By Luke Lancaster
The Jewish Passover feast is an extraordinary feast. It is first mentioned in Exodus 12, when the Jews lived in Egypt under Pharoah. They are told to take a lamb, kill it, eat it, and then spread the blood of the lamb over their doorposts. This is because the final plague God would send upon Egypt is the angel of death, who is sent by God to kill all the firstborn of the Egyptians. The firstborn children of the Israelites, however, are to be spared, for the angel would not go into the homes which had blood spread over the doorposts. Moses calls this "the Passover sacrifice to the Lord," for the Israelites are "passed over" by God (Exodus 12:27).
This is significant because, when Jesus comes, He is called the "Lamb of God." For when John the Baptist sees Jesus as he is baptizing people, he declares to all, "Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:29). This seems to be a reference to the Jewish Passover meal, which was celebrated every year since the actual event by the angel of death. Jesus is the true lamb to be killed, to be eaten, and to be our protection, from the angel of death.
Fast-forward two years, and Scripture records Jesus speaking, during the feast of Passover, about needing to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53). Then a year after this during the Last Supper (which was again during the feast of Passover), Jesus takes bread and says of the bread, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20).
Jesus is basically claiming to be the lamb of Passover that was to die and be eaten. His Body was to be eaten like the lamb, and His Body was to die like the lamb. This flesh was going to be "given" for us on Calvary, and this prompted St. Paul to say, "Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Truly, the Eucharist is our new Passover. His flesh is "food indeed" and His blood is "drink indeed" (John 6:55).