Passover and Easter Belong Together
In the New Testament, Passover and Easter are entwined. Jesus added significance to the Passover through His death, resurrection, ascension, and promise to completely fulfill Passover when He returns (Matthew 26:29).
The Passover story features the death of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice. However, as it’s spoken of today, the cross is not associated with Passover themes. When we imagine that Jesus died only for our personal sins, we forget that He died to deny the ways and means of the kingdoms of this world. That’s the Passover story. God cannot collaborate with the pharaohs and kingdoms of this world. Jesus is called the Lamb of God for a reason (John 1:29). We need to see that Jesus died for more than mere penalty payment. His death was about rescue, redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and resurrection.
I find it perplexing how the cross has been misshapen by punishment theology. It seems that the very foundation of Christianity is built upon escaping hell and going to heaven. When the threat of eternal torment is removed, many Christians are left wondering what the cross is all about. Without hell and eternal punishment, Christians are at a loss to explain why Jesus died and how God is just.
Passover is appropriate for Easter season because it clearly implies why Jesus died. The gospel message and the Passover go together, but this connection receives little attention. The Israelites were saved from bondage to draw near to a gracious God. The story is not about paying a penalty or achieving freedom from an angry God but about liberation from an enslaving evil power.
How does Jesus choose to show God’s divine power? He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God’s triumph over evil is displayed in weakness—a little slain lamb. The Passover story tells us that God felt the suffering of His people, becoming a co-sufferer to deliver them (Exodus 3:7). He came in humility and submitted Himself to death on the cross, which revealed His strange yet wondrous power. Edward Shillito wrote the final verse of his poem “Jesus of the Scars” after experiencing the horrors of the First World War. He describes the Savior’s wounds:
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as a slaughtered lamb, as He is a victim of violence. Nevertheless, He is not a defeated loser, for He is a sacrificial lamb with the power to elevate and make all things right (Revelation 5:6). At the last supper, Jesus described the Passover themes of justice, liberation, and joy in light of His own death. The suffering and dying Lamb is a winner. The power to destroy humanity was broken by His death and resurrection. The stone was rolled away, and Jesus remained alive—demonstrating His power in the act of resurrection. This is a story of how God will save you, me, and the whole cosmos.
Jesus became a servant. He humbled and lowered Himself, placing Himself all the way down to experience a death on the cross like a criminal (Philippians 2:7). Instead of grasping power for Himself, He smashed Himself into nothing to establish a new order of love and peace based on freedom and redemption. The resurrection of Jesus was the triumph of His self-sacrificing love over selfishness and evil. Because Jesus voluntarily laid down His life in love, the powers of evil have been disarmed, and you and I are delivered to become a part of the new creation.
Wishing peace, love, and renewal to all those celebrating Easter and Passover this year.
Craig Ashton Jr.
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