Catholic Classroom: Passover and Easter
Question: What does Passover tell us about Easter?
We know from the Bible that there is a temporal connection between Passover and Easter—Jesus’ Passion takes place right after he eats the Passover meal with his disciples. But this timing is more than just a coincidence. Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection is actually the fulfillment of the Passover.
The Jewish feast of Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. During that historical event, God sent a plague to Egypt that would strike down the firstborn of each household. God spared the Israelites, however. He instructed each family to slaughter a lamb without blemish, eat it, and mark their doorpost with its blood. Seeing the blood of the lamb, God would pass over that house and spare the firstborn. In response to this plague, Pharaoh let the Israelites go, and God thus delivered them from slavery.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God (John 1:29). In doing so, he is the first to recognize Jesus as the Lamb who will finally and definitively save God’s people from the slavery of sin. Just like the lamb each family sacrificed at Passover, Jesus was unblemished—completely without sin. Jesus offered his Body and Blood for his people to consume so that they might be saved, just as the Passover lamb had the effect of saving each Israelite family.
Jesus’ sacrifice is the completion and fulfillment of the Passover. By offering his Body and Blood in atonement for our sins, Jesus saved us in a radical act of love. And by instituting the Eucharist, he invited each of us to partake and receive salvation. Unlike the Passover lamb, Jesus did not simply die, but he conquered death and rose from the dead. In defeating death and liberating us from sin, Jesus invited us to eternal life with him.
As Christians, we believe that God indeed delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt at Passover, and we joyfully pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters as they celebrate this important feast. But we also believe that Jesus fulfilled that deliverance perfectly by saving us from death for good. This salvation is everlasting, not just a moment in history. For this reason, instead of celebrating Passover, we celebrate what Passover prefigured: the sacrifice of the perfect Paschal Lamb and his glorious resurrection on Easter.