The Plague That Wasn’t

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Exodus 12:1-13 | March 28 -

March 28
The Plague That Wasn’t | Exodus 12:1-13
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

12:1 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. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.11 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. 12 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 theLord. 13 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. (ESV)


The Plague That Wasn’t

Kevin DeYoung / Exodus 12:1-13 / March 27, 2016

Let’s pray as we come to God’s word.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, LORD; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:25-27

We also believe, Lord. Help our unbelief. Give us faith. Grant us hope. Give us ears to hear as you speak to us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

We have been working our way through the book of Exodus since last fall, going through chapter by chapter, verse by verse. This morning, we come to Exodus 12, one of the most famous sections in the book and one of the most important sections in the Bible. I think you will see how it relates very closely to what we’re celebrating this weekend.

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

As I made the mistake of walking through Meijer with my children on Friday night, I thought about what a strange mix of tradition and holiday we have with Easter. I looked around, and there were all sorts of things with a spring theme: flowers, lilies, and bright pastels. Then there were rows and rows of candies: jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and little marshmallow chickens. I saw a post on Facebook this week that said, “Here’s where you should put those Peeps.” It was a picture of a trash can with them going in. I like gross things, and those are really gross.

I looked around other parts of the store, and saw bunnies, new dresses, and hats. This Sunday becomes a day when everyone in University Reformed Church looks around and says, “You own a suit too? I never knew. Amazing! Wow, we can look pretty good when we try.”

Then, toward the front, I saw a little section marked “Passover/Kosher”. I actually don’t recall seeing anything particularly Christian in the store, though I’m sure there were the usual annual magazines that come out every time this year. It’s the same kind of cover, whether it’s TIME or Newsweek, asking “Did Jesus Really Exist?”, “Did Jesus Have a Wife?”, or running some kind of really cutting-edge story about Jesus. I’m sure there were some things like that. There was probably some cross jewelry and Easter greeting cards on sale.

It’s a great mix of traditions. I don’t think it’s terrible that we would have candy, bunnies, and flowers on Easter, and that we would even try to look nice. My wife and I were having a bit of a discussion last night about whether we should put any candy out for the children. All the kids will be happy to know that Dad won: they did get some candy, though they don’t need any. It’s mostly there so that I can eat it after they forget about it.

I think it’s fine that we would remember spring, buy a hat, and eat bunnies—just so long as we realize that the only two things that really go together in the list I just gave you are actually Passover and Easter. The Last Supper (on Maundy Thursday, or Commandment Thursday, which we had this past Thursday) was a Passover meal with Jesus and his disciples. The Crucifixion (on Good Friday) coincided with the slaughtering of the lambs for Passover. Passover and Easter have everything to do with each other.

I’ll sometimes use a prayer book in my devotional time in the morning. It gives you different readings for the day based on the church calendar. The office of readings today had several different passages, and the first one was from Exodus 12—the Passover—to be read on Easter Sunday morning.

Since the 4th century, at least in the Western part of the church, Easter has been celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the first day of spring, just so when it is is always confusing. Passover, as we’ll see in this text, begins on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, which (because it’s calculated by the 28-day cycles of the moon) can fall anywhere between March and April. Even though Meijer had Passover food on sale last week, the Jewish holiday doesn’t actually begin until April 22. I don’t know if people were confused, or if they just thought it was a nice chance to get some Passover stuff sold and get the Kosher things off the end-cap.

Even though they don’t often line up on our calendar, the two events line up in the Bible and theologically. What I want to do from this text is see three things that Passover meant for the Israelites: a new beginning, a new freedom, and a new forgiveness. Then we’ll finish by connecting the dots and seeing why Easter weekend fulfilled the Passover—and, in an important sense, superseded it.

The Passover: a New Beginning

This is the first time in Exodus that God has talked to his people about certain months and holy days. He’s setting aside a certain month to be the new year for them. Think about it: they had been a slave people for over 400 years, and it’s quite possible they had very little sense of time. Perhaps there was some sense of when the seasons are coming. Of course, in Egypt, you just have hot and hotter, I imagine. You don’t have snow and changing leaves on the trees. And you’re a slave people, so it isn’t as if you have Monday through Friday for work, then you have a great time on the weekend, and every so often you get a little break—a holiday, or a vacation. They’re a slave people, and the days (if they even remembered them) probably just meshed into weeks, then years and centuries.

