And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did. And there were certain men who were unclean through touching a dead body, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day, and they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. And those men said to him, “We are unclean through touching a dead body. Why are we kept from bringing the LORD’s offering at its appointed time among the people of Israel?” And Moses said to them, “Wait, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.”
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it. But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the LORD’s offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native.” (Numbers 9:1-14 ESV)
One of the holy festivals Yahweh gave to Israel to observe was Passover, a remembrance of the day God sent a death upon the firstborn of Egypt. But the Israelites sacrificed and ate a lamb and spread its blood on their doorposts so that the death passed over them and they were spared (Exodus 12). By this means God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Pharaoh let them leave.
Now they observe it after traveling in the wilderness for a year, but He makes provision for an alternate observance for those who are unclean or out of the country (in the future) during the festival. The fourteenth day of the second month of the year they must observe it, presuming that they will be clean again by this time. Failure to keep the Passover when you are able is a capital offense. Non-Jews who live among Israel in years to come, and who desire to participate in Passover, may do so.
Passover was a sacred symbol of humanity’s deserving of death and yet God’s provision of a just way to escape death through sacrifice of a substitute in our place. Jesus is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). We celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ Passover supper with his apostles, as the commemoration of our deliverance.
We are not under the same rule in regard to celebrating the Lord’s Supper as Israel was to celebrate the Passover. Indeed, Paul urges the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11), who are inappropriately observing the Lord’s Supper, to desist and eat at home if they cannot properly observe it in the church. Of course, the preferred approach is to observe it correctly in the meeting of the church. To contradict its intended purpose is to court God’s discipline, which may include death (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
ACCORDING TO PAUL, it was not truly the Lord’s Supper unless everyone from any social status ate it together, signifying equal inclusion. Bread and wine eaten in the context of a full meal also symbolize care for the poor, for when all eat together, there are no needy.
Reta Halteman Finger, “An Instinct for Community”