When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” then tell them, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” Exodus 12.25-32.
Passover. No event in their history held greater significance for the Jews. It established them as God’s “firstborn” who lived as all the other firstborn died. It marked their beginning as the elect people of God. But because the name of the event is so familiar to us, we tend to overlook the fact that it is a compound name made up of the two words “pass” and “over”. Passover, as an event, was when the Lord passed over the Israelites without them suffering death, and passover, as an annual festival, is when the Jewish people commemorate that passing over by the Lord and see themselves as part of it.
Outside the Israelite dwellings, the night of the Passover was a night of terror and dismay throughout Egypt. Despite warning after warning, Pharaoh had refused to comply with God’s demand that he “let my people go”, and now God was passing over Egypt in judgment. Death visited every Egyptian house and no door could keep it out. But in the homes of the Israelites there was neither fear nor death. They were packed and ready for off, and they were feasting as they awaited the command to leave. For them, this was a night when slavery ended and freedom began, when they ceased to be no-people and became God’s people. For them, this night was not a night of judgment but a night of salvation.
How was that so? Because of the blood of the lamb. The Lord had instructed each Israelite household to take an unblemished lamb and to slaughter it at twilight. They were then to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where the lamb was to be eaten. And, said God, “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” (Exodus 12.13). Because the lamb had died, the Israelites would live … provided they applied the blood as they had been directed.
How rich in significance and truth all this is for the Christian. “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” says John the Baptist pointing to Jesus (John 1.29). And Paul, looking back to the cross were Jesus died, says “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5.7).
The lambs of Passover were only ever a foreshadowing, an anticipation, of the Lamb that is Jesus. Peter says: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1.18-20). And when John, looks in vision into heaven, he says: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne” (Revelation 5.6). Jesus was and is and ever will be, in all eternity, the Passover lamb, sacrificied for us.
It is his blood, the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary, that avails for me. It is his blood, smeared on the doorposts of my life, that keeps me safe from judgment. It is when he sees the blood of Jesus, that the Lord God Almighty passes over me.