Passover is the second most important holy day of the Jewish year. Jewish families gather for a ritual meal called a Seder (SAY-dur), during which specific elements recount the history of Israel and retell the story of God’s dramatic deliverance of their ancestors.
1. God delivered the Jewish people from 400 years of slavery
Four hundred years before the Passover, God saved the Jewish people from a deadly famine by bringing them to Egypt, the only nation prepared with storehouses of food. By God’s sovereignty, Joseph, one of Israel’s 12 sons who was sold as a slave by his brothers, had risen to second in command over Egypt. When the Israelites faced starvation, Pharaoh welcomed them into the land because of Joseph. But after Pharaoh died, his successor put the Jewish people to work as slaves. They lived in bondage until God called Moses as His instrument to deliver them 400 years later – to the day – at Passover. "If God had not delivered us,” the Passover Haggadah (HAH-gah-dah) reads, “we would still be slaves.”
2. God showed His power through the miracles surrounding Passover
Pharaoh recoiled at the idea of letting the Hebrew slaves leave Egypt. If they departed, he would lose a million laborers. He refused to let them go and, in so doing, opened the door for God to reveal His power to all of Egypt. After each of Pharaoh’s obstinate denials, God brought a supernatural plague upon the nation of Egypt. From locusts to frogs to boils to water-turned-to-blood, God displayed His power throughout the whole land.
All who endured the plagues recognized that the God of Israel was mighty and determined to liberate His people. Israel, too, observed the God of their fathers intervene for their rescue. The miracles continued after their departure. When Pharaoh’s armies pursued, the Israelites walked on dry ground right through the middle of the Red Sea as the waters created a high wall on either side of them. Through the Passover and Exodus, the God of Israel was manifested and glorified for all to see.
3. God reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham and further set apart the Jewish people as His Chosen People
For generations, slavery was all the Jewish people knew. They were born into bondage and died in bondage. When God stepped in to extricate them as a people, He conveyed to them that He had not forgotten them. The God of Israel is faithful to keep His covenant with their father, Abraham. He would not forsake His promise. God’s intervention to free the Children of Israel told them that they were still His people, and He was still their God. He raised them up from a subjugated people and reminded them that they were a called and chosen people.
4. God called the Jewish people out to give them a Land of their own
The Israelites didn’t know where they were going, but they knew their God had set them free and had promised to give them “a good and large land” in which to dwell as a nation (Exodus 3:8). No longer would they serve Pharaoh. They would live in the Land given to them directly by God. Israel was on her way to becoming a nation with a homeland of her own. The impact of that land grant reverberates through the centuries, standing strong and true despite various exiles over the years or dissenting opinions today. Passover opened the door to receiving the Promised Land.
5. God established a watershed for the Jewish people and an inheritance of faith to pass on
Passover is known as the watershed event in Jewish history. It was a turning point, a defining moment for the Jewish people. Everything changed for them with Passover. God rescued, preserved, and called them out to be His people in their own land. Immediately upon their departure from Egypt, He instituted the Feast of Passover as an everlasting memorial to the astounding feat of their deliverance. God set an annual appointment for Israel to intentionally remember what He had done for them in the Passover and Exodus. Thousands of years later, Jewish people commemorate this and tell their children, passing on a legacy of faith in the one true God, just as He commanded them.
6. God revealed a prophetic glimpse of the promised Messiah’s sacrificial death
By God’s sovereign design, the Feasts of Israel established in Leviticus 23 contain a prophetic shadow of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Within Passover is the picture of the Messiah’s death to deliver us from the bondage of sin.
The final plague in Egypt was the death of the firstborn of all households. God revealed to Israel the one way they would be spared: They were to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and brush its blood on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. Only then would the Angel of Death pass over their homes and spare their firstborn.
1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that “Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” Yeshua’s (Jesus’) shed blood covers our sin, and His sacrificial death on our behalf – when received in faith – delivers us from the bondage of sin.
As Jewish families come together at Passover, they remember and teach the next generation about the event that delivered them as God’s people. As Messianic Jews celebrate Passover, they also celebrate the eternal deliverance provided by Messiah Yeshua.