Gain a Christian Perspective on the Passover Feast

Table set for Seder
Table set for Seder.

Tetra Images / Getty Images

The Passover Feast commemorates Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. On Passover, Jews also celebrate the birth of the Jewish nation after being freed by God from captivity. Today, the Jewish people not only celebrate Passover as a historical event but in a broader sense, celebrate their freedom as Jews.

Passover Feast

  • Passover begins on day 15 of the Hebrew month of Nissan (March or April) and continues for eight days.
  • The Hebrew word Pesach means "to pass over."
  • Old Testament References to the Passover Feast: Exodus 12; Numbers 9: 1-14; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16: 1-6; Joshua 5:10; 2 Kings 23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 30:1-5, 35:1-19; Ezra 6:19-22; Ezekiel 45:21-24.
  • New Testament References to the Passover Feast: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 2, 22; John 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19; Acts 12:4; 1 Corinthians 5:7.

During Passover, Jews take part in the Seder meal, which incorporates the retelling of Exodus and God's deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Each participant of the Seder experiences in a personal way, a national celebration of freedom through God's intervention and deliverance.

Hag HaMatzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and Yom HaBikkurim (Firstfruits) are both mentioned in Leviticus 23 as separate feasts. However, today Jews celebrate all three feasts as part of the eight-day Passover holiday.

When Is Passover Observed?

Passover begins on day 15 of the Hebrew month of Nissan (which falls in March or April) and continues for eight days. Initially, Passover began at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nissan (Leviticus 23:5), and then on day 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin and continue for seven days (Leviticus 23:6).

Passover Feast in the Bible

The story of Passover is recorded in the book of Exodus. After being sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph, son of Jacob, was sustained by God and greatly blessed. Eventually, he attained a high position as second-in-command to Pharaoh. In time, Joseph moved his entire family to Egypt and protected them there.

Four hundred years later, the Israelites had grown into a people numbering 2 million. The Hebrews had grown so numerous that the new Pharaoh feared their power. To maintain control, he made them slaves, oppressing them with harsh labor and cruel treatment.

One day, through a man named Moses, God came to rescue his people.

The Israelites crossing the Red Sea
The Israelites crossing of the Red Sea, Artist: Kotarbinsky, Vasilii (Wilhelm) Alexandrovich (1849-1921). Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty Images

At the time Moses was born, Pharaoh had ordered the death of all Hebrew males, but God spared Moses when his mother hid him in a basket along the banks of the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter found the baby and raised him as her own.

Later Moses fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian for cruelly beating one of his own people. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and said, "I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cries, I care about their suffering, and I have come to rescue them. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt." (Exodus 3:7-10)

After making excuses, Moses finally obeyed God. But Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go. God sent ten plagues to persuade him. With the final plague, God promised to strike dead every first-born son in Egypt at midnight on the fifteenth day of Nissan.

The Lord provided instructions to Moses so his people would be spared. Each Hebrew family was to take a Passover lamb, slaughter it, and place some of the blood on the door frames of their homes. When the destroyer passed over Egypt, he would not enter the homes covered by the blood of the Passover lamb.

These and other instructions became part of a lasting ordinance from God for the observance of the Passover Feast so that all future generations would always remember God's great deliverance.

At midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn of Egypt. That night Pharaoh called Moses and said, "Leave my people. Go." They left in haste, and God led them toward the Red Sea. After a few days, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army in pursuit. When the Egyptian army reached them at the banks of the Red Sea, the Hebrew people were afraid and cried out to God.

Moses answered, "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today."

Moses stretched out his hand, and the sea parted, allowing the Israelites to cross on dry ground, with a wall of water on either side. When the Egyptian army followed, it was thrown into confusion. Then Moses stretched his hand over the sea again, and the entire army was swept away, leaving no survivors.

Jesus Is the Fulfillment of the Passover

In Luke 22, Jesus Christ shared the Passover feast with his apostles saying, "I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15-16, NLT).

The Last Supper
The Lord's Supper by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover. He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed to set us free from bondage to sin (John 1:29; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). The blood of Jesus covers and protects us, and his body was broken to free us from eternal death (1 Corinthians 5:7).

In the Jewish tradition, a hymn of praise known as the Hallel is sung during the Passover Seder. In it is Psalm 118:22, speaking of the Messiah: "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone" (NIV). One week before his death, Jesus said in Matthew 21:42 that he was the stone the builders rejected.

God commanded the Israelites to commemorate his great deliverance always through the Passover meal. Jesus Christ instructed his followers to remember his sacrifice continually through The Lord's Supper.

Interesting Facts About Passover

  • Jews drink four cups of wine at the Seder. The third cup is called the cup of redemption, the same cup of wine taken during the Last Supper.
  • The bread of the Last Supper is the Afikomen of Passover or the middle Matzah which is pulled out and broken in two. Half is wrapped in white linen and hidden. The children search for the unleavened bread in the white linen, and whoever finds it brings it back to be redeemed for a price. The other half of the bread is eaten, ending the meal.
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Fairchild, Mary. "Gain a Christian Perspective on the Passover Feast." Learn Religions, Sep. 3, 2021, Fairchild, Mary. (2021, September 3). Gain a Christian Perspective on the Passover Feast. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Gain a Christian Perspective on the Passover Feast." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).