Wednesday 4 April 2018

The Relationship Between Old and New Testament Pascha

By Bishop Alexander of Buenos Aires

The Old Testament Law, according to the words of the holy Apostle Paul, was a "children's guide to Christ" and "a shadow of good things to come" (Gal. 3:24, Heb. 10:1); in other words, the purpose of the Old Law was to prepare the Israelite people for the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, as the Old Testament prophecies for the most part speak of the Messiah, so the most important events were foreshadowings of New Testament events, referring to the life of the Saviour and of the Christian Church. 

In this regard the Old Testament feast of Pascha (Passover) has a particularly important significance. This feast was inaugurated at the time of the Prophet Moses (1,300 B.C), on the occasion of the deliverance through their Angel of the Israelite firstborn from destruction and of the saving of the Jewish peoples from slavery in Egypt. From Moses' time, the Jews counted the feast of Pascha as especially holy.

Thus, the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died on the Cross and rose from the dead during the festal days of Passover constitutes an indication from God concerning the deep, internal bond between these two great events. The Apostles pointed out this connection in their epistles, and especially the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that the Old Testament events which are commemorated by the festival of the Jewish Passover, indicated aforetime the spiritual rebirth of mankind, which would come about as a result of the Resurrection of Christ. So that we can see the bond between the two Paschas, let us set the events of the Old and the New Covenants in parallel.

In the Old Testament, we have the sacrifice of the spotless paschal lamb and the anointing with its blood of the lintels of the doors of the houses, where the Israelites lived, as a consequence of which the Angel passed over these houses and the Jewish firstborn were saved (it is from this that we have the word Passover, which derives from "to pass over," Exodus, chapter 12); in the New Covenant, we have the sacrifice on the Cross of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, by Whose blood, the new firstborn, the Christians, are saved (1 Peter 1:19). In the Old: the miraculous crossing by the Jews of the Red Sea and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt; in the New: Baptism in water and deliverance from slavery to the devil. Furthermore, in the Old Testament: the granting on the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt of the Law on Mount Sinai and the conclusion of a covenant (a bond) between God and the Chosen People; in the New: the descent of the Holy Spirit on the fiftieth day after Pascha and the establishment of a new covenant between God and the faithful. In the Old: the miraculous provision of food by God as manna. In the New: the eating of the Heavenly Bread, the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Old Testament: the forty year wandering in the wilderness and the various experiences through which the Jewish people were strengthened in their faith in God; in the New Testament: the experiences which the Christian meets in his life and which strengthen him in faith and in the virtues. In the Old: the raising up of the bronze serpent, glancing upon which the Jews were saved from snake bite; in the New: by the power of the Cross we are delivered from the pangs inflicted by the spiritual snake, the devil. Finally, in the Old Testament: the Jews' taking possession of the Land of Promise; in the New Testament: the promise to the faithful of a new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness abides (2 Peter 3:13).

From this comparison of the paschal events, we see how the events of the Old Testament Passover foretold great spiritual changes in the life of mankind. The beginning of these saving events was laid by the death upon the Cross and by the Resurrection from the dead of the Saviour of the world.

Therefore, the Apostles, celebrating the new Pascha, cried out: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!" (1 Cor. 5:7).

This translation appeared in The Shepherd, Volume XX, April 2000

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