The Message of Exodus – Chapter 12

The Passover – God’s Emphasis Concerning the Cross

 

By I Gordon

 

Exodus chapter 12 presented us with the first instance of the Passover. As Christians, we take communion to look back and remember the death of Jesus on our behalf. Through the yearly Passover, Israel looked forward to this very same event. They may not have understood what it was all about, but we certainly should now!

 

Preparation

 

Please read Exodus 12:1-14. 14 small little verses… can I be any easier on you than that? (Um, what I obviously won’t mention, under any circumstances, is that those 14 little verses are absolutely packed with truth and you could spend ages thinking about them and what they all mean!) Now, in these verses you have what God wanted Israel to do concerning the Passover. As this is a picture of the death of Jesus, it is important that you ask yourself the following question while you read the passage… well, questions actually. Firstly, ask yourself what God emphasizes in the passage; and secondly, ask yourself why He wants that particular truth emphasized. Simple really! Do that and come back in a month!

 

The Passover

 

Right, month later is it? Fair enough. Before we start looking at the passage let me ask you a question… Do you sometimes struggle when you are taking communion to know what you should be thinking about? What I mean is this – sometimes people emphasize the agony of what Jesus went through and you sit there trying, without much luck, to conjure up images in your mind of how terrible it must have been. Others make communion sound like a very solemn time where you should be examining yourself thoroughly in search of any wicked way in you. (And of course, you don’t have to look very hard to find something!) The reason I bring this up is because in this passage on the Passover, God emphasizes key aspects concerning the death of His Son, Jesus (pictured of course through the killing of the spotless lamb.) Now, we would do well to focus our attention on the things God focuses on, would we not? 

 

The Start of All Things New

 

Ex 12:1-2 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.”

 

The first thing we see is something very interesting. God changed their calendar! And it has remained changed to this very day. When the year 2000 came around, you no doubt saw the celebrations that occurred right across the world (give or take a few hours.) But Israel’s religious calendar is different because of what God said here in Exodus 12:2. Their religious calendar starts with the month of Nisan (March-April) and goes through to the month of Adar (February-March). Why did God do this? Well, simply, because He knows that everything begins with the Passover. Jesus’ death on the cross is the beginning of the New Covenant of grace; it is the beginning of the New Creation[1], and it is, once a person places their faith in Jesus, the beginning of real life as God had intended it to be. A person’s life doesn’t amount to anything until they get to this point[2]. They may have all the money, all the intelligence, all the beauty in the world, but if they haven’t come to believe in the death of Jesus for their sins then they haven’t even begun. They are not even at the starting line!

 

God’s Getting Personal!

 

Exodus 12:3-4 ‘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 next point see is that God made the whole thing very personal. He could have just had one lamb killed for the entire nation if He had so wished. But He didn’t! He wanted every household in Israel to identify itself with the lamb. They each had to take a lamb, they each had to inspect the lamb, and they each had to kill the lamb. Talk about getting your hands dirty! It reminds us of course of how personal the cross is. Just as each Israelite household had to kill their lamb, so our own personal sin was responsible for Jesus going to the cross. It also reminds however of His great love for each of us individually! Yes it is true that ‘God so loved the world that He gave his only Son…’ – He died for the entire world. But it is more personal than that. He did it for you, and he did it for me. Paul knew the personal aspect of this when he wrote ‘the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ You can’t get more personal than that!

 

The Totally Unique, Spotless Lamb of God

 

Exodus 12:5-6 ‘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.’

 

Jesus is amazing! 33 years He lived on this earth. Faced the same temptations that we do… well, to be correct, He faced more temptations than we do. He also faced far more trials than we could ever cope with. Yet He was without sin! People tried to trap Him with their questions[3] and yet, one answer from the Lord would have their mouths shut for the rest of day! They couldn’t trap Him, trick Him or tempt Him to sin. He was and is, the spotless Lamb of God without defect!

