|Exodus #6: The Passover Lamb
Exodus #6: The Passover Lamb
Note to Readers: This lesson was given in tandem with Rubel Shelly. Read his material at www.faithmatters.com in order to have the entire lesson for Sunday, April 8, 2001.
Reading: Exodus 12:1-28
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 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. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Imagine with me this morning that we are not reading ancient history, but we are in the audience of the elders when Moses spoke these words. We read them from a distance of thousands of years, and it all makes sense. It seems reasonable after reading through the story of the first nine plagues that at the coming of the 10th and Final plague all the people of Israel would already have their bags packed and be ready to move at a moments notice, trusting completely in their God-appointed leader Moses. But I wonder if that was true? The nine plagues were for their benefit, we read last week—so that they would know the God of promise. But what if it just seemed too strange to believe?
Rubel Shelly: Passover as defining moment of Liberation
In all of the accounts of the life of Jesus, the role of the Passover feast is at the heart of his mission. In Luke’s gospel, our only glimpse of Jesus as a boy comes at Passover time, when he journeys to Jerusalem with his parents and prolongs his stay amazing the religious experts at the Temple. In John’s gospel we date the number of years in the ministry of Jesus on the basis of the number of Passover feasts he attends. There are three mentioned, leaving us with a three year ministry. More importantly, however, all four gospels tell us that the death of Jesus comes specifically during the time of the Passover. The date of Passover every year is to this day how we date Easter. Resurrection Sunday always comes the first Sunday after Passover. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all describe the very last meal of Jesus on earth as a Passover meal, eaten with his chosen disciples.
Rubel Shelly: The meaning of Passover
It is the Passover meal that is shaped by Jesus into a new covenant meal. This is particularly obvious in Luke’s account.
14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
We rarely read this text because it mentions two different cups. But Luke has more than confusion in mind, more than accidentally including a cup from the Passover meal.
1. In v. 15, an important word play is lost in English. Passover/suffer = pascha / paschein
2. The statement of eating the Passover (with you) is followed by a declaration about the coming of the Kingdom. With the cup of v. 17, he passes his around to symbolize drinking with them, then makes a similar statement about the coming of the Kingdom of God.
3. Then there is a different eating and drinking. The Matzo, which in the Passover meal symbolizes the haste with which they left Egypt, is suddenly given a completely new meaning. “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
4. The cup after supper, in Passover celebrations today, is known as the cup of Elijah. The cup they drink after supper is forward looking, in expectation of the coming of Messiah which would be announced by Elijah’s return. In all likelihood it is the cup of Elijah that Jesus takes up, and blesses and says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the covenant in my blood!”
There was the eating and drinking of the Passover, which Jesus then replaces with his own life. In John’s gospel, there is no last supper/Passover meal because Jesus himself is the Passover lamb. Early in John’s account Jesus is described as “the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” When Jesus dies on the cross, and the soldier pierces his side, John says that fulfills the scripture “None of his bones shall be broken” (a reference to lamb with out blemish in Exodus 12: 46)
The New Passover lamb did more than redeem from the bondage of slavery—he redeemed us from bondage to Sin! The escape from the death of the first-born, became the escape from Eternal Death for us all!
Paul reminds the Corinthian church that Jesus is our Passover lamb (I Cor. 5:7), and the Lord’s Supper is our ritual meal of Freedom. Just as Passover is still celebrated today not just as a distant memory but as a participation in that event, so our eating and drinking is a participation in the Cross event. “The cup of blessing which we bless,” Paul writes, “is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread we who are many are one body” (I Cor. 10:16-17).
We eat and drink to remember who we are! We remember the events of that last supper and cross that immediately followed it. We remember that death was defeated on Resurrection Sunday. We remember that the first born son redeemed us all from our sin. When we eat and drink we participate in the body and blood of that redeemer. We become one with him and one with one another.
Unlike the command in Exodus that the Israelites remember once a year, there is no such command for the new Passover meal. In the earliest days of the new faith community, Luke says they broke bread together daily; that is the language of remembrance, of the new shared identity meal. Later in Acts, we have one reference to the practice of the church in Troas of gathering on the first day of the week to “break bread.” So we gather on this actual day of Passover to celebrate our new identity meal.
One of the difficulties we have in keeping a weekly observance is that it becomes ritual in the worst sense rather than ritual in the best sense. At its worst, ritual is the unthinking habit kept to fulfill a command, emptied of its power and significance. At its best ritual is the re-enactment of the original event in our collective lives. This morning we want to change the way in which we too easily act out of habit. Rather than passing the trays down the row, and creating a very individualized moment, we want to experience more of a shared experience. (Would the servers come to the tables please). You can see from the tables in front this morning our intent is to refocus. This is a family event, so we are going to serve one another as family this morning. (You folks can take your positions now). We have stationed these families all around the room this morning. I’m going to ask God’s blessing on the bread and the cup, and then we would like for you to go to where these people are stationed, to whomever it’s most comfortable for you, and receive the bread and cup. Most of all we want you to remember. Remember both Passover meals, and the faithful God who has always acted to redeem his people. Remember your own salvation. Remember your new identity in the family of God. Claim your place in the body and blood of the Lord this morning through eating and drinking.
Hold up bread and break it—this is my body
Lift of tray—this cup is the new covenant in my blood
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