Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (I Corinthians 5:7)
On the night God had promised to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and to lead them out of that country, they had assembled, per His commandment, to sacrifice lambs and roast them, to eat the meat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They came with their belongings packed, fully dressed, down to their belts and sandals, every woman and young girl wearing gold and silver jewelry she had begged from her Egyptian mistress. They had obeyed God’s order to smear some of the lambs’ blood over the doorposts and lintels of each house they occupied. God had warned that on this night, He would cause all the firstborn of Egypt to die, including every firstborn animal. But the angel of death would pass over any house marked with the blood of the sacrificed lambs. So the people of God huddled over their feasts, while a great cry went up all over Egypt, for there was not a house in which someone had not died. Pharaoh sent word to Moses, imploring him to take the Israelites and get out of Egypt immediately. He did. Six hundred thousand Israelites departed, plus a mixed crowd of others, plus herds and flocks, with all their belongings, plus all the borrowed jewelry. They carried with them the bones of their forefather, Joseph, who had foreseen this day and had asked them to carry his bones out with them. (For the full story, read Exodus, Chapter 12.)
But after the initial shock had worn off, the Egyptians began regretting that they had released their slaves. Pharaoh sent his chariots after them to bring them back.
And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the Lord looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He bound their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen." And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:19-31)
The Passover festival has been kept by the Jews annually ever since, all these thousands of years, to commemorate those two nights, the night Israel left Egypt, and the night Israel crossed the sea dry-shod and was rescued from the Egyptian army.
Of all the kinds of sacrifices in the Old Testament, the kind the biblical writers find by far the best typifies Christ is, perhaps surprisingly, not the sin offering, but the Passover lamb. Christ was a sin offering, too, although not in the Western sense of that phrase (and I'll make that the topic of two other posts), but more than anything else, He is viewed as the Passover Lamb. That is why He died at Passover, and why His last meal was the Passover meal. That is why St. John goes out of his way to point out that none of Christ’s bones was broken. (John 19:36). That “a bone of him shall not be broken” is a prophecy in Psalm 34:20, but it is also something God had commanded the Israelites concerning the Passover Lamb: “In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones." (Exodus 12:46)
That "the Lamb of God" refers to the Passover lamb, is seen even more clearly when we consider that a sin offering, if it was to be a lamb and if it was to be offered by ordinary people like you and me, had to be female! (Leviticus 4:32, 5:6) Thus, the lamb-as-sin-offering is not a particularly apt image of Christ. We have to believe this is no accident. Goats and cattle had to be male. We have never heard of anyone saying, "Behold the Goat of God!" or, "Behold the Calf of God!"
Christ died as our new Passover Lamb. We celebrate the new Passover at every Divine Liturgy, where His flesh feeds us and His blood, the Fountain of Immortality, keeps death from our door. He leads us safely across the dark sea of death to the promised land on the far side.
How His blood could possibly keep the Angel of Death at bay or His flesh could be the bread of eternal life will be the topic for the next post of this series.