Passover and the New Covenant

Passover and the New Covenant


Calvin Lashway

March 2011


The first place in the Bible where we find the term "new covenant" used is in Jeremiah 31:31-34. In this prophecy, Jeremiah records a future time when God will make a new covenant with His people. A covenant very different from the one He made with Israel when they came out of Egyptian captivity. The first references in the New Testament to this new covenant are in Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24 and Luke 22:20, where Jesus institutes the new covenant or Christian Passover. As we will see, there is a strong connection between the new covenant and the Christian Passover. With the Passover helping us to remember this new covenantal relationship we have with God, a relationship based on Jesus.1


Making a New Covenant

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31 All scriptures quoted are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated).


During Jesus’ final Passover he introduces his disciples to the new covenant: “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it’. . . . And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’. . . . And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:20, for parallel verses see Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Often in the Bible, covenant making involved death and blood. For example the ratification of the old covenant, the forerunner of the new covenant, involved sacrificing animals and shedding blood (Exodus 24:1-8; Hebrews 9:16-22). Making the new covenant was no different. Instead of animal sacrifices, Jesus sacrificed his life by shedding his blood. (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:11-15; 10:28-29; 12:24; 13:20).


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: The Christian Passover is a yearly reminder of the new covenant. Especially Jesus’ sacrifice which makes this covenant possible.


Made with Israel

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. . . (Jeremiah 31:33).


Under the old covenant, only circumcised males and their families could eat the Passover (Exodus 12:43-49). Under the new covenant only those spiritually circumcised by Jesus at baptism, what the apostle Paul calls “the putting off of the sinful nature” (Colossians 2:11-13 New International Version), should partake of the Christian Passover symbols of bread and wine.2 The new covenant circumcision is spiritual, of the heart, not the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). Christians "are the real circumcision," and the "Israel of God" (Philippians 3:3; Galatians 6:16; also see Romans 4:9-12; 9:6-8; Galatians 3:7, 26-29).


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: God made the new covenant with Christians, whether physical Israelite or non-Israelite. What matters is being spiritually circumcised through baptism.


The Spirit of God and His laws written on our hearts

But this is the covenant that I will make . . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. . . (Jeremiah 31:33).


Under the new covenant God places His law within us, writing it on our hearts. The new covenant involves internalizing God's law in our mind, through the Holy Spirit. Both the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel refer to this covenant with out using the term "new covenant." From the context of what they have written, it's clear both are writing about the new covenant. Isaiah writes of God making a covenant with Israel, that includes placing His spirit upon them, and not taking His word from them (Isaiah 59:20-21). Ezekiel describes a time when God gives His people a new heart and new spirit. By removing their heart of stone, and giving them a heart of flesh. So they will be able obey His statutes and ordinances (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27).


One of the themes of the Christian Passover is the work of the Holy Spirit. We usually associate the Spirit with Pentecost, but it is also an important part of Passover. During His last Passover, as recorded by the apostle John in his Gospel (John 13-17), Jesus tells the disciples about the Spirit He will send them. Jesus specifically makes four references to the Spirit (John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13), and refers to the Spirit four times as the Paraclete (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Various English language Bibles translate Paraclete as: Advocate, Comforter, Counselor or Helper


In John 14:15-26 Jesus speaks of a "Helper" (Paraclete), "the Spirit of truth" and "the Holy Spirit" which will teach the disciples what they need to know. As well as bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had already taught them. Also Jesus said both He and the Father would make their home with the disciples. It's through the Holy Spirit, that the Father and Son dwell in us (Romans 8:9-11; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). Intermixed among these verses in John 14 about the work of the Spirit, are references to keeping Jesus commandments and words. Which Jesus says are not His words but the Father's. What we see here is linkage between the Spirit of God and obedience to God.


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: Passover shows us the new covenant involves having the law of God written on our hearts by the Spirit. Which makes possible the understanding and obedience of God's truth and commandments.


God's people

But this is the covenant that I will make . . . . I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33).


Those with whom God makes the new covenant are His people, "the church of God." Purchased with Jesus' blood "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:8-9 New American Standard Bible). On the night of the annual Christian Passover service as we drink the wine, which Jesus called, "the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). We are remembering the bloody sacrifice Jesus made, so God can calls us "my people."


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: The Christian Passover is a reminder that we are the new covenant people of God, purchased and redeemed by Jesus' blood.


Knowing God

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. . . (Jeremiah 31:34).


The new covenant entails knowing God. On that last Passover night with His disciples. In response to Thomas' question about how can the disciples know the way to where Jesus is going (John 14:1-5); and Philips requests to see the Father (verse 8). Jesus gives them, and us, a glimpse into understanding what it means to know God.


Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7). This prompts Philip to ask "'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.'" Jesus answers Philip, "'Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves'" (verses 8-11). Jesus is saying that only through Him, are we able to know the Father.


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: Both the new covenant and the Christian Passover show us that we can know God, through Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24).


Forgiveness of Sin

. . . For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34).


As Jesus institutes the new Passover symbols of bread and wine. He takes the bread, blessing and breaking it, gives it to the disciples, saying, "'Take, eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins'" (Matthew 26:26-28 New King James Version). The forgiveness of sin is an important part of both the new covenant and the Christian Passover. Through Jesus' "blood of the covenant" we are sanctified (Hebrews 10:29). The apostle Paul writes, in Jesus "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7 New King James Version). The apostle John adds that it's Jesus blood that "cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7 New King James Version).


The apostle Paul in instructing the Corinthians on the proper way to observe the Christian Passover writes, "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). Every year when we take the symbols of the bread and wine, we are remembering Jesus' sacrifice that makes possible our forgiveness, sanctification, redemption and cleansing from sin. A sacrifice that makes possible the new covenant.


Connection between Passover and the New Covenant: Both the new covenant and Christian Passover deal with the forgiveness of sin.


Conclusion

As we have seen, there is a strong connection between the new covenant and the Christian Passover. The Christian Passover is an annual reminder that:

. . . we have a new covenant relationship with God.

. . . God made the new covenant with Christians, the Israel of God.

. . . under the new covenant God writes His laws on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

. . . under the new covenant we are the people of God, purchased by Jesus' blood.

. . . under the new covenant we know the true God.

. . . under the new covenant we have the forgiveness of sin.




Notes

This article presumes the Christian observance of the festivals of Leviticus 23. It’s beyond the scope of this work to prove that Christians should keep these festivals. For information on this, and the meaning of the festivals, see the following literature: God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise for All Mankind http://www.ucg.org/booklets/HD/; Ronald L. Dart's book The Thread: God’s Appointments With History, Appendix 2 "In Defense of the Holydays." A PDF version of the book is available at http://servantofmessiah.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/11/The-Thread-Gods-Holy-Days-Ron-Dart.pdf.


2 For further information on who should participate in the Christian Passover see my article Who Should Partake of the New Covenant Passover?.     

© Calvin Lashway 2017  -  Contact: cinfowritings@gmail.com