The Jews celebrate Passover each year to remember who God is and what He has done for them.
And, today, if we only remember one truth about Passover, we must remember this: God saves!
Passover doesn’t just point to one specific event in history, it reveals to us who God is yesterday, today and forever; It opens to those of us willing to look, a window into the character of God. Motivated by love and mercy for all He has made, we witness a God unique among all deities in all religions – a God who delivers; a God who saves.
The God Who Saves
After years of living in slavery in Egypt the Israelites cried out to God in desperation, and in response God, speaking to Moses through a burning bush, answered:
“I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile (Exodus 3:7-8, Good News Translation)
The Hebrew word that is translated “rescue” in verse 8 is נָצַל (natsal), meaning to snatch away, to deliver (from enemies, trouble, death, sin, guilt) to rescue, to save.
Throughout scripture God is seen as a deliverer; a savior; one who rescues His people.
- The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers (natsal) them from all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)
- As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue (natsal) them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness (Ezekiel 34:12)
The first Passover tells the story of how God rescues His people from judgement. God commands each family to slaughter a lamb and put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their home. Upon seeing the blood on each home, the angel of death passes over those within.
In Passover, we clearly see that God is a God who saves, but upon closer inspection, we can discover so much more.
Not only does Passover show us that God saves, it teaches us the spiritual principle that the shedding of blood is necessary for salvation, it foreshadows the coming of the promised Messiah and finally, points to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan: the establishment of His eternal kingdom.
The Shedding of Blood
Passover shows us that the only way to pay for sin is with shed blood. “The penalty for sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) We can see evidence for this truth all too clearly in our world today. Try as they may, no one, no matter how rich, powerful or famous, can escape death. And God has always been clear about this: It is our sinfulness that does us in.
Part of God’s design for Passover is to show us that salvation from sin comes at a price, and that price is death. It is only by the shedding of blood that we are passed over.
The Coming Messiah
During the first Passover in Egypt, the Israelites each provided a lamb for the protection of their own family, but scripture speaks of a coming Messiah who would one day offer Himself up as the Lamb without blemish – the Lamb of God. Remember, this is the God who saves. Isaiah is referring to Christ Jesus when he declares the following:
“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
An angel speaking to Joseph in a dream clearly identifies the Messiah’s purpose by saying “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
It is common knowledge among Jews that there is only thing that can save someone from the penalty of their sinfulness: blood shed from a sacrificial lamb. We should not be at all surprised then to discover that the name Jesus in Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ (Yeshua), who would become our sacrificial lamb, means “The LORD saves”
As part of the instructions for carrying out the Passover, God told Moses when and how to choose a lamb for the sacrifice. “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household… The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect.” (Exodus 12:2,5)
John the Baptist confirms that Jesus was God’s chosen sacrificial lamb when he saw Jesus walking towards him and said: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Peter confirms this when addressing early Christians in his letter to the church “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
When Jesus entered Jerusalem through the sheep gate nearly 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday, He was identifying Himself as God’s chosen lamb. That is because Palm Sunday was five days prior to Passover, on the tenth of the month, as specified by God to Moses in the book of Exodus; a day known as lamb selection day. The crowds welcomed Him as King; He presented Himself as the Passover Lamb. Remember, this is the God who saves!
God’s Coming Kingdom
But this is not the end of the story. As Jesus was celebrating perhaps the most famous Passover meal of all, the Last Supper, He said something somewhat perplexing:
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:28-29)
What does Jesus mean when He says that He will not drink that cup until He drinks it with us in His Kingdom?
First, remember that Passover is meant to teach us that the Lord saves and will presumably be fulfilled when that salvation is complete. In dying on the cross as our sacrificial lamb, Jesus saved us from sin and its penalty, but I believe our salvation, although effective immediately, is not completely realized until we are finally brought home to dwell with Him in His kingdom.
And this seems to align with what we see in the book of Revelation as John describes the marriage feast of the lamb, which is quite likely the ultimate fulfillment of Passover:
“I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just;” (Rev 19:1-2) “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage feast of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready;” (Rev 19:6-7)
In fact, the prophet Isaiah, many years prior, spoke of the same event- a great feast at the end of the age:
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
As believers, our response will be: “We trusted in Him, and He saved us” (Isaiah 25:9)
The fact that God saves us will, of course, come as no surprise in the end, for through Passover, God has made one truth all too clear: He is a God who saves!