John the Baptist was a wild and holy prophet whose whole mission in life was to prepare the way for the LORD Jesus. And when his big moment came to announce Christ onto the world stage, what did John say?
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Think of all the ways John could have described Jesus. “Behold the Son of God”, “Behold the Word of God”, “Behold the Christ of God”, “Behold the great I AM”,
But no. The foundational identity of Jesus is this: The Lamb of God.
Behold God’s Bleeding Victim!
That’s the most fundamental introduction to Jesus. And if we want to understand why, we need to understand Passover.
Passover is the tenth and final plague on Egypt. Here is the ultimate judgement of God. But, as with all God’s judgement, there is a way of salvation. What is it?
On the 10th day of the 1st month, take a lamb into your household. (Exodus 12:3) It has to be a lamb – if your household can’t afford a lamb, a budgie will not do. If you’re broke then club together with other families so that you can get a lamb (v4). Only a lamb will do.
This insistence on a lamb would have put the people in mind of that ancient promise from Genesis 22: 8
God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.
The faithful would have known that this lamb would be playing the part of the Messiah Himself – the Lamb of God atoning for the sins of the world. (See here for more).
The Passover lamb had to be male – it stood in for the firstborn son, so it’s ‘like for like’ (v5). And it had to be without defect – not some cheap old thing, a precious lamb without spot.
Verse 3 says, “adopt it into family life.” ‘Flossy’ will become a pet for the next 4 days – one of the family. But on the 14th day of the month, at twilight, I’m afraid ‘Flossy’ gets it in the neck. Then using some hyssop plant as a paintbrush, paint the blood on the outside of your doorframes (v22).
After this, go inside and don’t come out again till morning – you’re only safe as you shelter under the blood of the lamb. Once inside, roast the lamb with bitter herbs and eat it with unleavened bread (verses 8-11). On this night you can forget everything your mother told you about table manners: Eat it fast, eat it standing, eat it ready to leave the country because this is the last night you’ll ever be in Egypt.
The lamb given for you to save you would be the lamb given to you to sustain you. His blood would shield you from judgement. His flesh would feed you for the journey out of slavery.
Verse 23 – at midnight when the LORD goes through the land, He will pass over every house which shelters under the blood of the lamb. But for the Egyptians who did not heed the LORD’s warnings, He strikes down the firstborn of every household (v29).
On that night every house had someone dead in it. Either there was a dead lamb or there was a dead son. If there was not a dead lamb there would certainly be a dead son.
In this way the Passover lamb was a substitutionary sacrifice. He died in the place of the firstborn.
What does Passover teach us?
Well let’s imagine three Israelite houses on the night the LORD passes through.
House A is a very religious house. They love to have Moses over to hear the words of God. They’re always praying. They’re always talking about father Abraham. They’re always doing good deeds around the neighbourhood. They hear about Passover and on one level they’re disappointed because they’d quite like the LORD to come inside. They’re sure He’d pass over them once He saw how religious they all were. Thankfully Moses persuades them out of that suicidal idea and they kill the lamb and apply the blood.
House B is not like House A. In House B they were going to be in that night anyway because they all have ASBO’s. They are drunkards, gluttons, liars, benefits cheats and notoriously promiscuous. But somehow they catch wind of Passover and they figure they had probably better cover themselves. They’re not sure it’ll do any good because if the LORD pokes His head around the door He’s bound to judge them anyway. But nonetheless, they kill the lamb and apply the blood.
House C is nothing like as good as A and nothing like as bad as B. But in C everyone is very nervous. They keep calling up house A and saying ‘I’ve killed the lamb, I’ve applied the blood but I’m just not sure. I mean I don’t really see how the blood of a lamb can make a difference.’ And they spend the night pacing up and down wondering whether the blood will do the trick.
Next morning – which house loses its firstborn son? A, B or C?
None of them do!
Of course none of them do. Because it’s got nothing to do with what’s on the inside of the house. You won’t often hear a Christian say this, but it doesn’t matter what’s on the inside. It’s what’s on the outside that counts!
It’s not about the LORD inspecting each household to see whether it’s up to scratch. It’s only about whether the household is sheltering under the blood. That is the only issue.
And it’s not even about how much faith you have in the blood. If the blood is applied at all, you’re saved. Strong faith in the blood and wavering faith in the blood lead to exactly the same outcome. Because it’s not the faith in the blood that saves. It’s the blood.
Do we see how Passover teaches us about our Christian lives? Christ is our Lamb. And His death on the cross was the true Passover – a plague of judgement that provides salvation for all who shelter under Him.
Therefore our salvation is entirely down to Him. It’s not about the quality of our living, speaking, acting, praying. It’s not even about the quality of our own faith. It’s only about the blood. It’s the quality of His death, not the quality of our life. Our salvation has nothing to do with our performance and everything to do with His performance.
Passover takes our eyes off our sins and off ourselves. Our salvation is entirely outside ourselves. It’s all about Jesus our Lamb.