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In the land of types and shadows, allegorical language is useful for communication, but often falls short of reality. Thus, in the Torah we have a multiplicity of sacrifices instituted to teach us about the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. The daily sacrifices, the Sabbath sacrifice, the sacrifice on the new moon, the yearly sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, the feast sacrifices, and the ordinances for the sin, trespass, peace, meal, and burnt offerings all speak to us of what Christ accomplished on the cross. But of all of these, one sacrifice holds typical preeminence: the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

When Jesus came to be baptized, John looked up at Him and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[1] Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”[2] An understanding of the blood of Jesus Christ requires an examination of the Passover, and what better place to start than where it all began.

The Historical Passover
Recall the story? The memory of Joseph had faded to a wisp of a dream in the mind of Egypt. The Israelites were enslaved and put to harsh labor. A national birth control plan was put in place that included infanticide. And still the Israelite population grew; but they also grew tired. Overloaded by their oppressors and burdens, they cried out to God for deliverance – and deliver God did. Most of us have seen the movie, right?[3]  Moses was minding his father-in-law’s sheep when he caught a glimpse of the burning bush. “This I’ve got to see,” he says to himself (the sheep weren’t great conversationalists). Up on the mountain, the Lord calls his name, “Moses! Moses!”

“Over here,” Moses said, breathless and shaking a pebble out of his sandal.

“I want you to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go,” the Lord said.

“Can’t you find somebody else?” Moses asked. “I’m perfectly happy stuttering to my sheep. Besides, I don’t even know Your name.”

“Never mind that, I’ll be what I’ll be, for I AM. Now, go to Egypt and get my people.”

“Now, wait a minute; it’s just not that simple. I remember what those people were like. I killed one of their slave masters and all they did was complain and make fun of me. If I show up there now, they won’t believe me.”

“They will if I turn your staff into a snake,” the Lord said.

“What, this old thing?” Moses replied. And that old thing became the rod of God with which he would punish Egypt time and again. Strengthened by the word and power of the Lord, Moses went down to Egypt and let the Israelites know that deliverance had come. The people rejoiced and worshipped the Lord—and things got worse!  “So you don’t like making bricks?” Pharaoh asked, “Let’s see how you like making them without straw!” The fight was on! Pharaoh’s slavedrivers and sorcerers sought to hold the children of Israel, and the Lord responded with plague upon plague poured out on Egypt. Still Pharaoh would not relent. So the Lord told Moses that He had one last plague with which to judge Egypt. A destroyer was coming to kill all the firstborn. And to avoid this plague, the Israelites had to choose for themselves a lamb.

Exodus 12:1-5
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats…

We can learn many lessons from this section of Scripture.[4] First we learn that God marks time by redemption. He said, “Look, your year now begins here. The month I deliver you, the month I tell you what sacrifice to make, that’s when you start marking time.” This month, known as Abib or Nisan, became the first month of the ceremonial calendar. In essence, God said, “Time starts when I set you free.”

We also see that God is the God of families. The lambs were chosen by household. The principle was “a lamb for an house.” Households were to gather together. And if a household was too small to consume the lamb, then they were to invite their next door neighbors over to eat with them. Because of this injunction, it became customary that a Passover company should be no less than ten and no more than twenty. Each family had a representative that chose the lamb for them; that lamb had to be without blemish, pure and undefiled. Rabbinical sources inform us that it had to be at least eight days and no more than a year old. Then this lamb was taken and sacrificed.

Exodus 12:21
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.

During the original Passover, the lambs were chosen on the tenth and then sacrificed on the fourteenth of the month.[5] The Hebrew word translated “kill” in verse 21[6] is the same word used for the slaughtering of the sacrifices of the whole sacrificial system of the tabernacle which had not yet  been built. This word meaning “to kill” first appears in Scripture in Genesis 22:10 where “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay [shachat] his son.” This word ties the Passover sacrifice to all other atoning sacrifices God would later establish through the Law.

Now, these people could have done everything up to this point. They could have gathered together for a feast. They could have chosen their lamb. They could have had it running around the house from the tenth to the fourteenth. And by about the fourteenth—the fourth day of having this Lamb[7]—they could have said, “Boy, he’s nice! Daddy, can we keep him? I like him! We’ll just keep him as a pet.” And if they had kept him as a pet, what would have happened? The first born would have dropped dead! They had to sacrifice the lamb! And then the lamb was to be eaten.

Exodus 12:8-10
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

The lamb was to be consumed by the families. It was not divided, indicating the unity of the covering sacrifice—one sacrifice for the house. Its holiness is shown to us through the “no leftovers” principle. Anything left over wasn’t thrown out and left to rot;[8]  it was burnt up, wholly sacrificed. But what about its blood? What did these God-fearing Israelites do with the blood of this lamb that had been hanging around their houses for four days?

The Application of the Blood
Exodus 12:7
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

They had to take the blood and apply it to the doorposts of the feast house; it wasn’t enough to simply spill the blood of the lamb. Again, we have to be obedient to all the requirements of God. Until they took that blood and put it on the door posts, there was no redemption. Just sacrificing the lamb wasn’t enough. If they had sacrificed it and tossed the blood out as an unholy thing, the Lord would not have passed over! They had to take the blood and apply it to their houses with hyssop[9] to receive the protection from the destroyer that was coming.

Now, suppose you were walking through your neighborhood and saw your neighbor Jim out on his front lawn with a bleating lamb. “Hey, Jim!” you shout in greeting. “Hey, Bob!” he says, “Hold on a sec.” He draws a knife across the lamb’s throat and the bleating lamb becomes a bleeding lamb.

“How ya doin’, Bob?” Jim says nonchalantly as he catches the stream of blood in a bowl.

“What’s going on, Jim?” you ask, a bit perplexed.

“Oh, just doing a little painting.”

“A little painting?”

“Yeah, my God requires that I slap blood on the outside of my front door.” What do you think Bob thinks of Jim? A little nuts, right? This is not a common edict. Blood was supposed to go on the altar. And here God is commanding them to take this blood and apply it to the main entrance of their abode. And they were to remain under the covering of that blood all night. They were not to go out of the house. Any breech of that command would have been a death sentence.

The destroyer was coming. Outside of the blood, death was unavoidable. The Israelites were under a death sentence no less than the Egyptians. Death was going to go through the land and they were all subject to it. The only thing that would keep the Israelites alive was the blood applied to the door. And it was applied with hyssop on the lintel and the doorposts, leaving the sign of the cross in outline on their doorway. Hyssop is a spongy plant that grows on a reed-like stalk. It is very useful for soaking up liquids and delivering them where you want them to go, particularly if where you want them to go is up high.

John 19:29
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

On the day of the crucifixion, hyssop again appears in that bloody mess of the cross as they try to give Jesus vinegar to drink (and I’ll bet you it wasn’t white vinegar, either!)  Coincidence? I think not!

[1] John 1:29
[2] 1 Cor 5:7b
[3] The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, of course, not The Prince of Egypt!
[4] Like the institution of house churches, for instance. But that is outside the scope of this study.
[5] Ex. 12:3, 6 the choosing of the lamb on the 10th only applied to the historical Passover.
[6] Shachat – to slaughter. Strong’s # OT:7819.
[7] Days can be years and millennia in Scripture. This type was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus in that He appeared in the  fourth millennia and His earthly ministry ended during the fourth year (three-and-a-half years).
[8] Acts 2:31b “…neither did his flesh see corruption.”
[9] Ex 12:7