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Our Passover Lamb

There is no denying that this Easter is going to be like no other we've ever experienced. Being forced to stay at home gives us more time to contemplate God's ultimate act of redemptive love through His own sacrifice through the death of His Son to take the consequences of our sins on Himself.

But this Easter is not only different because of the circumstances we are facing in the world, but because Easter coincides with the festival of Passover, just as it did during Jesus' last week. As we engage in new rhythms of Scripture meditation, worship and prayer at home, this is an opportunity to re-familiarise ourselves with the the meaning that can often be passed over by us in the 21st Century, who have no Jewish heritage. Passover, the celebration of deliverance, of freedom from bondage, is the backdrop against which we John declares, 'Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!'

We all know the story of the exodus as it is a favourite Sunday School story. The trouble is that this can become exactly what we view it as: a story. The parallels we see between this first deliverance of the people of God and that through Christ can then cloud our vision, so that we see Jesus' work through His death on the cross as just another story we tell kids once a year, with some spiritual symbolism that adults can glean.

The celebration of Passover, however, is not simply a retelling of a story over a good meal. Conrad Gempf writes, 'It is, in some ways, an actual participation in the mysteries if God's acting and delivering, an expression of solidarity with our ancestors through the ages.'1 This celebration becomes not only one of remembrance, but one that unites the people of God in the present.

Though many of us as Christians do not have Jewish ancestry, and Exodus 12:43-4 instructs that non-Jews cannot participate unless they have been circumcised, Paul writes in Romans 2 that we have the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, grafted into the olive tree which is Christ. Therefore, whilst we may not be participating with our physical ancestors in their slavery and deliverance, they have become our spiritual ancestors as Jesus opens up for Jew and Gentile to become one in Him. As such, let us explore the relevance of the Passover feast for our celebration of Easter this year.

The Lamb

In Exodus, God commands every family to choose an unblemished male lamb on the 10th of the month, and to take this lamb into the family. After 4 days of having the lamb amongst them, the father was to take and slaughter it, putting the blood on the doorposts and the lintel of the house.

Can you imagine taking a little lamb into your home for four days, especially if you had children who may have named it, fed it, cuddled it, and then dad has to take it and kill it? We often de-personalise ourselves from sacrifices, especially today, but here we see that there is a personal cost to sin. The family brings this lamb into its midst for 4 days and then must slaughter it to be reminded of the weight of our sin, the weight of the commands God gave. If our sacrifice doesn't touch our hearts, what are they good for?

Just as the lamb was welcomed into the house on the 10th of the month of Nisan, it was on the 10th that Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem in his triumphal entry. 4 days later on Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples.

This is actually a place where there is some controversy regarding whether or not this was a Passover celebration. John's gospel records the passover lambs being sacrificed whilst Jesus was crucified, whilst the other gospels make it clear that the meal he ate the night before was a Passover supper. This is quite easy to resolve, however, and though many claim it to be a 'contradiction,' is no contradiction at all.

Steve Motyer resolves it this way; John's timing is correct so that Jesus, who knew what was ahead of him, celebrated the Passover with his disciples a night early. Remembering that the Jewish day is measured from sunset to sunset, the 14th of Nisan would have been from Thursday to Friday night, and so they celebrated the meal on the 14th, only the evening before everyone else.

Moreover, in Jewish tradition, the lamb was presented to be sacrificed at around 3pm on the 14th- Friday afternoon. Therefore, Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, died at the same time the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered. Jesus is the lamb who was slain, a great price both to God as Father and to us.

Each year, the Passover reminds us that it is the blood of the Messiah that is shed and put on the doorposts of our hearts.

In the first Passover the blood on the doorposts was a sign that the people living inside the house was trusting in YHWH for their deliverance. As we apply the blood of our Passover Lamb Jesus to the doorposts of our hearts, we too are trusting our deliverance to God. The greater thing, however, is that we aren't only in hope that He will deliver, but we live in the promise that he has delivered us from death to life!

In the face of this pandemic, we have the chance today to tell others of the hope of deliverance we receive through the blood of our lamb Jesus Christ. But we must choose whether or not we will be applying his blood to the doors of our hearts. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says 'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.'

1 Gempf, Mealtime, 161.


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