The First Passover
The Passover... the Exodus... We can picture it. We have seen the movies. We have often heard the story in Sunday School. We may have even taught the story for Sunday School. It was the last of the great ten plagues of Egypt, which finally led to Israel's release from captivity.
12 "On that
pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and
animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the
13 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.
14 "This is the day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord--a lasting ordinance."
Typically, when a lamb was slaughtered for food, the blood of the lamb would normally be allowed to drain into soil, out of respect for the life that God had given to the lamb. But on this night, the blood was collected in a bowl and used as paint around the front door of the house.
As we often have heard the story told, the Lord sent the "Angel of Death" that night to Egypt, and when the angel saw the blood on the door, the death angel skipped that house, passed over it, to the next house... If you have one of those fancy expensive electronic Bibles (or the Bible on your computer), try typing in the phrase: "angel of death." You will discover that phrase "angel of death" is not used anywhere in Scripture. If you enter just the word "angel," and focus your search on just the book of Exodus, you will discover that the word "angel" doesn't even appear in this part of the story. The first occurrence of "angel" in Exodus is when "angel of the Lord appeared to" Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2). The next reference to an angel is when "the angel of God" stood between the Egyptian army and the Israelites when they were up against the Red Sea (Ex. 14:19-20).
So if it wasn't the alleged "Angel of Death" who responsible for this mighty deed that night of the Passover, who was? This is what God told Moses:
And every year, even to this day, the descendants of Abraham celebrate the Passover. Part of the Passover ritual, as it is practiced today, involves the youngest child in the family asking, "Daddy, what does all this mean?"
And the father answers, "Child, I shall tell you why we do this every year..." And the father instructs the children in the story of God's deliverance for the people of Israel.
God gave specific directions for the annual
celebration of the Passover, because He wanted them to never.. never...
never forget what
He has done for them.
Redemption of the Firstborn
Something else God wanted the people of Israel to never forget was the price the Egyptian people paid for Israel's freedom. Each of the firstborn Israelites was spared by the blood of a lamb. But the firstborn of the unprotected Egyptians died. It was their death that finally procured Israel's freedom. And God devised a way to teach the people of Israel to appreciate the Egyptian sacrifice for all generations to come:
As we see in the first verses of the next chapter:
[Verses 3-10 review instructions for observing the annual Passover]
brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he
oath to you and your forefathers,
12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord.
Now suppose the farmer had another kind of animal, like a donkey, that gave birth to a firstborn offspring, and the farmer felt that he simply could not afford the loss of the sacrifice of that young colt, God said, "That one you can keep. But if you chose to keep it, you must offer a lamb as a substitute for the life of a colt." As we see in the next verse:
Consider the analogy: The firstborn of the Egyptians gave their lives for Israel's freedom. The Firstborn Son of God gave His life for your salvation. The thought of it overwhelms me!
Ah, but the story doesn't end there. Jump ahead about 1,450 years... to Luke 2... yes, the Christmas story.
Then soon, again, the Passover touches the life of our Lord. Maji (Wise Men) from the East came to visit... Correction: They came to worship the King of the Jews. You know the story. Their visit alerted King Herod to the birth of the Messiah, whom Herod regarded as competition. And since Herod tolerated no competition, he gave the order to kill all boys in Bethlehem 2-years old and younger. Joseph received instruction from an angel in a dream to flee with his family for safety in Egypt, of all places!
Was this only a coincidence? No, God had engineered a very deliberate connection to Israel's exodus 1,200 years earlier.
Here Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Hosea's recounting of Israel's early history:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hoseah 11:1)
We move ahead 12 years...
Now we flip the calendar forward another 18 years, and we see another significant encounter with the Passover and Exodus in our Lord's life:
We also have baptism. We bring our little ones, or ourselves, to the baptismal font and baptize "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In baptism we participate in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6). Our sins are washed away and we take on a new identity as children of God.
But what did baptism mean for John and the Jews in his day? They didn't have it "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And our Lord hadn't died and risen yet, so none of that applied to them. So what did they understand baptism to mean for them?
There were various rites of washing, or baptism, practiced by religious leaders in their many ceremonies. But the rite of baptism that has our attention here was the first step a non-Jew, a Gentile, took to become a Jew. Was such a thing possible? Someone who wasn't a biological descendent of Abraham, but that person recognized that the God of Israel was the God, the creator God, the Redeemer God, and said, "I believe! I want to join the family! I want to come under the Covenant." God's answer, of course, was "Yes!" And the first step in the processes of adoption into the family of Abraham, to become a Son of the Covenant, was to symbolically join the people of Israel in their great Exodus from Egypt, by joining them in their historic passage through the Red Sea by baptism. That was the basis of John's baptism. (This ritual washing of Gentile converts to Judaism is still practiced today. It is called Mikvah. See http://www.jewfaq.org/glossary.htm)
But John was preaching to Jews, not Gentiles. So, in effect, his message them was, "You may be physically the descendant of Abraham, but you have the spirit of a Gentile! Your bodies may be here in Israel, but your hearts are still in bondage to a godless way of life! In mind and spirit, you are no different than non-Jews. You are living outside the Covenant." And people respond with conviction, "Yes, it is true. I am a sinner. I need to baptized just like the Gentile convert does."