 

Now it was said earlier that they were to take the lamb on the 10th of the month and keep it until the fourteenth of that same month, where it was to be slain at twilight. The Bible Knowledge commentary says that ‘twilight’ is between the suns decline and sunset (3-5pm). While I can’t go into it fully, others[4] have shown that Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt 21:1-11) was in fact the 10th of Nisan – the very day when the spotless lamb was to be chosen! In fulfilment of the Old Testament type, for the next 4 days Jesus presented Himself to the people in Jerusalem, showing Himself to be the spotless lamb without defect. On the fourteenth of that month, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon (twilight, Matt 27:46) while all throughout Israel different households were starting to kill their lambs, Jesus died on a cross. And they didn’t even understand!  

 

Cook With Care!

 

Exodus 12:7-10 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 unleavened bread. 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.

 

Pretty exact cooking instruction wouldn’t you say? God didn’t want it boiled, but He is obviously keen on roast lamb! There is a reason for this - Fire, in this sense, speaks of God’s judgement (Mal 3:1-5, 4:1-3, Matt 3:12). Just as the spotless lamb had to be cooked by fire and anything that they didn’t eat was burnt up, so Jesus was fully judged for our sin while on the cross. Other cooking instructions included always adding bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The bitter herbs were to be a reminder of the bitterness that accompanied their life down in Egypt. And in like manner it is good for us, when thinking of the cross, to remember the bitterness and bondage that God has rescued us from. Leaven in the Bible speaks of sin[5] (1 Cor 5:7-8) and this reminds us that in view of the cross, and through God’s strength, we are called to live a righteous life.[6]

 

The Journey Begins…

 

Exodus 12:11 ‘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.’

 

Having completed the recipe and cooking instructions, God now turns His attention to their attire. When they eat, it is to be with their sandals on and their staff in their hand. As I seem to have misplaced my staff recently, it might be useful to say that in today’s language it means eating the Passover with your tramping boots on and your beany on your head! The reason for this of course is that the Passover was going to be the means of Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptian empire; so they had to be ready, for the journey was about to begin! Like everything else in this passage, this has instruction for us. Believing in the death of Jesus Christ on your behalf is the beginning of an entire new journey, and an entire new walk. It’s the starting line, not the finishing line! It is the start of a new life that can be wonderful, yet difficult at the same time[7]. God has a journey for each of us and He wants us to be ready to walk where He calls.

 

Where Is Your Hope? Where is Your Peace?

 

Exodus 12:12-13 On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

 

So judgement was to come upon Egypt. The only hope for Israel was to be under the blood. Let me ask a question – Why were the Israelites saved – did it come down to their own personal worthiness? No, not at all… There would have been some righteous Jews amongst them and there would have probably been some shockers! But it didn’t come down to whether they were worthy of salvation. It simply came down to whether they were sheltering under the blood of the lamb! Let me ask another question… what possible ground for rest would the Israelites have had? You see, they knew that the avenging angel is coming to strike down all the firstborn so it would have been quite a frightening time. They wouldn’t have had any sense of rest or peace because of their works, but only because of the blood! I’m sure you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see where I’m going with this. The rest and peace that we have as Christians doesn’t come from our own worthiness. It comes from the simple fact that the blood of Jesus has been shed for our sins. Jesus is our peace. See Col 1:20, Eph 2:13-14, Rom 3:24-25. 5:1,9

 

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

 

Exodus 12:14 This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.

 

Finally we see that God instructed the Israelites to make the Passover a lasting ordinance – for it is a day worthy to be celebrated! Of course it is a celebration for God had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. I often wish that our communions would be more of a celebration for we have even more to celebrate because of Jesus death for us, than Israel did with the Passover![8] He has redeemed us from the world, and from the penalty of sin. The blood is over our lives and we have been declared righteous because of it!

 

Conclusion

 

So, just to recap, these are some (not all) of the things God wanted emphasised when He gave the Passover and they are some of the things we should think about in our lives, and when we take communion. Firstly, we saw that it is a whole new beginning! Behold new things have come! It is worth pondering on your new position in Christ. Secondly, we saw that it is personal. We are all responsible for Him going to the cross and yet we are all loved individually so much that He would have gone to the cross for any one of us. Worth thinking about! We saw that He was totally without sin, yet was judged by the fire of God for our sin. We also noted that believing in the Lord Jesus is the beginning of a journey! So we should always be asking the Lord for His direction and obedient to respond to what we hear. We also looked at the grounds for peace and rest and saw that this came through the blood alone. This should be a cause of thanksgiving and worship and should make the cross of Jesus be for us what God intended it to be – a lasting celebration that we never get tired of!



