Passover and The Lord’s Supper

Exodus 12

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2016

We have been studying the Book of Exodus. Last week, we looked at the Tenth Plague. Every child in Sunday School knows this plague but it is definitely not a children’s story. The story is rated R. It is violent. There is blood everywhere – dead animals and dead people and even blood smeared on the doors of houses.

Pharaoh finally got the point with the Tenth Plague. Death invaded every Egyptian home at midnight. The first nine plagues affected him but there was no real change, no genuine repentance. He told Moses that they could go after some of the plagues but he did not mean it. He said it just to stop the plagues. This time, he meant it.

This time he said that they could take their animals with them. The Tenth Plague was a national tragedy. Every single household in Egypt lost someone all at the same time. The Egyptians were begging them to leave. They wanted them to leave so bad that they helped them pack. Pharaoh even told Moses to bless him. Before he asked Moses to pray for him two times (8:8; 9:28) and now he asks him to bless him (12:32).

During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” (12:31-32).

Today, I want to look at tow things the Jews did BEFORE they left Egypt. Next week, we will look at their trip out of Egypt. Exodus says they did two things before they left. One has to do with money and one has to do with food.

Two Final Actions before Leaving

1. The Hebrew slaves acquired some new possessions

This is mentioned THREE TIMES in the text. The first time is a prediction of what would happen. The second mention is instructions to tell the people to do. The third reference is to what they did.

And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” (3:21-22 NIV)

Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people (11:2-3 NIV)

The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (12:35-36 NIV)

 Is this an Immoral Command?

Now this seems like a very strange bunch of verse, especially if you are reading the KJV. Exodus 12:35 says “And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment” (KJV). Instead of the word “ask” it has the word “borrow”. God tells the Jews to borrow jewels of silver and gold from the Egyptians.

Why would God tell the Egyptians to borrow things from the Egyptians? That implies that they would return these items but the Jews were planning to leave Egypt and not return. That seems strange. Furthermore, the text also mentions them plundering the Egyptians. We are not supposed to steal but the text says two times that they plundered the Egyptians and God told them to do it. Is God telling the Jews to steal? Is He teaching them to be dishonest? Critics of the Bible and skeptics love this passage.

The answer is No. The Hebrew word means “ask” and not “borrow”. Stealing implies taking something by force. They did not do that. They asked for the items. There was no coercion. The Egyptians gave them voluntarily. There was no deception here.

They asked them for these things. There was also no injustice here. The Jews worked for hundreds of years in Egypt without being paid. In fact, they were mistreated. Egypt owed them. They worked for Egypt for years and now they are finally getting paid.

God not only frees all the slaves but He gives them some spending money for their journey and some new clothes. The slaves are not only freed but given gold and silver. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.

What did they end up doing with all of these jewels? They used to help build the tabernacle (25:1-7). They also used to help build the golden calf (32:2-3), which was an idol. It shows that you can use your money and wealth for good or for evil.

2. The Hebrew slaves ate a very special meal

The night before they left Egypt, the Jews ate a special meal. It was the Passover meal. I want to spend a little time talking about Passover. Millions of Jews all over the world celebrate Passover every year. They have done this for thousands of years. Jesus also celebrated Passover. The way he celebrated Passover in the first century might be a little different than the way Jews today celebrate it but they both celebrated Passover.

Most of us do not realize how Jewish Jesus was. We try to Americanize Him. He was Jewish. He was not a Westerner. He was an Easterner. He lived in the Middle East. He lived in Israel and He celebrated the Passover.

The last supper was a Passover Seder. “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.’” (Luke 22:7-8 ESV). Not only did Jesus celebrate the Passover, so did his Apostles.

In fact, Jesus kept the Passover, throughout His entire life. When He was young, Luke tells us that His parents went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover every year (2:41). It was a big deal. What do we know about this feast? What does the Bible say about it? How does it apply to us today? We want to look at that today. There are some things about Passover that you might not know.

Passover was not only a historical event; it was to be an annual event for the Jews. They celebrated the Passover quickly before they left Egypt but this was also to become an annual event.

The Jews have been slaves in Egypt. They did not have any festivals before. They did not have anything to celebrate before and were not allowed to do any celebrating. Now they have something they can celebrate every year. Eventually God gave them six other festivals. Some were in the Spring and some were in the Fall. Passover takes place in the Spring around the time of Easter (March/April).

Leviticus 23 mentions seven festivals, seven Jewish holidays: the Festivals of Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzog), First Fruits (Reshit Katzir), Pentecost (Shavu’ot), Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Tabernacles (Sukkot).

The Jews have added some feasts in addition to these seven annual feasts but Passover was the oldest one. It was the first Jewish feast in the Bible. It is the feast of freedom. It is the feast that celebrates freedom. It was so important that it changed the calendar for the Jews. It became the first month of the year (12:2).

It was centered around a special meal. Jews today call this a seder (“order”). Passover was followed by another festival called “The Feast of Unleavened Bread”. Many mistake Passover for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Sometimes they are used synonymously (Luke 22:1) but they are separate feasts. Passover lasted one day. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days. We see that in Leviticus 23.

“‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast” (Leviticus 23:4-6). Passover takes place on Nissan 14. The Feast of Unleavened Bread takes place on Nissan 15-21.

Restrictions on this Meal

There were all kinds of restrictions on this festival. There were some food restrictions. There were dietary restrictions. Exodus 12 mentions one thing not allowed in the diet. It was yeast.

In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day (Passover) until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days you are to eat bread made WITHOUT yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel… Eat NOTHING made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” (12:15, 20)

The main ingredients of bread are flour and yeast. Unleavened bread is bread without leaven or yeast which made the bread soft and allowed it to rise. It is just made of flour, oil and water. This was a feast without yeast.

Why could they not eat yeast? Is yeast evil? Is that why it was prohibited? In some passages of Scripture yeast is seen as a symbol of evil (cf. I Corinthians 5:6-8) but that was not the reasons. Was it prohibited because it is unhealthy? There are some books on the market right now that say that if you eat a yeast free diet you are healthier.

That wasn’t the reason because Jews were allowed to eat yeast the rest of the year. The reason they could not eat yeast is to remember what happened as the Jews were leaving Egypt. They left Egypt so quickly they did not have time for the dough to rise.

The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing (12:33-34). Exodus 12: 39 says “The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves” (NIV)

Exodus 12 mentions another restriction. Certain people were to be excluded from Passover. It was NOT open to anybody. Children were not excluded but foreigners were. No foreigner was allowed to participate in this meal. “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: “No foreigner may eat it” (12:43 NIV).

Why were foreigners not allowed the Passover meal? They were not circumcised.
No uncircumcised person was allowed to eat the Passover. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it” (12:44-45 NIV). This meal was only for Jews. Males had to be circumcised to eat this meal.

“A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.” (12:48-49 NIV)

Recently, it has been popular in some churches to host seder meals. It gives Christians a chance to participate in Passover to celebrate Jewish culture, to eat some matzo ball soup but we have a problem. Gentiles were excluded from this feast, according to Exodus, and that would include Gentile Christians.

Passover and the Lord’s Supper

How does this meal relate to Christians? We eat a meal called “The Lord’s Supper”. There are many parallels between Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

1) The two celebrations are related

In Exodus 12, Passover is called “the Lord’s Passover” (12:11). The Christian memorial is called “the Lord’s Supper” (I Corinthians 11:20).

The Lord’s Supper came from Passover. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on Passover. While He was celebrating Passover with his disciples, He took two elements from the Passover meal (unleavened bread and wine) and gave them new meaning. They were already symbolic for Passover. Jesus gave these items new meaning. He instituted a new covenant.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:15-19)

 Date of the Crucifixion

When did Jesus die?  According to all four Gospels. Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath, which is called “Preparation Day” (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:42; Matthew 27:62).

Jesus is the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world. Jesus died on Passover.  In fact, He died the very same time that the lambs were sacrificed in the Temple. We know when that from Josephus.   Josephus was not even a Christian but he was a first century historian Josephus tells us.

According to Josephus, the lambs were sacrificed between three and five o’clock, i.e., between the ninth hour and the eleventh hour (Jewish War 6.9.3). Jesus died in the ninth hour.

During those years, Nisan 14 fell on a Friday twice: on April 7 of 30 AD and April 3 of 33 AD.  The most likely date for the crucifixion is Friday, April 3, 33 AD on Nissan 14.

2) The two celebrations involve symbolic food

Passover today involves a ceremonial meal. Everything on the menu is symbolic. There are six things on the seder plate today and they are all symbolic, such as the roasted lamb shankbone (which commemorates the lamb sacrificed on Passover) and bitter herbs (which symbolize the bitterness of slavery).

They also have matzah, a roasted egg and other things on the menu, as well as four cups of wine. The bread symbolized Christ’s broken body. The bread symbolized his blood which would be shed.

3) The two celebrations were to be memorials

God wanted them never to forget what happened that night. When God does something big in our life, He wants us to remember it. We all have certain days that we try to remember (birthday, anniversary). Americans have their Memorial Day. It is one of our holidays to honor fallen veterans. The Jews have their Memorial Day. Passover was a Jewish Memorial Day.

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance (12:14 NIV).

Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians’” (12:24-27 NIV).

Christians have their Memorial Day. We have a Christian Passover. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”. The Jews celebrate Passover to commemorate the deliverance in Egypt. We have a greater deliverance than they did. Their deliverance was just political. Ours is spiritual. They were redeemed and we are redeemed. The same God is redeemer is both the OT and the NT.

4) The two celebrations have some exclusions or restrictions

There were certain people not allowed to celebrate Passover in the OT. Passover was only for Jews. It was only for people who have been circumcised. The Lord’s Supper is only for believers. It symbolizes our participation in the death of Christ. When we take the bread and the cup, it symbolizes that we share in the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death.

It is a family meal. Passover was also a family meal in the OT. Many early Christians made baptism a requirement of communion.  The requirement of Passover was circumcision.  The requirement of communion was baptism in the a very early Christian document called The Didache (9.5).

Some say this ancient document goes back to the first century.   The biblical requirement is not baptism but salvation.  If you are not saved, you should not take communion.  There are many people who have been baptized who are not saved.

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