Exodus 12:1-14: Christ, Our Passover Lamb

Passover Lamb (610x351)The first Passover was a horrific and gruesome night, a night unlike any that Egypt had ever seen.  At twilight, the Israelites slaughtered thousands of lambs, ate their flesh, and brushed their blood on the doorposts of their houses.  Because the lambs died, the Israelites lived.

But for the Egyptians, that night of death was different.  For in Egypt, the firstborn males in every household died.  Death had touched every household of Egypt from the top down–from the firstborn son of Pharaoh to the firstborn son of the prisoners.  Death had reigned in Egypt.

We learn from that first Passover that sometimes a meal becomes more than a meal.  We see that during the Israelites’ final hours of slavery on their last night in Egypt.  In that Passover, no serving of food was simply there to beautify the plate.  Neither did God choose anything for its nutritional content or good flavor.  God even chose one part of the Passover meal because its bitterness would sting the tongue!

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs because taskmasters had embittered their lives with the grind of daily servitude.  Those slaves on the cusp of freedom were to chew bitter herbs, year after year, as an edible token of the sour taste left in their mouths by those bitter years of bondage.

Unleavened bread was also part of the meal.  It was unleavened because Pharaoh would cast them out of his land before the sun would rise, before the yeast had time to rise in the dough.  It was the bread of affliction.  For the Israelites would have to leave Egypt in a hurry, before Pharaoh again changed his mind and relocked their chains.  This bread was “fast food” unlike any other, fast but also sacred, for the people of God would literally eat and run.

The bitter herbs became the dish of remembrance, for the Israelites were to remember their bondage and how God had rescued them.  Unleavened bread became the food that foreshadowed how they would have to hurry immediately after that first Passover.

As those foods pointed beyond themselves, so also did the main course: The roasted flesh of a sacrificed lamb.  That meat also announced something that was an event for them–then, but also something that was still yet to come.

In the first Passover, the roasted meat was a flesh-and-blood sign that an innocent victim had been slaughtered to save the firstborn son.  Because of the sacrificed lamb, the angelic destroyer who was passing through the land that night would pass over their homes.  The blood would spare their firstborn sons.  But in the homes of unbelievers, the angel would not pass over, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.

Above and beside their home entrances, the faithful painted the blood of the Passover lambs.  It was a crimson marking that told the destroying angel, “Pass over, O Angel, for God’s child lives here.”

That night, long ago, as the Israelites first tasted the meat of the first Passover, they knew that neither they nor their sons would taste of death.  Their Good Shepherd had prepared a table before them in the presence of their enemies.  For what was on the table gave them light and life as they walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

With something so momentous, God would make the Passover meal into more than a one-time event.  The Israelites would celebrate it as a lasting ordinance for all generations, until God would tell them otherwise.  The people of Israel were to remember the Lord’s salvation.  They were to celebrate that God had spared them by pouring out His wrath on the lamb.

The main course of the first Passover proclaimed a message that extended well beyond that night, even beyond the many Passover meals to come.  For the whole meal–bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and roasted lamb–were an edible prophecy.

As the preachers of old prophesied of the coming Messiah, so the Passover meal also was a prophecy.  But the Passover meal was a physical prophecy, so physical that the Israelites could even sink their teeth into it.  Yet, what they ate then was just a foretaste, an appetizer.  It was a meal to sharpen their appetite for a meal that was yet to come.  And this meal to come would surpass their meal in Egypt, both in amazement and superiority.

Yet, like the Passover, this surpassing meal, to which all the previous Passovers pointed, would also be more than a meal.  For the prophesied meal would be so miraculous that it would even have the very food of heaven.  In that meal, God the Holy Spirit would come down to His people and place into their mouths the One who sits at the right hand of the Father.

Yes, that meal is the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist.  In it, we receive Jesus Himself in His body and blood.  We receive the One who gave Himself into death to save us, His people.  That’s the meal that surpasses all the previous Passovers.

This food of the new-and-better Passover may seem stark.  For God only uses bread and wine in this meal.  Plain bread and wine do not amaze the palate.  But it was that way in olden times, when the Israelites tasted and ate unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and roasted lamb without spice.  For God didn’t send His Son into the world to amaze the world, but that, through Him, the world might be saved.  That’s how God is: He disguises how He saves us within the guise of simplicity.

Take and eat, for this simple bread is His body.  It’s the body of the Lamb who was not passed over and spared.  His body didn’t pass over the whips of the soldiers and the sneers of the crowd.  His body didn’t pass over the beams of the cross and all the evil that this world would throw His way.  For Jesus, God’s firstborn Son, didn’t pass over His Father’s verdict, which declared this innocent man guilty of our crimes, which had Him serve our sentence.  This was all so we–the guilty ones–could go free!

Take and eat, this is the body of God’s own Lamb.  He didn’t pass over the nails and spear.  See, the Lamb of God, who didn’t pass over the beams of that cruel tree or the blazing flames of hell beneath Him.  The firewood of our own iniquities fueled those flames, which leaped upward to roast the flesh of this pure and perfect Sacrifice.

Take and eat.  Oh, taste and see that He, the true Passover Lamb of God, is good, indeed.  He is good for you, although you have been bad.  And the Lord is so good that in eating Him, you become the good that He is.  Indeed, you are what you eat!

Take and drink, for this simple wine is His blood.  It is the Lamb’s lifeblood who gave His life for you.  He gave it, not in a single outpouring, but from the beginning of His earthly life to its end.  He gave it as an eight-day-old infant, the drops of His circumcision blood, shed for you.

Jesus gave His blood in Gethsemane as He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me.  Yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  Jesus’ sweat became like drops of blood, already filling that cup the Father would have Him drink.  Only after Jesus, God’s firstborn Son, had fully drained the cup of wrath and poison does it become, for us, a cup filled with grace, forgiveness, and love.

Jesus gave His blood to the end, even when the soldier’s spear broke through the dam of His flesh, releasing the water and blood that spilled forth to pool in every font and chalice of His Church.  Take and drink, this is His blood.

So, paint His blood, not on the doorposts of your home, but on the doorposts of your tongue, heart, and soul.  For this blood is the armor of the Almighty, shielding every part of you from the destruction that will overtake this world when the angels carry out the judgments of God.

Those destroying angels will pass over you.  For you’ve been painted with the crimson colors of Christ who hands His chalice to you.  Take and drink, for in His cup is your salvation.  It contains the blood that flows from the veins of the Lamb.

Here is a meal that takes on a life of its own–or, should I say, that takes on the life of another: The life of its Founder, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And in taking this meal into yourself, you take on His life as your own.  You pass over from death into life everlasting.  In the Supper, you are bodied and blooded by our Lord’s body and blood.  And when you receive the Giver, you also receive His gifts.

So, come now; the Table is prepared.  Amen.