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Sermon Message


"Christ, Our Passover"

Exodus 12:1-13
Theme: Precious truths concerning the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross are pictured for us in the Old Testament Passover observance.

(Delivered Sunday, November 4, 2007 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

There's a great theme that runs throughout the Bible. We literally find it from beginning to end.

The first hint of this great theme was given shortly after Adam and Eve sinned. God had warned them that, on the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. Sadly, they ate; and as a result, a death was required. But the Bible tells us that, rather than slaying Adam and Eve, God clothed them in "tunics of skin". Clearly, some other living thing was offered for them as a "substitute".

This great theme—only hinted at then—was later expressed in a clearer way in the story of Abraham. God called Abraham to go to a certain place and sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham went by faith in obedience to God—trusting that God would not require the life of his only dear son; but affirming to Isaac, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burn offering" (Gen. 22:8).

This great theme is again clearly expressed to us, many centuries later, through the words of John the Baptist. John was in the wilderness beyond the Jordan, baptizing the multitudes who came to him in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. And as Jesus—the Son of God in human flesh—drew near to John, John pointed Him out to the multitudes, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

And in the very last book of the Bible, we find the conclusion of this great theme. We read of the great cry of the mighty hosts of heaven saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing" (Rev. 5:12). And we read of the multitudes of the redeemed saints in glory—with palm branches in their hands—worshiping God and saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev. 7:10).

This great theme is traced throughout the Bible—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain for sinners. It's particularly appropriate that we turn this morning to this great theme; because it's the day we set aside to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us through the Lord's Supper. It's good to be reminded of this great theme at such a time, because as the apostle Peter has written;

. . . you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

* * * * * * * * * *

To prepare ourselves to come to the Lord's table this morning, I ask that we turn to one of the most remarkable pictures in the Old Testament of our Savior as "the Lamb of God". It's found in the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus—where we're told of how God gave to the people of Israel the command to observe the Passover.

It's right that we think of the Passover lamb as a "portrait" of Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote that "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Let's follow the story—verse by verse—of how God introduced the Passover meal to His people. And from it, let's draw out some of the precious truths it teaches us concerning the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb.

* * * * * * * * * *

First, let's consider . . .


The circumstances in which the Passover was first given were both exciting and dreadful. The Jewish people were still in bondage to Egypt; but God was about to set them free. And yet, in spite of the ways that God was striking the Egyptians with plague after plague, Pharaoh still hardened his heart and would not let them go.

God instituted the Passover meal during the brief interlude between plagues nine and ten. Plague nine, as you may remember, was a plague of dreadful darkness over the land. And the tenth plague was that of the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. That horrible darkness over the land was a foreboding sign of the judgment of death that would soon follow. And yet, quite literally, God gave this expression of hope to His people—this picture, ultimately, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—in the midst of the curse of darkness and death.

This suggests to us that when we come to the Lord's table, we should do so with a spirit of deep and humble gratitude. We should remember the context in which Christ has been given to us;

. . . giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:12-14).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; in introducing this picture of redemptive love, the Bible tells us,

"Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 'This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you'" (Ex. 12:1-2).

Think of that! In the midst of this horrible threat of coming doom, God gives His chosen people the glorious announcement of a new beginning! They were to make such a complete break from their former bondage that they were no longer to even use the Egyptian calendar. The day on which the Passover meal was given marked the day of their new beginning as the people of God.

And I suggest that this, too, should remind us of the context in which we celebrate the Lord's Supper. When we, by faith, remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for us, we remember it as people who have been delivered from the slavery of sin and into new life. Celebrating the Lord's Supper means celebrating our new birth—our new beginning—because of our Passover Lamb! "Therefore", the Bible tells us, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When we come to the Lord's Supper, it's a solemn time of remembrance of Jesus' death. But it's also a joyful time of celebrating new life in Him. We should celebrate it with deep thankfulness.

* * * * * * * * * *

Next, as we look back at the story of the Passover, we consider . . .

2. THE PEOPLE (vv. 3-4).

God spoke this word to Moses and Aaron, who were then to pass it on to all the men of Israel—all the fathers and husbands who were the appointed heads of their households:

“Speak to the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household'” (v. 3).

There was a beautiful picture of the unity of the people of God built in to the observance of the Passover. It was not up to each individual to find his or her own lamb. Nor was not the mother's job to find a lamb for her children. Nor was not the children's job to find a lamb for their parents. It was the appointed task of the father—the head of the household—to take the lead for his family. The Passover brought the whole family together through one lamb; and in doing so, it reminded each individual member in the family of God's appointed pattern of domestic order, authority and worship.

And what's more, the Passover lamb sometimes brought one family together with another. Each family was to take a lamb that was sufficient for that family. But because nothing of the lamb was to remain the next day, and to ensure that nothing of the Passover lamb went to waste, God goes on to command;

“'And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb'” (v. 4).

