Passover is the only festival of God that is so important to keep that God allows people to take it a month late if they are unable to do so at the regular time. We find this law, and the circumstances that allow someone to take advantage of it, in Numbers 9. Let us look in particular at how this allowance to take Passover a month late under certain circumstances shows the importance of Passover to God, and how important Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread should be to us as well .
The Second Passover
Our account of how there came to be a Second Passover begins in Numbers 9:1-5, which talks about the Passover the children of Israel kept after their first year in the wilderness. Numbers 9:1-5 reads as follows: “Now 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 children of Israel keep the Passover on its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.”
Let us briefly comment on a couple of things this passage says. For one, God had to tell Moses which month was the first month for the children of Israel to keep the Passover. In addition, we see that this Passover, even though it was kept in the wilderness, was to be kept with all of the rites and ceremonies that were commanded in Exodus 12 for the Passover the year before. And since this passage closes with the comments that the children of Israel did as God had commanded them through Moses, let us ask ourselves some questions. What would keep someone from being able to take the Passover? And what did God do for such people to allow them to keep the Passover later? We find out both of these answers here in Numbers 9.
Numbers 9:6-14 gives us those answers as well as more questions. Numbers 9:6-14 reads: “Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel.” And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.” Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord’s Passover. On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They may leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the Lord at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Passover, he must do according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.”
The Passover (and possibly the Days of Unleavened Bread, according to 2 Chronicles 30 ) was the only festival that could be taken late based on being on a journey or being unclean for one reason or another. We will talk in a little while about ceremonial uncleanness and how it kept the Passover from being kept on time at least once in ancient Israel. We should note as well that some sicknesses made someone considered as ceremonially clean as well. The Second Passover was not intended to allow people to be lazy, but rather to have an opportunity to share in the communion of the people of Israel a month later if they were kept from doing so by journey or illness or uncleanness from doing so at the ordinary time.
Let us be clear about the Second Passover, though. Aside from being kept exactly one lunar month later, it was to be identical to the Passover. It was kept the same way with the same ceremonies and with the same standards. This ought to lead us to ask a deep question. Why was it so important in ancient Israel for Israelites to have a second chance to keep the Passover a month later? We know that for us the Passover means taking the bread and the wine and footwashing and sharing in the memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But all the way in ancient Israel it was considered so important for Israelites to take the Passover that they had two chances to do it if they were unable to participate in the Passover the first time. That is remarkable and unusual, and it shows how important the Passover is to God.
The Second Passover In History
So, was the Second Passover important enough for the Bible to talk about in other places? Indeed it was. Last Sabbath, on the First Day of Unleavened Bread, we talked about the Second Passover of Hezekiah during my offertory message . I would like to return to this story but focus on a slightly different part of the story. Let us first turn to 2 Chronicles 30:1-3, which tells both us that King Hezekiah and the children of Judah and Israel kept the Second Passover and why they kept it. 2 Chronicles 30:1-3 reads: “And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. For the king and his leaders and all the assembly in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the second month. For they could not keep it at the regular time, because a sufficient number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people gathered together at Jerusalem.”
This is an interesting story, and it tells us two very intriguing reasons why the Second Passover could be kept even for a whole nation under certain circumstances. In this case we see two reasons why the Passover could not be kept by the nation at the normal time. First, there were not enough ceremonially clean priests to slaughter the Passover lambs (we will talk more about this). Second, the people themselves had not been ready to keep the Passover at the normal time. For God’s festivals to take place, both leaders and followers had to be ready. People had to be prepared to teach as well as perform the physical tasks of the Passover. This requires leaders to be committed to God’s ways, which has been rare throughout history, including today. In addition, there have to be people willing and able to follow godly leaders. When God works about the religious revival of a nation, everyone is involved, from the king and priests to the ordinary believers in cities and towns and villages all around. Without godly common people, there is no godly nation. A godly nation needs both godly people and godly leaders, with their hearts and ways committed to God.
In fact, the lack of moral cleanliness of the priests had consequences. We read of these consequences in 2 Chronicles 29:34. 2 Chronicles 29:34 reads: “But the priests were too few, so that they could not skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brethren the Levites helped them until the work was ended and until the other priests had sanctified themselves, for the Levites were more diligent in sanctifying themselves than the priests.” This is an important detail that we may often overlook. The priests, like most elites in history, were very jealous about protecting their sole privilege to sacrifice, but because the Levites, those who were busy in the musical service or security, were more diligent to cleanse themselves than the priests, the Levites got to share in those privileged duties until the job was done. Those who fail to have the right priorities of spiritual service to the brethren lose their privileges. Let us remember that.
All One Body
What is the significance of the Second Passover for us today? The Second Passover gives brethren the chance to take the Passover a month later if they are unable to take it for reasons of sickness or travel. There is a second chance to share the blood and body of Christ and the humility of footwashing so as to be in communion with the body of believers. Passover is a festival of unity, where we all share in commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allowed us all to be forgiven of our sins, and commemorating the resurrection which pictures our own promise of eternal life in God’s Messianic Kingdom if we remain faithful to God.
Ephesians 4:1-6 has a lot to say about the unity of the brethren. Ephesians 4:1-6 reads: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
All of us who are called by God are part of the Family of God with all believers who have ever and will ever live, in all parts of the world. We are connected because we share one faith regardless of which congregation we attend. We are all citizens of the same city, the heavenly Jerusalem. We share in one hope, that of eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ. We share one baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. One Holy Spirit dwells in all of us as we work out our individual salvation on this earth. We have one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one God, the Father. Whether we understand it or not, we are all united together, in large part through our taking of the bread and the wine and humbly footwashing each other, recognizing each other as fellow parts of the body of Christ. There is one body, and if we are believers, we are a part of it with all other believers. The Second Passover gives a second opportunity, a second chance, for brethren to participate in that unity. That’s how important the footwashing, the bread, and the wine are to God.
Therefore, when we read and think about the Second Passover, let us understand the deeper significance. The original people who asked Moses about participating in the Passover even though they had been defiled by a corpse understood that not taking part in the Passover would cut them off from the fellowship of their brethren. Those who are so ill or so remote that they cannot come to Passover today feel the same loneliness and isolation today from their brethren in the body of Christ. Let us recognize and understand the importance of the Passover sacrifice in both ancient Israel and among Christians today in unifying us as part of the one body of Christ. And let us rejoice that God gives us in His law two opportunities to share in that unity and communion with other brethren, so that we have a second chance to share in the one blood and body of Jesus Christ.
 I have to thank Brian Drawbaugh for providing a supporting power point slide which gave some good visual images for the message.