The Journey to the Cross - Tuesday
Beginning last night, at sundown, the 7 day observance of of the Jewish Passover began with what is called a Seder meal. This meal consists of specific traditions and customs — each having meaning and significance in the remembrance of God’s salvation of his people from slavery and bondage in Egypt as recorded in the book of Exodus.
More specifically, Passover references the final of the 10 plagues upon which God showed his righteous anger toward Pharaoh for refusing freedom to the Hebrew people.
God’s people were slaves in Egypt. God heard their cries and purposed to rescue them from bondage. God sent Moses as a voice to proclaim freedom and release from captivity.
Pharaoh, who ruled Egypt as if he had divine right, refused to release the Hebrew people. His hardness of heart prompted God to flex his divine power to show Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews who it was that was demanding freedom. A series of plagues, God’s righteous judgement and punishment for sin, came raining down on the land of Egypt affecting both the people of Egypt and the people of God. The effects of the plagues spared no one…save one plague.**
In Exodus 12 we read about God’s instruction to His people during this final plague and his purpose in all of this:
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. 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.’” (Exodus 12:1-13 ESV)
This one would be different. There would be a way out from under the punishment of this plague.
“Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!’”
(Exodus 12:28-32 ESV)
The blood of an unblemished lamb would be spilled and that blood would be painted over the doorways of the house as a sign of obedience so that when death came it would pass over that home. The blood of the lamb was spilled so that the blood of those in the household (specifically the first born) would not be spilled. That is mercy worth remembering!
And this is the pattern. A covenant is initiated by God. Terms, blessings and consequences, are set by God and then, as a sign and seal of the promise, blood is shed. This was repeated year after year in the temple as the High Priest would pour out the blood of a spotless lamb for the sins of the people of God - so that God would forgive and pass over their sin.
What does this have to do with Easter and the journey to the cross?
We know that Jesus entered Jerusalem and prepared to celebrate passover with his disciples but he was also preparing for a better passover that was to come.
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
“And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
(Hebrews 9:11-14; 21-22 ESV)
Sin and it’s consequences don’t just magically go away. They are dealt with decisively. God is right to judge and condemn sin but instead of the punishment resting on us, the doorposts of our lives are covered in the blood of Jesus proclaiming that the blood of a more perfect lamb takes our place. Done. Jesus is our Passover lamb.
So while many of us might not regularly celebrate a Seder meal, we do remember Jesus, our passover lamb, every time we share in a communion meal together and we do so as we live lives of confession and thanksgiving; of repentance and belief in Jesus’ perfection exchanged for our imperfection.
- Do you believe that Jesus’ blood is enough to cover your sins?
- Do you believe that God’s judgement of sin in Christ is a finished work?
- Do you believe that Christ’s righteousness is now imputed to you who belong to him?
- If so, what difference does this make in your Tuesday?
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
(Hebrews 9:24-28 ESV)
** Exodus 9 tells us hat the fifth plague was specific to the livestock of the Egyptians whereas the livestock of Israel was spared. Now, while not as bad as the death of livestock, you have to think there is at least some difficulty in the death of thousands upon thousands of animals if in nothing else than in the smell alone. So, while the other plagues affected the land and people at many levels this particular plague was different in order to show Pharaoh the power of God and the consequences of his hard heart.
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