When the Lord Jesus celebrated His last Passover before going to the cross, He celebrated it with His disciples (Judas excepted). And in the meal, they all partook of Him together as the Passover Lamb.

There is a unifying significance in our partaking of the Lord's Supper together; because we are made one together in Jesus—our Passover Lamb. As Paul wrote,

The cup of blessings which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

As we come to the table of the Lord, we don't all come separately. We partake together. And in doing so, we fulfill one of the expressed purposes of our Lord in giving His life for His followers; “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now, let's return to the story of the Passover; and with the utmost reverence, let's consider . . .

3. THE LAMB (v. 5).

God gave specific instructions regarding the lamb that the individual heads of households were to select for Passover. He said,

“'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats'” (v. 5).

A lamb was an appropriate creature to serve as the 'type' of Jesus in His sacrifice for us. A lamb is meek and harmless. When put to death, it doesn't resist or fight for its life. It doesn't claw and bite those who seek to slay it. And as the Bible tells us concerning Jesus;

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

And now, consider the necessary qualifications of the lamb itself. What a picture these qualifications give us of the One whom God gave to be our Passover Lamb!

First, the lamb was to be “without blemish”. Later on in Scripture, when God gave His laws regarding the offerings, we read that He specified, “You shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf” (Lev. 22:19-20). In order for the offering to be acceptable before God as a substitute for the imperfections of sinners, it was absolutely essential that it had no imperfections. And this, of course, is a picture of Jesus; "who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” in order to “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). He Himself was "without sin" (Heb. 4:15); and so, He was able to be a substitute for sinners.

Second, the Passover lamb was to be “a male”. This, again, is a picture of Jesus. Adam—the first man—was the head of the human race; and it was because of his sin that the offspring that came from him were also fallen. As the Bible tells us, “Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

Third, the Passover lamb was to be “of the first year”—in, as it were, the prime of life. This, too, is a picture of Jesus. He didn't come into this world to die in infancy. He didn't live out a full life, in order to die on this earth in old age. Rather, He died at the age of thirty-three—in 'the midst of his days' (Psalm 104:24). As Isaiah 53:8 says, “And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living . . .” He gave Himself for us in His prime; at a time when He was at 'the best' of Himself.

And finally, concerning the Passover lamb, God said, “You may take it from the sheep or from the goats”. There was provision made for all. Those who could afford to do so were to offer a kid from the sheep. If they couldn't afford that, they were permitted to offer a kid from the goats. And again, this is a picture of Jesus, our Passover Lamb. As Hebrews 2:14 says, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Jesus, our Passover Lamb, entered into this world of sin, grew up in our midst, and walked among us. He was one of us. He was accessible to us. He is available to all who desire Him.

What a Savior! What a perfect Passover Lamb He is in every way!

* * * * * * * * * *

And now, let's consider . . .

4. THE SLAYING (v. 6).

When the father of a household was to take the lamb for his family, he wasn't to slay it right away. God specified, “'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month . . .'" (v. 6). In other words, the lamb was to stay with the family for four days.

When I think of this, I think of what an impact this must have had on the family members—particularly the children. The children of that day would have been no different from children in ours. They would have fallen in love with this lamb. After four days, it would be a part of the family. But every day, when family members looked upon this lamb, they'd always remember that it was set apart to die. It was destined to have its blood shed, and its body roasted and eaten. It was destined to be a substitute for the firstborn of that Jewish family. And this, again, is a picture of Jesus. He walked upon this earth as the delight of His Father. He was one of us, but He was the loveliest of us. He was the only perfect member of the human family. During His walk in earth, He graced humanity; and yet, it was for the sins of all humanity that He was set apart to die.

The family was to keep the lamb for four days. That four-day period may symbolize the span of the four decades that He walked on earth. Or it may prefigure the four years that transpired between John the Baptist's announcement of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and the cross on which He took our sins away from us. Or again, it may prefigure the four days that transpired between His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and His betrayal into the hands of those who would slay Him. In any case, the point is clear: He lived in our midst for a season as the Passover Lamb—one who was set apart by God to to die on our behalf.

And this was the appointment He received from the Father. As the Scriptures say, He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; back to the story of Passover. The night finally came night the Passover lamb was actually put to death. It was kept from the tenth day until the fourteenth. And God said that on the evening of the fourteenth day, "'Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight'" (v. 6)—that is, between the evenings of the fourteenth and fifteenth days.

It was during this very time period—between the evenings of the fourteenth and fifteenth days—that our Savior was put to death. While families throughout Israel were slaying their Passover lambs, Jesus—our Passover Lamb—was betrayed into the hands of men who crucified Him.

All of Israel slew the Passover lamb at the same time. And it's also true that all of us—by our sins—put the Son of God upon the cross. And so, when we partake of the Lord's supper, we all partake together; for we all have a part in the death of the Passover Lamb.

* * * * * * * * * *

Next, let's consider . . .

5. THE BLOOD (v. 7).

God spoke through Moses and Aaron concerning the lamb that was slain; and said,

"'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it'" (v. 7).

