Text: Exodus 12:1-13
When you were a child, you probably played with models of various kinds (and if you are a man, you probably still do!): model cars, model trains, model aeroplanes, model houses, model farmyards. The point of a model is that it provides a simplified and scaled-down version of the real thing. The story of the Passover in Exodus 12 is not only a remarkable record of the deliverance of the Israelites over 3,000 years ago, but it also provides a 3-dimensional model of God’s way of salvation as achieved by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. These three dimensions are: what we are saved from, by, and to.
1. Saved from destruction, Ex 12:12, ‘I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.’ This is the 10th and last plague that the Lord inflicted on Pharaoh and his land. Time after time the Lord had said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Time after time the Lord had asserted his authority over Pharaoh and his gods. Time after time Pharaoh had refused and hardened his heart. Now, at last, it is time for the warning to finish and for judgement to begin. 12:29f, ‘At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.’
Please don’t imagine that divine judgement is just an OT reality. Rom 5:9 speaks of being ‘saved from God’s wrath through Christ.’ The difference is, that whereas in the OT God’s judgement is mainly temporal, in the NT it is predominantly eternal. It was Jesus himself who said, Mt 10:28, ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Never let us forget what we have been saved from. And let there accordingly be a sense of urgency in our hearts and a note of warning on our lips.
2. Saved by the blood. A lamb is carefully chosen, one for each household, and some of the blood daubed on the doorframes of the houses of the Israelites. Ex 12:13, ‘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.’ Note that there was death in every house: death of the firstborn in the houses of the Egyptians, and death of a lamb in the houses of the Israelites. You could say that the lamb was a substitute. The Israelites were spared, because the lamb was not spared.
Now the NT too teaches that we are saved by the blood of a lamb. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and declared, “Look! the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Gospels are careful to point out that Jesus died at the time of Passover, and they associate the Last Supper with the Passover meal itself. Peter uses Passover language when he says, 1 Pet 1:18f, that we were redeemed ‘with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ Paul clinches it in 1 Cor 5:7, ‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.’ Again, there is a difference: in the OT, the Passover became an annual sacrifice. But Christ’s sacrifice is once for all: Heb 7:27, ‘Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices repeatedly. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.’
But one thing that remains the same is that the lamb’s blood was not merely shed: it had to be applied. The blood of Christ is not just a concept, a theory, a debating point. It is as we trust in God, walk in the light and have fellowhip with one another that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
3. Saved to celebrate. Ex 12:2 – “”This month is to be for you the first month of your year.” So momentous was the Passover that it signalled the beginning of a whole new calendar. This was, after all, their ‘VE Day’ – Victory in Egypt day. 12:14 – ‘This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.’ The Passover is set in the context of a week-long festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
We too are saved to celebrate. 1 Pet 2:9, ‘you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ It is no accident that one of the alternative names for the service of Holy Communion is Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving’. And it’s for this reason that to hold services of Holy Communion in a festive setting (as we did most famously at the Millenium Breakfast) is just as biblical as our usual, more subdued approach. Be that as it may, there is a difference once again between OT and NT teaching. The Passover celebrated deliverance for one nation. The body of Jesus was broken, and his blood shed, that all might come to God. Rev 5, teaches that with his blood ‘he has purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’
No wonder the continual song of the redeemed in heaven is: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Let we who are followers of Jesus Christ on earth join in the hymn of celebration: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”