What significance does the Passover have in the New Testament? How is the New Testament Passover different? How do Christians celebrate Passover?
Passover is mentioned 29 times in 27 verses in the New Testament. Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover throughout His life, and the Gospels especially focus on His last Passover on the night before He was crucified.
Passover, Lord’s Supper, Communion or Eucharist?
The subject of the New Testament Passover is often misunderstood. Christian churches often refer to taking the bread and the wine as the Lord’s Supper, as Communion (fellowship or sharing) or as the Eucharist (give thanks). Some do this weekly or monthly or quarterly.
However, the name Passover is biblical and appropriate for this annual memorial. The disciples asked Christ where they should prepare the Passover (Matthew 26:17). Also, Paul told the Corinthians that when they gathered to follow Christ’s example of taking the bread and the wine, “it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20). For more about this, see “Questions and Answers About the Christian Passover.”
Passover and forgiveness
What should you and I understand about the New Testament Passover? Christians who observe the New Testament Passover remember every year that Christ gave His body and blood so we can be forgiven of our sins.
Jesus Christ paid the price of death to bear our sins and to become our mediating sacrifice so that we can be forgiven. This is a foundational theme of the entire Bible and of God’s plan of salvation.
Prophecies of the Passover
Even before the details of the Old Testament Passover were written in Exodus, we read two prophecies that shed light on the meaning of the Old and New Testament Passovers.
We find the first prophecy given by God in the Garden of Eden. Satan, appearing as a serpent, deceived Eve into sinning by convincing her to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-6).
For their sin Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and prevented from taking the fruit of the tree of life, and a curse was pronounced on Satan.
We must always praise and thank God for Christ’s sacrifice that delivers us from sin and death.Since sin (disobedience to God) was the problem from the beginning, God disclosed the solution: The future Seed of Eve, Jesus the Messiah, would bruise the head of the one who originated sin—Satan the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
The apostle John basically defined bruising Satan’s head by summarizing the very purpose for which God sent Jesus to this earth: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Christ was slain from the foundation of the world. It was the plan of God from the beginning for the Word to come and give His life. Jesus did destroy the works of the devil, but first He gave His life.
Satan’s “work” is to try to cause everyone to practice sin and to fail to inherit God’s Kingdom. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, King James Version). The solution? Christ would destroy Satan’s work; people would repent and stop practicing sin (verse 6), and those who repent would be forgiven of their sins (1 John 1:9).
A second prophecy that gives understanding about the Passover is found more than 400 years before the Old Testament Passover. God appeared to Abraham and gave him a covenant promise: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18, emphasis added throughout).
The apostle Paul quoted this verse in Galatians 3:8. The Seed is Christ. Elsewhere in Scripture, the blessings are defined as departing from sin and inheriting God’s Kingdom (Acts 3:25-26; Matthew 5:3-11; 6:33).
The nation of Israel descended from Abraham, and eventually Israel dwelt in Egypt for many years and became a mighty nation. And then came trouble. A pharaoh began to rule who “made their lives bitter with hard bondage” (Exodus 1:8-14).
Egypt would become a symbol of sin, which holds all humans captive just as ancient Egypt held the Israelites captive (Hebrews 11:25-26). God would deliver the Israelites from their captivity, with all that this implies for Christians today.
Old Testament Passover, a type of the New Testament Passover
The Passover of the Exodus was merely a type of what was to occur when Jesus Christ was crucified. For example, the Passover sacrifice of the Old Testament delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt; the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Passover “Lamb of God,” delivers the world from the bondage of sin (John 1:29).
God decided on the specific time when Israel would be delivered. This would occur after the Israelites sacrificed lambs and put the blood on their doorposts, which was followed by the death of the firstborn of all men and beasts in Egypt (Exodus 12).
The Old Testament Passover was to be a type of the New Testament Passover. Israel was delivered from Egypt beginning the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar—the day set for future annual Passovers.
That first Passover included the sacrifice of Passover lambs, whose blood would be brushed on the top and sides of the doorframe so that God would “pass over” the Israelites, not destroying their firstborn at midnight. Then God began to deliver the Israelites. The book of Exodus is about the Israelites exiting Egypt (a symbol of sin). They miraculously passed through the Red Sea—leaving their captors to drown—on their way to the Promised Land.
But this was only a type of the reality that Christ would perform when God through Christ made possible mankind’s deliverance from sin.
The apostle Paul compared Israel’s coming out of Egypt through the Red Sea to our being baptized, and he related the miracle of Israel’s drinking water from a rock to our drinking of Christ, the spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Just as God sent Moses to deliver Israel from the sinful environment and bondage of Egypt, God would send His Son Jesus the Christ to deliver all mankind from sin.
Jesus Christ: born to deliver mankind from sin
When Christ was born, an angel declared to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Joseph had been told prior to Jesus’ birth, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Thirty years later, John the Baptist introduced Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus Christ came to liberate mankind from the captivity of sin!
How does Christ deliver us from the captivity of sin? The answer is found in Jesus’ Passover statement, “This is My blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:28). There was a problem with the Old Covenant that Christ would fix with a New Covenant.
The fault with the Old Covenant
Remember, the problem of mankind is sin—transgressing God’s law. The covenant God gave to Israel was based on the law of God, the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). But there was a fault with that covenant.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: . . . ‘I will make a new covenant . . .
“‘I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people . . . For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (Hebrews 8:7-8, 10, 12).
These verses help show why the New Testament Passover is so significant.
The fault of the Old Covenant was not with the laws themselves. The people were at fault. Mankind is carnal, sold under sin (Romans 7:14).
To solve the problem of sin, God established a New Covenant and, in so doing, placed the very laws that were being transgressed into the hearts and minds of those who accepted the covenant. Then they would be forgiven, receive the Holy Spirit and thus have God’s help to obey.
Summarizing the results of the New Testament Passover
A summary by the apostle Paul clarifies the outcome of the New Testament Passover sacrifice: We were once slaves of sin but became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).
We must always praise and thank God for Christ’s sacrifice that delivers us from sin and death.
Following Christ’s example in the New Testament Passover
Each year Christians remember these things as they observe the New Testament Passover. They recommit to the New Covenant. They remember that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). They fulfill Christ’s command to “wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14) and thus learn service by doing as He did.
Each year Christians observe the New Testament Passover with the symbols of the broken unleavened bread and the wine, following the apostle Paul’s summary of Jesus Christ’s instructions:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’
“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
If you have questions about how Christians observe the New Testament Passover today, feel free to ask them using our “Ask a Question” form.