The single most significant event in the history of the human race took place on the first Sunday after Passover in about the year A.D. 30. It's the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Biblically it is not called Easter but "The Feast of First Fruits." Last year at this time we studied the Feast of First Fruits, so this morning we want to back up to the very first Feast, which is Passover.
Today we want to study what the Bible tells us about the significance of Passover. Old Covenant Israel had seven holidays that were prescribed by God. These seven holidays are discussed throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. But only in Leviticus 23 are all seven holidays listed in chronological sequence. These seven holidays are called "the Feasts of the Lord."
Leviticus 23:4 (NASB) 'These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them.
The KJV says, "These are the feast of the Lord." The word "feasts" is the Hebrew word mow'ed, which means: "to keep an appointment" or "appointed times." The words "holy convocation" mean: "rehearsal." In other words, the feasts of the Lord were appointed times of worship for Israel that would serve as "dress rehearsals" in God's prophetic calendar. These feasts are not just part of the heritage of Israel, there is something much deeper going on here.
The study of the feasts is a study in typology. Typology is the interpretation of Old Testament events, persons, and ceremonies as signs which prefigured Christ's fulfillment in the New Covenant with the church.
Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB) Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:17 indicates that the 7 Feasts are shadows to teach us about Christ. When we study the Feasts of the Lord, we are in reality studying Christ. Each Feast is a prophetic picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we want to study the first feast, which was called Passover:
Leviticus 23:5 (NASB) 'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover.
Passover is the foundational feast. The other six feasts that follow are built upon it. Passover occurs in the spring of the year, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month, Nisan (March/April). You'll remember that the first Passover was observed when Israel was about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. God had spoken through Moses, demanding that Pharaoh release his people, but in spite of a series of devastating plagues, Pharaoh refused to do so. And so now, in preparation for the final and most terrible plague, the death of every first-born, God gives Moses specific instructions for how the Israelites are to be saved. If you'll turn with me to Exodus 12, we'll look at the first Passover.
Exodus 12:1-2 (NASB) Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
In the first verses of this chapter we see the significance of this feast in that the Lord changes the calendar with its introduction. The month that God was referring to was the month of Nisan. Prior to God's establishing the month of Nisan as the first month in the religious calendar, it was the seventh month in the civil calendar.
Right in the middle of the year, God gives them a new beginning. The relevance, of course, has to do with Redemption. Because, it doesn't matter whether it's June, October, or March, when you trust the Lord's sacrificial death to pay for your sins, it is right then the first moment of a brand new life for you!
As we look at the Passover, please keep in mind that it is a type, or picture of something much greater - it pictured the redemption of God's elect through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Exodus 12:3-11 (NASB) "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 4 'Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 'And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 'Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 'And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 'Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 'And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11 'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste-- it is the LORD'S Passover.
Verse 3 tells us, "On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household." Who is the anti-type of the lamb? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. A lamb is rather symbolic in Christological interpretation. How do we know this? We learn this in the New Testament. Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul draws the parallel for all time when he says, "Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us." (I Cor. 5:7).
When Jesus first appears publicly, John the Baptist introduces Him as the "Lamb of God":
John 1:28-29 (NASB) These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day he saw^ Jesus coming to him, and said^, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
In this John is referring to the Passover lamb. His first introduction by John highlights His destiny as the Lamb of God who is to die for our sins.
Revelation 7:9-10 (NASB) After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
The Passover lamb foreshadowed God's final Passover Lamb and suffering Servant Jesus Christ whom God would one day send to this world to be sacrificed so that His blood could be used to cover the sin of His elect. All who placed their faith in Him would be saved, not from the bondage of Egypt, but from the bondage of sin and guilt; and delivered into the kingdom of God - a kingdom of life, joy, peace, and love.
The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, could speak of Israel's Savior as a lamb:
Isaiah 53:6-7 (NASB) All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
Isaiah 53 pictures the substitutionary death of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Exodus 12:5 (NASB) 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
God tells the Israelites that this lamb is to be unblemished. In the New Testament we see that Christ was the unblemished lamb:
1 Peter 1:19 (NASB) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
Peter makes it very clear here that Christ is a spotless, unblemished lamb. Paul also mentions Christ's sinlessness:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There are several points of interest in our next verse:
Exodus 12:6 (NASB) 'And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.
