The Pharisees tested Jesus with this question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Mt 22:35-41). Through this, Jesus meant that the most important core of the Law established by God is love, and that the ultimate goal why God established the Law of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament and commanded us to keep them is also love.
We cannot keep the first commandment that Jesus taught us when we vaguely think that we love God. If we fail to understand the deep truth of God, we come to serve other gods unknowingly though we say we believe and love God just with our mouths. In reality, many people do that. Then, what allows us to accomplish the first commandment that Jesus told us about? To get right to the point, it is the Passover of the new covenant.
The Passover enables us to love God perfectly
There is a record of a person who was recognized by God that he loved God with all his heart and with all his mind.
2 Ch 23:25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
That Josiah turned to God in accordance with all the Law of God with all his heart, soul and strength means that he kept the commandment, “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind,” the first commandment which all the Law and the Prophets hang on. The reason Josiah was highly praised for following the first commandment and all the Law of God was that he kept the Passover.
2 Ki 23:21-23 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem.
No one kept the Passover as thoroughly as Josiah in the history of Israel. By keeping the Passover, Josiah won the high praise from God that neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him
who turned to God as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul in accordance with all the Law. This means that he kept the first and greatest commandment which Jesus said. This, in turn, means that we can have testimony of God that we fully obey the first commandment when we keep the Passover as Josiah did.
From the time when God first proclaimed the Law, He made it clear that the Passover and the first commandment have an inseparable relationship.
Dt 6:4-8 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
God requested His people to tie the first commandment, “Love God with all your heart, soul and strength,” on their hands and bind it on their foreheads. And this applied to the Passover in the same way.
Ex 13:8-9 On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips . . .
The day when the Israelites came out of Egypt from their slavery was the Passover. On that day, God destroyed every firstborn of the Egyptians and saved the firstborn of the Israelites. God told them to make the Passover, commemoration of God’s work of salvation, a sign on their hands and a reminder on their foreheads, just as the words in Deuteronomy 6, and this ultimately means the first commandment, “Love God with all your mind,” is the Passover.
Ex 13:3-4 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. Today, in the month of Abib, you are leaving.”
Ex 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
God states the same thing at the beginning of the Passover and that of the first commandment. And when He explained the reason we must keep the first commandment, bringing forward the Passover, He said the same thing, meaning, “Am I not the Savior who delivered you from Egypt when you were in slavery? So, do not serve other gods but only serve Me on the Passover, remembering the day when I delivered you.” The Passover itself is the first commandment.
The Passover destroys other gods
We can fulfill the first commandment when we keep the Passover, because God destroys other gods on the Passover.
Ex 12:11-12 . . . it is the LORD’s Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.
God designated the Passover as the day of judgment of all gods in the world. So, when we keep the Passover when all gods other than the true God are destroyed, we can rule out other gods completely and serve God only and love Him with all our heart. That is, we can observe the first commandment perfectly.
2 Ki 23:1-4 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets— all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel.
2 Ki 23:21-24 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem. Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD.
It was in the eighteenth year of King Josiah that he kept the Passover. Although he believed in God before and believed that he lived in accordance with the will of God, he served other gods unknowingly. Only after he realized the truth of the Passover were his spiritual eyes opened and he eliminated all idols.
The same thing happened in the times of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah the king of Judah kept the Passover together with his people though they had not kept it for a long time, and those who kept the Passover demolished detestable idols that they had had, since that time (2 Ch 30:1; 2 Ch 31:1). The Passover truly is the truth that enables us only to serve and love God with all our heart, by destroying other gods.
The Passover of the new covenant
Through the Law and the history of Israel, God showed us that we can observe the first commandment, “Love God with all your mind,” only when we keep the Passover. However, through the Passover of the Old Testament that people kept by the blood of lambs, we cannot follow the first and greatest commands that Jesus told us. Because we cannot fully realize the sacrifice of God with the sacrifice of animals, we cannot love God with all our mind.
The Passover of the Old Testament is a copy and shadow to show us the Passover of the new covenant in advance, which would be established in the New Testament times (Heb 10:1; Col 2:17). In order for us to know how amazing the truth of the new covenant that would be established through Christ is, God made the history of the Old Testament as a copy.
Jesus, who is the reality of the Passover lamb, is God—the highest One in the whole universe. God came to this earth to save sinners, who were sentenced to death, from sin and death. He was ridiculed, mocked and despised from the wicked. He was whipped and pierced by the crown of thorns, and suffered severe pain while shedding blood on the cross. The truth through which we can realize the sacrifice and love of God is the Passover of the new covenant. In the Passover bread and wine, there is the holy sacrifice and love of God who tore His flesh and shed His blood to save us (1 Co 5:7; Mt 26:17-28).
As it was shown through the Passover of the Old Testament, which was a shadow, the Passover of the new covenant is the truth that enables us to love God who saved us from sin, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. When we keep the Passover of the new covenant and fill our hearts with the sacred love of God, no other gods including Satan can take our hearts.
Therefore, we must not regard the Passover just as one of the feasts when we give service on a certain day. We have to cherish God’s love in our hearts by valuing the Passover and keeping it holy. Taking a step forward, we are to let the whole world know the way to truly love God. It is the very way that we can love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves so that we can fulfill the Law.