This first Passover occurred on the night in which God brought the terrible judgment of the tenth plague on the people of Egypt. Every firstborn in Egypt would be struck dead by the Lord. And every family of Israel was safe—so long as the blood of that lamb was found on the entryway of their home. We're given further details of this in verses 21-23;

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning" (vv. 21-23).

Hyssop, in the Bible, was used for the application of that which provided for someone's cleansing before God. In Leviticus 14, hyssop was used for the ritual of the cleansing of a leper (v. 4-6). In Psalm 51:7, King David prayed, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean . . ." And in our passage, you might say that hyssop was a picture of faith—serving as that which reaches forth to take the blood and apply it to our need.

Each home in which the Passover lamb was slain was to have that blood applied, by the branches of hyssop, onto the entryway into the inner life of that home. It was only as the blood of the lamb was found on the doorposts and lintel of that house were its inhabitants safe from the wrath of God.

And again, what a picture this gives us of Jesus! A believing Jewish friend has told me that, when some believing Jews see the blood dabbed above on the lintel, and dabbed to the left and the right on the doorposts, they recognize the shape of the cross being marked out by the blood. As Paul wrote,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:8-9).

How important it is, as we come to the Lord's Supper this morning, that we make sure that we—by faith—have been taken refuge under the blood of Jesus that was shed on the wood of the cross!

* * * * * * * * * *

This leads us, next, to consider . . .

6. THE EATING (vv. 8-11).

Very specific instructions were given for the eating of the Passover lamb. God said,

"Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it" (v. 8).

There was to be a complete consumption of the lamb by the family. There was to be nothing of the lamb left uneaten. This is a picture of the fullness of the faith we are to place in Jesus, our Passover Lamb. He demands a total commitment from us. We cannot be partial in our embrace of Him. We can't say, "I'll follow Jesus in this area of my life; but not in others." He Himself has said,

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26-27).

And note that, on the night of the eating of the flesh, the people were not to eat the flesh alone. They were to also eat with "unleavened bread"—which is always a symbol in the Bible of the complete rejection of sin in our lives. And they were to eat with "bitter herbs"—which speaks of the sorrow and grief we feel for the sins in our lives that have placed the Son of God on the cross.

* * * * * * * * * *

God went on to tell the people,

"'Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire'" (vv. 9-10).

If the people cooked the lamb in any other way than completely roasted in fire, then they would have had to break the lamb up into pieces in order to do so. But by roasting the lamb in fire, it was first devoted to God undivided and in its entirety. This is in keeping with the commitment Jesus displayed toward the Father as our Passover Lamb. His own commitment was total. There was no division whatsoever in Jesus as our Passover Lamb. Not even one of His bones were broken as He hung on the cross (John 19:36).

The completeness of Jesus' devotion to the Father is shown in how the lamb was roasted. It was roasted with its head—which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father in every thought and intention of His mind. It was roasted with its legs—which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father in His every action and in every area of His daily walk. And it was roasted with its entrails—which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father with every affection and every aspect of His inner-most being.

And the fact that nothing of the lamb was to remain until morning is a picture of the absolute sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. His work for us was complete. As He died for us, He was able to cry out from the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30). There remained nothing else to be done for our salvation—except that we personally place our trust in Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

Everything about the Passover meal had spiritual significance. God even gave the people specific instructions as to what to wear when they ate the Passover lamb. He said,

"'And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover'" (v. 11).

The people who ate on this night were in a state of transition. They were about to depart from their bondage, and begin their sojourn to the land that God was giving them. And so, in commemoration of that evening, they were to always eat the Passover as they did that night—packed up for travel and ready to move out in great haste.

And with respect to us, this isn't so much a picture of Jesus, as it is of the attitude of heart with which we are to receive Him and walk with Him. We're to place our trust in Him and to live a life under His grace as sojourners in this world. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). We, as it were, are to have our loins girded—so that we are unencumbered by the cares of this world; and our sandals on our feet—so that we are ready to go wherever He calls us to go for His sake; and our staff in our hand—as a permanent sign to this world that we're only passing through. And we're to be, as it were, "in haste"—since we know that, at any moment, our Lord may return for us to take us to Himself.

* * * * * * * * * *

These are all things that should be in our minds as we come to the table of the Lord today to remember the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb.

And before we close our look at the first Passover meal, let me point out . . .

7. THE DELIVERANCE (vv. 12-13).

God told the people,

"'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD'" (v. 12).

And here, we are given the historical significance that the Passover meal would always have to the Jewish people. It is the commemoration of the night on which God "passed-over" them in His dreadful judgment of the Egyptians.

But with Jesus as our Passover Lamb, that commemoration has a new significance. You can see it in what God said next:

"'Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the house where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt'" (v. 13).

The Bible says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). As you come to the Lord's table today, there's nothing more important than to make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ—the true Passover Lamb.

When God, in righteous judgment, judges the sin of this world, will He look at you and see the blood of His Son?

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