A common title Christians give Jesus is the Lamb of God. Without a solid understanding of the scriptures one may not notice the significance of this title. My goal for today’s post is to briefly detail the connections between the Old Testament Passover and Jesus’ Passion and Death in the New Testament as the New Passover. I present you four specific ways Jesus is appropriately called the New Passover Lamb.
- Timing is Everything: Traditionally Christians celebrate Good Friday to be linked with the Passover sacrifice of Judaism. To give a quick overview of the importance of the Passover feast, in the Book of Exodus God saved the Israelite firstborns if they sacrificed their finest lamb [a firstborn sheep] and spread the blood on the wooden doorposts. In the Gospel of John, the evangelist makes a point to mention the Passover sacrifice at least three times—which incidentally, confirms the three year timespan of Jesus’ public ministry. More to the point, in John 19:14 the gospel writer specific states the time of day Jesus’ execution occurred [He says, “It was the Preparation Day for Passover, and the hour was about noon”]. What I found out in reading the footnotes of this passage is that noon was the hours by which the priests began to slaughter the Passover Lambs in the temple. I do not believe this timing was a coincidence on John’s part.
- Innocent Victim and Firstborn: Similar to the innocent lamb slain during Passover, Jesus was innocent of any crime and is the firstborn [and only] Son of God. Pilate repeatedly tries to give Jesus an escape from this sentence because in his heart the Roman governor did not view Jesus as guilty (see John 19:4; 19:12; 19:15).
- Hyssop: Before I taught a lesson to my students on John’s Gospel I always found John 19:28-29: “Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.” Interestingly enough, the Old Testament place where the word hyssop is also mentioned is in Exodus 12:22. Hyssop was the same plant used to spread the blood of the Passover Lamb on the wooden doorpost of the Israelite households. John wants his readers to see Jesus as the New Passover Lamb—whose blood is smeared on the wood of the Cross. This time instead of saving only Israelite homes, Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone.
- 206: There are 206 bones in the human body. None of Jesus’ bones were broken. The evangelist states the reason for this as to fulfill the Scripture promise, “Break none of his bones” (John 19:31-36). Likewise, the Passover Lamb was slain in a similar manner. According to Exodus 12:46, “It [Passover Lamb] must be eaten in one and the same house; you may not take any of its flesh outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.”
While there are many more connections between the Jewish Passover celebration and Jesus’ Passion and Death, I will leave you to ponder the points I made above. Read and reflect on Exodus 12 and John 19. The more I have flipped pages back and forth between the Old and New Testaments the greater appreciation I have for my Catholic faith.