Behold, the Lamb: The Spotless Passover Lamb
Midweek Lent – Pr. Faugstad homily
Text: Exodus 12:1-13
In Christ Jesus, whose holy blood delivers us from our slavery to sin and saves us from eternal death, dear fellow redeemed:
Last Wednesday we heard about God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac. But just before Abraham did this, God provided a ram for an offering instead. All of this was a picture of what God would do through His only Son. His Son would be offered as the sacrificial Lamb in each sinner’s place. Today we have another picture of God’s plan of salvation.
The Israelites, descendants of Abraham and Isaac, had become slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to lead them to freedom, but Pharaoh refused to listen to the LORD’s word. Nine terrible plagues followed, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He would not let the Israelites go. Then God sent a tenth and final plague: all the firstborn sons of man and beast would be killed unless a home had blood on its doorposts.
Up to this time, the Egyptians had experienced water turning to blood, infestations of frogs, gnats, and flies, the death of the livestock, painful boils, destructive hail, locusts that ate whatever crops remained, and total darkness over the land for three days. And now they saw the Israelites painting their doorposts with blood. That was not a good sign for the Egyptians.
The blood on the doorposts was not just a matter of the Israelites declaring whose side they were on, like we will do by hanging the flag of a favorite team on our porch. The blood was a signal for the LORD to destroy or to save. It was the difference between death or life for the firstborn sons in that home.
Red paint or dye was not acceptable. Blood was required, the blood of a lamb. The lamb had to be “without blemish, a male a year old.” When the Israelites prepared these lambs, one per household, they were to prepare them like a shepherd might, roasted whole over a fire. They were told not to break any of its bones. The flesh of the lamb was to be eaten, and anything left over had to be burned.
The Israelites did what God commanded. They prepared the lamb exactly in this way. They painted their doorposts with its blood. And the LORD “passed over” their homes. He did not destroy any of their inhabitants. The Israelites were saved by the blood of the lamb. But death came to the Egyptians. “[T]here was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead” (Exo. 12:30). Now Pharaoh gave the order to release the Israelites. In the same night they had been delivered both from death and from slavery!
God told the Israelites to commemorate their Passover deliverance every year with a Passover meal. They were not required to paint blood on the doorposts each time, but they did eat the meat of a blemish-free lamb roasted over the fire. This was an annual reminder of what God had done for them through a lamb, one of the gentlest and meekest animals in creation. And it was an annual picture of what God would do for them through His own Son, who came down to us in all meekness and humility.
Like each Passover lamb, Jesus was without blemish. He had no sin; He was holy. At no time did He give in to the devil’s temptations. He remained perfectly pure in His actions, words, and thoughts. We, on the other hand, are all with blemish. We have been arrogant and proud like Pharaoh and impatient and doubtful like the Israelites. We, along with all people in history, have sinned. And God is just. There must be punishment for sin. But He does not punish us as we deserve. He punished Jesus in our place.
Our salvation required that Jesus be sacrificed for us. The shedding of His blood was necessary to save us from slavery to sin and death. The apostle Peter explained that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pe. 1:18-19). No amount of money could free you from your spiritual slavery and no amount of good things that you try to do. The ransom price for your soul and the souls of all sinners was the blood of God’s only Son. That was not just any blood; it was holy blood, the blood of God. That’s why it could blot out all your sins.
This blood of God is available to you still for the continuous washing away of your sins. Just as the Israelites continued to observe the Passover in remembrance of what God had done for them, so we continue to eat the holy Lamb’s body and drink His blood in the Supper He instituted for us. “Take, eat,” He says; “this is My body, which is given for you…. Drink of it all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood. This do… in remembrance of Me.”
When you eat His body and drink His blood with faith in His words, you have exactly what Jesus promises: “the remission of sins.” That means God does not count your sins against you anymore. He counted them against Christ, who paid the ransom price in full. Martin Luther wrote about this in a hymn verse that we will sing at Easter:
Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us. (ELH 343, v. 5)
Satan cannot harm you any more than Pharaoh could harm the Israelites. He cannot keep you enslaved to sin and death, because Jesus has set you free. Jesus’ blood cleanses you of all your blemishes of sin before God, so that you might “be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness” (Explanation to the Second Article). Thanks be to God! Amen.
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(picture from “The art Bible, comprising the Old and New Testaments: with numerous illustrations,” 1896)