19 April 2011 Leave a comment
The story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is told to children at the earliest of ages. I’ve known it myself for as long as I can remember. Moses is a common name; DeMille’s movie, The Ten Commandments, is known by most everyone around the world. Still, it wasn’t until my adult years that I came to understand the true meaning of the Passover story. The Israelites were allowed to leave their slavery in Egypt, were commanded to leave by Pharaoh himself, because of the very first Passover, where God moved through the land and struck down the firstborn of every single family in Egypt save those who had followed His instructions about the sacrificial lamb. That innocent lamb, sacrificed for centuries in remembrance of that one night when the Lord delivered His chosen people, was the very foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. The Passover celebration is in honor of Christ himself.
“In His instructions to the Israelites, God outlined explicit steps to be taken by those who trusted in Him so that their offspring would not be struck down like the Egyptians’. They were to select a year-old male lamb in his prime, one which was perfect, without any flaw or defect. It was to be taken from the flock on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Nisan and kept until the fourteenth day of that month. This would allow time for each family to observe the lamb and confirm that it was fit. This would also allow time for each family to become personally attached to their lamb so that it would no longer be just a lamb but their lamb. This would deeply impress upon them the costly nature of the sacrifice. An innocent one was to die in their place.
“On the evening of the fourteenth, as the warm afternoon sun was setting, the lambs were to be publicly killed by ‘the whole assembly.’ All the people were to be responsible for the death of the lambs. Then, each family was to individually apply the blood of their lamb to the doorposts of their own home as a visible sign of their faith in the Lord. At that moment, the innocent lamb became their substitute, making it possible for the Lord’s judgment to ‘pass over’ them. And so God instituted Passover as a ‘night of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt.’”
Jesus lived his life in the tradition of the Israelites, as a Hebrew man in accordance with the laws of the LORD. He celebrated all of the festivals set forth centuries before by God’s command. Jesus celebrated Passover from the time of his earthly birth. And yet, each celebration of the event was a direct nod to his own coming death. He was the very fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, he was the lamb being led to slaughter. He knew all these things and yet he continued on God’s path. He chose to be our sacrificial lamb. He chose to endure all the pain and suffering that was set forth by God in order that everyone who ever lives can choose to live forever in the Kingdom of the Creator. Jesus chose to be “the innocent, pure Lamb, upon whom the judgment of God would fall.” Jesus chose to take that judgment in place of all people. He was the One who shed his blood to provide deliverance.
At his last Passover meal Jesus knew what was coming. That very night he would be arrested and the events leading to his death would begin. He knew the significance of his role in this world, and He knew that his sacrifice would mean that I could enter heaven. He knew that his death would allow you to know God intimately. Jesus was the Passover Lamb, and he made possible our deliverance from slavery to this world. Our only responsibility is to accept his gift of eternal life. Our only responsibility is to believe that his sacrifice was not in vain. As we celebrate this Easter week, may our hearts be always turned toward our Passover Lamb, whose death takes away the sins of the world.
Resources: The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal