The Passover Lamb
September 4, 2015 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 5:7–5:7
Synopsis: In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul makes this statement: “Our Passover lamb has been sacrificed; Christ.” In this sermon (The Passover Lamb) we explore the significance of Paul’s words. How did Jesus fulfill the symbolism of the first Passover? What does it mean to “apply the blood”? What part did faith play in the first Passover and what part does it play for us? And how does all of this prepare us to eat the Lord’s Supper together?
I want you to imagine, just for a moment, that you are a Jewish child living in the time of Jesus. Now, borrowing on your own experiences as a child, imagine putting together Christmas, Easter, and your own country’s national day or independence day – and celebrating them all at once in one great celebration.
If you can do that, you’ll have some idea of what the celebration of Passover meant in a Jewish family. It was a celebration that lay at the heart of what it meant to be Jewish. It was an event that celebrated the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt; it was a commemoration of the mighty power of God at work and on display on their behalf. And it marked the birth of the Hebrew nation. As is common with events that recur annually, the celebration of Passover acquired a certain set of traditions over time. One of those traditions was that on the evening of Passover, one of the children of the family would ask the question: Why is this night different from all other nights? This question would then lead to a retelling of the story of the first Passover.
I am sure you remember the story. It was the climactic event of the Exodus. It was the night of the tenth and final plague that would fall on the Egyptian nation because of Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Hebrews go free. The angel of death was about to pass through the nation, taking the life of the first born son in every family. Before that event, God gave the Hebrews very clear instructions through Moses. They were to choose a lamb and slaughter it, use the blood to mark the doorposts of their houses, and then roast and eat the lamb along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, with their traveling gear packed and ready to go.
Later that night, as the angel of death passed through the land, wherever he found the blood on the doorpost, he would “pass over” that house and that family, leaving the firstborn son unharmed. In every other home, the devastating blow fell and the first born sons were slain. In the morning, as the Egyptian nation grieved for their sons, the Hebrews began their exodus out of Egypt. As God announced to the people, it was a “night to remember” and to commemorate God’s deliverance of his people.
It was no accident that some 15 centuries later, Jesus instructed his disciples to make preparations to eat and celebrate the Passover together in what would become known as “the Last Supper”. The celebration of every Passover was rich in symbolism and memory aids – some instructions were given by the Lord in the Book of Exodus, others grew out of centuries of tradition. There was the symbol of unleavened bread. In fact the feast was referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, calling to mind the haste with which the people left. There was also the eating of bitter herbs, to recall their suffering in Egypt.
But at the heart of the event was the lamb. As we examine the events of that first Passover, we discover four things about the lamb.
1. The lamb was chosen according to specific requirements.
In Exodus 12:3 we read: 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.
Then in it Exodus 12:5 it says: Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
2. The lamb was killed.
Exodus 12:6: 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
3. The blood of the lamb was applied.
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. (Exodus 12:7)
And then the final instruction:
4. The lamb was eaten.
They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. (Exodus 12:8)
These were the steps carefully followed by the Israelites on that first Passover night in Egypt, and these were the steps that devout Jews would continue to observe in remembrance of their night of deliverance. According to God’s instructions through Moses in Exodus 12:24-27:
24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
This was the feast that Jesus and his disciples were observing together in the upper room. Only Jesus was about to take the familiar symbols, especially the symbol of the Lamb, and invest it with new meaning, symbolizing a new act of deliverance by God on behalf of his people.
Jesus, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, has come. He has been pointing toward this time. On several occasions in the Gospels, the Scripture says that Jesus did or did not do certain things because, “His time had not yet come.” But now, in the divine plan of God, his time has come. And it is no accident that this time was during the Passover. Jesus died on Passover. And Paul makes a very significant statement in 1 Corinthians 5:7: For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Actually, the word order in the original text is different, creating a more dramatic effect. It reads: For our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, Christ.
Christ. Messiah. He is the One who fulfilled so many of the Old Testament symbols and pictures. And none is more powerful than this one. “Our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Christ.”
Do you remember the story in Luke’s Gospel of the two men on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter? The resurrected Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus asked the men what they were talking about, and they spilled out the whole story of the crucifixion and all that had happened over the previous 3 days.
Here is how Luke describes what happened next in Luke 21:25-27:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Do you think that maybe one of the places Jesus went in the Scriptures was the story of the Exodus and the Passover lamb?
Let’s consider how Jesus fulfilled the symbolic significance of the Passover lamb.
1. The Lamb was chosen according to specific requirements.
Look at Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:18-20
18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
Remember that the Passover lambs chosen by the Israelites had to be without blemish. Jesus as the Lamb of God met this same criterion.
2. The Lamb was slain.
Jesus died on the cross. That is a fact of history. But it is the identity of Jesus and the meaning of his death that holds our attention today. Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah.
As Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things. “These things” included the cross. He was slain. But it was not random, meaningless slaughter. This was the intentional slaying of a sacrifice; something God had intended from the beginning of time. It was “necessary”. The Messiah had to die because he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Christ.”
Why was this sacrifice necessary? The Scripture is crystal clear on this point.
Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death.
The angel of death, eternal death, is coming on all because of sin. We desperately need deliverance. And deliverance is at hand. “Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Christ.”
But that brings us to the third point in the symbolism of the first Passover.
3. The blood of the Lamb must be applied.
At the first Passover this action step was required on behalf of each home. What would have happened if they neglected this step? What if they didn’t bother to apply the blood? Imagine that the lamb was slain. The blood was there in the basin. But they decided it was not necessary to splash it on the door posts. What would have happened then? I think we can only conclude that when the destroying angel passed through the land, the first born son in that home would have died just like the Egyptians. Hebrews 11:28 tells us that faith was needed for this step. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
It requires faith for us as well for the blood of the Lamb to be applied to our lives. We must acknowledge our sins and place our trust in the blood of Christ as the sacrifice for our sins.
As Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved (our Passover Lamb has been slain) through faith (the blood must be applied)…
Have you applied the blood of Christ to the doorposts of your life by faith?
This brings us to the final symbolic fulfillment.
4. As members of the community of faith, we are invited to eat the Lamb.
It was here that that Jesus interrupted the flow of the normal Passover remembrance and makes a change. Under the old covenant, the sacrificed lamb was eaten. Obviously, this required the death of a lamb every year. But now there is a very significant change. As the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus’ death was a sufficient sacrifice once and for all. No longer do we need to slaughter a lamb. So Jesus replaced the lamb, a symbol which he perfectly fulfilled, with two symbols of remembrance.
The first was bread which represented his body in Luke 22:19: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The second was the cup of wine which represented his blood in Luke 22:20: And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
For us, there is no more blood to shed. But we are invited to eat and drink together in remembrance of the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, the Christ, who gave his body for us, and who shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. It is not only an act of remembrance, but it is an act of shared fellowship in this new covenant community, as we celebrate our deliverance from the bondage of sin and our rebirth into a new nation, a new community; brothers and sisters together in the Family of God.
- Read Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28.
- Discuss the significance of the first Passover and its place in the history and identity of Israel. Why do you think God planned for Jesus’ crucifixion to take place at the time of the Passover?
- Based on 1 Corinthians 5:7, what connection points or fulfillments do you see between Jesus and the Passover events?
- What was the connection between “applying the blood” and faith in Exodus 12? What is the connection for people today? (What does it mean for us to “apply the blood” and why does it take faith?)
- he Israelites ate their Passover lamb. How do we eat ours? Why did Jesus change the symbols to bread and wine?
- If time (extra credit!) – what was the significance of the unleavened bread – and how does Paul apply its significance to Christians in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8?