The Passover (Part 2 of 5)
The last straw. The final blow. The awful crescendo of a symphony of devastation that God unleashed on Egypt due to the hard-hearted Pharaoh’s repeated refusal to “let my people go” (Ex. 5.1). The death of the firstborn would be the plague that would not only convince Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves, but he would emphatically drive them out. However, the threat of death hung not only over Egypt, but over Goshen as well. It was God’s plan to save His people from certain death that night that would define them as a nation and point forward to an ultimate deliverance in the Messiah.
A Spotless Lamb Sacrificed to Save
In Exodus 12.1-13, Moses was instructed to relay to Israel God’s plan for their salvation: each household would select a male lamb “without blemish”, which would be killed at twilight of what would become the night of Passover. This lamb would be eaten along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (v.8), but the blood would be used for a truly unprecedented purpose:
“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” (v.7)
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” (v.12-13)
The poor Passover lamb, innocent and spotless, was slain and its blood used to save all those under its mark! It is this very image that Isaiah would use to describe the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.4-9, the one who would be “crushed for our iniquities…like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit found in his mouth”.
Many centuries later John the Baptist would identify Jesus of Nazareth as the very man that was sent by God for the purpose of becoming our ultimate Passover Lamb:
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1.29)
In the same way the blood of the Passover lamb saved those who were under its mark in Egypt, the blood of Jesus saves and redeems all who put their faith in Him today! The proper response to such an incredible gift from God is to do as Peter describes:
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
(1 Peter 1.17-19)
The Blood Protects All Within
It was the blood of the innocent lamb that was applied to the doorposts of the house that was the sign for the destroyer to “pass over” the home and spare the firstborn within. Those within the house did not deserve to be passed over: they were sinful, flawed people just like the Egyptians. But what set the Israelites apart was the grace they had been shown by God’s having warned them in advance and made a way possible for their deliverance! The price for their salvation would be paid not by themselves, but by the sacrifice. God would grant His people salvation from death not as payment for their sacrifices, but rather as merciful gifts to the faithful Israelites who trusted His word.
Jesus understood His role as the sacrifice for the world, the one whose blood would be accepted as payment for the forgiveness of sins. He said as much in Matthew 26.27-28, during the institution of the Lord’s Supper, a memorial He created on (by absolutely no coincidence) PASSOVER:
“And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Note the idea of the world being given the abundant gift of the blood of Jesus is repeated by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (1.7-10)
Cleansing, Circumcision, & Consecration
When one reads through Exodus 12-13, one notices that the lamb was not all that was prepared. The Israelites had a great deal to do in preparing themselves to participate in God’s deliverance by the Passover.
Their homes had to be completely cleansed and purged of leaven
“For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.” (Ex. 12.19-20)
The Passover could only be eaten by those who bore the mark of circumcision.
“All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Ex. 12.47-49)
Going forward, the firstborn were consecrated to the LORD.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.’” (Ex. 13.1-2)
These three things all point forward to what we are called to do today in Christ!
We are called as Christians to repent & to cleanse our lives of corrupting sin!
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5.7-8)
Christians enter the new covenant with God by baptism, placing our trust in Christ and being marked as participants in His promises to us!
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2.11-13)
Just as the firstborn in Exodus were devoted to the service of God, Christians today are “bought with a price” and devoted to glorifying God in our bodies!
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
(1 Cor. 6.19-20)