“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:1-3 ESV).
“What makes this night different from all other nights?” With this question, asked by a child, the modern Jewish observance of Passover begins. During the evening the events of the Exodus are related to all who are present and there is a feast containing many rituals that are based on what happened when God “passed over” the Israelites when they were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Moses gave these instructions to Israel just as they were about to enter the Promised Land, their new home. These had originally been given just as the Israelites left Egypt. The men who left Egypt had now died, so Moses again gave these instructions concerning the Passover observance, as well as the other required festivals that the Israelites were to keep (see Deuteronomy 16).
What was the point of doing this each year? It was very simple: “that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.” They would sacrifice, roast, and eat a lamb as well as unleavened bread to remember where they had been and that God had delivered them. In this way they would remember that they were who they were because of what God had done.
It is significant that Jesus and his disciples were eating a Passover meal together the night before his execution. While eating that meal, Jesus took the unleavened bread and wine of the Passover and gave them a new meaning.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
As we read of the first Christians in the book of Acts we discover that they came together on the first day of the week to “bread bread” (Acts 20:7). This gives us an example to follow.
Why did they do this each week? Was it not to keep alive the memory of Jesus’ death on the cross because of our sins? Just as the Jews observed the Sabbath each year to remember the day they left Egyptian slavery, so Christians today “break bread” to remember the day Jesus died for us. In this way we remember that we are who we are because of what Jesus did on the cross.
When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we not only look back to Jesus’ death, we also look forward to the day he will come again. We must always remember what Jesus has done for us.
Readings for next week:
24 April – Deuteronomy 12
25 April – Deuteronomy 13
26 April – Deuteronomy 14
27 April – Deuteronomy 15
28 April – Deuteronomy 16