Passover — Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?
by Denise Snyder
The holiday of Passover is coming up — this year it falls on Good Friday — so I thought I’d continue our exploration into each of the biblical holidays!
Passover is the very first holiday God commanded his people to celebrate in Exodus 12. It is the night of the final plague in Egypt and the Israelites are finally going to be set free from the yoke of the Egyptians. Pharaoh has hardened his heart numerous times, but this last plague will leave him devastated and he will finally allow the Israelites to leave. Moses has warned Pharaoh of what is about to happen, and God has given instructions for the meal the Israelites are supposed to eat as they prepare to leave. They are to dress in traveling clothes, eat a lamb, eat bitter herbs, and avoid leaven. Most importantly, they must take hyssop and spread the blood of the lamb over their doors. The Lord is about to pass over Egypt, and he will smite the firstborn of anyone who does not have the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts.
The Lord provided a way for people to be saved from the destroyer—it was a monumental night in the history of Israel, and He wanted them to remember what He had done forever. God gave them tangible ways to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt — lamb, herbs, unleavened bread. This meal would forever remind the Israelites that God passed over them and brought them freedom. It is also important to note that the Israelites had a task to do. In order to be saved, they had to put the blood of the slaughtered lamb over the doorpost.
God told them to celebrate the Passover — to remember the Exodus — every year on the 14th day of the first month. So, they did. Sometimes they sinned and didn’t do it. But then they would remember again.
Today, people use a Haggadah, which is the liturgy of Passover, to go through a Passover Seder meal. The liturgy includes a reading of the story of the Exodus — all the plagues and how God finally brought the people out from slavery. When you participate in the Passover meal, you do it as though you were one of the people God rescued from slavery in Egypt. Although the first Passover was spent in traveling clothes and eaten quickly, now people lounge and take their time because we have been set free.
You also eat elements from the Seder plate at the meal. You dip parsley in salt water to remember the tears of bondage. You eat a bitter herb — usually radish — to remember the bitterness of slavery. And you eat an apple mixture to remind you of the mortar used in building for Pharaoh’s kingdom.
One of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder is when we recount all the things God has done for us. It’s called “Dayenu” which means “it would have been enough for us” in Hebrew. You say things like, “If God had only brought us out of slavery, but not brought us to the Red Sea, Dayenu.” “If God had only brought us to the Red Sea, but not parted it for us, Dayenu.” “If God had only parted the Red Sea, but not drowned Pharaoh’s army, Dayenu.” And on and on. I love it. It would have been enough — but God continued to act, He continued to provide, He continued to do so much more. He is good to us.
Jesus celebrated Passover. I believe that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, which is cool because we see Jesus using the elements of the meal in order to institute communion. The cup He takes after supper, the cup of the covenant cut in His blood, is known as the cup of redemption in the Seder meal. It is related to God’s promise in Exodus to redeem His people. God did it through the Exodus, and here Jesus showed that He was doing it again, this time for the whole world to set us free from our sin.
Passover is my favorite biblical holiday. It’s awesome to remember how God has set us free, to notice the elements of Passover that Jesus used when instituting communion, and to eat a meal with friends in grateful praise for all the Lord has done. It is good.
So remember the Passover this year! Thank Jesus for being our Passover Lamb who came to die for our sins and set us free!