Questions and Answers About the Christian Passover
Most Christians believe Passover is a Jewish holiday. But should Christians observe Passover? This post covers this and other questions about the Christian Passover.
If you look at your calendar for March or April, you will probably see “Passover” marked. Most people think of Passover as just a Jewish national holiday that celebrates Israel’s departure from Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus. The Ten Commandments, the 1956 movie starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, is often shown on network TV around this time of year.
(To learn about the problems with Easter, read our article “Is Easter Pagan?”)
But did you know that the Passover is found throughout the Bible—both in the Old Testament and New Testament? So why don’t most Christians celebrate Passover? Should they?
This post will answer some frequently asked questions about the Passover.
Passover Question 1: What does Passover commemorate? Doesn’t it celebrate the Israelites being “passed over” and protected from the 10th plague in Egypt?
Yes, when the Passover was introduced, it commemorated the night God performed the 10th and final plague against ancient Egypt. God caused the firstborn of Egypt to die—a plague that probably took millions of lives throughout the land. God would spare the Israelites from this plague only if they painted lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their dwellings (Exodus 12:7, 12-13).
Throughout their generations, the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover to remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. That evening, the Israelites were also instructed to prepare a special meal and get ready to leave Egypt the next day (verses 8-11). God declared this observance was “the LORD’S Passover” (verse 11). He commanded them to observe it as “a memorial,” “a feast to the LORD throughout your generations” and “an everlasting ordinance” (verse 14).
Years later, God reinforced the observance in the formal list of God’s festivals given to Moses: “On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover” (Leviticus 23:2, 5).
Throughout their generations, the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover to remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. This was the original meaning of the observance. Jews around the world understand and observe this.
These events are also meaningful for Christians, who are called “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) and are delivered from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:7). But, as we will see, the Passover holds even deeper significance for Christians today.
Passover Question 2: Did Jesus celebrate Passover?
Yes, Jesus observed the Passover throughout His life.
Luke records that Jesus and His family observed the Passover faithfully: “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41).
One of the most famous accounts of Jesus’ childhood—when He got separated from His parents and they frantically looked for Him, eventually discovering Him discussing the Bible in the temple—took place just after Jesus and His family had observed the Passover in Jerusalem (verses 42-50).
Jesus observed the Passover up until the day He died—literally. He observed the Passover with His disciples the night He was betrayed and arrested (Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Luke 22:15).
To learn more about the feast days Jesus celebrated throughout His life, read “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Festivals Jesus Celebrated.”
Passover Question 3: Is there a connection between Jesus and the Passover?
Yes, the Bible makes a strong link between the Passover and the death of Jesus Christ. Putting the scriptures together, we see that the events of the first Passover foreshadowed Jesus Christ’s death. Notice the following parallels:
Putting the scriptures together, we see that the events of the first Passover foreshadowed Jesus Christ’s death.The Israelites were in bondage to Egypt (Exodus 1:14). All human beings are in slavery to sin (Romans 6:16-17, 20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:19).
The Israelites were spared from death that night only through the sign of the Passover lamb’s blood on their doorposts (Exodus 12:22-23). Christians are freed from death only through Jesus’ shed blood as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Hebrews 9:14, 22; 1 Peter 1:19).
As a result of the plague against Egypt and the Israelites’ being spared through the Passover lamb’s blood, Israel was freed from slavery and started a new life by coming out of Egypt (Exodus 12:31-41). As a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, Christians can have freedom from the captivity of sin and live a new way of life (Romans 6:4, 6, 18, 22; Ephesians 4:24).
These are just a few of the parallels between the Exodus Passover and Jesus Christ. It is also important to remember that Jesus observed the Passover on the evening before His crucifixion and that His sacrifice occurred on the daylight portion of the Feast of Passover (Matthew 26:18-19).
But perhaps no scripture proves the link better than 1 Corinthians 5:7: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
To learn more about the connection between Jesus and the Passover, read “Passover: What Did Jesus Do for You?” and “Why Is Jesus Called the Lamb of God?”
Passover Question 4: Did the early Church observe the Passover?
Yes, the New Testament is very clear that Christians in the early Church observed the Passover.
