A Lamb Without Blemish

"For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service." - Exodus 12.23-25
How beautiful, how incomprehensible -- Yahweh sets up the ordinance which, 4,000 years later, will set the scene for the redemption of all men. “Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5.7) God wanted to show His perfect love to his creation through means of redemption. Could He not have done that absolutely any way he wanted to? Consider that He was the One who wrote the laws and designed the cultic ceremonies, feasts, and rituals (sacrifices etc.). So why did Christ’s perfect blood have to be spilt as the blameless Passover Lamb? Because God set it up that way!

In Exodus 12, God designs the Feast of the Passover as a symbol of His sovereignty over death. Death was to strike every household in Egypt,  including the homes of the Israelites (the first plague they weren’t immune to) and only those marked by the blood of a lamb would be spared. It was to be a young male lamb without blemish, and exactly enough for each person in the family to partake. Here, in Exodus, the blood of the spotless lamb offers life to those who claim it.

"And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever." (Exodus 12.24) And so they did. Even through wars, peace, famine, prosperity, the division of the kingdom, through exile, and back into their land under Roman rule.

Enter Jesus.

“Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.” Jesus celebrates the age-old remembrance of God’s victory over death with His disciples. Except He changes the lyrics. Instead of reciting the account of the Exodus, Jesus instructs his disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22.7)

Just five days earlier, He had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey, as all Israel welcomed him (*1). Here was their King! He was their last hope. The kingdom symbolism on Palm Sunday runs deep. That can’t be missed. But while the crowd sang, “Hosanna, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” and followed Jesus through the city (*2), elsewhere in the same city the Passover Lamb was being selected from among the rest. Jesus knew that this was why He had come (Matt 20.28) and He wept that the people did not know who He was (Luke 19.41).

In Exodus, the blood of the spotless lamb offers life to those who claim it. At the cross, the blood of the spotless Lamb offers eternal life to those who claim it. The blood of Christ not only protects us from death, but conquers death forever. “He will swallow up death in victory” (Is 25.8). Jesus taught that in his Kingdom, death is not to be feared (*3) just as Moses assured the people not to fear the final plague (Exodus 12.13).

We get some insight into how the Gospel writers understood that Jesus was the Passover Lamb when John mentions that none of Jesus’ bones were broken (John 19.32-36). This was part of the requirement of the Passover sacrifice (Ex 12.46), and by commenting that Jesus fulfilled this Messianic prophecy (Ps 34.20), he also acknowledges his role as the Passover Lamb. John the Baptist introduces him as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1.29).

This Easter, as you celebrate the Resurrection, remember that God passed over us in His judgment, because we, too, have been marked by the blood of the Lamb.



Footnotes:

*1 They welcomed him the same way they welcomed Judas Maccabeus 200 years earlier, when he won great victories for Israel and promised to restore the kingdom. The significance of this demonstration cannot be overstated. (1 Maccabees 10)

*2 Interesting side note: Jesus rode into Jerusalem towards the temple, and stopped in the center of the court of Gentiles. Traditionally, this would have signified that this was to be the center of his kingdom.

*3 - John 6.50 “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”
- John 8.51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
- John 11.26 “And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

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