“Christ Our Passover Was Sacrificed for Us”

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“Christ Our Passover Was Sacrificed for Us”

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Jerusalem shone golden in the afternoon sun as 12 men and their Leader made their way from the Mount of Olives to a house in the city. Earlier in the day, Jesus of Nazareth had instructed two of His disciples, Peter and John, to go into Jerusalem and prepare the Passover (Luke 22:7-13 Luke 22:7-13 7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. 8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. 9 And they said to him, Where will you that we prepare? 10 And he said to them, Behold, when you are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he enters in. 11 And you shall say to the manager of the house, The Master said to you, Where is the guest room, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? 12 And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. 13 And they went, and found as he had said to them: and they made ready the passover.
American King James Version×
). Jesus said they would encounter a man carrying water, who would show them his guest room where they could keep the Passover, a ceremony that involved eating a sacrificed lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in remembrance of God’s redemption of the Israelites in Egypt.

After finding the man, Peter and John prepared the food and drink for Jesus and the 12 to observe what would culminate in the first New Covenant Passover service.

Here’s a question we might ask ourselves in this Passover season: Do we truly appreciate Christ’s ultimate sacrifice?

Jesus probably said little as they entered the room and surveyed the preparations. To Peter and John, no doubt Jesus appeared introspective, but, beyond this, their Teacher seemed composed and calm. They all began to relax at the table and eat, following the lead of their Master.

It was then that Jesus began to speak to His disciples, explaining that He had waited for this special time so He could eat this Passover with them. “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” He told them (Luke 22:15-16 Luke 22:15-16 15 And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
).

It was a shocking statement. Jesus spoke of suffering? The apostles found it difficult to believe that their Savior would have to suffer physical pain, let alone die this early in His life. After all, this was the same Man who had turned water into wine, fed 5,000 hungry people on five loaves and two fish and had food left over, and walked on the water of a tempestuous, stormy sea.

Symbols of sacrifice

At this point, the Savior began offering His disciples the symbols of unleavened bread and wine.

The bread, He explained, represented His body. The apostle Peter later defined what this meant, writing that we, as Christians, should follow in the steps of our Savior, who “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.
American King James Version×
).

Christ, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” would pay the penalty for humanity’s sins “by the sacrifice of Himself” (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.
American King James Version×
; 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.
American King James Version×
). The wine, He then explained, represented His blood, shed for the sins of mankind (Luke 22:17-20 Luke 22:17-20 17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
American King James Version×
).

Earlier in the evening, the disciples had quietly watched as Jesus deliberately knelt and washed their feet. Jesus told them to follow His example, explaining that this simple ceremony was symbolic of the humble and unconditional attitude of service to humanity they must have (John 13:1-17 John 13:1-17 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. 6 Then comes he to Simon Peter: and Peter said to him, Lord, do you wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said to him, What I do you know not now; but you shall know hereafter. 8 Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me. 9 Simon Peter said to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus said to him, He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, You are not all clean. 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. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
American King James Version×
).

Unleavened bread and wine at the Passover observance were not new to the religious Jews of that day, but the manner in which Jesus presented them, and their meaning, were. So the disciples listened attentively to Jesus’ words and participated fully as He offered the symbols.

The food and drink Christ offered His disciples had deep meaning for them and us. During the evening, He explained that before long He would offer Himself for the sins of mankind (John 13:31-33 John 13:31-33 31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me: and as I said to the Jews, Where I go, you cannot come; so now I say to you.
American King James Version×
). His followers would soon see the meaning of the Passover symbols dramatically demonstrated to them.

Jesus’ sacrifice prophesied

Old Testament prophecies of a coming Savior’s sacrifice abound. The earliest can be found in Genesis. Speaking to Satan, the serpent, God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15 Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
American King James Version×
).

This verse speaks symbolically of Satan and Jesus Christ. Satan would “bruise the heel” of Jesus by influencing His execution by crucifixion, with nails driven through His feet. But Christ, on His return to earth, will bruise Satan’s head by imprisoning Satan for a millennium and ultimately getting rid of him for good (Revelation 20:1-10 Revelation 20:1-10 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
American King James Version×
). The prophecy in Genesis 3 is the earliest reference to Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

The prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice: “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 53:5 Isaiah 53:5But 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.
American King James Version×
).

God, Isaiah further prophesied, “has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 Isaiah 53:6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
American King James Version×
). He was “oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7 Isaiah 53:7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
American King James Version×
). “He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:8 Isaiah 53:8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
American King James Version×
).

The writers of the Bible recorded many prophecies about this most momentous and critical time, when our holy Savior would pour out His life for you, me and all of humanity. That time came as foretold, in accordance with God’s design: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 Romans 5:6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
American King James Version×
). Jesus Christ’s sacrificial offering of Himself had long been planned (2 Timothy 1:9-10 2 Timothy 1:9-10 9 Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
American King James Version×
; 1 Peter 1:18-20 1 Peter 1:18-20 18 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
American King James Version×
).

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus never once sinned or allowed Himself to entertain thoughts of breaking God’s law. He never broke the letter or spirit of the laws of God. He lived a perfect life. He “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22 1 Peter 2:22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
American King James Version×
).

Had He broken God’s law, He would have suffered the death penalty for His own guilt, like the rest of mankind, and would have had no hope of a resurrection. But since He remained sinless, and was the very Creator of humanity on the Father’s behalf (John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
American King James Version×
; John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
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), His death paid the penalty for our sins, making Him the Savior of mankind (Hebrews 10:12 Hebrews 10:12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
American King James Version×
; 1 John 4:14 1 John 4:14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
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).

Jesus Christ, our Passover

In 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×
, Paul wrote that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” This statement holds profound meaning for Christians.

Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church, the members of which were allowing one of their brethren to continue in a sexual sin. This was no ordinary sin, even for the profligate Corinthian society of the time. A man was involved in an immoral relationship with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1 1 Corinthians 5:1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
American King James Version×
).

Paul reprimanded the whole congregation and charged the Corinthians to expel the offender, lest the sin spread and contaminate them just as yeast puffs up bread dough (1 Corinthians 5:2-6 1 Corinthians 5:2-6 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I truly, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that has so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
American King James Version×
).

Paul, in supporting his reasons for removing the sinner, made the reference to Christ as our sacrificed Passover Lamb.

What did Paul mean by his statement? He meant that Jesus’ sacrifice was not made in vain. He meant that the Corinthians should not take lightly what Jesus went through in that sacrifice.

Reflect Christ’s sacrifice

Up to that point the Corinthians had not comprehended the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice. They didn’t fully understand that once their sins were repented of and covered by Jesus’ shed blood, their lives had to reflect a new commitment. They were no longer to give in to their former sinful habits.

Paul made this very clear to them: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
American King James Version×
).

Writing to the Romans on the same subject, Paul asked: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? [That is, our old life should end in our accepting His death for our sins.]

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4 Romans 6:1-4 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.
American King James Version×
).

Not to be taken lightly

Paul made it plain to the Corinthians that they must not take Christ’s sacrifice lightly. Accepting that sacrifice must result in a changed life, with a new outlook and approach that will not tolerate sin. It must be purged from our own lives and from Christian fellowship. Paul further wrote: “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner … Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person’” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortionist; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not you judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judges. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
American King James Version×
).

Since the Corinthian members apparently didn’t fully understand the implications of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the enormous pain and suffering He endured, is it possible that we could make the same error? Do we fully grasp what He went through to become a sacrifice for us?

None of us were there to witness the Roman soldiers brutally whip, beat and ridicule Jesus Christ. But we do have the written Word of God that tells us that it happened. The prophet Isaiah, King David in the Psalms and the Gospel writers all bear witness to the cruel punishment inflicted on Jesus Christ. From these biblical accounts, plus contemporary descriptions of such punishments, we can gain some understanding of the extent of the suffering our Savior endured for us.

When the authorities led Jesus before the high priest, Caiaphas, and in front of the scribes and elders, He was falsely declared guilty of blasphemy. The religious authorities spat in His face, slapping and pounding Him with their fists while they ridiculed Him (Matthew 26:67-68 Matthew 26:67-68 67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, 68 Saying, Prophesy to us, you Christ, Who is he that smote you?
American King James Version×
). When they turned Jesus over to the Romans for scourging (Matthew 27:26 Matthew 27:26Then released he Barabbas to them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
American King James Version×
), He was bruised and battered.

The halfway death

The scourging of our Savior by the Romans was barbaric. They called this type of punishment “the halfway death” because it stopped just short of killing its victim. A trained man, called a lictor, used a wooden grip to which several strips of leather had been attached. At the end of each strip, fragments of bone or iron had been sewn in. This was called a flagellum. There was no specific number of stripes to be administered, and the lictor could whip the prisoner on any part of his body.

Typically, guards tied a condemned criminal to a stone or wooden pillar, facing the pillar with one arm on each side. To further humiliate the prisoner, he was stripped of all clothing, affording him no protection from the cruel instrument.

Then the brutal procedure began. The prisoner suffered blow after blow, leaving his flesh lacerated and his bloody skin hanging like ragged strips of cloth. An officer supervised the punishment to see that the captive wasn’t inadvertently beaten to death. The Romans knew from experience that a man undergoing scourging could die quickly.

When the scourging was over, the guards untied the prisoner, who would slump to the floor in shock. They would pour cold water on him to clean off some of the blood, torn flesh and filth. The rough scrubbing of the victim’s battered body would often shock him back to gasping consciousness.

In Jesus’ case, some of the soldiers gathered thorns and plaited them into a crown, which they jammed onto His head. They wrapped a robe around Him, placed a reed scepter in His hand and mockingly paid homage to Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29 Matthew 27:29And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
American King James Version×
).

“Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified” (Matthew 27:30-31 Matthew 27:30-31 30 And they spit on him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
American King James Version×
).

What His sacrifice means for us

This is only a cursory portrayal of the agony our Savior had to suffer in our place so the penalty for sin could be removed from you and me. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we would be consigned to everlasting death. The only life we could live would be the physical existence we are struggling through now.

We would have no hope of reconciliation to God our Father. We would have no prospects of His accepting our lives through the life of Jesus Christ, by His living in us and interceding for us at the right hand of God. We could have no reason to hope to receive the Holy Spirit, understand the truth of God, and serve Christ as His followers on earth.

We would not understand the plan of God for mankind to become the children of God. And we would not enjoy the privilege of becoming a part of His Church, fellowshipping and growing with others of like mind.

No wonder Paul used the words he did to bring the Corinthians back to spiritual reality. Either they did not hold to an understanding of the profundity of Jesus’ sacrifice, or they once comprehended it but had grown careless of it. Whatever the situation, they needed to be reminded of what their Savior went through for them, including the pain and agony He endured. They needed to repent of their shortsightedness and acknowledge the great extent of His incredible sacrifice.

Here’s a question we might ask ourselves in this Passover season: Do we truly appreciate Christ’s ultimate sacrifice?

Let’s pray that we do.

The Passover season is upon us. We should feel the conviction of our brother, the apostle Paul, whom God inspired to remind us, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” That sacrifice was real, and it should affect our lives every day!

(This article first appeared in the March/April 1996 issue of The Good News magazine.)