The Theology of Jesus as Our Passover Lamb
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place. Therefore let’s keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5:7b-8).
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he stated that Christ is our Passover Lamb. Over my life, I have often heard Jesus called a Lamb or our Passover Lamb, but what does that really mean?
To answer this question, we must connect the Old Testament Passover in Exodus with the life and death of Jesus. There are many powerful Passover accounts in the Bible, such as the ones under Josiah, Hezekiah, and Ezra. However, the best example in the Old Testament to understand Jesus as our Passover Lamb is the first one. It was the initial event which led to the freedom of God’s natural people and the establishment of the physical Passover. Throughout the Bible, writers make references back to the Exodus.
Jesus’ perfect life culminated in His death – it was the event which initiated our spiritual freedom from sin and death. Jesus spent His life showing Himself as that Lamb. Throughout the New Testament, there are references made to Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Because Jesus is a greater Lamb – His entire life can be looked at through the lens of the first Passover and first Exodus.
In this article, we want to develop the Biblical Basis for the theology and understanding that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. We will compare the first Passover in Exodus to Jesus’ life and last Passover on earth. There are many parallels and prophetic fulfillments when we compare the two.
#1 – The lamb was chosen
In Exodus 12:1-13, we learn that the Israeliteswere supposed to select a lamb. “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household…” (Ex. 12:3).
Jesus is compared to a Lamb in the Old and New Testaments (Isaiah 53, John 1:29-33, I Peter 2:21-24, Rev. 5:6). Like the Exodus lamb, Jesus was chosen. However, He was not chosen by people but God the Father. This is one way that Jesus is greater. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:29, 34).
#2 – The lamb was examined and had to be without blemish
In Exodus 12:5, we learn that the lamb had to be without defect. This also means it was examined. “Your lamb shall be without defect, a male a year old. You shall take it from the sheep or from the goats” (Ex. 12:5).
Jesus lived a perfect life according to God’s laws and commandments (I John 3:1-6). Just before Jesus’ death, He was examined by the chief priests, Herod, and Pilate. They could not find anything wrong with Him. In fact, false accusers had to be brought forward to lodge a charge against Him. We have some quotes from His trial below:
“59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus, that they might put him to death, 60 and they found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, ‘This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’ 62 The high priest stood up and said to him, ‘Have you no answer? What is this that these testify against you?’ 63 But Jesus stayed silent” (Matthew 26:59-63).
“4 Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’…7 When he found out that he was in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem during those days…13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and behold, having examined him before you, I found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him. 15 Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him’…20 Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus, 21 but they shouted, saying, ‘Crucify! Crucify him!’ 22 He said to them the third time, ‘Why? What evil has this man done? I have found no capital crime in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him’” (Luke 23:4, 7, 13-15, 20-22).
Jesus was examined and found innocent. Like a lamb before the slaughter, Jesus remained silent before His accusers.
#3 – The lamb died
The children of Israel were commanded to slaughter the lamb on the evening portion of the 14th day of the first Hebrew month which is called Aviv or Nisan. “…You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at evening…” (Ex. 12:6).
Jesus died on Passover, which becomes evident through the gospel chronologies. He willingly gave His life. Ultimately, it was the will of the Father for Christ to suffer because of our sins (John 10:11-18, I John 3:16). He was chosen for this purpose. This further reinforces New Testament analogies to Jesus as the Lamb.
Jesus is greater. He died for all our sins, whereas the lamb from Exodus died for one nation.
“The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” (I Cor. 15:3).
#4 – The blood of the lamb had to be applied
The Israelites were commanded to take the blood of the lamb and apply it a certain way. Following these instructions spared them from the death angel when it came through Egypt.
“7 They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they shall eat it…13 The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are. When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:7, 13).
In a similar manner, the blood of Jesus was shed to spare us from the wrath of God and eternal condemnation! This wrath is coming upon the whole world for disobedience. The blood gives us access to flee this wrath! This is another way that Jesus is an even greater lamb than those from the first Passover.
“…knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from the useless way of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish or spot, the blood of Christ…” (I Peter 1:18-19).
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).
#5 – Hyssop
During the first Exodus, the hyssop was dipped in the basin before the blood was applied. “You shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two door posts with the blood that is in the basin…” (Ex. 12:22a).
Hyssop was also applied to Jesus as His blood was being shed. “After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I am thirsty.’ Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth…” (John 19:28-29).
