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Remembering God’s Deliverance: The Institution of the Passover

Lesson ▪ 2010
Tags: Exodus 11:1-13:16; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Passover; Exodus; Jesus Christ; Sacrifice; Remembrance
Related Resources: Tradition: Theory & Application

The Narrative of the First Passover (Exod. 11:1-13:16)

  • The LORD tells Moses about the final plague that he will bring on Pharaoh and Egypt (11:1-3).
  • Moses announces to Pharaoh what is about to happen (11:4-10).
God differentiates between those whom He has chosen as His people and those whom He has not chosen. He is well able to protect His people even while He metes out judgment (11:7)
  • God gives Moses instructions about the observance of the Passover—the key to surviving the final plague (12:1-14).

God’s deliverance is so dramatic that it ushers in a new calendar. When God works in our life, there is a marked break from the old (12:2).

The display of the blood on the doorframe—representing obedience rooted in faith—distinguishes those who will be saved from those who will be visited with death (12:12-13).

The Passover observance is not only the means by which God demonstrates his mercy on Israel; it becomes a ritual that commemorates God’s activity on the nation’s behalf (12:14).

  • God gives Moses instructions about the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is to be celebrated immediately after the Passover (12:15-20).

The Israelites are to remove leaven from their houses and eat unleavened bread for seven days (12:15, 19-20).

  • Moses instructs the people of Israel regarding the imminent and ongoing observance of the Passover (12:21-27).
  • Israel obeys God and observes the Passover; God carries out judgment on Egypt (12:28-30).
  • Pharaoh dismisses the people of Israel; they spoil their Egyptian neighbors as they depart (12:31-42).
  • God instructs Moses and Aaron regarding foreigners’ celebration of the Passover (12:43-51).

Only members of the covenant community are allowed to take part in the Passover celebration (12:43ff).

  • God recaps His directives for the Passover observance and gives instructions regarding a new practice: the redemption of the firstborn (13:1-16).

The practice of redeeming firstborn males—animals and children—would remind Israel that God had spared their firstborn even while he judged Egypt (13:15-16).

“The Feast of Passover . . . was prepared for by the slaughter of the lamb in the late hours of 14 Nisan and celebrated by the family after sundown—that is on 15 Nisan (Lev. 23:6). Everything that had been prepared with yeast (leaven) had to be removed from the house before the Passover lamb was killed (Deut. 16:4 . . . ), and unleavened bread continued to be eaten for seven days (Exod. 12:17-20; 23:15; 34:18). It was this seven-day period that was referred to as the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread” . . . , but already in the OT the term ‘Passover’ was used for all seven or eight days (Deut. 16:1-4; Ezek. 45:21-25; cf. Josephus, Ant. 6.423; 20.106). Sometimes the term ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ was used for the whole festive period (cf. Josephus, J.W. 2.280; Ant. 17.213), as Luke does (22:1, 7)” (Pao and Schnabel 380).

“In the context of the exodus, eating bread without yeast signified the haste of their preparation to depart. Because yeast was studiously avoided during this festival, however, it soon became a symbol for the pervasive influence of evil. . . . In the New Testament, yeast is often associated with evil (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9)” (Garrett 250).

According to Merrill Unger, the observance of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread underwent changes after the Israelites settled in Canaan. One of the more noteworthy changes was that, instead of being observed in homes, the Passover was celebrated in the sanctuary (410-11).

Christ as the Ultimate Fulfillment of the Passover

In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul applies the imagery of Passover to life in Christ. He is the Paschal Lamb who has been sacrificed for our salvation. We are to observe the feast in a spiritual sense, purging sin from our lives and from the visible community of Christ in the same way that the Hebrews got rid of the leaven in their homes.

“In passing the bread to the disciples and telling them that it was his body and that they should eat of it, Jesus was perhaps presenting himself as the Passover lamb. Christ is thus described as ‘our Passover lamb’ in 1 Corinthians 5:7 and as ‘the Lamb who was slain’ in Revelation 5:12. John’s Gospel points out that none of Jesus’ bones were broken in his crucifixion in allusion to the requirement that none of the Passover lamb’s bones be broken (John 19:33-37; cf. Exod. 12:46)” (Garrett 249-50).

