The name "Pesach" (PAY-sahch, with a "ch" as in the Scottish "loch") comes from the Hebrew root Pei-Samekh-Cheit, meaning to pass through, to pass over, to exempt or to spare. It refers to the fact that Yahweh (YHWH) "passed over" the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. "Pesach" is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday. The holiday is also referred to as Chag he-Aviv (the Spring Festival), Chag ha-Matzot (the Festival of Matzahs), and Z'man Cheiruteinu (the Time of Our Freedom) (again, all with those Scottish "ch"s).
To a large degree, the Passover lamb has been eliminated from the Passover festival (with the only remnant being the roasted lamb shank bone). The New Testament says that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a "male without defect," which is the same description given to Jesus. In addition, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken. This fact was also prophesied for the Messiah, whose bones were not to be broken. It was customary during crucifixions to break the leg bones of the person after a few hours, in order to hasten their death. The only way a person could breathe when hanging on a cross was to push up with his legs, which was very exhausting. By breaking the legs, death followed soon by asphyxiation. However, in the case of Jesus, they broke the legs of the other two men, but did not break His, since He was already dead.
Much of the symbolism of Jesus' last Passover week is lost to us because we are unaware of the customs of the time. For example, Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem five days before the lamb was killed in the temple as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel. Five days before the lamb was to be sacrificed, it was chosen. Therefore, Jesus entered Jerusalem on lamb selection day as the lamb of God. The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches and hailed Him as King, shouting "Hosanna," which means "save us." However, they were not looking for a spiritual Savior, but a political savior. Palm branches were a symbol of freedom and defiance, since Simon Maccabeus had entered Jerusalem with that symbolism. Jesus' reaction was to weep, since He realized that they did not understand the Messiah's purpose in coming.
Good Friday was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar/shofar (ram's horn) at 3:00 p.m. - the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. On Good Friday at 3:00, when Jesus was being crucified, He said, "It is finished" - at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from the Temple. The sacrifice of the lamb of God was fulfilled at the hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice usually took place. At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-inch-thick, several-story-high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom - representing a removal of the separation between God and man. Fifty days later, on the anniversary of the giving of the law (Pentecost), God left the earthly temple to inhabit those who call on the name of Jesus through His Holy Spirit.
Christian symbolism in the Passover occurs early in the Seder (the Passover dinner). Three matzahs/matzohs are put together (representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden, representing the death and burial of Jesus. The matzah itself is designed to represent Jesus, since it is striped and pierced, which was prophesied by Isaiah, David, and Zechariah. Following the Seder meal, the "buried" matzah is "resurrected," which was foretold in the prophecies of David.
It was during a Passover Seder that Jesus proclaimed that the meal represented Himself and that He was instituting the New Covenant, which was foretold by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. The celebration of this covenant has become the ordinance of communion in the Christian Church. At the end of the meal, Jesus took the unleavened bread, broke it, and said that it represented His body. Then He took the cup of wine, which would have been the third cup of the Seder - the cup of redemption. He said that it was the new covenant in His blood "poured out for you." It is through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are declared clean before God, allowing those who repent of their sin and surrender their lives to follow Christ, choosing to accept His pardon, to commune with Him - both now and forevermore through the eternal life He offers.
This reminds us that God did not begin his revelation of Himself in the world with Christians, but to Hebrews---to Israelites---to the Jew---first. It also reminds us that Jesus was a Jew. It is only in recognizing that connection we have to four thousand years of God at work creating a people that those of us who are born again (regenerated) can truly appreciate who we are as the people of God.
Pesach will occur on the following days of the Gregorian calendar:
- Jewish Year 5769: sunset April 8, 2009 - nightfall April 16, 2009
- Jewish Year 5770: sunset March 29, 2010 - nightfall April 6, 2010
- Jewish Year 5771: sunset April 18, 2011 - nightfall April 26, 2011
- Jewish Year 5772: sunset April 6, 2012 - nightfall April 14, 2012
- Jewish Year 5773: sunset March 25, 2013 - nightfall April 2, 2013
some of the above information is from:
God and Science
The Passover Seder for Christians