Jesus: The Passover Lamb

Today’s Reading: Exodus 11-13

In these chapters, God is finally bringing Israel out of Egypt. It’s been 430 years since he sent Jacob and his family into Egypt. But, now the time has come. And, Israel must be ready to get out with haste.

The night before Israel is going to leave they are to hold a feast. A lamb per household is to be slain, roasted, and eaten completely. If anything is left over, then it is to be burned. And, the blood of the lamb is to be put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house. And, the whole family is to go into the house. They are to stay there for the night and not go out. Any house that doesn’t have the blood on it will lose their firstborn, both of man and beast.

There’s more to the story, like the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, but I only touched on the part of the story related to the lamb above. That’s because the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the lamb this morning.

I think most Christians know that this lamb that was sacrificed is a picture of Jesus. But, in Exodus 12 there is so much detail about the lamb that is perfectly fulfilled by Christ.

A NEW BEGINNING

First, I should note that this feast, this Passover, this exodus, changed the calendar for the Jews. It would change their whole orientation to time. The month of the exodus on the Passover would now mark the beginning of the year. This month was now to be the first month of the year. But, it’s not just the first month of the year. In Exodus 12:1, the Lord said to Moses, “This month shall be the beginning of months.” This event is the new beginning, the new start for you.

This is a picture of what Jesus and his death on the cross does for us. It is a new beginning, a new start. It’s the beginning of a new life. His death on the cross reorients us and time.

A LAMB FOR A HOUSEHOLD

In verses 3-4, God says, “Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make a count for the lamb.”

The whole congregation of Israel was to do this. Everyone participated. The whole congregation was about 1.5 to 2.0 million people. But, this feast wasn’t to be done at a gathering of the entire congregation of Israel. No, this feast was to be done by households. Every man would take a lamb according to his father’s house. And, if there weren’t enough people in the house to eat the whole lamb, then the man and “his nearest neighbor” were to get together so that in the one house they could eat the whole lamb.

What a picture this is of the church. The church, the body of Christ, is one body. But, we aren’t to gather around Jesus, the lamb, as one congregation, as one total group, which would number well into the millions. Instead, like Israel in the first Passover, we are to gather by households, small groups.

Acts 2:46 says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…” There were 3,000 people that had just gotten saved. Yes, they were still meeting in the temple, which they were accustomed to do, but they began breaking bread in their homes.

Then, in Acts 5:42 we read, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Now, they are not just breaking bread, but teaching and preaching Christ house to house. Yes, they are doing this in the temple too, but it wouldn’t be long and the physical temple would be destroyed by the Romans. There would be no place to gather around Jesus, the lamb, except house to house.

After Stephen was martyred, Acts 8:3 says that “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” Saul went where he knew the believers were gathering, house to house, and hauled them off to prison.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he asks them to greet Prisca and Aquila. In Romans 16:5, he says, “Greet also the church in their house.”

In Exodus, we see a picture of God’s people gathering around a lamb house by house. Look at how often the word house is used. And, in Acts and the letters of the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of God’s people, the church, the body of Christ, gathering around Jesus, the lamb, from house to house.

But, if the house wasn’t big enough, then the man was to get his “nearest neighbor” and gather around the lamb together. The people of Israel were not to go looking for the people they liked to share the lamb with. They weren’t to go search throughout the whole congregation to find the people they would be best suited to share the lamb with. No, they were to find their nearest neighbor. Do we at all consider gathering around Christ with our “nearest neighbor” or do we go looking for the people and the church that suits what we want?

TAKE A LAMB

The lamb for the Passover was to be taken on the 10th day of the month. Exodus 12:5 says, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.” The lamb wasn’t just to be taken. The man had to check the lamb to make sure it didn’t have a single blemish. The lamb was to be selected.

Towards the end of John 11, we read that the Passover was at hand. Verses 56-57 say, “They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.” Where was Jesus? Would he show up to the Passover? Because the chief priests and Pharisees were looking to arrest, or “select”, him.

John 12 tells us that six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany to see Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. On this day, Mary anointed Jesus. Eventually, a large crowd gathered because they had heard Jesus was there.

The next day, five days before the Passover, the crowd that had come to Jerusalem heard that Jesus was coming to the city. John 12:13 says, “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” The crowd of Jews had selected Jesus.

But, not only the Jews. On this same day, there were some Greeks who went up to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover. They came to Philip and asked to see Jesus. The whole world had come to see Jesus, the lamb of God.

What day was it? Five days before the Passover. The Passover was on the 14th. Five days before the Passover was the 10th. The Jews selected him as king on the 10th. Even the Greeks came to see him on the 10th. Jesus was selected on the 10th just like the lamb in Exodus 12.

Jesus, the lamb, needed to be inspected for any blemish. The chief priests knew that he had none. How do we know this? Matthew 26:59 says, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death.” They were seeking false testimony to put Jesus to death because they knew there was no true testimony of any blemish in Jesus. And, even though the Jews were demanding Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate said, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” (John 19:4) Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 1:19 when he says that we were redeemed by the blood of Christ, “like that of a lamb without blemish or sport.”