Now, here comes Jesus. And He says, "Baptize me, too." It is no surprise that John says, "No, You should baptize me!" (Matthew 3:13-15) After all, of what sin did Jesus have to confess? Of what sin did He have to repent? If you say, "None," I will beg to differ. He had my sin! He had your sin!
When we think of how Jesus took on Himself the guilt of all our sins, we can picture that happening on the cross... Jesus dying in our place, Jesus suffering the punishment that we owe. But our Lord's identity with our sin didn't begin on the cross. It began here, at his baptism, when he came confessing our sins.
In a sense, Jesus was "baptized" into our humanity at His conception in Mary's womb, and it was here at His baptism, that He was baptized into the guilt of our sin. "He who knew no sin, because sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Immediately after Israel crossed the Red Sea in the exodus, they came into a covenant relationship with God at Sinai. After that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promise Land.
So also, immediately after His baptism, "Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." (Matthew 4:1) During that time Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days. The connection between Israel's history and Jesus' expereince becomes clear when we see how Jesus responded to the devil's temptations. Each one of His quotations from Scripture comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (chapters 6 & 8), in which Moses reminds Israel of the lessons they learned in the exodus and their wilderness experience.
Finally, let us jump ahead three years to the climax, the final and ultimate Passover, the fulfillment of all those centuries of the annual celebration. For this we must look at Matthew's account:
Our Lord scheduling His crucifixion during the Passover was no coincidence, no accident, and it wasn't even an afterthought. He had this day in mind back when God gave instructions to Moses for the first Passover (just like He had this day in mind when God gave Abraham a ram to offer in place of his son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah, centuries earlier; Genesis 22).
When Jesus met with His disciples for His final
Passover celebration with them, He took a detour from the normal
ritual... took the
bread... and said, "Take Eat. This is My Body..." Not the flesh of a
lamb, but the flesh of The Lamb of God.
A recent commentary on the traditional Passover seder observes:
The Jesus took the cup, and
"Drink this. This is the New Covenant in My Blood..." Not the blood of
Passover lamb painted on the outside of the door frame to ward off
It was the blood of the Spotless Lamb of God, "given and shed for you
the forgiveness of your sins."
Come with me now back to the first Passover, the one with Moses and the Israelites in Egypt.
If you picture the scene of blood painted over and around every door of every Israelite home... that's a pretty grotesque scene. Imagine the reaction of you or one of your neighbors tried to do that, paint blood on the front of your house around your door. We'd suspect cultic activity. Don't we have city zoning laws against such a thing?
Yes, it is ugly. But so is our sin, which is exactly what God sees in us... unless we are covered by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
Now picture not only that door, arched in blood, but picture what is behind that door, a family of Jewish slaves. The life of the firstborn of the family was preserved by the death of the lamb whose roasted meat they had just eaten in their late evening meal. And when the call came, they all left the slave house, every man, woman, and child, exiting through that very same door, arched in blood, exiting into freedom, into a covenant relationship with the Living God, into new fertile homeland of their own, a land "flowing with milk and honey."
Christian, your life, too, has been preserved from
death, an eternal death in hell. And you, too, are preserved alive by
the death of
a lamb, the very of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Your exit to freedom
also through the blood, the blood of Jesus. And you have freedom,
freedom from the consequences of sin, yes, but you also have freedom
from your former
slavery and bondage to sin, freedom from your obligation to succumb to
power of sin. Through the blood of Jesus you enter into a New Covenant
the Living God, not a covenant based on the Law, but a covenant based
forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-35). And
the blood of Jesus you will be able to enter into a new home land....
The Old Testament Passover commemorates freedom from
The New Testament Passover [the Lord's Supper] commemorates freedom from eternal bondage (sin death & the devil).
The Old Testament Passover was the passage into a covenant of Law.
The New Testament Passover is the passage into a covenant of Grace.
The Old Testament Passover offered protection for the firstborn of the family from death.
The New Testament Passover commemorates the death of the First born, The only begotten Son of God.
The Apostle Paul writes:
Pastor Ron Friedrich
Originally prepared in 1999 for a series of Lent sermons dealing with Israel's sacrificial lambs; Peace Lutheran Church, Garland, Texas.