Exodus 12:1-13 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 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.”
Thousands upon thousands of lambs — buckets upon buckets of blood — this is the history of the Passover. Long ago, in the land of Egypt, in a land of exile, in a land of slavery, the Israelites suffered under the iron fist of Pharaoh. This line of pharaohs had forgotten the saving work of Joseph and how he had delivered Egypt from the devastating famine. So, they had enslaved the Hebrew people to do the pharaohs’ manual labor — to build their cities and erect their monuments. Terrible hardships, brutal labor, and despair were the lot of the Hebrew people. They groaned under the burdens placed upon them, they suffered under harsh taskmasters, and they cried out to the Lord in their misery. The Lord heard their cries, and He remembered His covenant. He sent His servant Moses to bring the people out. He sent Moses to be a mediator between God and Pharaoh, to free the people of Israel from the hand of slavery, to break their yoke of bondage, and to deliver them from the land of exile. Easier said than done!
God repeatedly sent Moses to Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go out into the wilderness to worship the Lord (Exodus 7:16). Each time, Pharaoh refused.
So, the Lord sent plagues upon the land of Egypt. Plagues of the Nile River turning to blood, frogs coming from the Nile River, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness. Each plague struck at the one of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Heket, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, who was portrayed with the head of a frog, had no power to stop the frogs from filling the people’s fields, homes, and cooking pots. Seth, the Egyptian god of storms and disorder could do nothing about the swarms of locusts that ravaged the land. Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun, could not stop the sun from being blotted out and a palpable darkness covering the land for three days.
The greatest of the Egyptian gods was the Pharaoh himself. Over 80 years earlier, a Pharaoh had commanded the midwives to kill all the Israelite newborn boys (Exodus 1:16). Now, the tenth, final, and worst plague of all would strike back at that injunction for infanticide. All these years later, the firstborn male among the Egyptian livestock and homes would be killed. Pharaoh commanded the midwives to carry out his demand for death. He made this decree to keep the Israelites as slaves. The Lord Himself would carry out these fatalities. He carried out this plague to set His people free. And Pharaoh was powerless to stop the Lord.
So that the Israelites would not suffer from this tenth plague, they were told to take a lamb from their flocks - the best lamb, a male without blemish or spot, a perfect specimen — one lamb for each family. After the ceremonial law was given, poor families could substitute a lamb for a pair of doves as a sacrifice. Not so with the Passover, though. Instead, poor families – or families too small to afford a lamb or too small to eat an entire lamb – were to join with another family. But, a lamb was required. After killing the lamb, they were to collect the blood, so they could spread it above and around the door to their homes.
God gave the reasoning for this strange direction: “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 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.” The blood of the lamb would save them from the plague of death.
That very night, the Destroyer passed through every house in Egypt (Exodus 12:23), and the firstborn male in every family died. Even the firstborn male of all the livestock died. All the firstborn males, from the house of the lowest slave to the house of Pharaoh, died. Great wailing and mourning went up from the land of Egypt as they counted their dead. There was no escaping this terrible, avenging angel of death — only the blood of a lamb could save you.
The Destroyer passed over every house whose door was dripping with lamb’s blood. It was the blood of the lamb that saved the Israelites from death. Finally, Pharaoh gave up. With a mixture of fear, anger, sorrow, and hatred, he commanded Moses and Aaron, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites” (Exodus 12:31)! After four hundred years of exile in Egypt, the children of Israel could finally go home.
To commemorate this great rescue, every year, on the fifteenth day of Nisan, the Hebrew people were to celebrate the passing over of the Destroyer. The Passover Festival was a meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and grape wine. Blood was smeared on the doorposts. This was to make the people remember the great deliverance accomplished by the blood of the lamb.
One thousand four hundred years later, and thousands of thousands of lambs later - after buckets and buckets of blood had been smeared – Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. They eat, they drink, they remember the great salvation God worked for His people as He brought them out of Egypt – delivering Israel from the land of their suffering and ending their exile in a foreign land. Then, Jesus says, “I have something new for you.” Jesus takes the elements of the Passover meal – unleavened bread and grape wine – and makes them into His very body and blood. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, takes bread, gives thanks, and gives it to His disciples. “This is My body.” Then, He takes the cup, drinks, gives thanks, and passes it to His disciples. “This is My blood.”
The Old Testament covenant of the Passover is now fulfilled and replaced by the New Testament Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The meal of lamb becomes the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. The blood of thousands upon thousands of lambs reaches its fulfillment, replaced by the blood of one Lamb who takes away the sin of the whole world, Jesus Christ. All of those lambs, the best from each flock, lambs without blemish or spot, are fulfilled and replaced by the perfect, pure, holy Son of God. The salvation from the land of slavery; the rescue from their hellish work; and deliverance from dying in a foreign land – all that took place through the Passover lamb. The children of Israel were returned from their exile, out of the land of bondage into a new freedom – a new covenant.
Jesus Christ, the perfect Passover lamb, brought about our salvation from the slavery of sin. The Lamb rescued us from residing in hell. The Lamb delivered us from death. He has returned us as the children of God from our exile, out of the land of bondage into a new freedom – a new covenant.
The Lord has proven that He is more powerful than all the false gods of our land – money, health, popularity, social media, political incorrectness, or whatever gods we have fashioned for ourselves lately.
Jesus has changed one holy meal to another holy meal; the Old Testament sacrament for the New Testament sacrament; one blood rescue to another blood rescue. This is the salvation history of God’s people – written in lamb’s blood. This is the journey: the return from exile for the children of God. From the land of slavery to sin and death, through the waters of Baptism, into the Upper Room to receive the true body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ — a great journey, a new meal, a new sacrament, and a new covenant in Christ.
We are the people of this new covenant. We are the people called out of the land of exile. We are the people washed in the blood of the Lamb. We are the people who have received the grace of God in Word and Sacrament. We are the people for whom the blood of the Lamb was poured out upon the frame of the cross at Calvary. The blood of Jesus poured out upon the tree cleanses us from every spot and stain — all guilt and corruption, all iniquity and sin – washed away. We are rescued and redeemed, returned from exile to a beautiful relationship with God. We are the people of God who live each day in the joy of walking with Him. Once we were “not a people,” but now we are “God’s people” once again.
Thousands and thousands of lambs slain — buckets and buckets of blood smeared — all of the Passover lambs, all of the blood points to the cross. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The blood shed on the holy hill of Calvary brings us back to the Upper Room, and the words of Jesus echo in our hearts: “Take eat; this is My body, which is given for you. … Take, drink; this is My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of Me.” The holy meal of the Passover points to the new holy meal that Jesus institutes in the Upper Room and validates upon the cross. As we eat His body and drink of the cup of His blood, our eyes are turned back to the cross. We remember the sacrifice of the Lamb as He once again cleanses us from sin and shame.
Tonight, once again like at every holy day, we receive the body and blood of the Lamb of God, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Your sins are forgiven. They will not kill you. They will not damn you. Through faith in the blood of the Lamb, the Destroyer passes over you. Your Savior gives you His body and blood so that you might be saved, rescued, and delivered.
From meal to meal, God delivers His people from the land of exile, rescuing us from sin and death. Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. His blood poured out shields us from the avenging angel of death. His blood poured out overcomes the triple enemies of sin, death, and Satan. His blood poured out gives forgiveness, life, and salvation to the new-covenant people of God. Thousands and thousands of buckets of lamb’s blood – all pointing to their fulfillment in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. A Lenten journey: meal to meal, Passover to the Lord’s Supper. A sacramental journey marked by the blood of the Lamb, our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. Amen.