How is Christ Our Passover Lamb?

Lamb

When Paul refers to Christ as our Passover Lamb, there is a wealth of Scripture that a Jewish audience would have flooding to mind. But the church, as it is now, is a place of great variety, and those who were familiar would have been expected to bring others along in their understanding. Here are two great passages to help make you more familiar with the Passover and further your understanding of how how Christ is our lamb.

Exodus 12

Here is where we learn of God’s instituting of the Passover. God’s people are in slavery in Egypt and God is in the process of bringing plagues upon the land as his means of deliverance. God then gives instructions for how to survive his final judgment on Egypt. It is a way for the Hebrews to be saved as death passes them over and this plague will be the catalyst for their deliverance from bondage.

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

John 1

Here in the New Testament in John, John the Baptist is identifying Jesus with the Passover Lamb, proclaiming that Jesus has come to take away our sins.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

Take note that here in the very beginning of John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry is already directed to the cross, where he will make the ultimate sacrifice.

Golden Calves of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12

One of the sins that stood out to me among the rest was when Jeroboam made the two idols to replace the worship of God in 1 Kings 12. He cast two golden calves and if that wasn’t enough, the way he introduces them to the people is a great offense to the name of God.

If you’ve noticed through reading the Old Testament there are a couple of ways that God is frequently named. One is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the other is a reference to one of the defining moments in the history of God’s people. God is the one who delivered his people out of Egypt.

Setting up one golden calf worked so well for Aaron that Jeroboam thought he’d double the number of idols for even better results.

Jeroboam is fearful that if the people worship the true God at Jerusalem that they will turn from him and that he will lose his power. He cares more for his own security than the honor of God and he will do anything to keep it that way, even offending God with some divine identity theft.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

1 Kings 12:26-29

Jeroboam makes dead idols to build up his power, to steal Israel’s worship from God, and he then takes the truth of God and projects it onto two calves of gold.* The truth is that their God, Yahweh, is the one who with his mighty hand delivered the people from Egypt. If not for God’s choosing of Israel there would be no land for Jeroboam to rule. God is the one who has won for his people the victory and built them up into a nation to rival any in the land. But in a selfish play for power Jeroboam will turn from truth and instead ascribe God’s work to idols, and seek to bring Israel to worship them.

He is not only sinning against God by turning away from him, he is offending God’s name by saying these idols are the redeemers of Israel, and then he leads his nation into this sin. Those who have such influence are held accountable and this sin does not go unnoticed.

*Taking a page out of Aaron’s playbook in Exodus 32.

Story So Far, Week 6

I’ve read Luke 9:62 many times before. There Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I had often thought of Lot’s wife who turns back to her home and is turned into a pillar of salt. She was being delivered from judgment and all she could do was look back to her home.

But as we’ve finished the book of Exodus this week, I couldn’t help but read this verse in Luke and think of the Israelites as a whole. They were delivered from slavery and almost immediately they turn their hearts back to Egypt and to other gods. God is angered by these actions. We read this week in Exodus 34 that our God is a jealous God. He wants us for himself alone. God wants us to only worship him. Yet we look back again and again. We look back to false gods and idols. We look back imagining that an old life was better than it truly was. We rewrite history like the Israelites who wished they could return to Egypt where they felt life was better.

In Luke, Jesus pushes his disciples to not turn back from following him. There is a radical break in the way the disciples and Jesus relate to possessions and treasure–don’t look back to those. Do not return to seeing the world the way the culture does and they way you used to. To follow Jesus in many ways is to leave behind the things of the world.

As always, Jesus never pushes us and challenges us to do what he will not do himself. Earlier in chapter nine it says of Jesus, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus knew what waited for him there. Jesus set his face to the city where he would be crucified, and he didn’t look back. Repeatedly Jesus says to his disciples that he came for that very purpose. Jesus did not look back even though his purpose was to die for those who hated him.

This Jesus is the one who tells us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He calls us to come and follow him. We are to firmly fix our eyes on Jesus, and let the things of earth fade away, never looking back.

This is a hard task, greater than our efforts could accomplish, but thanks be to God that he gives us the strength and works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

Unlikely Sermon Title: Please, Stop Giving an Offering

Throughout the latter half of Exodus, God is describing for Moses and the people what is required for the tabernacle. There needs to be fine cloth, gold and silver, jewels, and other materials for the craftsmen to assemble this dwelling place of God among the Israelites.