FROM THE SHEEP OR THE GOATS

We all know that at the Passover a lamb was eaten. And, we all know that Jesus is the lamb of God. Exodus 12:5 says the lamb should be without blemish. But, the verse also says, “You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”

Wait…Jesus is the lamb, the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Why did God give them a choice between a lamb and a goat?

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gives a parable of sheep and goats. Jesus says the Son of Man will separate the sheep and goats. The sheep are those that fed him, gave him drink, clothed him, and visited him. But, the goats didn’t do any of those things. Sounds better to be a sheep than a goat.

So, when Jesus was selected as the lamb, did the Jews have a choice?

In Matthew 27, we are told that at the Passover it was a custom that the governor would release for the crowd one prisoner. In Matthew 27:17, Pilate says, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate hears about his wife’s dream and doesn’t want anything to do with this. So, he asks a second time, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you? And the crowd cried out ‘Barabbas.'”

Jesus was the perfect, sinless, innocent lamb. Isaiah 53:9 says, “he had done no violence.” Jesus was the son of Joseph.

Barabbas was “a notorious prisoner.” Indeed, he was a murderer (as was Satan from the beginning). Barabbas means “son of the father.”

The choice: an innocent man who had done no violence, the Christ, or a notorious criminal, a murderer, the son of his father, Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning.

Matthew 27:21-22 says, “And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” The Jews, and all of us, would have done the same, chose a free a murderer over Christ. They chose to crucify the lamb instead of the goat.

KILL THE LAMB

Once the lamb had been selected,¬†Exodus 12:6 says, “And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” The 14th day of the month was the Passover, which was the day Jesus was crucified.

The Hebrew word translated twilight literally means “between the evenings.” But, the phrase “between the evenings” implies from the declining of the sun to the setting of the sun. So, between the evenings went from noon to the setting of the sun. Mark 15:34, 37, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice…And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” The ninth hour was 3 p.m. Jesus died almost perfectly at the mid-point between the evenings.

THE BLOOD AND THE DOOR

Once the lamb had been killed, Exodus 12:7 says, “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.” Later, in verse 22, when Moses is telling the elders of Israel what to do, he said, “Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.”

The blood from the slain lamb was in four spots:

  1. The left doorpost
  2. The right doorpost
  3. The lintel
  4. The basin

This is a picture of where the blood of Jesus was when he was crucified. He was nailed through his two hands to the cross. So, there was blood on the left doorpost and the right doorpost. Jesus had a crown of thorns placed on his head. So, there was blood on the lintel, the part of the door at the top that connected the two doorposts. And, Jesus was nailed to the cross at his ankles. Crucifixion was messy. Surely, there was a lot of blood pooled on the ground. So, there was blood in the basin.

Jesus talks about this door in John 10. In John 10:1-2, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Jesus, the shepherd of the sheep, entered by this door. But, no one understood what Jesus said.

So, Jesus tried again. In John 10:7, 9, 11, 15 he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I lay my life down for the sheep.”

Israel was to put the blood of the lamb on the door and enter into their house through the blood of the lamb on the door. And, in John, Jesus is saying that as the shepherd he entered by the door. Not only that, but he is the door. Further, as the good shepherd, he lays his life down for the sheep. He dies for them. So, anyone that enters through Jesus, the door of the shepherd that dies and has blood on it, will be saved. We must go through the crucified Christ for salvation.

ROASTED ON THE FIRE

In Exodus 12:8, it says that each household should eat the lamb “roasted on the fire.” It was not to be eaten raw or boiled in water. Fire often represents judgment in the Bible. So, Jesus had to be judged, roasted by fire. Indeed, he was judged by both the chief priests and elders in their council (Luke 22:66-71) and by Pilate (John 18 and 19).

LET NONE OF IT REMAIN UNTIL THE MORNING

After the lamb was roasted, Exodus 12:8, 10 says, “They shall eat the flesh that night…And you shall let none of it remain until morning.”

In Matthew 27:57-60, the evening that Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud, and buried it in a tomb. Jesus was taken off the cross during the night and buried. There was nothing of him left until the morning. His flesh had been eaten that night.

YOU SHALL NOT BREAK ITS BONES

Towards the end of Exodus 12, God told Moses and Aaron, “You shall not break any of its bones.”

The day that Jesus was crucified was the day of Preparation, a high day. So, the bodies of those crucified were not to remain the crosses. Therefore, the Jews asked to have the legs of Jesus and the two robbers crucified with him broken. The soldiers broke the legs of the two robbers. But, when they got to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead. So, they pierced him in the side. John 19:36 says, “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.'”

Even with all of this, we are just scratching the surface of the full picture of Exodus 12 and its witness to Jesus.

But, without a doubt, Jesus is the Passover Lamb.

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