OLD TESTAMENT READING: EXODUS 12- THE SIGN OF THE CROSS AND THE PASSOVER LAMB
Today’s reading from Exodus 12 is of fundamental importance. The entire history of Israel stands in relation to it. Israel’s emergence as a nation can be traced to their deliverance from Egypt. As a people they commemorate this defining moment with the annual celebration of the Passover feast. We should devote some time to not only reading the account, but reflecting upon it to more fully appreciate its significance.
If we want to be free from the deadly consequences of sin that plague our humanity and have put us all under the sentence of death, we need to carefully consider how this story applies to our lives today.
The Lord gave specific instruction to spare the lives of the sons of Israel from the Plague of Death that was coming upon the land.
“You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts” (Exodus 12:22).
God said that the blood had a special value before him. We will learn more of its value as we read the Book of Leviticus 17:11:
“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.”
The Lord makes it clear that the blood signals that the LIFE OF ANOTHER, a life without defect, has been offered as a substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of those who were under the death sentence:
“I am the Lord…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” (Exodus 12:13).
Do we believe what God has required for our deliverance, the sacrifice of a perfect lamb without defect? Do we see that the shed blood is evidence of a perfectly lived life being offered as a substitute for us, and as a representative of the firstborn? Will we recognize that only the blood of the Lamb applied to the post and the lintels of the door of our hearts can avert the angel of death from striking us with sin’s full penalty? Do we recognize that only the blood of the spotless Lamb can provide the perfect atonement needed for sin?
That plan of salvation that God has provided can only be experienced if we personally put faith in God’s provision of the Passover Lamb. As a pre-requisite for Israel’s escape from bondage in Egypt and as the only means of being spared from God’s judgment of death, the blood of the Passover Lamb needed to be applied to the two doorposts and lintel of each home, representing each heart. As the head of the home dipped the hyssop branch into the blood and painted the blood on the appointed places on the door frame, he would be making the sign of the cross.
“For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).
As the Book of Genesis unfolded the promise of redemption from our captivity to the hold of sin and death, the Book of Exodus introduces us to the procedure of redemption. Exodus Chapter 12 shows the role of the Passover Lamb in the deliverance of God’s people. The plan of redemption requires that we put our trust in God’s Word about a chosen spotless lamb whose blood alone could avert the consequence of sin, the penalty of death. We need to personally respond to that Word by claiming that this Lamb’s sacrifice is our only hope for salvation.
Like the children of Israel in the time of Moses, we need to be liberated from slavery. Our common human bondage is our slavery to sin. All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:10). There are none who are righteous (Romans 3:10). All of us will sin (1 John 1:8). Therefore, we are slaves held captive to sin. Left to ourselves we cannot be delivered from its power or consequences. Our own efforts, achievements and religious piety, cannot atone for our sins. A ransom of supreme value must be paid. Only the offering of an impeccable life that was obedient unto death can satisfy the righteous demands of God’s law. The offering of a blameless Substitute, whose shed blood would be evidence of the full price being paid, would be the only method to secure forgiveness and provide release from sin’s captivity.
Jesus referred to His role as being our ‘Ransom’ in Matthew 20:28.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Some people question the emphasis within Judaism and Christianity on the need for substitutionary sacrifice which included the shedding of blood. ‘Couldn’t we have a bloodless religion?’ they ask.
We have already seen that Cain’s bloodless sacrifice was rejected by God (Genesis 4:4-5). Cain gave God what he thought best, the fruit of His labor. His brother Abel gave God what God required, the shed blood of an Innocent Substitute. The evidence of God’s satisfaction with Abel’s sacrifice was obvious to all. This pattern of covering sin with an innocent animal sacrifice was shown to the first man in Genesis 3:21 and continues through the Bible.
In the Bible we see God providing a way when there is no other way. This is the story of our salvation. There is no other way than the one that God provides.
In Genesis we learned that from the moment man sinned, he suffered sin’s consequences, spiritual separation from God. But God was there to clothe him with the provision of a Substitute (Genesis 3:21). We learn that the Promised Seed (Gen 3:15) would eventually reverse the curse. He would come from the line of an ‘appointed’ substitute- Seth (Gen 4:25). The promise is renewed with Abraham (Gen 12, 15 and 17). God gives Abraham a son, Isaac, as He promised. In Genesis 22 God tells Abraham to take his only son to the mountains of Moriah (lit. meaning ‘seen of God’).
Isaac asks, ‘Where is the sacrifice?’
Abraham tells him prophetically, “God will provide for Himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8). The death and resurrection of the Lamb of God is foreshadowed in Abraham’s obedient act of worship (Gen 22:12, 16-22). A ram caught in the thicket becomes a substitute for his own son. Abraham names that place, “Yahweh-Jireh”, “The Lord Himself will provide” (Gen 22:14). That place would later become the threshing floor for Araunah, the Jebusite. It would be purchased by King David (2 Sam 24:21). There David will build an altar to avert the plague that was coming upon Israel as a judgment for his sin. That threshing floor will later become the site for the temple of Jerusalem, and part of that same shelf of rock would be recognized as Golgotha, where God would provide the sacrifice of His Son.
There on Mt. Calvary, at the place called Golgotha, at the time of the Passover, the one who was first announced by John the Baptist as being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) would shed His blood as an atonement for our souls. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). Jesus’ sacrifice is a perfect once and for all sacrifice that pays the complete ransom for sin (Hebrews 10:10).
From the altar of the cross, Jesus shouts, “Tetelestai!” (the Greek word meaning, “Paid in Full”, sometimes translated, “It is finished”, referring to the work of redemption, or “It is a completion.” (John 19:30).
