The Passover as an Illustration of the Relationship Between
The Old Testament and the New Testament
Understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testaments first requires that we reject the extremes. Some have concluded that all of the Old Testament applies just as much today as it did when it was written. Some have concluded that none of the Old Testament applies today at all. Both extremes are wrong.
Rejecting the extremes, the next challenge is to find the suitable middle. With its lessons about (i) the carryover aspects of the Passover, (ii) the shadow of Christ in the Passover, and then/now related to the Passover, the Bible's teaching about the Passover helps us find the suitable middle. This article uses the Passover as an illustration about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Something about the Old Testament's Passover carries over into the New Testament.
Major Old Testament References
- The Passover was instituted in Exodus 11-12, at the time when the last of Moses' plagues - the death of the firstborn - effected the release of the Children of Israel from Egyptian Bondage.
- More instruction about the Passover observance was given later, in Leviticus 23:4-8 and Numbers 28:16-25. The Passover was the most significant occasion in the annual Jewish religious calendar.
Major New Testament References
- Jesus, a devout follower of the Passover observance while he was alive, took advantage of the Passover to institute the Lord's Supper (Mt. 26:17+, Mk. 14:12+, Lk. 22:7+, Jn. 18:28+).
- In I Corinthians 5:7 Paul wrote of "Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us."
Shadows of Christ in the Passover
Two New Testament passages fit together to teach about one aspect of the relationship between the Testaments. In Hebrews 10:1, Paul said that the Old Law was a "shadow of good things to come." The same writer reiterated in Colossians 2:17 that the Old law contained shadows, but that "the substance belongs to Christ." By using the terms "shadow" and "substance," Paul taught that the Old Law contained hazy predictive images that were fulfilled in Christ and in the Christian system.
This misty, foggy predictive relationship is evident in the Passover. God was never really satisfied with the Old Testament's blood sacrifices (Ps. 51:16). These sacrifices served only for a time until their greater, substantial fulfillment came in Christ. "Not by means of the blood of goats and claves, but by mean of His own blood" he secured "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). The slain Passover lamb thus predicts "Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us."
That Was Then, This Is Now
If the Old Testament applies just as much today as it did when it was written, then we should observe the Passover just like generations of Jews did between Moses' triumphal exit from Egypt and Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In this, the Passover takes its place along side Temple worship, the Levitical Priesthood, priestly robes, incense, and instrumental music in worship as exercises that were part of the Old Testament but that are not part of the New Testament. This is an excellent question for those who continue to cling to the Old Testament: why do Christians not observe the Passover and instead observe the Lord's Supper?
- Then they had a real lamb; now we have the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29).
- Then they had to repeat the Passover in order for its effects to continue; now "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).
- Then they ate unleavened bread and bitter herbs to symbolize the somber haste of the original Passover night; now we have unleavened bread to symbolize Christ's body and fruit of the vine to symbolize Christ's blood.
- Then they had an annual feast; now we have every "first day of the week" when Christians gather for Communion (Acts 20:7). As we do, the carryover shadows from then hover over what we do now.