“In addition to the Sabbath, these are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year” (Leviticus 23:4 NLT).
Feast: Passover or “Pesach”
Summary: Passover or “Pesach” in Modern Hebrew is the Jewish festival of redemption that celebrates the miraculous historical story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. This is the watershed event for the Jewish people, which freed them from slavery. Passover begins on Nisan 14 – 22nd on the Jewish calendar or falls this year, according to the Gregorian calendar, on March 25 – April 2nd. Pesach is not the holiest of the feast days, but possibly the most widely observed among both secular and religious Jews today.
Messianic Jews commemorate the Passover history of the Exodus traditionally as well as their spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin through the shed blood of Yeshua as the sacrificed and risen Pascal Lamb of God.
Read: Exodus 12
Hebrew Word: The Hebrew word for Passover is “Pesach” and traditionally means “to pass over” as the Lord passed over the Israelites’ homes that had lamb blood smeared on the lintels of the doorposts. The Angel of the Lord saw the blood and did not slay but “passed over” the firstborn. The Hebrew connotation of the verb “pesach” in Isaiah 31:5 brings greater clarity in the Exodus narrative: “Like the birds that fly, even so will the LORD of Hosts shield Jerusalem, shielding and saving, hovering (“pesach”), and rescuing.” Imagine a mother eagle hovering over to shield and protect her eaglets in the nest. This is what the Lord of Hosts did as death passed through Egypt. God Himself hovered to save and protect His own.
Korban Pesach – In Hebrew “korban” means “sacrifice.” “Korban Pesach” is the Passover sacrifice, or the lamb that was selected, slain, whose blood was smeared on the doorjambs, roasted, and eaten in entirety as the Israelites left the slavery of Egypt.
Devotional Thought: “On the tenth of the month (Nisan) each of them shall take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household” (Exodus 12:3).
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world” (John 1:29).
Can you imagine bringing home a sweet, innocent lamb to your children and then, four days later, killing it and smearing the blood on your front door? Those four days would seem like an eternity as your kids grew to love the animal more each day by riding, feeding, cuddling, and probably even naming the creature. This seems heartlessly cruel, but the experience served as an important ceremonial symbol. Each person, even children, should understand—the personal price of obedience—the personal price of sacrifice. Every Hebrew knew in his heart of hearts that the little lamb would become his own “korban pesach.”
The idea of presenting a vicarious sacrifice was not new to the Israelites. While straining under the bondage of slavery in a foreign land, they had a reference. The story of God providing a ram for Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah had been a very familiar story in the oral archives of Jewish history. They knew the tale by heart; it was part of their collective memory. God demanded a sacrifice of Abraham. It was the ultimate test and act of obedience. They also understood that before the end of the narrative, God provided, against all odds, a ram in the thicket which spared the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son and heir.
At the time of the Exodus, Egyptians knew something too. Sheep, especially white, horned rams were used as symbols to represent their deities. Their idol-gods, often carved in stone or sometimes in gold, represented strong spirits in the earth like the power of life or the power of growth. They honored and worshiped these. When unclean Hebrew slaves came to request perfect young lambs for ceremonial sacrifice, Egyptians most likely grew deeply offended. Although the people of the Nile didn’t eat mutton or drink its milk or use its wool for clothing, the form of the white, horned ram symbolized the wisdom of their gods.
The entire assembly of Israel gathered on the afternoon of Nisan 14th to publicly sacrifice the lambs at twilight as commanded in Exodus 12:6. They did this as a community, but according to Exodus 12:7, the blood applied to the doorjambs with a hyssop branch was a private family matter. Essentially one could sacrifice the lamb and neglect to slather the blood to his door at home. In this instance, the Death Angel was not a respecter of persons. No firstborn would be spared save those whose entrances dripped with the lamb’s life liquid. Not a pretty picture, but a graphic look at the cost of obedient sacrifice.
I will never forget the dark-haired, Russian woman who ran to my husband in Odessa, Ukraine, one Passover after Wayne spoke clearly in a message that Yeshua was and is the Passover Lamb of God. Tears streaming down her face, she confessed sadly that she had never heard this truth. Her spiritual eyes opened, she wept openly for joy because of the revelation. As well, I will never forget the dozens and dozens of Jewish men, women, girls, and boys who followed her example as each, one by one, received revelation about his or her long-awaited Messiah. It was an unprecedented move of God, orchestrated by the Messiah alone. No one could take credit as the Holy Spirit moved upon His chosen people through the former Soviet Union.
Since the dispersion of Israel, “korban pesach” has become the good deeds of each Jewish person. “Korban Pesach” isn’t even lamb on the table for Passover meal. Since there is no Temple in Jerusalem, there is no blood sacrifice. Rabbis instruct Jewish families now to eat chicken. Lamb is so central to the theme of Passover, and yet the rabbis have done away with “korban pesach.”
A few in history have tried to reinstitute animal sacrifice in Jerusalem. Each one has been denied and eventually prohibited. Adin Steinsaltz and a group of rabbis supported by the Temple Mount Faithful and the New Sanhedrin Council found a Cohen who was a butcher and made plans to offer a Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount. They petitioned the Israeli High Court for permission in 2007 and were denied. The court felt that such an event would inflame already volatile religious tensions in the area. Other groups have also petitioned as well, but were eventually shut down by an animal rights group in 2008.
As these religious Jews try to reinstate this crucial sacrifice, let us rejoice that we are daily and eternally covered in His blood and pray that they too would know this Eternal Sacrifice—Yeshua the Passover Lamb.
“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered the sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14, NASB).
Prayer: Thank you for sending Yeshua to be the once and for all, ultimate blood offering and sacrifice for my sins. I apply the blood of the korban pesach to the doorposts of my heart. I know you will hover over my life with love and protection, and I will be in heaven with you forever.
Holiday Celebrations and Traditions: There are many traditions, foods, and songs surrounding Passover. The seder or liturgy and meal are just one. At sundown the evening before Passover, Jewish people re-tell the history of the Exodus story in a ceremonial banquet called a seder. They read from a storybook called a Haggadah, eat special food like matzo-ball soup and gefilte fish, and sing traditional songs. There is a seder plate that contains five essential items that are symbolic of their history. This helps the children remember and never forget the history. They also do not eat leavened bread for seven days, and they conduct a thorough “spring” cleaning to get the house ready for Passover celebrations.
Click here for Bonya’s Motzoh-Ball Soup recipe