March 28, 2021
Sanctification of the Passover Lamb
The confrontation between Moses and the Pharaoh had been going on for some time and it comes to an end with one final “plague.” At midnight the Angel of the Lord will pass through Egypt and slay every first born child of the Egyptians. This was happening during the Jewish month of Nissan, which occurs during the months of March and April on our calendar.
In Exodus 12 we can see how the Israelites are to prepare for their last, tumultuous night in Egypt. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 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. 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. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 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. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire – head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 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. (Exodus 12:1-11) (48)
This night would be remembered by Jews for the rest of time. During Passover every year, devout Jews remember the Passover Seder meal around their family dining room tables. We remember it even more often than yearly, as we participate in Holy Communion as given to us by Christ Jesus, Himself.
Following the instructions of the Lord, the Great I AM, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (12:2) This night is so meaningful that Moses instructs the Israelites that the month of Nissan would become the first month of the year for them from then on. And on the 10th of Nissan every household is to choose a male lamb, either sheep or goat, from their flock; most people chose lambs. The lamb shall be without blemish and will be kept by the family until the 14th of the month.
On the 14th of the month of Nissan the family is to sacrifice the lamb and prepare the meat over a fire, never boiling it. All the meat must be consumed by the family or burned up completely after the meal, nothing is to be left. The blood is to be collected and used during the evening as instructed. Before midnight they were to take the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes outside their houses. This is to be a sign to the Angle of God that an Israelite family lived there and the Angel is to Pass Over that house and save the children living there; thus the name for the feast, Passover. Jewish Rabbis are taught that the four days between choosing the lamb and its sacrifice serve two purposes. The four days the lamb is kept is to make sure it is not diseased, and so the family will become more attached to the animal. Then the sacrifice would carry even more weight, it would make its death even more of a sacrifice.
Further instructions are given for the meal. They are to eat all the Lamb, and eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs, with their cloaks on, and their staffs in their hand. Each of these details has specific meaning, for those following the instructions for the first time and for those who would partake of the meal centuries later.
The bitter herbs eaten with the meal are to remind them of the bitterness of the 400+ years in slavery. The unleavened bread reminds them that everything that will happen concerning the Exodus will done in haste. There will not be time for cooking leavened bread. They are to wear their cloaks and have their staffs in hand to make sure they are ready to leave at any moment. That leaves the description of the Passover lamb.
The sacrificial lamb represents the blood sacrifice required by God for deliverance from slavery. And for us the Sacrificial Lamb has exactly the same meaning. As the Sacrificial lamb the Israelites offered delivered them from slavery, so does our Sacrificial Lamb. Jesus Christ, our Sacrificial Lamb, delivers us from the slavery and bondage of sin and death.
The Jewish Feast of Passover should be held in high regard by all Christians, for it is the root of all forgiveness we receive through Jesus. And what is the big difference between the Jewish Sacrificial Lamb and ours? Our Sacrificial Lamb Lives!
Bostwick UMC 3/28/21