In chapter 35 Moses says to all the congregations of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bonze; blue and purple and scarlet yarns…”

Moses goes on listing valuable items that were surely precious to the people. The people hear this message and Scripture says they came back to Moses, “everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him,” and they brought a contribution for God’s tabernacle and for its service. These items came in the form of brooches and armlets, and other personal possessions. It was not as though the people went out to the bank and withdrew some spare gold bullion. They took what was being used in one way for themselves and sacrificed it to God, to be used for his purposes. They also gave of their time, such as the women who spun fine yarns and linens. The people brought their treasure, and in doing so revealed what truly should be our treasure–God.

What really amazed me in reading is in chapter 36. Bezalel and Oholiab, along with the other craftsmen God had gifted skill and artistry to, all had to stop their work and come to Moses with a message. The people had continued to bring contributions for God, a free will offering, every morning to such an extent that the workers had far too much. So they tell Moses, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution of the sanctuary.” People gave their treasures over to God to such an extent that it says they had to be restrained from bringing more. They gave what was sufficient and then some.

What a wonderful problem for the craftsmen to have, and what a wonderful testimony to God of how the Israelites were here being joyful givers, gladly treasuring God and his will above whatever earthly treasures they had previously cherished.

Week 6 is here

This week we finish Exodus, seeing the completion of the numerous pieces of the sanctuary that God instructs his people to build.

Luke has so much it is hard to preview it for the week. How about this–Jesus continues to wow and amaze.

What has been a joy for me in the last weeks is seeing and hearing all the number of ways God has used these readings to influence you. If you have some experience in which the Year in the Bible texts have come up in your life and how the Spirit is using them, let me know. It would make my week to hear from you about it.*

*Unless our baby is born this week. That would then make my week.

Story So Far, Week 5

In Exodus we see the way God has instructed the Israelites in how to be a people of his own, including how they should order their lives with law and how they should order worship. In Luke, Jesus called his disciples, continued teaching, and showed the people his great power, even power over death.

In Luke 7, a pharisee questions Jesus’ interactions with a sinful woman. Jesus responds with a story of forgiven debt, making the point that the one who has been forgiven much, loves much, and the one who has been forgiven little, loves little.

What we must remember is that we have all been forgiven much. We are all sinful and our debt is far more than we could ever repay. Left to our own ability and effort, we would be lost. But God has forgiven this debt–in fact he paid this debt for us himself in the work of Jesus Christ. If we daily remind ourselves of this, of how abundant God’s grace is, it will spur us on to love much. As forgiven sinners we cannot treat with disdain other sinners in this world. We all suffered under the weight of great debts. Therefore we should share love with others as recipients of grace.

Having this constant remember of grace is part of why I think God describes himself to his people in the beginning of the Ten Commandments with the words, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Whenever God describes himself in this way, he is reminding his people that they have been redeemed from slavery, they have been given abundant grace, and they have much to be thankful for.

When we recognize how much God loves us and how abundant is his grace, the more we will be propelled to love and forgive those who God places in our paths.

Grace Precedes Law

We finally come to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, a codified law for God’s people. To many, the law characterizes the Old Testament and the old covenant, and given its prominence not only here, but throughout the many books of the Old Testament, it isn’t hard to understand that view. But do not forget the preceding chapters and stories in Exodus and Genesis.

God graciously created this world and placed us in it. God has provided for a people that he chose for himself, not based on their superiority as a people, but because of his grace. God called Abraham out to be the father of many nations, made a covenant with him, and while Abraham struggles in his faith, God remains ever faithful. He protects his people, provides for them, and in Exodus we see how God set them free from the oppression in Egypt.

God did not come to Moses and deliver two tablets of stone and say, “Moses, deliver these to the people. Gather all the elders and proclaim this law to them, and let it be known that whoever keeps it perfectly will be rewarded. In five years, I’ll be back, and if you were good, I’ll have a chat with Pharaoh about letting you go.”

Instead God hears the cries of his people and frees them from Egypt. He sets them free, parts waters, gives manna from Heaven, and also as an act of grace, he then gives them this law. Grace precedes the law. The Israelites were never a people who earned or deserved God’s favor. They did not merit it. God chose them for himself, and in his grace saves them. The law follows as a way to live as God’s people, and a way to live well.

Be careful when simplistically dividing the Old and New Testaments as though one were law and the other grace, as though grace were absent in the beginning. The Bible is a book that reveals to us who our God is, and we see he is and always has been a God of grace.

Picture It: The Tabernacle

Soon after the flight from Egypt, the book of Exodus describes in great detail the size, shape, material, color, and number of the parts of God’s sanctuary among the people. It can be easy to skim through these chapters and miss their significance. I found that having a visual can help piece it all together.

This is an illustration that was made by Tim Challies, who has done a number of visuals for passages of Scripture or doctrines of theology. Click on the image to see it full-sized and I’d encourage you to click here to see more from him on his site (you’ll see other links to other posts near the bottom).