Christians can find in the Old Testament much wisdom that New Testament writers brought to the attention of their readers. The Passover season’s many themes feature promimently in many New Testament passages. The following are a few examples.
1) Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today!
Even in the Old Testament, salvation is a matter of the intervention of God by grace. The deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is accomplished entirely by God without the necessity of human intervention Exodus (14:10-29). God did all the work necessary to free them from Egypt. He rained plagues upon the land. He protected the people with an impenetrable cloud that was also a pillar of fire. He parted the Red Sea. He also let the Red Sea drown the Egyptian army.
This deliverance, however, was not entirely without a need for obedience on the part of the Israelites. There were preparations to be made, such as eating the Passover meal and putting the lamb’s blood on the doorposts. And then, of course, they had to follow the cloud out of Egypt. They had to follow Moses through the Red Sea, etc. The point is that none of these things would have made any difference if God had not interceded to free them. There is nothing inherently freeing about blood on doorposts or about going for a walk. Our obedience is nothing more than following along in the far greater work God is doing in saving us. God does the freeing, and we are mostly interested spectators with perhaps minor roles to play.
The wine of the Passover represents Jesus’ “blood of the covenant” which was shed for our forgiveness (Heb. 9:19-20). It is also a promise that He will return to save all of His people (Heb. 9: 27-28). This is not something human beings will cause to happen (Rev. 5:9-14). Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who comes to save the sheep by giving His own life and taking it up again (John 10:14-18). If He can take up His own life, we can be sure He can take ours up, too. Again, this is not by our own effort. Jesus shepherds us into eternal life. Saving is what He does because the Saviour is who He is.
2) God moves His people from the bread of affliction to the Bread of Life.
Ancient Background: At the time of the first humans, sin sets a course that leads both to death and to toil in making a living. These two things, death and toil, have accompanied humanity as a whole ever since. (Some few have been able to avoid toil, but death has applied to all, of course.) The toil first appears in the form of tilling the ground and raising crops, particularly grains that go into making bread (Genesis 3). This was a sharp contrast from eating mainly fruit in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2).
Flash Forward to Exodus: Under the Egyptians the Israelites were toiling much harder than the human norm of having to make a living. The Exodus was God’s means of reducing their toil. But He went much further. As God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt He miraculously provided them with the means to make bread every day (Exodus 16:4-7; 13-18). There was no need to engage in the toil of tilling the ground, planting seed and fighting weeds. In other words, for a brief time in history, the Israelites had relief from the curse on the ground dating from the time of Adam (Genesis 3).
When Jesus’ detractors mention this incident in an attempt to force Jesus’ hand in performing miracles, Jesus notes that He had come to bring something even better, His own life in them. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:25-41) who offers something even better than just rest from the toil of planting and weeding: rest from the fear of dying. The restoration of humanity (in Jesus Christ) into a restored world reverses the curse, taking care of both the toil and the dying.
3) A family covenant meal: sign of a bright future together.
Even during the original Passover meal there was an element of future fulfilment. Moses gives instructions for what do once they are in the promised land and the children become curious about the Passover ritual (Exodus 12:26-27). Jesus’ adaptation of the Passover service, with foot-washing, bread and wine, also points ahead to a future “marriage supper of the lamb” (Rev. 19:9), which Jesus alludes to in several parables (e.g.: Matt. 8:11; Matt. 22:2-46; Matt. 24:1-12).
The idea of a supper together at Jesus’ return is a powerful symbol of the unity of all saints throughout time and space. The only way this could happen is through a resurrection from the dead. This moves the Apostle Paul so much that he does not want the “Lord’s Supper” polluted by behaviours that lead to disunity, such as a selfish disregard for the hunger or dignity of fellow believers (1 Cor. 11:27-30). Interestingly, the entire section’s message about the unity of believers is rooted in the story of the Exodus (1 Cor. 10:1-4; 14-18). Please note that this is a unity of mutual help, respect and dignity. Paul’s approach is that unity that does not respect people’s needs and dignity is not unity at all. He seems to be equating that kind of “unity” with idolatry.
The writer of the book of Hebrews makes note of the important “togetherness” implications of our common Christian life. He notes that the faithful lives of all the Hebrew heroes of faith who have gone will not be rewarded in full until the rolls of all the faithful are complete (Heb. 11:39-40). We have a “great cloud of witnesses” figuratively cheering us on as we journey together to the ultimate Promised Land. They are waiting in their graves for the same resurrection we will enjoy – together. [Just in case the Passover/Exodus connection is not clear, the main point of the entire letter is based on the story of the refusal of the Israelites to actually enter the Promised Land mere weeks after the departure from Egypt (after a report from spies sent in ahead of them). They had all started the journey together with high hopes, but failed to complete the journey together due to a lack of faith.]
Finishing the journey together will be the subject of the next post.