Connections between Jesus Christ and the Passover lamb include the following:

  • The Passover lamb was a perfectly unblemished specimen. Jesus Christ is without sin (1 Pet. 1:18-19; cf. Heb. 4:15).
  • The Passover lamb was sacrificed so that the Israelites could be delivered from divine judgment. Jesus Christ redeemed us to God through the blood he shed in his sacrificial death (Rev. 5:8-10).
  • The Passover lamb’s bones were not to be broken. In his crucifixion, Jesus’ legs were not broken in order to accelerate his death (John 19:32-33, 36).

The Purpose of the Passover

“Redemption leads a permanent relationship with the deity who worked for Israel. Although the redemption could be limited to political and economic conditions, as liberation theologians argue, the account in Exodus includes and goes beyond these areas. The relationship with their benefactor will impact their whole existence. ‘Covenant,’ the biblical word that indicates the relationship, demands total commitment from both parties, though God has already worked and will prove faithful in the future. Remembrance of the way God has worked takes place in the festivals (23:14-17), the Passover being the one that rehearses the exodus events (chap. 13). The festivals say to Israel that the God who worked in the past will continue to work in the present and in the future” (Hagan 229).

“Exodus 13 lays out the requirements for all firstborn sons of Israel to be consecrated to the Lord as a response to the sparing of the lives of the firstborn Israelite males during the Passover event. This legislation is further developed in Num. 18, where the Levites will serve on behalf of the firstborn sons. The parents of these firstborns must in turn redeem them by paying ‘five shekels of silver’ (Num. 18:16)” (Pao and Schnabel 269).

Citing Leo Honor, John Delivuk claims that “two sets of memories” enabled the Jews to maintain their identity over the course of centuries—even in the face of the Babylonian exile. “The first concerned the Patriarchs and their relationship to God. . . . The second set of memories revolved around slavery in Egypt, liberation and the wilderness wanderings. There are a number of commands to remember the experience, and the feasts—including Passover—served as ceremonial means of annual remembrance (18).

The New Testament’s Emphasis on Spiritual Memory

  • Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to remind the church of his teachings so that they could follow him more faithfully (1 Cor. 4:16-17).
  • Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a commemorative ritual—not coincidentally, during the observance of the Passover (1 Cor. 11:25).
  • Paul called on the Gentiles to remember their former estrangement from Christ (Eph. 2:11-13).
  • Peter wrote his second epistle to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Pet. 3:1). He wanted to ensure that those who professed faith in Christ lacked no evidence that their faith was genuine and transformative (1:8-15).
  • Jesus addressed the church in Ephesus through his servant John. Though he complimented them for their fidelity, he knew that they had conceded spiritual ground. Thus he called them to remember their former condition and to repent for losing their first love (Rev. 2:4-5).

“Jesus’ statement that we are partake of the Lord’s Supper in his ‘remembrance’ reflects the nature of the Passover as a ‘memorial’ (Exod. 12:14) during which the Israelites were to remember the day of their exodus redemption (Deut. 16:3)” (Ciampa and Rosner 736).

[Play Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Remember Your Chains.”]

[Ask for testimonies of God’s past deliverance, provision, blessings.]

Works Cited

Ciampa, Roy E., and Brian S. Rosner. “1 Corinthians.” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2007. 695-752.

Delivuk, John Allen. “Keepers of Memories: Part Two: Remembrance and the Church.” Semper Reformanda 5 (Winter 1996): 17-22.

Garrett, Duane A. “Feasts and Festivals of Israel.” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996. 249-55. See pp. 249-30.

Hagan, G. Michael. “Exodus, Theology of.” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996. 226-29.

Pao, David W., and Eckhard J. Schnabel. “Luke.” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2007. 251-414.

Unger, Merrill F. “Festivals.” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. By Unger. Rev. and updated ed. Ed. R. K. Harrison. Chicago: Moody, 1988.

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Teacher's notes (3 pages)  80k v. 2 Jul 25, 2011, 9:47 PM Greg Smith