God commands that true Christians memorialize the sacrifice of Jesus Christ every year. He gives very specific instructions on how baptized members are to keep this annual ceremony.
The Passover is one of the most important occasions of the year, and we need to work hard to view it the way God says we must. We need to have the Passover message in our minds this time of the year. We must use the understanding God has given us to take the Passover with the right attitude and in the right manner.
The Passover is the first service of the holy day season. If our observance of that memorial is off, it can affect the whole holy day season and the whole year.
The question is—what is Passover really about?
Focus on the Lamb of God
The Passover is a memorial of the crucifixion of Christ.
God instituted the Passover as a memorial to that sacrifice of Christ, which paid for our sins and reconciled us to the Father. When we take the Passover, all of our attention should be on the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for us. We must focus on the Lamb who paid the penalty for our sins.
“Every one of you has sinned, and God knows all about it, every one, and you’d better be sure they’re forgiven before you take the Passover,” Herbert W. Armstrong said in a March 4, 1982, sermon. “Now, maybe they already are forgiven. I don’t mean asking a million times over to forgive it. Once they’re forgiven, they’re forgiven. But you’d better be sure they have been.”
We need to take Mr. Armstrong’s words very seriously. The Passover is not a time to focus on ourselves or even on repentance of our sins. It is a time to focus on the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. What a price was paid for those sins!
Think about this for a moment. The Creator of the universe, of the angels and of man, came to this Earth. He did not sin. He did not have to repent, because He did not sin. He came here as God in the flesh to die for your sins and mine. The Creator of everything did that for us.
That is what the Passover is all about. Christ, our Passover, was brutally beaten and murdered to pay for our sins. That is what it takes to pay for your sins. Think about that price! Without it, none of us has any future.
Can you imagine how vile and grotesque sin is to actually claim the life of our Creator? He was the Creator, and He had to die! He was greater than His creation, and He died for all the creation so our sins could be forgiven. That was the cost. Think about that! That is what sin cost the God Family.
How seriously do we take sin? How can we possibly fight and overcome sin if we don’t deeply understand the mind-splitting price that had to be paid for it?
Sin is a big joke to this world, but it is not a joke to God—the God who was bludgeoned down here and spilled His blood. Sin is a serious matter. God paid a terrifying price to pay for our grotesque and vile sins. Only the blood of God in the flesh can pay for them.
Passover is a memorial of that great sacrifice and that terrible crucifixion. This is the meaning of Passover.
I usually open the Passover ceremony with these words, which came directly from Mr. Armstrong: “The most solemn and sacred occasion of the year, the anniversary of our Lord and Savior, a service observed in memory of His death. Partake of this service only if you have real faith in the symbols of Christ’s suffering and death.”
Romans 3:23 says we all have sinned. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of our sin is death. We are going to die unless we have our sins forgiven.
Our Savior came from outer space to pay for those sins. It is inspiring to think about what Christ did and even more so when you think about what the Father did.
Passover was a phenomenal time for ancient Israel. The whole nation acted out the prophecy of the Lamb of God coming down from heaven to be sacrificed for all mankind (Exodus 12:3-5). Each household had a lamb; there must have been hundreds of thousands of lambs. It was a bloody night. They focused on the lamb, which pointed to the Lamb of God. No other nation in history has ever done anything like that.
If somebody in Israel decided not to go through the ceremony, that person was put to death. Today, if God’s people don’t take the Passover in the right manner or in the right spirit, they are going to die eternally (e.g. John 13:8; 1 Corinthians 11:29). This is a serious and sober warning.
All of those lambs that were slaughtered throughout Israel pointed to this sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The blood of those lambs saved nobody, but it pointed to the sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world. The Israelites knew there was a God who would come down from heaven and die to pay the penalty for our sins.
As John the Baptist said of Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This ceremony is not just for Israel or for the Church. The Lamb of God took away the sin of the world. The whole world will one day take the Passover as God’s people take it today—the way the Bible says to take it. We must make sure we do it God’s way.
So where should we put our focus on the Passover? It must be on the sacrificial Lamb of God. Realize what the Lamb has done for us. Understand the forgiveness God has given each one of us.
Striving Against Sin
Before Christ faced His fiercest trial, He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). How hard was that trial on the Father and the Son? Christ knew what He was about to go through. Humanly He wanted out of His trial, but He cried out to God and submitted to the Father’s will. That is what it took to pay for our sins!
