He can fulfill His purpose in us.

The meaning of the Passover wine

Why did Jesus command His disciples to drink wine as a symbol of His blood during the Passover service? What does this symbolize?

Christ knew that drinking a little wine as a symbol of His shed blood would impress deeply on our minds that His death was for the forgiveness of our sins.

It had become tradition among the Jews to drink wine at meals on sacred occasions, including the Passover. But Jesus attached special meaning to the wine on this 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 Matthew 26:27-29 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink from now on of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
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).

What are we to learn from this symbol? First, Christ knew that drinking a little wine as a symbol of His shed blood would impress deeply on our minds that His death was for the forgiveness of our sins. “This do,” He said, “as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:25 1 Corinthians 11:25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
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). Jesus “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
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). God forgives our sins through Jesus’ shed blood (1 John 1:7 1 John 1:7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
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).

Many people normally understand this tenet—that God forgives our sins through Jesus Christ’s blood—but not everyone realizes how it occurs. Paul explained 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 Hebrews 9:22And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
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, New American Standard Bible).

The Old Testament records God instructing Israel’s priesthood to perform certain duties that included a system of cleansing and purification using the blood of sacrificed animals, thus foreshadowing the shedding of Christ’s blood, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. He commanded the nation to follow this temporary system of the ritualistic cleansing of sin (Hebrews 9:9-10 Hebrews 9:9-10 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
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). Animal sacrifices served as a symbol or representation of the one and only real and future sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who would pay the penalty for everyone’s sins once and for all.

The Bible teaches that one’s life is in his blood (Genesis 9:4 Genesis 9:4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat.
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). When a person loses sufficient blood, he or she dies. Therefore blood, when poured out, makes the atonement for sin, which produces death (Leviticus 17:11 Leviticus 17:11For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you on the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.
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). Jesus lost His blood when He was scourged, crucified and pierced (Luke 22:20 Luke 22:20Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
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; Isaiah 53:12 Isaiah 53:12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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). He poured out His blood, dying for the sins of humanity.

In partaking of the wine at the Passover service, we should carefully consider its meaning. That small portion of wine represents the very life blood that flowed from Jesus Christ’s dying body for the remission of our sins (Ephesians 1:7 Ephesians 1:7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
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). With this forgiveness comes ultimately freedom from death.

Not only does Jesus Christ’s blood completely cover our sins, but it makes possible the removal of our guilt. Hebrews 9:13-14 Hebrews 9:13-14 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: 14 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?
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compares the physical sacrifice of an animal with the blood of Christ: “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 conscience comes from the Latin word conscire, meaning “to be conscious of guilt.” Our conscience is our awareness of right and wrong.

Our partaking of wine in the New Testament Passover ceremony is an expression of faith that God really has forgiven us. We are free from sin and guilt (John 3:17-18 John 3:17-18 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
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), and our hearts are “made free from the sense of sin” (Hebrews 10:22 Hebrews 10:22Let 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.
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, Bible in Basic English). We live in newness of life with a clear conscience (Romans 6:14 Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
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).

Some people, however, feel guilty even after they have repented. Although our consciences should readily convict us when we sin again, we should not continue to condemn ourselves over sins God has already forgiven. Instead, we should be fully confident in our God-given freedom from guilt (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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; 1 John 3:19-20 1 John 3:19-20 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
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).

Access to the Father

Christ’s shed blood also makes possible our access to the very throne of God the Father. Under the Old Covenant only the high priest could enter the area of the tabernacle known as the Most Holy Place or Holiest of All (Hebrews 9:6-10 Hebrews 9:6-10 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
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). The “mercy seat” positioned there atop the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s throne. Leviticus 16 describes the ceremony that took place each year on another of God’s sacred occasions, the Day of Atonement. At that time the high priest took the blood of a goat, representing the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and sprinkled it on the mercy seat so the Israelites could be symbolically cleansed of all their sins (Hebrews 9:5-16 Hebrews 9:5-16 5 And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: 14 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? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
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).