We must first understand that they didn’t observe it in the same way Israel did in the past. At His last Passover, Jesus Christ instituted new symbols to reflect His sacrifice for sins. These new symbols were a new element He added to the Passover for New Covenant Christians.
We read about the institution of the New Covenant Passover in Matthew 26.
Wine now symbolized Jesus’ “blood” (verse 28).
Jesus commanded His disciples to “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). He also instituted a foot-washing ceremony to teach His people the importance of humility and service (John 13:3-15).
The Bible shows us that the early Church continued observing the Passover in obedience to Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 11:23-26). Today, Christians around the world observe the New Testament Passover in March or April (on the 14th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar) to remember and commemorate Jesus Christ’s death and its significance to our lives.
In 2023 the New Covenant Passover ceremony will be observed after the sun sets on April 4 (on the Gregorian calendar).
You can learn about the dates of the biblical festivals for the next few years at “Festival Calendar.”
The fact that early Christians observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan is a generally recognized historical fact. Unfortunately, the Roman Church eventually substituted Good Friday and Easter Sunday for the biblical Passover—a change that is still accepted and practiced by the majority of mainstream Christianity today.
To learn more about the change from Passover to Easter, read our article “Christian Festivals.”
Passover Question 5: Isn’t the Christian ceremony of bread and wine called the Lord’s Supper or Communion?
This name, “The Lord’s Supper,” is a common title given to partaking of bread and wine in the Protestant community. Some denominations call this ceremony Eucharist (Greek for “give thanks”) or Communion (Latin for “fellowship” or “sharing”). There is much variance in how these ceremonies are kept. Some keep these ceremonies weekly; some, monthly; some, quarterly; and others, annually.
But none of these names are the biblical name for the ceremony Jesus instituted on the last evening of His life. The Gospels are very clear that He was observing the Passover (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 22:8).
If you read through each Gospel record of this evening, you will notice that Jesus specifically said He was changing the symbols of the bread and wine—but He never said He was changing the name from Passover to anything else.
The apostle Paul was correcting the Corinthian congregation for not properly keeping the Passover ceremony with reverence and solemnity. These Christians were coming to the Passover and selfishly eating their own food while others went hungry. Some were even getting drunk (verse 21).
So, instead of calling this observance “the Lord’s Supper,” Paul was actually reminding them that it wasn’t! They were to come together to solemnly partake of the bread and wine symbols—not to eat supper (verses 27-29).
Communion? The title “Communion” is taken from 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [the “fellowship” or “sharing”] of the blood of Christ?” This is not a designation of a title for the event, but a statement that the symbols of bread and wine are necessary to have a relationship, or fellowship, with Jesus Christ. The Passover is necessary for truly knowing and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
To learn more about the proper name for this important observance, read “The Last Supper or Passover?”
Passover Question 6: How do you observe Passover as a Christian?
As we have seen, the New Testament shows that Jesus Christ instituted new symbols for the Passover on the night He was betrayed and arrested. Those symbols are foot washing, unleavened bread and wine. In order to keep the Passover as a Christian in the 21st century, there are four basic requirements for baptized members of the Church of God:
- Observe it on the same night Jesus observed it, on the anniversary of the night of His betrayal and arrest. That is the evening of the 14th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. In 2023, that corresponds to the evening after the sun sets on April 4. (April 5 is the daylight portion of the Passover in 2023.)
- Wash the feet of another baptized Christian also observing the Passover.
- Eat a small, broken piece of unleavened bread that symbolizes Christ’s broken and beaten body.
- Drink a sip of red wine that symbolizes Christ’s shed blood.
The ideal way to observe the Passover is with other converted Christians who are partaking of the Passover in a ceremony conducted by a minister of Jesus Christ.
For more insight on keeping the Passover today, read “Should Christians Celebrate the Passover?”
Finding more answers about the Christian Passover
If you are just learning about the Passover, we hope these answers have been helpful and informative. We encourage you to continue studying the origins of the popular holidays celebrated in the spring (in the northern hemisphere) and the deep meaning of the festivals found in the Bible.
Below this blog post you will see a number of resources that can help you in your study.
Originally posted on April 4, 2016; updated on March 24, 2023.