What a Son! Whatever comes, I’ll take it, Christ said. If that is your will, then it is my will too!
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (verse 44). Christ’s sweat actually contained some blood in it! Drops of blood oozed out of the pores of His face because He was thinking about that terrifying beating and suffering He had to go through. The Romans called the beating before the crucifixion the half-death!
What suffering He endured in order to be perfect! Christ knew what was coming and He prayed fervently so He wouldn’t sin! He perspired blood to keep from sinning! He did all of this so He could be our Savior and give us a future.
Can you imagine someone praying with that intensity to avoid sin? Can you imagine Christ, who is supposed to live in us, working so fervently and fiercely to avoid sinning? He wants us to follow His example.
He had an attitude and a faith that brought power into His life. He trusted God and was strengthened (verse 43). He had the power to conquer all these indescribable acts of affliction.
Do you think you have tough difficulties, or that your trials are too hard? Psalm 69:20 is a prophecy describing Christ being full of heaviness. He was taken right to the very limits! This shows how serious God is about our healing now and our salvation.
Throughout His life and ministry, Christ knew all things that would come upon Him (John 18:4)—but He didn’t go around hanging His head. He inspired and motivated the disciples! He tried to get them to focus their minds on God’s plan.
Have you ever been full of heaviness? God tries us and He tests us. He wants us to sacrifice for the world and learn how to submit to His will as Christ did.
This can be awfully hard to do. Are you that strong? If we are not careful, we can get caught up in our own trials and think, Why is God so hard? But we need to think about Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Look at how Christ fought against sin and the temptation to do evil! Do you and I fight like that? We need to pray and appeal to the Father for the strength and the power to resist sin (Hebrews 12:1-4).
Satan tends to turn on the pressure around this time of the year. I believe the single greatest cause of discouragement around this time of the year—and perhaps throughout the year—is that people are not looking on the Passover the way they should.
If we don’t see the sacrifice of Christ the way we should, then we can get our minds on ourselves.
God commands us during this time of the year to get our minds off ourselves and think about the sacrifice that was made to pay for all of our sins! If we get our mind focused on that sacrifice, the Spirit will flow in us the way it should—and there is real power in that! That is how Christ gained the power to conquer those terrible trials.
Christ suffered far more than we will ever think of suffering. He suffered for us and said, Now I want you to follow that example.
Faith in the Symbols
Christ changed the Passover symbols from the lamb to the bread and the wine (Luke 22:19-20). At Passover, we take a little piece of bread and take a little wine in remembrance of Christ. The bread is a symbol of His body, which was broken for our physical sins. The wine is a symbol of the very blood of God in the flesh, shed because of our spiritual transgressions.
We need to have real faith in those symbols. They are necessary for our eternal life.
Before Christ was crucified, He endured cruel mocking, scorn and derision. Pilate then had Him scourged (Matthew 27:26). What was that scourging about? This is what the piece of bread that God’s people take on the night of the Passover represents: the broken body of Jesus Christ.
When Roman soldiers flogged a person, they would use a whip that had six to 10 thongs, at the end of which were small pieces of broken bones or metal. Chunks of flesh would be ripped out of the victim’s body, leaving a mass of bloody, jagged wounds. Christ’s bones were protruding out of His flesh (Psalm 22:17).
Why did Christ subject Himself to that? So you could be healed! There is a healing covenant: By His stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). We have to believe and have faith in that!
Do you think God could allow that to happen and not want to heal us? We may not know when God is going to heal, but surely the Father would never allow His Son to go through all of that if it wasn’t His will to heal us!
We need to turn the spotlight on ourselves and see if we really have the faith we need. God says we must have faith in those symbols—or we had better not take the Passover.
After the scourging came the crucifixion. During a Roman crucifixion, soldiers would stretch out a person’s hands and feet and nail them onto a stake while it was on the ground. Then they would shove the stake up and let it fall down into a hole, jerking the body and tearing the flesh, causing blood to spurt out. It was great entertainment for those evil Roman soldiers and anyone else watching.
This is what the Son of God went through just so we could be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God the Father. This is the kind of sacrifice the Passover is all about.
Can you imagine going through anything like this for somebody else? This is the love of God! This tells us so much about the Family that God is inviting human beings to enter into. This is a love so incredible that nobody can even come close to understanding it unless they have the Spirit of God!
