THE PASSOVER LAMB

 

As the fifteenth century B.C. drew to a close, the nation of Israel had been living in Egypt for over four hundred years. During that time, there had been a descent from friendly relations with the Egyptians, even the elevation of the Israelite Joseph to second in command of Egypt, to slavery under ever-harsher conditions.

God had selected Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, which would take place four hundred thirty years after they came into that land, to the very day. In preparation for that momentous event, which foreshadowed every Christian’s exodus from the slavery of sin, God through Moses instituted a custom that has become a tradition observed by Jews and handed from generation to generation down to today.

This observance is called the Passover; it is detailed in Exodus Chapter Twelve:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: and if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

“And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs shall they eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roast with fire; its head with its legs, and with the inwards parts thereof. And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire. And thus shall you eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”

God through Moses commanded that this observance be a memorial forever. The Israelites left Egypt the next morning, after the Lord had stricken the firstborn of Egypt, passing over without harm those houses which had the blood of the Passover Lamb on their lintels and doorposts.

The significance of this Passover observance is that it is all about Jesus. It foreshadowed Jesus’ shed blood on the cross in our behalf. Jesus was crucified at the same time that the religious elite, totally unaware of the custom’s significance, killed their Passover lambs as they had done in the same manner every year before. The difference this time was that the real Passover died once for all for our sins, fulfilling the ritual for which the sacrificial lambs were but a shadow.

John the Baptist knew that this was the very reason that God became a man and lived among us: God Himself in selfless, noble love atoned for our shortcomings, knowing that we were helpless to do it for ourselves. John 1:29 relates John’s greeting of Jesus as he was baptizing all who came to him in repentance:

“The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

In Chapter 9, the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews explained beautifully this significance of Jesus as the Passover Lamb:

“But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they who are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

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