God commanded Israel to take a lamb on the tenth day of Nisan and set it aside until the fourteenth day. These four days were fulfilled by Jesus during the Passover week. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple, which was the house of God, and went on public display there for four days, from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14. During this time Jesus was examined by many in fulfilling this Scripture, including: The chief priests and elders (Matthew 21:23); Pilate (Matthew 27:1-2,11-14,17-26); Herod (Luke 23:6-12); Annas the high priest (Luke 3:2; John 18:13,24).
John 19:4 (NASB) And Pilate came out again, and said^ to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in Him."
Notice what the middle of Exodus 12:6 says: "The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it." This is a strange grammatical construction, because as we saw in verse 3, there was to be a lamb for each household. But the way it reads in this verse it's as if there is one lamb. In this we see the responsibility of all Israel, indeed of all people, in the crucifixion of Christ. It was the sins of ALL OF US which crucified Him.
Our text says that the lamb is to be killed "at twilight" - the literal Hebrew reads: "between the two evenings." The lamb was to be killed "between the evenings."
The biblical day goes from evening to evening, from sundown to sundown, which is roughly 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). The day (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) is divided into two 12-hour periods. The evening runs from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The morning runs from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Each 12-hour period is divided into two smaller portions. From 6:00 a.m. to noon is the morning part of the day. From noon to 6:00 p.m. is the evening part of the day. The phrase, "between the evening" (from Exodus 12:6), refers to the period of the day that goes from noon to 6:00 p.m., which is exactly 3:00 p.m. This would be the ninth hour of the day, counting from 6:00 a.m.
Jesus died at the ninth hour of the day (Matthew 27:45-50). This would be exactly 3:00 p.m.:
Matthew 27:46 (NASB) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?"
In the evening of the fourteenth day, at exactly 3:00 p.m., the lamb was to be killed. And Jesus, our Lamb, we killed on the very same day, at the very same time as the Passover lamb. This is no coincidence!
Exodus 12:6 tells us that they were to kill the lamb. This was prophetic of the death of Christ:
1 Peter 1:18-19 (NASB) knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
The blood atones for sin, according to:
Leviticus 17:11 (NASB) 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'
Hebrews 9:12-14 (NASB) and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
One observance to be kept concerning the lamb which was to be slaughtered was that not a bone of the lamb should be broken:
Exodus 12:46 (NASB) "It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.
John remembered this fact during his writings about Jesus. In reference to the soldiers who were supervising the crucifixion, John said:
John 19:32-36 (NASB) The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; 34 but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. 35 And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN."
Although the Passover is filled with meaning, its primary emphasis is Redemption. The New
Testament truth that "Christ died for our sins" is demonstrated well in the Passover.
According to Exodus 12:7, the lamb's blood was to be put on the two side posts and above the door. Why? Why were they to kill this lamb and put its blood on the door? God answers this question in the next two verses:
Exodus 12:12-13 (NASB) 'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments - I am the LORD. 13 'And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
The first thing I'd like you to notice is that the lamb was a substitute. If you were an Israelite, and you wanted your household to escape death when the angel of the Lord passed by, you had to kill an innocent creature. You had to show that you had done so by smearing its blood on the doorway of your house. If you did that, then the Lord would accept the life of the animal in place of the life of your first-born child. In the same way, Christ gave His life as our substitute.
After spending 30 years in Burma, Missionary Judson returned to America. In his first address, he didn't talk about the graves of his wife and 4 children in Burma. He didn't talk about his imprisonment while he was there. He didn't talk about the number of Churches he started or the number of converts. But he preached on JESUS, THE SACRIFICE FOR MAN. After the service, a woman came up to him and said, I was disappointed in your sermon. It was just ordinary, I expected more of a different message from across the world. Judson replied, I have nothing more thrilling to tell then the story of Jesus, our sacrificial lamb.