Considering all that God and Christ endured, what do you suppose they think when their own chosen and Spirit-begotten people become lukewarm about this sacrifice? That is exactly what most of God’s people have become: They don’t get excited about the foot-washing or the Passover ceremony. They don’t like the gory things we must fix our attention on at Passover—and so they water the ceremony down.
What does God the Father—who had to watch this happen to His Son—think about such a lukewarm attitude? What does Christ—who had to endure this—think about them? Those people will be plunged into the Great Tribulation, and if they don’t repent, they will die forever. The same will be true of any of God’s people who don’t learn this lesson.
The Death of Christ
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Christ became sin and was momentarily cut off from God.
But what were the words He first spoke from the stake on which He was being crucified? Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing (Luke 23:34). Christ had no bitterness toward those people.
Can we forgive like that? Does Christ live in us to the extent that we can forgive the way God forgives? If we can’t forgive somebody, then we are not thinking like God. It takes a lot of forgiveness to keep human beings in the right attitude—loving, serving and sacrificing for each other.
Think about the magnitude of our sins and how God forgives them all. How God forgives! He purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3).
“Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost [spirit]” (Matthew 27:47-50). Christ screamed—and then He died.
Translators leave out “And another took a spear and pierced his side, and out came water and blood” from verse 49. Satan deceived this world into thinking that Christ died of a broken heart.
Christ died because a spear was rammed into the side of His body and His blood gushed out. That is why He died. Christ went through this so your sins could be forgiven. All of this is pictured by the Passover.
There was an earthquake and rumblings because the Son of God had just died (verse 51). The world was rejoicing, but the Father was not.
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose …. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (verses 52, 54). They finally got it! It didn’t change their lives, but at least they understood He really was the Son of God.
We must understand this on a far deeper level than those men did! God tells us, I want you to eat that bread and drink that wine. Eat my flesh, drink my blood. Fill your life with Christ! I want you to repent because I’m not going to forgive your sins otherwise.
How much does the Father hate sin? What does Christ think about when He thinks about sin? It takes the blood of God in the flesh to pay for our sins. God set that penalty for sin.
We must strive to be sinless! If we don’t try to avoid sin the way Christ did, then it is clear we don’t understand this as we should.
This is why the Passover is a sober occasion. We don’t talk any more than we have to before and after the ceremony, because we are to focus on the death of Jesus.
This is what Passover is about. When you eat the bread and drink the wine, you are saying you want Christ to live in you. You are saying you want to be just like Christ and give your life as He did. Christ set the example of suffering for us to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Declare His Generation
“[H]is appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance …” (Isaiah 52:14; Revised Standard Version). Jesus didn’t even look like a human being. His body was marred more than any man to pay the penalty for our physical sins and spiritual sins.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). Christ’s disciples ran away when He was crucified. The only one who didn’t run was Christ. He knew if He did that, everything would be over for mankind. If He sinned once, or if He ever turned and ran, there would be no future for mankind.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (verses 4-5). He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our lawlessness.
How much we understand the sacrifice that was made for our physical sins will make a difference in how much God heals us. His body was broken so we could be healed.
We know some of that healing will be done in the resurrection. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). God has a different perspective on death than we do. When a saint dies, another son is added to God’s Family for all eternity.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). We get into problems when we turn to our own way. If we do that during our trials and tests, we will be discouraged, especially around Passover. It is time instead to think about the Passover Lamb and God’s sacrifice for us.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter …” (verse 7). Christ was brought to the slaughter, just like the lambs at Passover in ancient Israel.
“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? …” (verse 8). That is a beautiful question. Who will declare His generation? Who has the righteousness of God to get up and declare to the whole world about the crucifixion of the Passover Lamb? God’s people must do so. We must declare this sacrifice.
This question is repeated in Acts 8:32-33. Who is going to have the strength and the power to declare His generation? We have to get this message out and teach this world, even if it means we will face trouble.
“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord [or the Father] to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin …” (Isaiah 53:9-10). The Father watched it all. He had to turn His back on Christ because Christ became sin in that figurative sense.
But it pleased God to see His Son go through all of that because now He can have a family of billions. The Father wants a family! He gave His only begotten Son to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16).
