A year ago I came across three books when searching for a way to bring the Atonement to life for teens. Little did I know these three seemingly innocent books would forever change my outlook on what our Savior suffered, and the significance of what might appear to be ordinary things. I was able to put together a series of posts from those books, ones I'd like to share with you over the course of this week. I may be posting more than once a day, but I truly hope you'll stick with me through them all.
I want to make mention of the author of the books. Andrew Skinner is a professor of ancient scripture down at BYU. It is through his work I am able to bring most of this information to you. If you'd like to read these books for yourself look up Gethsemane, Golgotha, and The Garden Tomb.
Let's start with a brief history of the Passover Feast. To begin to understand the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ, we need to go back about 1200 years from the time of Christ to when this certain occurrence first began
The Israelites had been placed under the bondage of the Egyptians for about four hundred years. After much crying to the Lord, and a great humbling process, a way had at last been provided to free the Israelites in the form of a prophet, Moses.
Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, had no intention of letting the slaves go. Even plagues of locusts, frogs, lice, hail, and other awful testaments of the Lord’s power could not soften Pharaoh’s heart enough to let the Israelites go.
This is when the Passover Feast first happened (Exodus 12). Moses and the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb or kid (sheep or goat) about a year old. The blood of the lamb was to be sprinkled along the sides and top of the doorframe.
For thousands of years since that time the Passover Feast has been celebrated. It typically occurs at the same time as Easter. When it comes to how the Feast is celebrated in this day I am at a loss. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, we do not celebrate the Passover Feast, though the true message of Easter is certainly held in reverence.
“It washed away 430 years of Egypt’s contamination. The blood of the lamb
protected them from the wrath of the Almighty. Its roasted flesh nourished their
bodies with strength for the long, perilous journey ahead. They ate in haste,
loins girded, staff in hand, shoes on their feet, prepared to leave at any
moment at God’s command (Rosen, Ceil, and Moishe Rosen. Christ in the Passover:
Why Is This Night Different? Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1978, pp.23-24).
Three big changes happened in the Passover Feast almost immediately, as we can read in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.
1. It lost its domestic character, and became a sanctuary feast.
2. A seven days’ feast of unleavened bread (hence its usual name), with special offerings was added (Exodus 12:15; Numbers 28:16-25). The first and seventh days were Sabbaths and days of holy convocation.
3. The feast was connected with the harvest.
These weren’t the only changes made. In later times several other ceremonies were added, and were practiced by Christ and His apostles in their lifetime. We can also read of these in the Bible Dictionary.
1. The history of the redemption of Egypt was related by the head of the household.
2. Four cups of wine mixed with water were drunk at different stages of the feast.
3. Psalms 113-118 (the Hallel) were sung.
4. The various materials of the feast were dipped in a sauce.
5. The feast was not eaten standing, but reclining.
6. The Levites (at least on some occasions) slew the sacrifices.
7. Voluntary peace offerings were offered.
There is so much more that goes into the spirit of the Passover Meal that I hope to share with you in my next post, in particular the symbolic nature of what the Lord taught in this Feast. It is also significant to note the two big changes the Lord creates in His last meal upon this earth.