Exodus 12:1-28, John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
Do you display a cross anywhere to identify yourself as a Christian? When I was growing up, my parents had one hanging in our dining room. I have a painting of one in my own dining room now. The cross is the most common symbol of Christianity around the world. Crosses come in wood, gold, clay, plastic, and tattoo green. But what is this symbol? It is an executioner’s tool. Christians display an apparatus for capital punishment as a decoration to identify with our faith. And though it seems grotesque, the symbol does capture the essence of our faith.
For Israelite children growing up in the Old Testament era, the Passover Lamb would have been as familiar a symbol of their faith as the cross is to Christians today—and its origin is just as somber. Some of the kids in those days would have grown close to the lambs they kept. The Passover Lamb, of the rare spotless variety, would have been regarded as extra special. If it were my children, they would have given the lamb a name.
But the time would come when the family would slaughter that spotless lamb during their holy feast of Passover. I imagine the children felt the sting.
During that meal the children were supposed to ask the elders in the room why they ate unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and why they spread the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts of their houses. The adults, then, were supposed to recount the story of how God delivered His people from their slavery in Egypt. The unleavened bread symbolized the haste with which they left, the bitter herbs prompted them to remember that those were hard times, and the blood on the doorpost reminded them how the angel of death passed over the homes of the people of Israel as the last great plague swept through Egypt, loosening Pharaoh’s grip on the children of Israel.
God’s people continued to observe Passover all the way up to and beyond the life of Jesus. He celebrated it every year of His life (Luke 2:24). The blood of the lamb was an ongoing reminder of how God delivered His people from tyranny and oppression and brought them into the Promised Land.
But that first Passover dealt primarily with their external bondage in Egypt. Although God delivered His people from being slaves to another nation, they remained in bondage to sin and needed to be delivered from the tyranny of their own rebellious hearts. We all need this.
It was Passover during the Last Supper when Jesus gathered His disciples in the upper room. Together they went through the Passover celebration, but Jesus did not give them the Passover Lamb because He knew He would become the true, better, and lasting Passover Lamb within a matter of hours.
The book of Hebrews presents Jesus as the Priest who became the sacrifice. When He had made His offering to the Lord on our behalf, He sat down at the right hand of God. There were no chairs in the temple for the priests, which symbolized that the priests’ work was ongoing. But when our High Priest sat down at the right hand of God, He did so because the sacrifice He had offered—His own spotless life—was the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice that would finally and eternally deliver God’s people from their internal, spiritual bondage.
Jesus frees us from ever having to make ourselves perfect before God. Because of His blood, death passes over us, and because of His resurrection, life is ours forever. Worship Jesus—the Priest who became the sacrifice, the Prophet who was the Word of God, and the King who became the servant of all.
written by Russ Ramsey