This idea of substitution; of Christ being condemned, and suffering and dying in our place, is fundamental to the Christian faith. Because, in contrast to every other form of religion, we hold to a gospel of grace; a gospel of God's unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor. We are forgiven, but not because our so-called "good" deeds outweigh our bad ones. We have eternal life, but not because we do our best to live up to a moral code. On the contrary, we know that our good works are insufficient; that we constantly fail to meet God's perfect standard of holiness; and that we deserve, not acceptance and approval from God, but rather rejection and condemnation. No, our hope is not based on anything we have done, or could do, but entirely on the fact that Jesus Christ, the sinless lamb of God, gave His life in exchange for ours; that by His blood, He paid the penalty for sin on our behalf. As Paul puts it:
Galatians 3:13 (NASB) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"
Because of our sin, we owed a debt we could not pay. But Praise God! Christ paid a debt He did
not owe by going to the cross and enduring the wrath of God in our place. He was, and is, our
A young soldier had been tried in military court and sentenced to death. He was to be shot at the "ringing of the curfew bell." His fiancée climbed up into the bell tower several hours before curfew time and tied herself to the bell's huge clapper. At curfew time, when only muted sounds came out of the bell tower, Cromwell demanded to know why the bell was not ringing. His soldiers went to investigate and found the young woman cut and bleeding from being knocked back and forth against the great bell. They brought her down, and Cromwell was so impressed with her willingness to suffer in this way on behalf of someone she loved that he let the soldier go saying, "Curfew shall not ring tonight."
This is what the Gospel is all about, Christ died for us:
Romans 5:6 (NASB) For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:8 (NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 15:3 (NASB) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Let's go back to Exodus 12 and the story of the first Passover:
Exodus 12:29-30 (NASB) Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.
There is absolutely no sensationalism here, but only the most cursory account of the fulfillment of the Word of the Lord spoken through Moses. At midnight, the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain, from the king of Egypt to its cattle, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh to that of the prisoner. The weeping and wailing that night was not like anything ever heard in the land before. At the same time, none of Israel's firstborn, whether man or beast, was smitten. God's promises are certain. There is no need to elaborate further.
I'd like to point out that in order to escape judgment, in order to receive the saving benefits of the lamb's death, the Israelites had to exercise faith. They had to place their confidence in the Word of God as it came to them through Moses. And they had to demonstrate that faith by doing what God instructed them to do. If you were an Israelite, and you heard what God had commanded through Moses, but decided to ignore it, your first-born would die, just like those of the Egyptians. Your own good works wouldn't save you. Your identity as a Jew, a descendant of Abraham, wouldn't save you. Only a personal faith in God, expressed in following the commandment, would save you.
Recently, when the American troops were preparing to invade Iraq, they dropped millions of leaflets from helicopters telling the Iraqi soldiers how to avoid being killed. There were specific instructions on how to lay down their weapons and how to approach the coalition forces in such a way as to indicate that they intended to surrender. The leaflets contained a promise that those who did so would be treated humanely. Those who believed in the promise, and who acted on that belief by surrendering in the prescribed manner, were saved. Those who did not, lost their lives. And you and I are in the same situation as the ancient Israelites, or the Iraqi soldiers. God has given us a promise that if we trust in Christ for salvation, we will be saved. If we give up all attempts to earn forgiveness by our works of self-righteousness; if we humbly accept as a free gift what God has offered us through Christ, then we will be saved. But if we ignore God's Word, or if we try to approach him on any other basis than faith in Christ, we will be lost. As Paul writes,
Romans 3:23-25 (NASB) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this. The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan. And almost two thousand years later Jesus Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan. While Israel was celebrating their Passover, Jesus, the true Lamb of God, was being crucified. He was the Lamb of God which the ancient Passover lamb typified. He died to save us from God's judgments just as that lamb died instead of the first-born. As those ancient first-born redeemed by the blood of that lamb therefore belonged peculiarly to God, so we redeemed through Christ belong to God in a special sense. We are saved by His death, not merely by His life. A live lamb tied at the door of one of those Hebrew homes in Goshen would not have been sufficient to shield the first-born from wrath. It must die. Those who deny the vicarious death of Christ and teach salvation through his beautiful life alone, disregard the lesson of the Passover. Nor should the equally important truth be overlooked that the blood must be applied as well as shed. The blood was to be applied to the door-posts and lintels. The blood thus applied was the means of salvation then. So now the mere fact that Christ died for sinners does not save them. The blood must be applied to them individually for their salvation from sin's guilt and penalty.
