Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Passover Lamb

Exodus.  The Hebrews, the people of Israel, had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  They were forced to do hard labor, to work in fields and make bricks without straw.  Pharaoh had ordered that every newborn boy be thrown into the nile and killed.  The Hebrews were living under great oppression and in the land of darkness.

God heard their cries...

Moses was raised up and called to lead the people out of Egypt.  He went to Pharaoh with the request, but Pharaoh's heart was hard.  In response, the Lord sent a series of 9 plagues--from locusts to boils to darkness.  Yet Pharaoh refused to change his mind.  God sent one final plague upon the people of Egypt.  It was the plague of the firstborn.  Every firstborn child or animal, from the house of Pharaoh to the slave to cattle, would die.

But the God provided a way of escape for the Hebrew people and others who would choose to follow him.  Each household was to choose a lamb.  On the appointed night, the lamb would be killed and the blood painted on the door frames of the house.  The Lord would pass over these homes that were marked by the blood of the lamb and the firstborn would be spared.

God provided many specific instructions for observance of the Passover, for that generation and those to come.  It was to be one of the feasts that the Israelites would celebrate every year.  The celebration would remind them of their former life of bitterness, and God's mercy that provided an escape from bondage and death.  More than that, he wanted his people to recognize the coming of another Passover Lamb...

Exodus 12:2 ~ "This is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."
Luke 22:7-8 ~ "Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'"
On our calendar, Passover falls during March or April.  Jesus's last supper with his disciples was the Passover meal.  The Gospels record that bread and wine were served at that meal, but there is no specific mention of a lamb.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified during Passover week.

Exodus 12:5 ~ "The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats."
1 Peter 1:18-19 ~ "For you know that it is not with perishable things such as sliver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
The Passover lamb had to be perfect, just as Christ was a "lamb without blemish or defect."

Exodus 12:6-7 ~ "Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  They are also to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs."
Matthew 27:45-46, 50 ~ "From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice... And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit."
The Passover lamb was sacrificed at twilight.  Jesus died at twilight.

Exodus 12:22 ~ "Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and both sides of the door frame."
John 19:28-30 ~ "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
Hyssop was used to paint the blood of the lamb on the door of the house.  John records that the same plant was used to give Jesus a drink as he hung on the cross.  The gospel writer used this symbolism to point to Christ as the Passover lamb.

Exodus 12:46 ~ "Do not break any of the bones [of the lamb]."
John 19:31-37 (36) ~ "These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken.'"
John refers to Exodus 12:46 as a prophesy about Jesus, the Messiah.

Exodus 12:12-13 ~ "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn...  I am the Lord.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt."
Ephesians 1:7 ~ "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace."
The blood of the Passover lamb spared the Hebrew families from death and provided an escape.  The blood of Christ was poured out for us.

Exodus 12:24-27 ~ "Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants.  When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe the ceremony.  And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'"
Luke 22:19 ~ "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'"
The Hebrews celebrated the Passover to remember how God brought them out of Egypt.  We, too, celebrate the Lord's supper to remember Jesus and the gift of his life.

Can you see the parallels between the Passover story and the life of Christ?  That is not by accident or coincidence.  There are glimpses of the promised Messiah throughout many of the Old Testament stories.  JESUS.  Jesus is our Passover Lamb.  He gave his life that we might be free from the bondage of sin.  More than that, he conquered death.  He rose from the grave that we might have eternal life.  He is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

"Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch--as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

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