God’s Amazing Replays

In the New Testament, Christians read about the Last Supper, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and celebrate these foundational events in the life of the church.

I was amazed when I first discovered that each of these events is actually rooted in the Old Testament, and more specifically in the defining events that shaped the nation of Israel. Understanding the relationship of these critical events to the story of ancient Israel is incredibly rich, because it pours new meaning and depth into the New Testament.

The Last Supper and Crucifixion

Jesus’ final meal with his disciples, the Last Supper, occurred at the celebration of the Passover meal (Matt 26:17), which was originally described in Exodus 12. It was a yearly feast to reenact God’s greatest act of redemption in the history of Israel, the freeing of the nation from slavery in Egypt.

This act defined Israel as a nation and showed God’s great compassion for their suffering. Still to this day, Jews who do not know Christ see it as the most obvious time in all of human history that God intervened in human affairs. Isn’t it interesting that God chose this season to intervene a second time in human affairs to save his people? Only this time it isn’t just physical bondage in slavery, but bondage to sin and death itself.

The Seder meal that Jesus ate is still eaten every year by Jewish people celebrating the Passover feast. The ancient Israelites sacrificed a lamb or kid and marked the doors of their houses with its blood, so that the angel of judgment would pass by.

The parallels between Jesus’ blood protecting us from judgment are obvious. The Israelites smeared patches of blood on the top and on either side of the door, then poured the remaining blood in the trench at the foot of the door. Some think they were marking where Jesus’ blood would be — from the nails in his hands and feet, and from the crown of thorns. What a potent image!

Another strong connection between Jesus and the lamb of Passover is Isaiah 53, one of the most powerful passages in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. … Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5-7, 10-11)

When I first encountered this passage long ago, I thought it was from the New Testament. It actually was written over 700 years before Jesus. I was moved to tears when I saw this text on display in the Isaiah scroll found among as Dead Sea Scrolls, which predate Jesus. This means that thousands of years before Christ, God was thinking of the Lamb to come, and then hundreds of years later, God told Isaiah about his plan. Graciously, God even made sure that a copy would be preserved from before Jesus’ birth until the modern day, in order to show us that it was God’s idea, not a later Christian insertion.

The Pentecost – Sinai Experience

In Acts, we also read about Pentecost, where the disciples heard a wind and saw tongues of fire that split apart and then filled them with the Holy Spirit and the ability to speak in other languages. Jews of every nation heard them speaking their own language. Peter then stands up and speaks, and 3,000 are saved that day (Acts 2).

Our traditional reading of that text is that they were in the upper room when this happened. But Pentecost, or Shavuot, is one of the three major festivals which required their attendance, and at nine in the morning, they would have been at the temple with the crowds of Jews from every country who had come to the feast.

The temple is often referred to as “the house,” and still is in Hebrew. So the temple was filled with a sound of a mighty rushing wind, and the vision of tongues resting on them took place in front of thousands of other people. Here in the temple (and not in an upper room) Peter could speak to the multitudes about Jesus.

The feast of Shavuot is a harvest festival that also commemorated the giving of the covenant on Mount Sinai. On that mountain, God came down in fire and gave his ten commandments, and established his covenant with his people (Exodus 19-20). God used that incredibly important experience in Israel’s life to begin his relationship with them, and he replays it here.

The fire that appears that separates into tongues is reminiscent of God’s appearance in fire on the mountain, as is the wind (Ruach) of God’s Spirit. What is fascinating is that ancient Jewish traditions show even more parallels between Sinai and Pentecost. They said that when God came down to Mount Sinai, angels brought “crowns of fire” for every Israelite. When God spoke,

The Divine voice divided itself into the seventy tongues of men, so that all might understand it… All heard indeed the same words, but the same voice, corresponding to the individuality of each, was God’s way of speaking with them. And as the same voice sounded differently to each one, so did the Divine vision appear differently to each.1

Isn’t it amazing that the scene at the temple is a replay of the great scene at Mount Sinai? It fits in perfectly with what God said he would do for his people in the future:

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:31, 33-34)

On Shavuot of this important year, God poured out his Spirit as part of his new covenant. This Holy Spirit entered the believers’ hearts to guide, convict, correct, give wisdom and enable them to live the way God wanted them to, just as his Torah (Law, or Instruction) did in the first covenant.

