Over many years in Sunday School, in church, and at school (I went to a Christian school.), I remember hearing the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12) many times, almost as often as I heard about the non-escape of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. But in all that time, I don’t recall ever hearing that God orchestrated–and Luke portrayed–this escape to be a mirror image of the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt.
I don’t think there was any grand conspiracy of silence involved. Maybe it was taught, and I missed it, but I think it’s more likely that most of my teachers were unaware of the parallels themselves. But once you become very familiar with the story of the first Passover in Exodus, the connections are very difficult to miss. Check out this startling list:
|Peter’s Passover||Israel’s Passover|
|Herod persecuted Yeshua’s followers.||Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews.|
|Herod killed James (“Jacob” in Hebrew).||Pharaoh killed the infant sons of Jacob.|
|Peter was arrested and imprisoned during Passover.||Passover commemorates the enslavement and redemption of the Hebrews.|
|The congregation of believers prayed for Peter’s deliverance.||The Hebrews cried out to God for their deliverance.|
|There were sentries outside Peter’s cell door.||The Egyptians were outside the blood-marked doors of the Hebrews.|
|An angel, who lit up Peter’s cell, appeared to lead him out of prison.||An angel in the form of a pillar of fire led the Hebrews out of Egypt.|
|The angel woke Peter and told him to get up quickly.||God told the Hebrews to be prepared to leave Egypt quickly.|
|Peter’s chains were removed by a miracle.||The Hebrews’ chains were removed by a series of miraculous plagues.|
|The angel told Peter to dress and put on his sandals.||The Hebrews were told to eat the Passover with their sandals on and staffs in hand|
|The angel and Peter walked out past the guards with no resistance.||The Hebrews walked out of Egypt with the full cooperation of the Egyptian people.|
|God caused the gates into the city to open to let Peter pass.||God caused the Red Sea to part to let the Hebrews pass.|
|Peter said, “Now I am sure the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod and all that the Jewish people were expecting.”||Jethro heard all that God had done in rescuing Israel from Egypt.|
|Peter went to the house of Mary (“Miriam” in Hebrew) where there was a prayer meeting in progress.||Miriam led worship and prayer after the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea.|
|There was a disturbance in Herod’s court when Peter’s absence was discovered.||Pharaoh was angry and regreted that he had let the Hebrews go.|
|Herod killed the guards who allowed Peter to escape.||God killed Pharaoh’s charioteers in the Red Sea.|
|The neighboring kingdoms depended on Herod for food.||The neighboring kingdoms depended on Pharaoh for food during the famine of Joseph’s time.|
|The people who heard Herod’s speech praised him as a god.||The Egyptians worshiped Pharaoh as a god.|
|An Angel of the Lord killed Herod.||God drowned Pharaoh in the Sea.|
We usually think of the Passover as a one-time event (God delivered the Hebrews from Egypt) that prophesied another one-time event (the death and resurrection of Yeshua). Done and done. But that’s not really the way that God works. He builds everything around themes, applying the same patterns over and over, almost like ripples across the surface of time.
Passover also appears in the destruction of Sodom:
- Abraham washed the feet of his guests and offered a meal with unleavened bread.
- Lot offered a meal of unleavened bread to the angels.
- Lot and his family sheltered in his house while angels caused mayhem in Sodom.
- The angels lead Lot and his family to safety while God destroyed Sodom.
In the binding of Isaac:
- God led Abraham on a three day journey into the wilderness.
- Father Abraham left his servants (his disciples) behind while he and his son go on ahead to the altar.
- Isaac carried the wood for his own death.
- The near death and subsequent resurrection of Isaac.
And in John’s Revelation:
- A series of plagues devastate the world (Egypt).
- Those covered in the blood of the lamb are saved from or through the plagues.
- The redemption of the 144,000.
- The saints sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.
There are probably other echoes of Passover in Scripture that I haven’t seen yet or can’t remember right now. My point is that it is a mistake to call one of God’s feasts “fulfilled” as if it’s no longer relevant. God wasn’t done with Passover when the Red Sea closed over the Egyptians. In fact, He was only just getting started. Nor was He done with it when Yeshua rose from the grave, as we can see in Peter’s escape from prison and in Paul’s use of Passover themes to teach holy living.
Yeshua’s death and resurrection wasn’t an echo of the Passover in Egypt, but the other way around. Egypt was an echo of Calvary, and it wasn’t the only one, either before or after. We can expect another Passover and another Exodus at the Day of the Lord described by the prophets.
Just as the plagues and the march out of Egypt weren’t a walk in the park for anyone, not even the Hebrews, so the Exodus to come won’t be pleasant. And like all great events and disasters, thorough preparation can make things much easier. We keep Passover every year as a memorial of what has already happened and so that we will be able to recognize God’s patterns when we see them in the world around us.
God’s feasts aren’t arbitrary, nor are they only historical. They are ongoing training that we can use to better understand His character and His plan, and to be better prepared for the future. If we are taken off guard at how events unfold, there’s no real excuse. God showed us what will happen, and then He told us and showed us again, and commanded us to learn it and rehearse it.
If you’ve never kept Passover before, it’s not too late. You can start this year, and don’t worry about getting all the details right. God doesn’t expect anyone to get it perfect or else He wouldn’t have told us to keep doing it year after year. But you do have to start somewhere.
Hebrew for Christians has a lot of good information on Passover at their website here. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one piece at a time and progress as you can. Find some believers near you who are hosting a Passover seder and ask if you can join them. Who would say no?