[1]  I have heard people say that they don’t think 2 Cor 5:17 is true for them. They look at their own lives (even as Christians) and say that they don’t feel like a New Creation and they certainly wouldn’t say that all the ‘old things have passed away.’ But look where it says these things have taken place… it says ‘in Christ’ you are a new creation. And ‘in Christ’ all things are new! This passage is not talking about your walk, and whether all your old bad habits have gone yet. It is talking about your position in Him. From God’s perspective all things are new and the old you is definitely gone! Believe it as God will never see you independent of Jesus Christ again. That is why the verse before this one says ‘therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh.’ That is to say, we don’t just look at someone according to outward things but we should look at other believers according to who they are ‘in Christ’. Chuck Missler recently said to me (well, there is a small chance he was on the radio at the time!) ‘The Christian life is not becoming what you’re not, but realizing what you already are in Christ.’ Yep!

 

[2] I remember well coming to this point. I was saved through reading the Bible while in my first year at University. I was fairly successful in what I was studying; successful in the sports teams I was playing in etc. But as I read the Bible (I hadn’t read it before) I realized that it all amounted to nothing! It didn’t mean a thing. I realized that you can gain the whole world but lose your soul. So I placed my faith in Jesus and had a whole new beginning!

 

[3]  I was reminded recently of the awesome wisdom Jesus showed in being able to answer everybody’s questions. The Dalai Lama was recently in town. The press was greasing up to him calling him ‘Your holiness’ etc. They arranged a question and answer session with a group of university students. One student asked him – ‘If you had all the power in the world, how would you solve the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis.’  After a long pause, this so-called great spiritual leader said ‘arrrrgggghhh… I don’t know!’ And then smiled greatly as if to say ‘hopefully if I smile and look humble long enough they we will fail to see that I don’t know what to say!’  Jesus was God, manifest as a man.  The rest are men, pretending to be God!

 

[4] A good book that has a few chapters concerning these points is Dave Hunt’s ‘How close are we?’ He shows exactly how Jesus was the total fulfilment of the Old Testament practise of the Passover, especially in regard to the last week of Jesus’ life leading up to the crucifixion.

 

[5] Leaven speaks of sin in general but can speak of particular sins. Jesus told us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (hypocrisy), the leaven of the Sadducees (unbelief), and the leaven of Herod (worldliness). 

 

[6] Look at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians (who were particularly sinful) ‘Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump. Just as in fact you are unleavened.’ 1 Cor 5:7. They had all sorts of sinful acts going down so he tells them to get rid of the leaven (sin) that is amongst them. Fair enough too! But notice that he still tells them of their position by saying ‘just as in fact you are unleavened.’ – This is their position in Christ; unleavened (without sin) because of what Jesus has done!

 

[7] I remember travelling up north with a friend a while back. Well, it was quite a few years actually. Both of us saw a narrow rocky road as we drove past it. The name of the road was ‘Salvation Way’. I said to my friend ‘tis a narrow road.’ ‘And rocky’ he replied! But thought it be narrow, and though it be rocky at times it is still the most rewarding road to travel!

 

[8] I guess we have made it a very solemn time because of the warnings in 1 Cor 11:27-29 about not taking communion in an unworthy manner, and how we should examine ourselves etc. That is fair enough but we should read it in its context of what was happening when the Corinthian’s took the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper in the early church was not just a tiny piece of bread and the smallest sip from a cup you can imagine! They had what was called a ‘love feast’. It was a meal together where they ate, drank and remembered the Lord. With the Corinthians, the rich didn’t want to eat with the poor so they ate their food before the poor could get any, leaving the poor hungry! Others got drunk on the wine! In short, a mess! Hence, Paul wrote what he wrote. For me personally, when I take communion I do examine myself to see whether I have been real with God. But if you know yourself and the condition of your own heart, and have been honest with God about that, then the Lord’s Supper should be a time of thankfulness. It should be a celebration of what Jesus has now done for us!