Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Passover and the Sacrament

I gave a talk on the symbolism in the Biblical Passover and how it applies to the Atonement and our ordinance of Sacrament today. I thought I would post it here in case it was of interest to anyone. :)


“The Lord instituted the Passover celebration at the time of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, to commemorate their release from slavery after the angel of death slew the firstborn of Egypt but “passed over” the Israelite homes. However, as the symbolism of the Passover is reviewed, it will be clear that the Passover ceremony is not only symbolic of the redemption of Israel in bondage, it also was in similitude of the redemption of mankind from death and sin by the Lamb of God.” (Pratt, “Part 2” E 7/85)

Galatians 3:24 – “The Law [of Moses] was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.”

Mosiah 16:14 – “[The] law of Moses… is a shadow of those things which are to come – teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord.”

Alma 25:15 – “They did look forward to the coming of Christ considering that the Law of Moses a type of His coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until that time he should be revealed unto them.”

“The more we understand and appreciate the Passover service as the Jews observed it in Jesus’ day, the more deeply we can understand our sacramental covenants and marvel anew at the infinite love and sacrifice of our Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ… In the 3,000 year history of the Passover ceremony, very little of it has changed. The basic symbols present in the biblical Passover remain and the order of the service and meaning of the symbolic menu are the same.” (Treseder, Passover Promises Fulfilled in the Last Supper, E 4/90)

“We no longer include a supper with this ordinance, but it is a feast nevertheless.” (Holland, This Do in Remembrance of Me,


When the Israelites were held in bondage by the Egyptians as slaves, Moses asked the Pharaoh to give them liberty. The Pharaoh declined, and the process was repeated 9 times as different plagues punished the Egyptians for his pride. On the night before the 10th Plague, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb and spread its blood over their door. The angel of death would “pass over” any homes with this sign, but would slay the first born sons of any home without it. After this final blow, the Pharaoh told Moses to take his people and leave. Because of this deliverance, the Lord commanded the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, centering on the paschal lamb.

- Jews: through the blood of the lamb, the angel of death passed over the first born sons of the Israelites.
- Christ: through the blood of the lamb, the angel of darkness passes over each of us.

Isaiah 53:7 – “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.”

1 Peter 1:19-20 – “You were… redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Mormon 9:6 – “Perhaps ye may be found spotless… having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.”

According to the Law of Moses, certain things had to happen to the Paschal Lambs in preparation for Passover:

1. Chosen:
Jesus was chosen at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem when he was hailed as Messiah (which means “anointed” in Hebrew)

2. Examined: to strictly adhere to their guidelines.

Some requirements for sacrificial animals: (Ballard, The Law of Sacrifice, E 10/98)
  • Chosen & anointed by the laying on of hands
  • Have its life blood spilt
  • Without blemish – totally free from physical flaws, complete, whole, perfect
  • Clean and worthy
  • Domesticated – not wild, but tame & of help to man
  • Firstborn
  • Male
“Interestingly, the chief priests questioned Jesus in an attempt to find fault with Him at the same time that the Passover lambs for the year were being checked for faults. Thus symbolically the Savior had already begun acting in His role of the lamb for the Atonement’s great and infinite sacrifice.” (Treseder, Passover Promises Fulfilled in the Last Supper, E 4/90)

Similarly, at the joke of a trial, both Pilate and Herod found no fault with Christ.

3. Slain: within a 2 hour period on the day preceding Passover, approximately between 3:00 and 5:00 pm, by a priest at the temple. (This was possible because it had become the custom to perform these sacrifices on two successive days due to the high volume of people attending; and could be why Jesus and his disciples had their Passover meal the day before).

The Lamb was to be killed by “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel” on the Day of Preparation (the day before Passover). The multitude who had assembled in Jerusalem for Passover later consented to his death when they “all” cried out, “Let Him be crucified!”

When I think of a lamb, I imagine a soft, tender, loving and gentle creature. And I feel that Christ’s actions as the Lamb of God only showed those characteristics. He spent his time ministering, teaching, healing, showing his love, and encouraging righteous actions. Some of His very last words showed nothing but those tender, loving attributes: “Behold, thy mother.” “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And even… “It is finished,” which is the final representational statement for every action, every teaching, every moment in his 33 perfect years of condensation and sacrifice for each of us.

