By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
One of the most significant aspects of Easter is the Passover lamb, which had great spiritual significance in biblical times and continues to represent important and powerful aspects of our faith today. Here are key facts about the Passover lamb and its meaning to inspire you this Easter.
What Is the “Passover Lamb”?
The Passover lamb has its origins in the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates an event that happened just before the exodus of Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. During the first Passover, the Jewish people followed God’s instructions to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and spread its blood on the doorposts of Jewish homes as a sign for God to “pass over” those homes when sending a plague to the Egyptians. Exodus chapter 12 tells the Passover story.
That act of obedience spared the Jewish people’s firstborn sons from the final plague that God sent in the judgment of the Egyptian people’s sins, killing their firstborn sons. The blood of the lamb acted as a sign of trust in God’s promise of protection for the Jewish people, who showed faith in God.
After the first Passover, the people of ancient Israel commemorated that event as a holy day – and the Passover lamb was an integral part of the Passover celebration.
5 Things to Know about the Passover Lamb This Easter
1. The Passover lamb plays a central role in the Easter story. According to the Gospels, Jesus celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover with his disciples before his crucifixion. During the Passover meal, he broke bread and shared wine with his followers, which became the basis for the Christian practice of communion. Matthew 26:27-28 records that during that meal, “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus shed blood to atone for sins, just as the lamb that was sacrificed on Passover shed blood that served as an offering to atone for sins. Jesus’ crucifixion as the ultimate Passover lamb is an essential part of the Easter story.
2. The Passover lamb reminds us that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.” Due to his sacrificial death on the cross, the Bible calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” This symbolism draws on the Passover lamb tradition, as Jesus was crucified during the Passover holiday, and his sacrifice is seen as atoning for the sins of humanity, much like the blood of the Passover lamb was seen as atoning for the sins of the Jewish people.
3. The Passover lamb is a symbol of sacrifice and redemption. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to redeem humanity from sin and connect us to a holy God. Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb whose sacrifice saved this fallen world by redeeming it. As 1 Peter 1:18-19 proclaims: “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.”
4. The Passover lamb represents hope and new beginnings. For believers, the Passover lamb represents hope and new beginnings. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is a new beginning for humanity, a chance to start fresh and live a life free from sin. As we celebrate Easter this year, let’s remember the ultimate sacrifice that was made for us and strive to live our lives in a way that honors that sacrifice.
5. The Passover lamb can inspire us with awe as we consider God’s work throughout history. By reflecting on the Passover lamb and its deep layers of spiritual meaning, we can gain a greater appreciation for the rich history and traditions that have shaped our faith over time. We can discover the wonder of God at work in ways that inspire us to develop closer relationships with God.
What Is the Significance of the Passover Lamb?
The Passover is a significant event in the Jewish faith, marking the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. However, for Christians, the Passover holds a special significance, as it foreshadows the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
For Christians, the Passover lamb holds great significance because it prefigures the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) once and for all. Just as the blood of the Passover Lamb protected the Israelites from the judgment of God, so too does the blood of Jesus Christ protect believers from the judgment of sin and death. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “… For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
The Passover Lamb was required to be without blemish, just as Jesus was without sin. In the Old Testament, the high priest would inspect the lamb for any defects before it was sacrificed. In the New Testament, Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent of any wrongdoing, stating, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). Jesus was the perfect and blameless sacrifice that could atone for the sins of all humanity. John 3:16 speaks of Jesus as the savior for the entire world: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The Passover lamb was sacrificed in the evening of the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, while Jesus was crucified on the afternoon of the day of preparation for the Passover. The blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes, just as the blood of Jesus covers and protects believers from the wrath of God. 1 John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus “purifies us from all sin” while Hebrews 10:19 says we can “have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”
Finally, the Israelites consumed the Passover lamb as a communal meal, just as Jesus commanded his disciples at the Last Supper to eat his body and drink his blood as a remembrance of his sacrifice – which began the Christian practice of celebrating communion. The Passover meal was a time for the Jewish people to celebrate and thank God for deliverance, and now communion is a time for Christians to remember and give thanks for Jesus’ sacrifice.
Thanks to Jesus’ work serving as the ultimate Passover lamb, humanity’s sins are atoned for once and for all. We no longer have to sacrifice lambs in order to atone for our sins before our holy God. As Romans 10:4 says: “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
What Can We Learn from the Passover Lamb Today?
The Passover lamb holds great significance for Christians as a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb protected the Israelites from the judgment of God, so too does the blood of Jesus protect believers from the judgment of sin and death. As we celebrate Easter, let’s thank Jesus for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our redemption and salvation.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/artplus
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on X/Twitter and on Facebook.
This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!