This week we are going to look at one of the pivotal moments of Israel’s history and how it has significant meaning to what Jesus accomplished on the cross. I’m sure many of my regular readers will know the circumstances surrounding the first Passover, but just in case you are unfamiliar here is my brief summary.
In many ways the patriarch Joseph had been Egypt’s saviour. He made sure they were prosperous and survived severe famine. Jacob’s family, who were to become the Jewish nation moved to Egypt ‘en-masse’ under the protection of Joseph. A few hundred years later it seems that Joseph has been largely forgotten and the Israelites are being treated as slaves by their Egyptian hosts. Into Israel’s history steps Moses, who is God’s man of the moment to bring His people out of Egypt and lead them into the promised land. Understandably the Egyptian Pharoah is not too happy with this plan. There follows a series of 10 plagues where God judges Egypt with all sorts of nasty natural disasters. These are all covered in Exodus chapters 7 to 11. The tenth and final plague is the one that necessitates the Passover meal and the release of the Jews from slavery. God has decreed that unless Pharoah lets His people go, God will send an angel of death over Egypt who will kill the firstborn of every person and all the cattle. God then instigates a way for the Israelites to avoid this plague by killing a lamb and wiping its blood on the doorposts of each house. This singular event is integral to Israel’s history and shadows the sacrifice Jesus made to release us from the bondage of sin. Let’s consider some of the similarities.
- The Passover lamb must be a choice male lamb in the prime of its life (Exodus 12:5) Jesus started His ministry at the prime of his life at the age of around 30; Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23) He was of course God’s choice!
- The Passover lamb had to be without blemish (Exodus 12:5). Jesus himself was spotless, having committed no sin; 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 1:18-19)
- The Passover lamb was kept under scrutiny (kept until the 14th day of the month where it was inspected for possible faults). Jesus was tested daily in the temple courts and constantly by the scribes and the Pharisees; As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. (Luke 11:53-54)
- The Passover lamb had to be killed (Exodus 12:6) Tradition suggests that the sacrificial lambs were killed around mid-afternoon which was the time that Jesus died on the cross (1 Peter 2:22-24)
- The bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Exodus 12:46) Jesus did not have any bones broken even though it was common practice for Roman soldiers to break the legs of those being crucified to confirm death; But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (John 19:33) Consider also Psalm 34:20: He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.
- The blood of the Passover lamb had to be applied in the appropriate manner (Exodus 12:7) We need to appropriate Jesus’ sacrifice by faith and apply it to our lives. Believe and receive.
- The meat of the Passover lamb was eaten (exodus 12:8) It provided sustenance for the journey that was ahead. For our walk with Jesus, we need to ‘feast’ daily on Him.
- The blood of the Passover lamb afforded protection for those living in the home where the blood was applied (Exodus 12:13). This analogy goes to the heart of what the Passover was all about. When the angel saw the applied blood, it passed over that home. Those who trust in Jesus’ blood and sacrifice are protected from wrath and judgement. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- The blood was applied by a Hyssop branch (Exodus 12:22). Jesus was offered wine and vinegar on a Hyssop branch while He was on the cross; A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:29)
Finally, just as the Passover was to be celebrated every year, so ‘The Lord’s supper’ is to be taken and celebrated regularly. It was probably the Passover that Jesus was celebrating with His disciples as ‘the last supper’. These ‘feasts’ serve as a reminder of what God has done for us. The Passover was the shadow which pointed to Jesus, the ultimate sacrificial lamb.