“[Then on] the day of crucifixion [and preparation], our Lord, the real sacrifice of which all earlier altar victims had been but prototypes, died on the cross while the Passover lambs were being slain at the temple.” (Talmage, Jesus is the Christ,). (see also John 19:13-14)

4. Hurriedly Prepared: before sunset, after which would begin the first day of Passover.

The body of Jesus had to be hurriedly prepared for burial before sunset, because not only was it the first day of Passover, but also Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, and ironically, that “high” day was too sacred to be doing something such as dealing with leftovers from the crosses on Calvary. The Priests manipulated Pilate to command the Roman soldiers to break the legs of the men on the cross to speed up their death. They were surprised to find Jesus already dead, and thus fulfilled prophecy by keeping his bones intact and piercing him with a sword in the side instead.

“Of course, at the triumphal entry the multitude did not understand that they were choosing the Lamb of God to sacrifice; but believed they were choosing a King whom they expected to liberate them from Roman rule. And at the crucifixion they were unaware that they were sacrificing the Lamb of God, but believed they were slaying an impostor who could not even save his own life.” (Pratt, “Part 2” E 7/85)

In essence, after nearly 1500 years of tradition, these Jews missed the point. Christ was missing. As mentioned, the purpose of Law of Moses was to draw men to Christ! The Nephites understood, and recognized Him when he came, will we? Are we casually partaking of our “symbolic menu” and “feast”? Are we simply going through the outward motions just like the Jews in Christ’s time? Is Christ missing from our actions too?

The Law of Sacrifice:

Leviticus 1:3-4 – “[One should] offer [his sacrifice] of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”

Even then, under their “old law” the purpose of a sacrifice was for an atonement. Symbolically, they cast their sins and weaknesses upon the animal acting in similitude of Christ.

Now that the true Lamb had been sacrificed, a burnt offering was not needed. But we still have an essential role.
3 Nephi 9:20 – “[Now] ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit…”

Contrite = “apologetic, remorseful.” Continually awake to our faults and desperately willing to become better.
Broken Heart = humble.

“So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the sacrifice unto the Lord of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, a prerequisite to taking up the cross while giving away all our sins and in order to know God for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him.” (Maxwell, Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness, E 4/95).

“The Law of Sacrifice provides an opportunity for us to prove to the Lord that we love Him more than any other thing. As a result, this course sometimes becomes difficult since this is the process of perfection that prepares us for the celestial kingdom.” (Ballard, The Law of Sacrifice, E 10/98)

Our will, our agency, is the only thing we truly own. What do we do with our time? That shows where our true treasures lie.


- Jews: the bitterness of bondage of slavery
- Christ: drank the bitter cup (bitterness of the bondage of sin)

3 Nephi 11:11 – “And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world…”

Scriptural examples. These men have experienced true heartache and bitterness changed into joy.

Mosiah 27:29 – “My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss, but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment, but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” (Alma the Younger)

Job 3:20 – “Light is given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul.”

Moses 1:20 – (Just saw God, and now Satan is visiting him) “…Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.”

Are we experiencing bitterness in our lives? From life’s trials, or from our own sin, or maybe from our judgement and resentment of others? Are we causing bitterness in our lives from refusing forgiveness to another? Christ drank the bitter cup, and removed it from our “feast” because we shouldn’t partake of the bitterness. As we can see from these examples, bitterness only comes from Satan, and we must allow Christ to turn our bitterness into something sweet.


- Jews: Drink 4 glasses symbolic of 4 verbs – “bring”, “free”, “redeem”, “take” throughout their feast.
- Christ: His “redeeming” blood

Exodus 6:6-7 – “I am the Lord, and I will BRING you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians, I will FREE you from being slaves to them, and I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will TAKE you as my own people…”

This verse can exactly be applied to us with only the names changed:

“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of [the devil], I will free you from being slaves to [him], and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people…”

When we think of the redeeming blood that Christ spilt for us, we think of his actions in Gethsemane.

Christ described his experience: D&C 19:15, 18 – “I God have suffered these things for all…which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit…that they might not suffer if they would repent.”

