What does Passover mean to you? Maybe you think of a Jewish ceremonial meal or the remarkable events of the ancient Passover recorded in the biblical book of Exodus. Rituals passed down for thousands of years commemorate the time when God supernaturally freed Israel from Egyptian slavery. Thousands of Israelites painted lambs’ blood on their doorposts to escape death. That night, God killed the firstborn of Egypt but “passed over” the houses marked by the blood. Israelites then gathered their belongings and departed from Egypt—for the first time in their lives free from oppressive slavery. The anniversary of these events has been celebrated ever since.
Modern Christians might view the biblical account of the Passover at the time of the Exodus as an encouraging story of how God intervened in history to take care of His people. But these events are more than a story of encouragement. Passover is a vital element of the Christian gospel! Understanding the Passover message unlocks answers to important questions about forgiveness and God’s mercy.
Nearly 1,500 years after the first Passover in Egypt, John the Baptist preached to the Jewish people that they needed to repent and be baptized (Matthew 3:1-2 Matthew 3:1-2 1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
American King James Version×). He told them of the coming Messiah. And when Jesus, the prophesied Messiah, came to begin His ministry, John told people: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Two critical points are found in John’s proclamation. First, Jesus is the Lamb of God. Later, the apostle Paul calls Jesus “our Passover” (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:
American King James Version×). The earliest Christians understood the Passover was not only a deeply meaningful ceremony but also a Person— the Person of Jesus Christ.
The second point made by John the Baptist was that Jesus “takes away the sin of the world.” Ancient Israelites could only be saved from God’s judgment by the blood of a lamb painted on their doorposts. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is the quintessential Passover Lamb. It is only through His blood, shed as the substitute for what human beings actually deserve, that we can be saved from slavery and death caused by sin.
All Christian denominations teach that we can receive forgiveness from God because Jesus sacrificed His life for our sins. So why do so many struggle with the questions “Why don’t I feel forgiven by God?” and “Why can’t I seem to overcome my weaknesses and sins?” They are missing answers found in understanding key aspects of the Christian Passover.
We must forsake sin
One reason some do not feel forgiven is because they have not really forsaken sin. It’s one thing to declare yourself a sinner and accept Jesus as your Savior. But is that all God requires?
Jesus said many things to help us answer this question. Let’s note some instances.
One time Jesus was so busy teaching people about God that His mother, Mary, and His own brothers couldn’t get through the crowd to talk with Him (Luke 8:19-20 Luke 8:19-20 19 Then came to him his mother and his brothers, and could not come at him for the press.
20 And it was told him by certain which said, Your mother and your brothers stand without, desiring to see you.
American King James Version×). When it was brought to His attention, He replied, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it ” (Luke 8:21 Luke 8:21And he answered and said to them, My mother and my brothers are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
On another occasion, a woman came to Jesus and loudly declared, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts which nursed you” (Luke 11:27).
How do you think Jesus would reply to such wonderful praise of His mother? His response? “More than that,” He said, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).
Jesus taught that His genuine followers are obedient to the Word of God and blessed as a result.
Now let’s return to John the Baptist’s declaration that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Sin is anything that goes against what God instructs or commands in His Word. Jesus said that those who do and keep the Word of God are blessed. Acknowledging you’re a sinner and asking for forgiveness are not all that God requires. Admitting you are a sinner is not the same as forsaking sin. A thief may know that robbing the convenience store is a sin and may even declare that he’s a sinner. But in continuing to rob, he stays a sinner. To forsake sin we must abandon it, denounce it and replace it with—according to Jesus— doing the Word of God.
Recall how God saved the Israelites and led them through the sea. He gave them food and water, and yet they murmured and complained, some at a certain point actually trying to revolt and return to Egypt. They found freedom, and taking responsibility for their freedom, too difficult. They preferred the security of slavery. They really wanted God’s deliverance, but they were not truly willing to forsake their old life. It was easier for God to get the slaves out of Egypt than it was to get Egypt out of the slaves!
The same can be true today. The reason we do not want to forsake sin is because it is rooted in our desires and emotions. God offers us forgiveness, but sometimes we remain emotionally enslaved to our own desires. We want God’s blessing. We even cry out with guilt when we commit sin. But if we have not truly forsaken sin, it is because we still desire sin.
Forsaking sin must touch the core of our being. A Christian should not think, “I won’t cheat my brother, but I can cheat in business—after all, business is business.” Those striving to follow Christ’s example must forsake all cheating. They must not reason, “I won’t commit adultery, but I look at porn because it doesn’t hurt anyone.” Christ instructed His servants to forsake all lust.
Forsaking sin involves a decision to humbly—and with a broken spirit—submit to the power of God. Only then will God heal unstable and wrong emotions and desires. With God’s power, there can come a time in your life when you will look back at the person you were prior to His entering your life and you will be able to honestly say, “I’m not that person anymore.” That can happen only if you forsake sin and the desires for sin.
