- Parent Category: Salvation History
- Category: The Law and the Prophets, Preparation
- Written by Fr. Thomas Hopko
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The central event of the entire Old Testament history is the passover and exodus.
Abraham's son Isaac was the father of Jacob whom God named Israel which means "he who strives with God." (Genesis 32:28) God renewed His promise to Isaac and Jacob, and continued the covenant with them that He had made with Abraham.
Jacob had twelve sons who became the leaders of the twelve tribes or houses of Israel. The sons of Jacob sold their youngest brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt. With the help of God, Joseph gained the favor of the Egyptian pharaoh and became a great man in Egypt. In a time of famine, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt for food. Joseph recognized them and brought all of the people of Israel into Egypt with him. When Joseph died, the people of Israel were put into slavery by the Egyptians for four hundred years. (See Genesis 24-50)
God raised up Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush and revealed His Name to him.
Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"Moses returned to Egypt and after many trials with the Egyptian pharaoh and after many plagues, which God sent upon the Egyptians, he led the people of Israel out of slavery. The exodus, which means the escape or the departure, from Egypt took place on the night called the passover.
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Say to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "
God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The Lord (Yahweh), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Exodus 3:14-15)
God, through Moses, ordered the Israelites to select lambs, to kill them and place some blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses. Standing up, clothed and ready to escape, they were to eat the lambs in the night.
In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat in haste. It is the Lord's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. This day shall be a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever. (Exodus 12:11-13)Thus, the passover and exodus took place. At midnight the Lord slew the Egyptian firstborn. The houses marked with blood were spared when the Lord passed over. During the tumult, the Israelites began to escape. They made their exodus through the Red Sea. By this time, the Egyptian horsemen were in pursuit. ;kt the sea, Moses prayed to God. He lifted his rod over the waters and "The Lord drove the sea back by a strong East wind all night, and made the sea dry land..." (Exodus 14:21) The Israelites passed through the sea on foot. The pursuing chariots of the Egyptians were caught in the waters and were drowned.
And Israel saw the great work, which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:31)In the wilderness on the other side of the sea, the people of Israel began to complain. There was no food and drink in the desert. Moses prayed to the Lord, Who provided water for the people to drink and manna, the "bread from heaven," for the people to eat. (Exodus 15-16) God led the people through the desert by a cloud and a pillar of fire.
On Mount Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments and the laws of morality and worship from the Lord Who "used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." (Exodus 33:11) Moses was allowed to behold the glory of the Lord in the smoke and clouds on the mountaintop and he himself shone with the majesty of God. (Exodus 34:29)
Moses was not granted to cross the Jordan and to enter the promised land. He died and was buried near Mount Nebo in the land of Moab. This is where he had looked across the Jordan River into the land where his successor Joshua would lead the people.
The passover and exodus was the central event in Israelite history. It was remembered in all generations as the great sign of God's fidelity and favor to His People. It was sung about in the psalms and recalled by the prophets. It was celebrated annually together with Pentecost, as the chief celebration of the People of God. And, consequently, it was also the main event of the Old Testament to be fulfilled perfectly and eternally in the time of Christ, the Messiah of God.
In Jesus Christ the ultimate meaning and universal purpose of the passover and exodus are revealed and accomplished. Jesus Christ is Himself the New Passover. He is the Passover Lamb, which is slain for the deliverance and liberation of all men and the whole world from the powers of evil. The real "pharaoh" is the devil. He holds all men in slavery. The real deliverer is Jesus. He leads the people from the captivity of sin and death into the "promised land" of the Kingdom of God.
As the people pass through the wilderness of life in this world, they are fed by Jesus, the true Bread of Life, the true "bread from heaven."
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which came down from heaven, and gives life to the world."Jesus is not only the true "bread from heaven," He is also the true "living water." He is the One Whom, if men drink of Him, they will never thirst again.
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread, which comes down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this meal, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
"Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:25-59)
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water."' (John 7:37)Saint Paul, speaking of the exodus and the rock, which Moses struck, from which the spring of water flowed, says plainly that this refers to Christ.
"...whoever drinks of the Water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (I Corinthians 10: 1-4)Thus it is that Jesus Christ fulfilled the passover and exodus in the events of His life. This fulfillment came to its climax at the time of His crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus was killed at the feast of the passover to show that the old passover has been completed and the new passover has begun. When the paschal lamb was being killed in the temple, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was being crucified on the cross outside the city. When the great day of the passover, which that year was the Sabbath, was being observed as the rest from work, Jesus lay dead, resting from all His work, in the tomb. When the "day after Sabbath" dawned, the first day of the week, the day of God's original creation, Jesus arose from the dead.
All of this took place that the New Passover and New Exodus could be effected, not from Egypt into Canaan, but from death to life, from wickedness to righteousness, from darkness to light, from earth to heaven, from the tyranny of the devil to the glorious freedom of the Kingdom of God. The death and resurrection of Christ is the true passover-exodus of the People of God. Those who are marked with Christ's blood are spared from the visitation of death.
Jesus inaugurated the celebration of the new passover at the last supper with His disciples, which was the paschal meal. He told them that no longer would they keep the passover feast in remembrance of the old exodus. They now would keep the paschal celebration in remembrance of Him.
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 broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also 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. (I Corinthians 11: 23-26; See also Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22- 25, Luke 22:14-19)In the same letter, Saint Paul also says:
... Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:7-8)Of great importance also in the new passover of Christ is the new gift of God's law, the law not written on tablets of stone, but on human hearts by the very Holy Spirit of God. (See 2 Corinthians 3, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Joel 2:28-29)
The giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai is fulfilled in the time of the Messiah in the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples of Christ in the upper room on the feast of Pentecost. In the Old Testament, this was the festival of the reception of the law, fifty days after the passover. (Acts 2) Thus, once again, in the time of the Messiah, the old event is completed in the new and final one: the exterior law of Moses is completed by the interior law of Christ, the "perfect law, the law of liberty" (James 1:25, 2:12), the "law of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 8:2)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God had done (in Christ) what the law (of Moses), weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin ... in order that the just requirements of the law (of Moses) might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4, See also 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 3-5)Thus the apostle John writes: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)
Within the total fulfillment and perfection of the passover-exodus of the Old Testament in the time of the Messiah, it must be noted as well that the crossing of the Jordan into the promised land corresponds to baptism in Christ into the Kingdom of God. Also worthy of note is the symbolic fact that the one who actually crossed the Jordan and brought the people into the "land flowing with milk and honey," was not Moses but Joshua, whose name in Greek is Jesus, thus prefiguring the One Who was to come of the same name, which means Savior, the One Who began His messianic mission of bringing the Kingdom of God by His baptism in the Jordan River.
Thus, every aspect of the old passover-exodus is completed in Christ, perfectly, totally and forever. All of this is renewed and relived in the Church of Christ each year on Easter and Pentecost, and on each Sunday, the Day of the Lord. Whenever the Church gathers, it celebrates the perfect passover of Christ the Lamb of God, Who is also the divine I AM Who exists eternally with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Who was slain for the life of the world.