This is Passover week. Passover itself was Tuesday. I’m not Jewish, but as I read the Old Testament, I can sense the importance of this national festival. A church I used to attend did a study on the Book of Exodus, and, of course, part of that study included ch. 12, the institution of the Passover, with instructions as to how it was to be performed and perpetuated. As I read through this chapter in preparation for the lesson (as a student), I was struck by the absence of a particular phrase. In all the instructions in ch. 12 and throughout the Old Testament whenever the Passover is mentioned, there is never a mention of forgiveness. God never told the Israelites who were leaving Egypt that their sins were forgiven because they had partaken of the Passover sacrifice. I found this fascinating.
The teacher of this class gave us something he had taken from the internet. Among other things, the author of this article talked about how, through the Passover, the Israelites looked ahead to the sacrifice of Christ. He talked about the Israelites being “saved.”
It’s true that Israel was being brought into covenant-relationship with God, which actually became effective at Sinai with the giving of the Mosaic Law. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was just the beginning of the process which was concluded at Sinai. At the same time, according to Moses in Deuteronomy 29:4, they had no spiritual understanding of the nature of their relationship with God. This is why they were so rebellious, why they so easily and quickly fell into gross sin, like what happened with the golden calf, or later, when they had finally entered the land of promise. The Old Testament is filled with evidence of Israel’s failure to live righteously according to the Mosaic Law. Yet, in spite of this, there were many individuals who did understand and who did “know God”.
The generation of Israelites who had celebrated that first Passover, for the most part, died in the wilderness under the judgment of God. They were not “saved”, certainly not in any New Testament sense. Israel’s national relationship to God did not guarantee a “personal” relation with God. The Law had no “help” when it came to keeping its requirements. Israel was on its own.
While it is true that the Passover, in common with all the other Old Testament sacrifices, was a forerunner of the Final Sacrifice on Calvary, whenever it’s referred to, it was always a look back to the complete deliverance of Israel from Egypt, Exodus 13:8-10. It looked back to something which had been completed, never to be repeated.
Our Lord celebrated the Passover just before His death. But He took part of that ritual and made something new of it, something which celebrated Him, not just an historical event in the distant past. The bread and the fruit of the vine picture a whole encyclopedia of truth about who Jesus was and what He did. It’s continued observance also remembers His promise to return, which opens up another whole vista of truth. But it also remembers a completed event. It was never meant to be a “repetition” or “reenactment” of His death. Just before Jesus died on the Cross, He shouted one word in the original text, “Tetelestai!!” It was a cry of victory, not of defeat: “It has been finished!!” Redemption was accomplished, Ephesians 3:11. Sin had been paid for. God’s justice had been satisfied on behalf of those for whom He died.
The Lord’s Supper adds nothing to what Christ did on the Cross. The elements themselves, the bread and the fruit of the vine, have no efficacy, no value, in themselves, any more than eating the slain lamb delivered the ancient Israelites from Egypt. There’s no mystical power in them. Indeed, eating them can bring judgment, not blessing, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.
It was “the blood applied” that delivered the Israelites from the curse of death and slavery. It is “the blood applied” that delivers believing sinners from the curse of sin and death. In a couple of days, it’s Easter. What does that mean to you? Clothes? Eggs? Bunnies?
I hope it means faith affirmed. Or even, faith applied, if you’ve never really thought about it before.