Forsaking sin involves forsaking yourself (see Luke 9:23-24 Luke 9:23-24 23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whoever will save his life shall lose it: but whoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
American King James Version×). Paul tells Christians to “present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×). What a seeming oxymoron. What did the ancients do with a sacrifice? They killed it! Here Paul says that the followers of Christ are to be living by dying!
He goes on to explain this by saying we are to be “holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable [or rational] service,” and to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×).
To really accept Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God requires a radical change in your relationship with God and a dramatic change in your relationship to sin. It involves more than simply admitting a few bad behaviors. The real power of Christianity only happens in the lives of people who are humble and broken before the great God. You must forsake your own desires and replace them with what Paul calls “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
We must truly accept God’s forgiveness
Another reason many Christians ask, “Why don’t I feel forgiven?” or “Why can’t I overcome sin?” is that they have not really accepted God’s forgiveness. This is a difficult concept. You might be thinking, “But I read the sinner’s prayer,” or “I answered an altar call, and I accepted God’s forgiveness.” Think about it. How many times do you still say, “I don’t seem to have the power to conquer sin in my life”?
To better understand God’s forgiveness, let’s look at what happened the night before Jesus was crucified. As the disciples sat down to eat the Passover meal with Him, He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He then broke bread and passed it to them saying, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). After they partook of the bread, Jesus gave them a cup of wine, telling the disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). And Christ’s blood was not just shed for those few people gathered with Him on that Passover night. He died for all humanity, including you and me.
If Jesus, the Son of God, died for us and was resurrected to sit at the right hand of the Father, why do we not have more power from God to, in faith, experience His forgiveness and overcome sin?
Some believe God has forgiven them, but they cannot forgive themselves and thus don’t really feel forgiven. If you have felt this way, think more deeply about the first part of that statement. The Creator of the universe sent His Son to willingly sacrifice Himself for our sins and was powerfully resurrected. God is big enough to deal with our sins. Do you believe that enough to let go of your sins and accept God’s promised mercy?
Christians must strive to let the past go and live in grateful submission to the God who freed us from death and bondage. Notice what Paul wrote: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended [that is, to have already taken hold of what God ultimately has in store for us]; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 Philippians 3:13-14 13 Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×).
These factors, then, can be missing ingredients in a lot of people’s repentance. Some want God’s forgiveness, even confess that they are a sinner, but they cannot find the strength to give up their sin and the faith to accept God’s forgiveness!
Passover still relevant
While many Jews observe the Passover, far more people today celebrate Easter. Why do most Christians not observe the Passover at the same time and in the same manner as instructed by Jesus? Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples. Jesus is the Passover—the Lamb of God. Christians are to be following His example.
Instead of keeping Passover, Christianity substitutes an unbiblical celebration involving colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.
What a poor substitute for following the Savior’s example of foot-washing, eating bread that symbolized Christ’s broken body and drinking wine that symbolized His shed blood—and on the same night when He did it. It was on that Passover night that He commanded His disciples to do this “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). Of course, most churches do partake of bread and wine regularly throughout the year, but this observance has been removed from the proper context of the annual observance of Passover.
Years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about keeping the Passover on the night in which Jesus did. Christ even said He would keep it after His second coming in His Kingdom when He would sit down with His disciples (Luke 22:16 Luke 22:16For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×, 18; 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.
American King James Version×).
The Passover observance is also important because it ties together the Old and New Testaments in a unique way. So many aspects of the Exodus story fit perfectly into the meaning of Passover and were symbolic of Jesus Christ—the Lamb, the concept of a sacrifice and Christ’s blood. Both sections of the Bible are needed to understand the complete picture. The Old Testament is incomplete without the New Testament. And the New Testament cannot be fully understood without the Old Testament story. That’s especially so in terms of the Passover and how Christ fulfilled the role of the sacrificial lamb. These connections bring a deeper knowledge of Christ’s dying for us, including how much God loves us and His great purpose.
By heeding the true Passover Lamb and doing what He said to do at the time and in the manner He said to do it, Christians today can experience God’s power and grace in releasing the shackles of sin and conquering wrong desires. If you desire a greater understanding of God’s forgiveness and want God to break your bondage to sin, then I urge you to read about the Passover in the last chapters of all four Gospels.
Interested readers should also request our free study guide God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . This easy-to-read guide will take you chronologically through God’s annual festivals, which are clearly described throughout the Bible. You may not realize the Christian and prophetic significance of these days, and how God designed them to reveal Himself and His plan for all of us.
The time is now to break the bonds of human tradition and seek Jesus Christ as the Passover and observe His sacrifice in the way He has told us to!