Gethsemane = “oil press” (Hebrew)

“The olive branch is universally regarded as the symbol of peace. The tree provides food, light, heat, lumber, ointments, and medicine. It is now, as it was then, crucial to life in Israel. It is not a deciduous tree, but everbearing – always green. Even if the tree is chopped down, life will spring from its roots, suggesting everlasting life. Jewish tradition often refers to the olive tree as the tree of life….There, olives had been pressed under the weight of great stone wheels to squeeze precious oil from the olives. So the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was literally pressed under the weight of the sins of the world. He sweated great drops of blood – his life’s “oil” – which issued from every pore.” (Nelson, Why This Holy Land?, E 12/89)

Messiah = “anointed” (Hebrew)

“In our day, as it was in His day, the ordinances of administration to the sick [or sacred temple ordinances] include anointing with the consecrated oil of the olive. So the next time [you witness an ordinance using olive oil,] remember what that original consecration cost… remember the redemptive power of healing, soothing, ministering to those in need. Remember, just as the body of the olive, which was pressed for the oil that gave light, so the Savior was pressed. From every pore oozed the lifeblood of our Redeemer.” (Nelson, Why This Holy Land?, E 12/89)

After eating The Last Supper with His disciples, Christ led them into the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked 3 of them to walk a little further with him into the Garden, and “watch with [Him].” After suffering a while He came back out and found the 3 disciples asleep and said, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”

Matthew 26:41 – “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Are we asleep? Do we partake of the “symbolic menu” on Sunday, then go right on out into our daily lives and fall spiritually asleep? We learn that even if the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, we can watch and pray for help. Is that not the whole purpose of “gaining a body” on this earth? To become disciplined with our mortal tool? I am sure that it is no coincidence that “disciple” and “disciplined” are from the same root word.


- Jews: leaving Egypt with haste, and experiencing freedom from slavery
- Christ: His “freeing” body

Unleavened bread contains no yeast and can therefore be baked without waiting for it to rise. The upper chamber would have been purged of leaven. No products containing leaven could be present anywhere in the house during the Passover.

Leaven (yeast) = evil/sin

Luke 12:1 – “… beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

1 Corinthians 5:8 – “…let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

How perfect then, that the bread represents Christ’s body? He is without hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness, and is the perfect example of sincerity and truth. When we come to the sacrament table and partake of “The Bread of Life” do we “hurriedly” recognize and “hastily” run away from the bondage of sin? Do we quickly use the atonement to bring ourselves freedom?

“Matzah is the symbol of freedom – the Israelites having left Egypt so hurriedly that bread could not properly rise. The bread still represents freedom – from death and sin, but also represents the medium through which that freedom is won.” (Treseder, Passover Promises Fulfilled in the Last Supper, E 4/90)

Perhaps there is another symbol in “partaking” of the Savior’s body. He also continually calls to us to:

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Alma 7:12 – “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and his will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities… that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance…”

When we truly offer up our whole selves – our will, our time, and the animal inside each of us – onto the altar, he can strengthen us. That is what it takes to really “yoke ourselves” with Christ, that is really taking upon the name of Christ, because we are indeed following his example of saying, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” We can be lifted, strengthened, and our burdens can be light. 

Our Sacramental Feast still has 4 parts, even if two foods from the menu have been removed. 
1. There is still a sacrificial Lamb, and we remember and recognize Christ as that Lamb when we allow Him to change us. Our part in that sacrifice is to give him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. 

2. The bitter cup has already been drunk. We are not required to partake of it, but are to turn over all of our bitterness to the One who drank. We allow Him to turn our bitterness into something sweet.

3. We do partake of the Living Water, symbolic of the redeeming blood his spilt for us. When we remember the freedom, the redemption from sin and Satan's grasp, we allow him to "take us as His people."

4. We also partake of the Bread of Life. We remember the perfect sincerity and truth He embodies, and we want it to become part of us as well. We have access to His perfect strength, persistence, charity, and all other divine traits by yoking ourselves with Him. 

“This is the majesty of the Atonement and Resurrection, not just a “pass over” from death, but a gift of eternal life by an infinite sacrifice.” (Hunter, Christ, Our Passover, E 5/85). 


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