For 430 years, Israel languished under Egyptian persecution (Exodus 12:40-41). They had no future. The Pharaoh wanted nothing more from them than to grind away their very lives. Supposedly, they were God’s people with promises from God, but when God’s messenger showed up, things just got worse (Exodus 5:17-19).
Then God issued some really strange commands: take in a lamb on the 10th of Nisan (Exodus 12:3), keep that lamb until the 14th day and then slaughter it “between the evenings”—3 o’clock according to the Jews (Exodus 12:6). Use hyssop to paint blood on the sides and top of your doors (Exodus 12:7). Don’t break any of its bones (Exod. 12:46). Call it the Passover. Make sure you never forget that day—the evening of the first full moon after the vernal equinox (Exodus 12:14). Mark that day forever! That day will change how you count time (Exodus 12:2).
Years later, God added a provision. On the “day after the Sabbath” following Passover, offer the first thing that springs up out of the ground as Firstfruits to God (Leviticus 23:11-12).
All of that must have seemed very strange to an oppressed Jewish man as he used a hyssop branch to put lamb’s blood on his doorposts and lintel waiting for God to set him free.
Then came Jesus. Five days before Jesus died, on the 10th of Nisan, Israel took Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12:1, 12). They kept him safe until the end of the day on the 14th, when he died at 3 o’clock (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44). An onlooker mocked Jesus before he died with a hyssop branch (John 19:29). None of Jesus’ bones were broken (John 19:31-36).
Jesus kept the ultimate Sabbath in the grave, and then “on the day after the Sabbath” Jesus rose from the dead as “the Firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
In the Old Testament, Passover began a journey for Israel back to the Eden-like land flowing with milk and honey. Jesus’ Passover inaugurates a journey for his people which will culminate in their return to true Eden. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah talk with Jesus of “his exodus” which he would fulfill in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).
Some 3,500 years after God decreed Exodus 12, we still celebrate the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox; we call it Easter.
Do we read the Old Testament wrongly when we fail to look for Christ? His life, death, and resurrection make the details of the story come together. God knew those details from the very beginning, and he wove them into the story to point forward to Christ.