When Jesus dies, the veil that separates the Holiest of All from the Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem is torn in two, signaling the end of any ritual sacrifices needed, symbolizing an innocent substitute (Matt 27:51). Access to a holy God could no longer be denied because sin’s penalty was paid (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Why should an innocent lamb be the victim for the wrong-doing of another? There are some who have questioned the idea of a substitutionary sacrifice for sin and have created a caricature of God as a person with an anger problem. They picture Him arbitrarily sending His Son to earth, as if He had no choice in the matter and punishing Him instead of the guilty offenders. They say that this diversion of anger is like kicking the cat at home when we are frustrated with the people at work, or what some liberal theologians have called “a form of cosmic child abuse”.
However, this caricature is a straw man. It inaccurately frames the teaching of the Bible of a God who lovingly offers all that He is and all that He has to reconcile the guilty offending parties to Himself, the offended.
Some fail to see the unity of the Trinity not only in having anger against sin, but also having a participation in the costly measures of redemption. They mistakenly see Jesus as victim rather than a willing Savior who chooses to lay down His life for those whom He loved. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Father is offended by sin and so is the Son. Not only do we read of the wrath of God against sin (Romans 1:18), but we read of “the wrath of the Lamb” in the book of Revelation (Rev 6:16). We also read of the Spirit being grieved by sin (Eph 4:30) and participating in Jesus’ offering of Himself to the redemptive mission (Hebrew 9:14). The Father is a participant in the redemptive work of Christ, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (See John 14:10).
Jesus’ love is described in Paul’s letter to the Romans and only makes sense if Jesus Himself is God:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Although Jesus’ sacrifice puts an end to animal sacrifices being offered, reference to the blood does not disappear at the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross was not just a way to eliminate sacrifices. We are to be continually reminded of the value of Jesus’ ransom price on the cross when we break bread and drink from the cup with our brothers and sisters at the Lord’s Table. Reference to the blood of the Lamb continues throughout the New Testament into the last Book of the Bible. In the book of Revelation Jesus is referred to as The Lamb of God thirty times!
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Matthew 20:29-21:22
Here the mother of James and John makes a request that her boys be given positions of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus’ reply silences the self-seeking: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” I marvel at the wisdom of this answer that excludes ‘self’ and champions ‘servanthood’. It is the way of the Master.
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The healing of the blind men reminds us to make our requests known to God. The crowd did all they could to stop these blind men calling out to the Lord. But their faith was not deterred, “they cried out all the more” (Matt 20:31).
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
Jesus came into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan, four days before the Passover. On this day (according to yesterday’s Old Testament reading, Exodus 12:3) the fathers from each household were to search for a lamb without blemish among the flocks outside the city gates and bring him into the city. There the lamb would be scrutinized by the elders to see if any spot, fault or defect was to be found. The elders would scrutinize Jesus and try to trap him with their questions. They would see if they could find any fault in Him.
At the time when leaven was being cleansed from the households of Israel in preparation for the Passover (Exodus 12:15) Jesus was cleansing the temple from the leaven of the money-changers.
TODAY’S READING IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS- Psalm 25:16-22;
This Psalm alternates between petitions of need and affirmations of certainty.
The first half which we read yesterday reflects our need when we are surrounded by external enemies who mock us, hinder us and threaten to harm us. It is about our passage ‘through many dangers, toils and snares’ (John Newton, Amazing Grace). These petitions for help are mixed with bold affirmations, “in You I trust”, “We will not be ashamed”, “You are my God and my salvation!” “I remember that You are good and kind!” “You are just, faithful and forgiving!” “He is a keeper of His covenant promises and will deliver me!”
The second half of the Psalm has to do with our internal enemies and inward sufferings: loneliness, troubles of heart, stress and vexation of spirit. The psalmist is aware of the reactions of his soul and makes this petition: “Guard my soul and deliver me!” (Psalm 25:20).
The gospel is a wonderful answer to the heart-cry- “Deliver me from me!” God answers this by giving us the cross of Christ. Our old man is crucified with Christ. Everything condemnable about us has already been judged in the cross of Christ. Our death sentence under the law of God has been exacted in the body of Christ on Golgotha. Now we can reckon ourselves dead to the sinful self and alive to God. For us to live is Christ! (Romans 6:11; Philippians 1:21).
Jesus is the answer to this petition: Redeem Israel (the new name for Jacob-cheater, is now Israel- ruled of God). “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles!” (Psalm 25:22).
PROVERBIAL THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY
Proverbs 6:12-15 12 A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth, 13 Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, Who points with his fingers; 14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife. 15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.
Jesus taught that we give evidence for what is in our hearts by the words we speak (Matthew 12:34; 15:19; Luke 6:45). The writer of Proverbs reminds us that our eyes, our feet, and our finger-pointing will also reveal the condition of our hearts. How do we communicate with others? Out of the heart proceeds evil speaking, gossip, maligning, slander, sarcasm, put downs, and the spread of strife. If these heart-revealing behaviors go unchecked, the end will be utter destruction.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You are Our Passover Lamb and were sacrificed for us! Because You came to lay down Your life as a Ransom, we who believe are no longer children of wrath but have been born into Your family and made heirs of God through our identification with You! Thank You for the gift of Your Spirit, our resident Teacher, who leads us into all truth. Thank You for Your Word which illuminates our pathway and Your perfect provision for our need- the sufficiency of Your grace in Jesus Christ. Amen!
– Pastor David