When I read Scripture, I find it helpful to put myself into the shoes of the people living during the stories taking place. This isn’t to make the Bible about me– it’s all about God– but to remind me of the humanity of the characters in the Bible. Too often, I’m tempted to assume that the people spread across the pages of Scripture were somehow oblivious to the miraculous nature of the events surrounding their lives. For instance, I find myself tempted to, as a default, assume that the Israelites saw the plagues befalling Egypt and merely shrugged. Ah, just another Tuesday. When I put myself in their shoes, I have to think how awestruck I’d be at the circumstances taking place.
I must keep in mind that these were normal humans, just like the rest of us. Surely this realization reignites our wonder at the miracles God performs as his story unfolds in the world. God is like no other; the ten plagues instituted by God served to destroy any argument to the contrary. May we proclaim this truth today as we witness the powerful intervention of God to save his people from evil.
As the story of the book of Exodus unfolds, nine plagues in the Pharaoh of Egypt still stubbornly refused to release the Israelites from their captivity. But the tenth would be unlike the ones before it. God declared that in the night, he would strike dead the firstborn of all in Egypt– from Pharaoh’s child to the cattle in the field. This would be a harsh, painful plague representing the affliction Egypt has caused for centuries to God’s firstborn, Israel (Exodus 4:22-23).
There was one way, however, for the plague to be avoided: to spread a lamb’s blood across the doorposts of the home. This, explained in the detailed instructions provided in Exodus 12, was the means of salvation through which the Israelites and any wise Egyptians would be delivered.
In order for there to be deliverance, there must first be a sacrifice. Passover precedes the exodus. Throughout the narrative of the Bible, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a greater plague– a greater judgment– for which there must be a greater sacrifice. Humans are imprisoned under the power of sin, a power greater than Pharaoh himself, and there must be a greater lamb whose blood has more power. This is because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
Who is this greater Lamb, the one whose blood can take away sins? It is Jesus, the lamb of God (John 1:29). The Passover lamb was to be without blemish (v.5); Jesus was perfectly sinless (1 Peter 1:18-19). He could not have atoned for our sins if he himself was sinful. The lamb was to be kept from the tenth day to the fourteenth (v.3-6). Jesus similarly entered Jerusalem four days before his death, occurring around the time of the celebration of Passover (Matthew 21:1-11).
Verse 46 informs us that the lamb’s bones couldn’t be broken, and we know from the New Testament that Jesus’ bones were not broken on the cross, despite that being a typical method to speed up the criminal’s death during a crucifixion (John 19:33-36).
Most significantly, the lamb’s blood was to spread over the doorposts to signify that the family inside was backed by God and his provision (v.7). Jesus’ blood was spread across the wooden beams of the cross, and all who place themselves under the lordship of Christ accept God’s provision for escaping judgment.
Take a moment and meditate on Exodus 12. Can you think of any other ways that the life and death of Jesus connect him to the Passover?
As you consider the implications of Jesus being our Passover lamb, I want to draw your attention to the nature of our salvation for a moment. Don Carson has a powerful illustration about how our feelings relate to our salvation that I believe gives us renewed joy and strength in the Lord. 1This picture invites us to do as I said at the beginning, to put ourselves in the shoes of the people within the story. He tells us to consider two fathers living in Egypt during the time of the first Passover, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. They’re talking about all the wild stuff they’ve witnessed recently, and they both affirm that they have followed Moses’ instructions diligently to protect their families from the impending tenth plague.
Mr. Jones admits he is still nervous, that he loves his son dearly and couldn’t imagine losing him. Mr. Smith responds matter-of-factly that he shouldn’t be concerned because they have both covered their homes with the blood of a lamb. Still, Mr. Jones can’t help but feel uneasy at the whole situation, struggling to have the same level of trust and confidence as Mr. Smith.
When the angel of death passed through the land that night, which father lost his son?
And that’s the whole point. Carson says, “The fulfillment of God’s promise that the angel of death would simply “pass over” and not destroy their firstborns depended not on the intensity of the faith of the residents but only on whether or not they’d sprinkled blood on the doorposts and on the lintel.”2As we consider our own salvation from sin and death, we must understand that we are not saved because of the strength of our own faith. As I’ve heard it said, our salvation can be likened to a person hanging off a cliff. Weak faith in a strong branch bodes better for them than strong faith in a weak branch. It is the object of our faith that matters most.
When you’re tempted to doubt the salvation God has freely graced us with through the cross and empty tomb of Christ, look to Jesus who is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). When we cry out, “I believe; help my unbelief” to our Lord, we can rest in confidence and joy that the one who hears us is the glorified Passover Lamb.