As we look at Passover and see its fulfillment in the Cross of Christ, we renew our confidence in
the Scriptures; these things are beyond coincidence.
The firstborn of Israel were not spared because they were more worthy or more righteous than the Egyptians. Like the Egyptians, the Israelites were sinners, fully deserving of divine wrath. Had Israel been worthy, there would have been no need of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb with its blood applied to the door frame. The firstborn of Israel were spared due to the grace of God alone. God's provision of a means of escape was based upon His grace, not Israel's merits.
There is no clearer example of salvation by grace in the Old Testament than the Passover, which we have just studied. Every person in Egypt, whether an Israelite or an Egyptian, was worthy of God's divine judgment. The reason why men find the judgment of God in the smiting of the firstborn so difficult to justify is that they do not grasp the seriousness of their own sin.
Believers, we must understand that because Christ is our Passover Lamb, we are God's possession. The firstborn of Israel had to be redeemed because God had spared them, and thus they belonged to Him. While only some of those Israelites who were in Egypt were firstborn, and thus in need of being redeemed, all of us who have trusted in Christ belong to Him. Every child of God belongs to God and must live in the light of belonging to Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Because Christians have been redeemed by the Lamb of God, they do not belong to themselves, and they must, therefore, live out their lives as a living sacrifice to God. When we come to faith in Christ, we cease to own ourselves, and we become Christ's possession. In fact, all men belong to God by virtue of creation, and all Christians belong (doubly) to God by virtue of redemption. We are not to live our lives independently, autonomously as Christians, but we must live them out as those who have been bought with a price and as those who belong to God.
The sad truth is that many who call themselves Christians live no differently than the unsaved. George H. Gallup writes, "There's little difference in ethical behavior between the churched and the unchurched. There's as much pilferage and dishonesty among the churched as the unchurched. And I'm afraid that applies pretty much across the board: religion, per se, is not really life changing. People cite it as important, for instance, in overcoming depression - but it doesn't have primacy in determining behavior."
Believers, since we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, our lives should be different, we should flesh out the truth of the gospel. Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." Saint Francis, who lived in the thirteenth century, understood that those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ are constantly preaching - by our words, by our attitudes, by our conduct, by our choices. And so we ought to be continually examining our lives to make sure that the message we are proclaiming is the gospel. By God's enabling power, we should seek to live so that the sermon others hear and see in us is indeed the good news. That's a very powerful kind of preaching.
The great news for us this morning is that our Passover Lamb not only died to pay our sin debt, but He also defeated the grave. Three days after His death, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. His is alive! The resurrection affirms for us that Jesus is who He said He was. Jesus claimed to be God, and He proved it. He overcame death. And He offers eternal life to all who will trust in Him. If He had remained in the grave, the question of whether or not He is the only way to heaven would be a matter of debate. However, the resurrection answers the question and ends the argument once and for all. Is Jesus really the son of God? Well, He has power over death, so I guess that means He is everything He claimed to be.
You may remember that Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Jesus from Pilate. Joseph had to be extremely wealthy and influential to be able to approach Pilate personally. We also understand from Roman law that he had to be the next of kin to receive the body. In an extra biblical conversation, we learn that Pilate was surprised at Joseph's request. "I don't under stand, Joseph. You are one of the richest men in the region, and you have just completed this new tomb for your family. And now you're going to use it to bury this criminal?" To which Joseph responded, "Why not? It's just for the weekend!"
Just as the firstborn in Egypt were in danger of being smitten by the death angel, so men, women, and children are in danger of living out eternity in the lake of fire, enduring the eternal wrath of God (cf. Rev. 20:11-15). The solution to the problem is, once again, a Lamb; the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on whom our sins were laid. He died for our sins; He bore the wrath of God so that men could escape from the wrath of God and could participate in His promised blessings (Isa. 53). It is my prayer this morning that you will, even at this moment, accept the salvation which God offers to you through the sacrifice of His Son who has been raised from the dead.