It is the Passover and Good Friday. In 2020, an unprecedented number of people around the world observed these holy days at home, forbidden to congregate. Millions lost either loved ones or livelihood due to the plague. However, God has given to us a High Priest who will bring restoration to many. And He uses the same elements that Israel used in Egypt so many years ago to escape a deadly plague. These elements are the body and blood of a lamb.
In this post we discuss:
- Jesus the Passover Lamb
- What is the Passover?
- The Old Covenant and Priesthood
- Our journey through the Upper Room
- The New Covenant and Priesthood
- The Priesthood of Believers
Jesus the Passover Lamb
The Passover has been celebrated annually ever since the first one in preceding Israel’s exodus from Egypt. One Passover night, Jesus “disclosed” He was about to be betrayed by one of His Twelve disciples (John 6:64, 13:11). Then, Jesus did something He had not done before:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29)
The evening grew quite sorrowful. There was talk about betrayal, blood shed, and His departure. He was about to fulfill the Isaiah’s 700-year-old prophecy of great suffering and death. He was the Passover Lamb (Ch. 53). The disciples were heartbroken. However, Jesus eagerly desired to share this “Last Supper” with His friends. He assured them joy would come again on the other side of their sadness.
What is the Passover?
The first Passover took place over 3,000 years ago while the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt. Pharaoh had stubbornly defied God through nine plagues, refusing to free Israel. So, as God had instructed through Moses, each Hebrew family packed up their belongings. First, they marked the lintels and doorposts of their homes with the blood of an unblemished lamb to prepare for the final plague. Then, they roasted and ate the lamb with unleavened bread in haste. All this was to prepare for the darkest night in Egypt – the tenth plague: death of the first born.
That night, the angel of death “passed over” the homes of the children of Israel. But, what a terrible night it was for Egyptians! Someone died in every Egyptian home. Finally, Pharaoh surrendered to the mighty invisible God of Israel. He relented and released the Hebrew enslaved people (Exodus 11-12).
After Israel’s miraculous exodus from Egypt, God instituted the Passover (also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread). Celebrated annually and forever, the seven-day feast begins on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (either March or April each year) in remembrance of that night. God had demonstrated His ability to preserve His people even in the shadows of death. He was also preparing them for the time in the future that He would provide the Passover Lamb.
The Old Covenant and Priesthood
Under the Old Covenant, God chose Aaron and his sons and their descendants (from the Levites) to serve as priests in the tabernacle. The earthly temple replicated the original in heaven (Exodus 28:1). They sacrified unblemished animals and offered meals under strict specifications. The blood was poured at the base of the altar for the atonement of the people’s sin (including the priests). Essentially, the sin was transferred from the people to the animals.
Once a year, the high priest fearfully approached God’s Holy Presence in the inner chamber of the tabernacle. He placed blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. This was to atone for the sin of the whole nation, including his own. Only a few certain people in Scriptures, such as the likes of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, could even come near to God’s Presence.
These bloody animal sacrifices continued year after year because of a perpetual plague called “sin.” God’s fire consumed the holiest portions of the offerings. While the other holy portions were eaten by the priests and still other portions by the people.
Our journey through the Upper Room
Let us return to the Upper Room. When Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine that night, He was offering His own body and blood. He did not partake because He was the Sacrifice, the spotless Lamb. He had come for this very purpose, not to cause death, but to defeat death forever!
That same night, before He went to the Cross, we see the loving heart of this Savior as He prays not only for his disciples, but for everyone who would come to know Him in the future (John 17:20-23). Jesus knew of all the fearsome troubles that we would face in this world. So, He made us the following promises. We will never be alone, our lives will never end, and He gives us a supernatural joy to overcome. (Deuteronomy 31:6; John 11:25-26; 14:18-20; 16:20-22, Nehemiah 8:10)
Though frequently accused of causing it, God takes no pleasure in human suffering. In times of loss and grief, it is almost impalpable to think of joy. Yet, Jesus is uniquely qualified to handle every kind of sorrow, having experienced all in His own life. We can be assured that every promise of hope and restoration by God can be ours through Jesus.
The New Covenant and Priesthood
Following His Resurrection, Jesus, our sinless High Priest, placed His own blood on the mercy seat in Heaven. This “New” Covenant, long prophesied by Jeremiah, eradicates sin (and death) forever (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Timothy 1:10).
Jesus was not a Levitical priest, but from the order of Melchizedek. This is the same mysterious Melchizedek (a priest of the Most High God and a king from Jerusalem with an unknown genealogy), to whom Abraham, paid tithes. (See Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 7). Melchizedek recognized the priestly role of Abraham as a worshipper of God. As such, he blessed Abraham and gave him bread and wine as a reward (Genesis 14:18-19). These elements pointed to the Salvation that Abraham’s Seed – Jesus- would work for mankind 2000 years later.
The Scriptures intentionally do not tell us much about Melchizedek, because our focus is Lord Jesus Christ. (Click here to read my opinion on this topic). The Bible mentions Melchizedek to establish that Jesus’ priesthood is an eternal one, not under the Levitical law. (Psalm 110:4).
The Priesthood of Believers
In allowing His disciples to partake of bread and wine in the Upper Room that night, Jesus established two things. First, He appointed his disciples (and all believers after them) as a Royal Priesthood in His Father’s Kingdom. Also, through the New Covenant, we may approach a Holy God through Him without fear. We are benefactors of the New Covenant by receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Further, we enlist as priests to God by partaking of His body and blood (Holy Communion). Jesus is our High Priest. Apostle Peter explains as follows:
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5,9 NKJV)
As the Royal Priesthood of God on this earth, commissioned by Lord Jesus, let us offer acceptable spiritual sacrifices and offerings to God. We do this with lips of praise and thanksgiving, our love, service, and generosity, and our intercession for others. (Joel 2:17) We also serve Him in our ministry of the gospel to bring healing and restoration, to destroy works of darkness, and to stop plagues (Numbers 16:47-48).
May you experience Communion with the Lamb this Pesach, Good Friday and on Resurrection Day!