Because the blood of Jesus Christ removes sin, making us pure before God, we can enjoy direct access to the Father (Hebrews 9:24 Hebrews 9:24For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
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). Jesus, as our High Priest, entered into the Most Holy Place through His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-12 Hebrews 9:11-12 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
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). We can now approach God the Father without hesitation or fear of rejection, but with confidence and assurance (Hebrews 10:19-22 Hebrews 10:19-22 19 Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 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.
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).

Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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speaks of this confidence 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 Christ makes it possible for us to experience this intimate relationship with our Father.

Our covenant with God

The blood of Christ also signifies that He has entered into a covenant, or agreement. As we’ve seen, when Jesus presented the wine to His disciples during the observance of their final Passover together, He told them, “This is My blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:27-28 Matthew 26:27-28 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
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).

Why is this wine called the “blood of the new covenant”? The writer of the book of Hebrews explains that, after God at Mount Sinai enjoined on ancient Israel what is now called the Old Covenant, and after the Israelites’ response of obedient commitment, the covenant was ratified by the ceremony of the sprinkling of blood. The Bible writers called this the “blood of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:18-20 Hebrews 9:18-20 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined to you.
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; Hebrews 9:13 Hebrews 9:13For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh:
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:20; Exodus 24:3-8 Exodus 24:3-8 3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD has said will we do. 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD has said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.
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).

We must understand that repentance, baptism and the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—along with belief in His promise to forgive our sin—constitutes a covenant with God. Through this covenant, which we gratefully accept and can completely rely on (Hebrews 6:17-20 Hebrews 6:17-20 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; 20 Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
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), God grants us eternal life. By accepting the sacrifice of Christ for the remission of sin, we enter into a covenant relationship with the God of the universe. The terms of this covenant are absolute, because it was sealed with the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-12 Hebrews 9:11-12 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
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, Hebrews 9:15 Hebrews 9:15And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
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). We are reminded of this covenant every year when we partake of the Passover.

What are the terms of this covenant relationship? “ ‘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 lawless deeds I will remember no more’ ” (Hebrews 10:16-17 Hebrews 10:16-17 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
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).

Ancient Israel did not have the heart to faithfully keep God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29 Deuteronomy 5:29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
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). Under the New Covenant, however, God writes His laws in our hearts and minds. These laws are not those of physical purification contained in the system of sacrifices, washings and rituals in the tabernacle. Instead, they are the holy and righteous laws that define right behavior toward God and neighbor (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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) and lead to eternal life (Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
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). Our drinking of the Passover wine is symbolic of our acceptance of this covenant relationship that is ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Annual observance in the early Church

The New Testament shows that Christians continued to observe the annual festivals at the times commanded by God. As we’ve seen, Jesus in His youth observed the Passover annually on the specified day (Luke 2:41 Luke 2:41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
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), and He continued the practice with His disciples. The early Church continued to observe the other feast days at their specified times. For example, Acts records that Jesus’ followers met to observe the Feast of Pentecost: “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
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).

Scripture gives no hint of the early Church adding to or changing the dates God ordained for His festivals. The phrase in 1 Corinthians 11:26 1 Corinthians 11:26For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
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—”for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup”—simply means every time Christians do it. And that refers to observing the Passover each year on the appropriate day, thereby “proclaim[ing] the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The Bible specifies the yearly observance of the Passover, and history records its annual celebration as the practice of the early Church. Passover, as a memorial of Jesus’ death, is to be observed once a year rather than whenever or however often one chooses, just as with all of the other annual festivals. Neither Jesus Christ nor His apostles indicated that we should change when or how often we observe any of God’s sacred appointments.

Following their example, we should continue to observe the Passover at the beginning of the evening of the 14th day of the first month (Abib, or Nisan) of the Hebrew calendar. (See “The Annual Festivals of God - Holy Day Calendar ” for dates listed.)

During His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus explained that this celebration has significant implications for the future as well. In Matthew 26:29 Matthew 26:29But I say to you, I will not drink from now on of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
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He told them, “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.”

Keeping the Passover each year reminds us that God is the forgiver of sin who grants us eternal life in His Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Passover. This observance is a memorial of our Creator’s continuing role in humanity’s salvation.

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