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Passover and Jesus


Passover, one of the three Pilgrim Festivals, was a commemoration of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt and their formation as an independent nation under God’s protection and the leadership of Moses. The Israelites celebrated the feast on 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan and it lasted for a week (Lev 23:4-14; Deut 16:1-8). After the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, they celebrated the feast there. Every adult Jew living within 15 miles around Jerusalem had to attend the Passover in the Temple. However, all Jews, regardless of how far away they lived, came to the Temple during this main feast.

Jesus had attended the Temple services several times. His mother Mary and foster father Joseph had presented him in the Temple when he was an infant (Lk 2:22-38). When he was twelve years old, his parents took him to the Temple (Lk 2:41-52). Jesus might have attended the feast of Passover and other feasts in the Temple several times during the thirty years of his private life. The evangelists have not documented them because those visits were insignificant for the readers. During the three years of his public ministry, Jesus celebrated three Passovers in Jerusalem (Jn 2:13; 6:4; and 11:55).

During the first Passover, the Israelites slaughtered a lamb, collected its blood in a basin, and applied the blood to the lintel and two doorposts using a bunch of hyssops (Ex 12:22). Though they did not drink the blood of the Passover lamb, they ate the meat of the Lamb. When the Israelites obeyed God by slaughtering the lamb, applied the blood to mark their doorposts, and ate its meat, God saved their firstborn from death and liberated all of them from Egyptian slavery. Jesus came as the new Lamb of God for slaughter to save all who believe in him and obey his commands. So, eating his body is the new Passover for our liberation from the bondage of sin and Satan.

When the Jews brought animals for communion sacrifice in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, the priests burned only a portion of the animals. Doesn’t Scripture say that “those who perform the temple services eat [what] belongs to the temple, and those who minister at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?” (1 Cor 9:13) The worshippers ate the rest at the temple premises with devotion. Since they ate the flesh God had accepted and blessed, they leave the Temple as God-filled. Jesus presented a similar concept, except that instead of the animals, he was the sacrificial lamb.

The Jews celebrated Passover like the communion sacrifice. After the offering the Passover Lamb in the Temple, they ate the roasted meat of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Ex 12:8). Jesus is the new Passover lamb and Holy Qurbana (Mass) is our Passover celebration where we join the sacrifice of Jesus and consume his body, the Holy Eucharist. That heavenly meal is necessary for our spiritual life and nourishment for our heavenly journey.

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