#6 – Not a bone broken
During the first Passover in Egypt, the people were not allowed to break any bones of the lamb. “You shall not carry any of the meat outside of the house. Do not break any of its bones” (Exodus 12:46b).
In the same way, we learn that Jesus’ bones were not broken when he was crucified. We have an excerpt below:
“31 Therefore the Jews, because it was the Preparation Day, so that the bodies wouldn’t remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special one), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Therefore the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was crucified with him; 33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs.… 36 For these things happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him will not be broken’” (John 19:31-33, 36).
#7 – The Lamb was eaten
In the Exodus story, we learn that the physical lamb had to be eaten. “They shall eat the meat in that night, roasted with fire, with unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs…” (Ex. 12:8).
During His last Passover, Jesus revealed that the unleavened bread consumed during that season represented his body. The cup represents His blood. We partake of this on Passover because Jesus is our Passover Lamb. “26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it. He gave to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27 He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, ‘All of you drink it, 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins’…” (Matthew 26:26-28).
#8 – One household
The lamb in Exodus was supposed to be eaten in one house. “It must be eaten in one house. You shall not carry any of the meat outside of the house” (Ex. 12:46a).
There’s only one household in which the true Lamb can be received: the household of faith (Gal. 6:10, Eph. 2:18-20, Hebrews 3:6, I Peter 2:5). “…but Christ is faithful as a Son over his house. We are his house, if we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:6).
In I Peter 4:17, Peter wrote that judgment begins in the household of God. Why is that? Because that is where the blood is supposed to be applied and the Lamb is eaten.
#9 – God gave them freedom through the lamb
God promised the children of Israel that He was going to free them through the miraculous plagues, the last of which was rendered during Passover. “I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments…” (Ex. 6:6). “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:1, KJV).
All humanity is in slavery to sin and bondage (John 8:33-34, Romans 6:16-17). Jesus’ death freed those who receive Him from that bondage. “14 Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The big difference is that the children of Israel were freed from Egypt, but fondness for Egypt was still in their hearts. The generation that left remained enslaved to sin while in the desert (Amos 5:25-28). As children of God, we are free from sin and death, but we must choose to remain that way (Romans 6:18-22, 8:2, Gal. 5:1-21, 2 Peter 2:19). “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
As discussed in the Spring 2022 edition of Pursuit magazine, God is performing a greater Exodus now. The Israelites left physical Egypt and eventually made it to the Promised Land. Through the blood of the Lamb of God, we are being freed from this age. At the resurrection, we will be granted full entrance into all ages to come. We are tasked with putting the yeast or sin out of our lives during this present age! Paul also discussed this in I Cor. 5:6-8. That is our response to Jesus’ great sacrifice for us, which is the greatest investment ever made! He expects a return! (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 18:11-27)
#10 – We become one
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were a mixed multitude. Said another way, there were descendants of Israel and Egypt who left the land together. “A mixed multitude went up also with them, with flocks, herds, and even very much livestock” (Ex. 12:38).
They were all reckoned as one nation when they passed through the Red Sea and followed the cloud. “1 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Cor. 10:1-2). The process of them becoming one nation was made complete at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:4-6).
Just before Jesus’ death, He lifted us – all future believers – up to the Father in a beautiful prayer that is recorded in John chapter 17. He prayed that we would all be one with each other as He is one with the Father. Since the end of the age was initiated at Jesus’ death and resurrection, God is calling people from all nations to repent (Matthew 28:19, Acts 14:27, 17:30, Romans 1:5, 14:25).
The blood of the Lamb of God allows us to join a spiritual nation unto God. Our natural distinctions, such as nationality, ethnicity, etc., are secondary to the Godly nation. We are grated into Israel and the promises of God (Romans chapters 9-11, Eph. 4:4).
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2 Peter 2:9).
After reviewing these details, one can easily see how a person who knew Jesus and witnessed His life, suffering, and death would view Him as the Lamb of God. His death fulfilled so many aspects of the Passover lamb from Exodus. But always remember that Jesus is greater in many ways.
Among them is the fact that Jesus resurrected from the dead. This makes Him a living sacrifice, not a dead one like that from the Exodus story. He brings about eternal change in His children and delivering us from this evil age of darkness (Gal. 1:4).
This article gives you a sample of the many ways that Jesus is viewed as the Passover Lamb in the New Testament. We may explore even more of them in future articles.
All Bible verses, unless otherwise noted, come from the World English Bible (WEB); public domain.