Recently I found some of my notes from keeping the Passover as a small group a few years ago. Rather than the very formal and consistent script that many of the corporate COGs use for Passover, the smaller groups often have a more interactive meeting where multiple people share speaking roles.
This post is adapted from my notes when I presented the Passover wine meaning portion of the ceremony one year. While a bit more perfunctory than many studies on the site, these are good themes to re-visit as we prepare for the Passover every year, and may be helpful for those keeping it in small, interactive groups.
Themes of Keeping the Passover: The Wine
We know that every single one of us has sinned, and so fall short of the glory of God. And we know that the penalty for that sin is death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23).
God told the Israelites that the blood of the many sacrifices He required was to help make atonement for them, saying “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).
Prior to Christ coming to earth and giving His life for our sins, for Israel to keep the Passover entailed the slaughter of thousands of lambs as a symbol of this need for cleansing. But in Hebrews, Paul makes it clear that it’s not possible for the blood of animals to actually take away sins (Heb. 10:4).
Instead, Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—came as our eternal High Priest to make this atonement for us.
“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God…
And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:12-15, 22)
That word translated “remission” means freedom, pardon, forgiveness, or liberty. As our kinsman-redeemer, Christ purchased us with His blood, freeing us from the debt (death) that we owed and from our bondage to sin.
He was able to pay the price for our sins, and transfer ownership of us from Satan (the ruler of this world) to the God family ONLY because He didn’t owe the same debt. He was perfect and blameless, never having committed even a single sin.
“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:15, 18-19)
As our Passover Lamb, only Christ was qualified to make this sacrifice. This redemption out of sin makes possible our eternal salvation, and opens the door for our future roles in God’s kingdom.
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed them to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And have made them kings and priests [or a kingdom of priests] to our God; and they shall reign on the earth’” (Rev. 5:9-10)
We had to be redeemed with blood, because death is the penalty of sin, and only the death of someone who had not sinned could pay that price. While this forgiveness is a gift of grace, God does require us to repent of our sins, turn from our old ways, and walk in His paths to stay in covenant with Him.
This repentance is not a one-time thing that covers us forever, but rather a continual process as we seek to become more like Christ over time.
What is absolutely amazing about this is that God the Father and the Son were willing to pay this price for us while we were (and are) still sinners (Rom. 5:8-9).
John tells us that if we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from all sin, and that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness (I John 1:7, 9). We are required to walk away from our old life and follow Christ’s example moving forward.
The biggest thing we typically focus on at Passover regarding the wine is a symbol of Christ’s shed blood covering our sins—like the blood on the doorpost that protected ancient Israel.
But there’s another analogy that I often dwell on at this time, and that’s the spring holy day season as picturing the betrothal and marriage of Christ to His bride.
The wine as a symbol of betrothal
In the ancient Hebrew customs, after the bride is chosen and accepts the marriage proposal, they come together for a betrothal ceremony. This includes sharing a cup of wine to seal the covenant, called the cup of acceptance.
The bridegroom then pays the price set by her father, gives the bride herself gifts, and leaves to prepare a place for them in his father’s household, returning later to claim his bride.
Christ paid the ultimate price for His bride by shedding His blood and giving His life for her, “that He might sanctify and cleanse her…[and] present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Then He sent the holy spirit as a gift to sustain His bride while He was away.
For me this has added some extra meaning to Christ’s words in the Passover service, because after He tells them to drink of the cup, He also says He won’t drink of this until that day when He drinks it new with them (us) in the kingdom.
The tradition was that the bride and groom would share a second cup of wine at the marriage ceremony to reaffirm the commitment, and I believe He was referencing this symbolism.
When we drink the wine at the Passover, we not only reaffirming the commitment we made at conversion and baptism, and commemorating Christ’s sacrifice blotting out our sins, but also symbolizing the betrothal of Christ and his bride, and looking forward to the marriage supper to take place upon His return.
Shortly before His death, Christ instituted the Passover with His closest friends and followers: “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:27-29).
Why does this matter so much? Some time before Christ’s death, John relays Jesus’s words regarding His blood.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat this flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).
I hope everyone has an inspiring and spiritually-connecting Passover season.