There is a little-known, but significant, historical fact that helps to establish our understanding of Jesus Christ. (014) That fact, found in Exodus 12, was that at the establishment of the feast of Passover God changed the Jewish calendar. This is important because Jesus is identified in 1 Corinthians 5:7 as "Christ, our Passover". Thus Jesus is the fulfillment of the significance of that Jewish feast.
To be the fulfillment, Jesus has to be the ultimate reality that the Passover pictured. And, one of the first things we are told is that, as God initiated the Passover, He changed the calendar. This is historically documented. The Jewish New Year, in what is called their secular calendar, occurs in the fall of the year. We are made aware of it in the news media by their references to "Rosh Hashanah". That's a Hebrew phrase that means the head of the year and it is their term for the New Year. It falls on September 16 this year. [Editor's note: this article was written on May 18, 1993.]
But, it is also a well known fact that Passover occurs in the spring. This year it fell on April 6. This is historically validated. The instruction found in Exodus 12 says that Passover was to be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month. So, the Jews have a second calendar called their religious calendar. The secular year begins in the fall. The religious year begins in the spring.Why?
Why did God command a fundamental change in the way the Jews reckon time when He initiated the observance of the Passover? And how does Jesus exemplify the ultimate reality of that change in the calendar? The answers are rooted in history. To find them, we have to understand some basic things about the way the world reckoned time back in the days of the Exodus.
First, the Egyptian world in which the nation of Israel developed before the Exodus, reckoned its calendar from the on-set of fall. Their new year began when the sun entered the constellation Libra, in the month Tishri (which corresponds, roughly, to our calendar months of the latter half of September, and the first half of October--which is why Rosh Hashanah floats on our present calendars from year to year). And each month was determined by the moon. They began when the moon first became visible on its way to becoming a full moon, and they ended when the moon disappeared from the sky after a complete lunar cycle.
But, it is the significance of the Egyptian interest in the constellation Libra that is important for our understanding of Passover. The month Tishri, in the constellation Libra, was rooted in a religious doctrine: that acceptance before the gods depended upon human merit. If you were obedient to the varied wills of the gods, you would find acceptance in their eyes. If you were disobedient to them, they would relegate you to their equivalence of Hell. This was a gross distortion of Truth, and the God of Truth (Israel's God of History) wanted to erase that emphasis from the minds of His redeemed people. So, He shifted their calendar, and by so doing, shifted their focus of attention. We will find out what that focus shift was in the next article.