Discern the Lord’s Body
Paul wrote of this annual memorial of Christ’s death: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
Each of us is given a piece of bread and a little container of wine to show the Lord’s death. Then we make certain that we are going to live the way Christ lived more and more each year. We are to follow His example as we go into the Days of Unleavened Bread.
This is not just a religious ritual. Think hard about the Passover. The symbols of the bread and the wine are eternal! It’s about physical life and death when it comes to healing—but ultimately it’s about eternal life or eternal death!
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (verse 28). Examine yourself first. This is a time to examine yourself so you know you can take that bread and wine in faith. We should thank God that we have the honor and the opportunity to understand the Passover.
“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verses 29-30). Sleep in this verse means die. These verses are specifically talking about healing.
People in God’s Church died prematurely because they lacked faith. They didn’t discern that broken bread and why it was broken for you and me. Christ’s body was beaten and bludgeoned almost to death before the crucifixion so we may be healed.
There isn’t one of us who doesn’t have a lot of filthy sins to get rid of. Maybe one of our sins is not discerning the broken body of Christ the way we should, or not having enough real faith in that symbol.
Each individual must take that bread and wine. Each of us needs to have faith in it. We need to think about how Christ’s body was broken so we could be healed.
We also need to be careful questioning God when it comes to healing. Mr. Armstrong was practically blind when he wrote Mystery of the Ages. Why didn’t God heal him at that time and make it easier for him to write the book? Maybe it was because Mr. Armstrong would not have written it otherwise. Maybe that is what he needed to really be empowered by God to write the most important book since the Bible! God doesn’t tell us when He is going to heal us. That is where the faith comes in. Why would we need faith if we were healed immediately?
How to Conquer
Revelation 12:9-10 describe how Satan is cast down and full of wrath. He is coming after God’s people. Then it says this—specifically about the Laodicean or lukewarm saints who repent in the Tribulation: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (verse 11). The Revised Standard Version says they “conquered him.”
There are two parts to this inspiring verse. The first part is that these people conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb pictures the death of Christ for the remission of our past sins. This is what the Passover is about. But what about the future? When we sin again as we strive to become perfect, we must repent again! Then God will forgive us; the blood of Christ wipes out those sins if we repent.
The second part of this verse is that they conquered Satan “by the word of their testimony.” The word testimony comes from the same Greek word that we get martyr from. It is talking about the way we live our lives.
After the Passover, we go on into the next commanded observance, the Days of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-6; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). During those days, we fill our lives with unleavened bread and keep the leaven out.
God says if you put those two parts together, then you are going to conquer the devil!
There is great power in this. We can conquer anything when we focus on that blood and on Christ’s example of how to avoid sin and prevail in righteousness.
How can we really be motivated to conquer if we don’t see the enormous consequences of sin? We need the power of Christ to resist that sin. Revelation 12:11 shows us how to obtain that power. God’s people, whether Philadelphians or repentant Laodiceans, conquer the devil with this understanding.
The very Word of the living God, Jesus Christ, should be living in us—even to the point that we are willing to die if we have to! That is what the Laodiceans are going to have to do to make it into God’s Kingdom.
We need this attitude even now. If we die, it is OK, because precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15).
After we accept that Passover and the sacrificial Lamb, we must go on and get sin out of our lives. We have to come out of sin. We must come out of Egypt and the world.
Here is the rest of the introduction to the Passover ceremony that I took from Mr. Armstrong: “Having had our sins forgiven by Christ’s blood, pictured by the 14th, we are not to stop there and remain in sin, but to go out away from sin. Why should we observe the 14th picturing the remission of past sins, and then we—commandment keepers of all people—refuse to continue the feast of Unleavened Bread, picturing the coming out of sin. Seven days of unleavened bread symbolizing and picturing complete putting away of sin. Or in other words, the keeping of the commandments. These feast days picture the keeping of the commandments.”
If we don’t get our minds off ourselves, we can’t really comprehend the Passover or conquer the devil. Satan is continually trying to destroy us or get us to the point where we become lukewarm, just as he has done to 95 percent of God’s people in this end time.
Peter says we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We can be reconciled to the Father. And then we must go on from there.
We have to conquer by the blood of Jesus Christ and by the word of His testimony. What a beautiful and a marvelous plan this is! What a noble sacrifice God the Father and Jesus Christ made so that this plan could become a reality. This is what the Passover is about.