All of those who are a part of this new covenant know the Lord, from the least to the greatest. Why? Because the only way to become part of the new covenant is through faith in God through Christ.


1 Legends of the Jews [213 -215], Louis Ginsberg

An excellent source for more information on this topic is the Faith Lessons Video series and study guide, Set 4, by Ray VanderLaan, published by Zondervaan. He discusses many amazing parallels in these stories.

Photos: Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], Jean II Restout [Public domain]

Jesus, the Lamb of God

by Lois Tverberg 

The most important week of the year for Christians is Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection as the lamb that was sacrificed for our sins. Throughout the year we remind ourselves of Jesus’ atonement when we hold up the bread and wine from the Last Supper and think about Jesus’ body that was broken, and his blood that was shed for us.

Some may wonder why we speak of Jesus as the “lamb” or why he talks about bread as his “body” or of a “new covenant” in his “blood.” The key to unlocking many of these important themes is to realize that they are all aspects of the ancient feast of Passover, which was being fulfilled in a powerful new way that year in Christ.


Passover was the first and most important of the seven feasts that God commanded his people to celebrate. It was a time of great joy, a commemoration of the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt that marked the beginning of their nation and defined them as God’s people. Christians may not realize that Jews still consider the exodus God’s greatest act of salvation in the Scriptures. It was at this time of thanking God for his redemption that Jesus completed his much greater act of saving his people for all eternity.

Up until the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the central feast of Passover was a lamb which each family sacrificed and ate as part of a sacred meal. In Exodus, the blood of the lamb was daubed on the doorposts of the houses of Israel, to mark them as protected from judgment on Egypt during the plague against the firstborn sons of Egypt.

Interestingly, Jesus, God’s firstborn, was arrested and condemned the night after the Passover meal, just as the firstborn sons of Egypt long ago. His blood protected us, and he himself took on the condemnation which was upon us as it was on the Egyptians.

The Passover lamb was significant in that it was an offering eaten by the worshippers. The fact that the people were allowed to eat the sacrifice signified that it was part of a covenantal meal between them and God.

All Israelites were required to participate. If a person was unable to, he needed to celebrate one month later (Numbers 9:9-13). Throughout the history of Israel, Passover celebrations often signified Israel’s national recommitment to their covenant with God. Now we can see why Jesus uses this time to speak of a “new covenant” — a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31-34, when God said he would make a new covenant to forgive his people’s sins and give them a new heart to love him.

Passover was also the first night of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. All leavened food had to be removed from homes to commemorate the exit of the Israelites from Egypt before their bread could rise. Leaven was also understood to be symbolic of sin and was never allowed in sacrifices. Jesus would have been holding a piece of unleavened bread in his hand when he said “This is my body,” signifying his worthiness as a sacrifice.

It is particularly interesting that for thousands of years, Passover has been understood to be both be a remembrance of God’s past salvation, as well as a time to expect God’s future redemption in the Messiah. They saw this as originally coming from a passage in Exodus:

“This same night is a night of watching unto the Lord for all the children of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:42).

The people of all generations were to watch for God’s final redeemer, the Messiah. Even today a door is opened and a place is set for Elijah, who is expected to announce the coming Messiah. Jesus used this time of great expectancy to proclaim himself as the Messianic King, bringing a new covenant for forgiveness of sins through the atonement by his own blood.


Further reading:

Our Great Redemption
The Greater Story of Exodus
Who Are You Going to Work For?
Eating at the Lord’s Table
The Imagery of Leaven
The Powerful Imagery of Blood
Longing For Moses

The Lord’s Table as Covenant Meal, written by John Mark Hicks 
He Who Is Coming: The Hidden Afikoman, by Paul Sumner

If you would like to keep learning, En-Gedi also recommends the following articles:

Has DaVinci Painted Our Picture of Jesus?
Repainting Da Vinci Again
The Samaritan Passover
Passover in the Time of Jesus, by Daniel B. Wallace
New Light on Jesus’ Last Week

Photos: En-Gedi Resource Center, A Seder table setting [Public Domain]