Now God is changing all of that. He’s starting something new. He’s marking out a new time for them. He says, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you…”, called Abib (later called Nisan).

Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, and because they want the first month to fall in March or April, sometimes they have to add a leap month. If you think a leap day gets confusing, they’ll have a second one of these first months so they can be on schedule with March or April and the beginning of spring. The Passover, in other words, was to mark the end of life as they knew it in Egypt and the beginning of the new nation of Israel.

Let me tell you something very interesting—at least, it’s interesting to me. There’s a Hebrew word for ‘congregation’, or for “the assembly”. “Tell all the congregation…” (verse 3) That word occurs more than 100 times in the books Exodus through Joshua. It’s a common word. This is the first time it occurs in Exodus.

Whenever it says, “Tell all the congregation…” you know that what’s about to follow is of significance. The word ‘congregation’ can mean all of the Israelites, all of the adult males in Israel, or the representative leaders in Israel. Here it probably means the last of those categories. Moses didn’t have a Twitter account or a microphone, so in order to speak to millions of people, he most likely addressed the representative heads. When it said, “Tell all the congregation…”, it meant “Bring the appointed leaders before you and they will pass on the message to everyone else.”

Why is this interesting? The word ‘congregation’ is interesting and significant because it has not occurred yet in Exodus. The people have been called the Hebrews, or “Bene Israel” (the “Sons of Israel”—Israel being another name for Jacob, the patriarch, their ancestor). But they have not yet been called a congregation, a community. Many of us are more familiar with the forgiveness part of the Passover, and we’ll get to that, but God is also shaping them with this new identity as a new nation, a new people with a new time. They’re no longer simply Hebrews, an ethnic group; no longer just the sons of Israel, descendants of a great patriarch; but they’re now a community, a congregation shaped by this common experience, moving in a common direction.

Passover, in a significant way, is to express this unity. You can see these interesting stipulations in verse 4. It’s all a little confusing: “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.” You see later that they were not to leave anything left over. The idea was to have one lamb per household. If you didn’t have enough for that, or you had too much, then you were going to join with a couple other neighbors and have one lamb. The idea is to not have one family being provided with three lambs and another family with a quarter of a lamb. Everyone who is feasting in this Passover meal has a single lamb to signify their unity and oneness as a congregation. This is not a quarter here, a little bit there, and we divvy up leftovers. No, you were to apportion it: to figure out how many people were in your family and that family, and figure out what one lamb will feed. One lamb for you and your meal, because you’re one people.

This is a new nation with a new identity, a new name, and a new beginning! Have you ever wanted to have a new beginning or to leave the past behind? Have you ever hoped that you won’t be defined for the rest of your life by something that you did or didn’t do when you were 15, 25, or 35?

I told myself last week that I was never going to mention anything about the basketball game last Friday, but I think this fits. Of all the sad things, what I found saddest was to read some of the commentary and hear the punditry talk about these young men—really good men as far as we can tell. We know some of them. “Oh, they’ll never forget this! This will haunt them for the rest of their lives. They’re going to go to their grave thinking about that game.” We have no more hope in the world than that? That shot that you made or missed when you were 18 or 22 is going to define you for the rest of your life? Isn’t that how our world thinks? “You don’t get a fresh start. Your mistakes will always be with you. There are no do-overs. If you do that now, you’ll never forget it!” I hope so if you don’t have any hope in the world, but I hope not if you have a little bit more to your life than just games, shots, and balls into hoops.

See, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you can erase your past, but it does mean that you have an entirely new future. It means that what you did at 15 or 25 or 35 isn’t who you are and have to be for the rest of your life.

I talked about the word ‘congregation’. You know what the word for ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly’ is in the New Testament? Some of you have heard it before. It’s the Greek word ‘ecclesia’. We translate it as ‘church’. The Greek means “called out ones”. It’s the same idea. When you belong to a church, this now becomes your community, congregation, and assembly. People come from all sorts of different places, experiences, and backgrounds, but the oneness of this body is because we have all been called out of darkness into light. People who have been on this exodus from bondage to sin, to self, and to Satan are now set free, so that we are a new people, and have a new identity and beginning! That’s us. That’s now. That’s the first thing that Passover signified for the Israelites: a new beginning.

The Passover: a New Beginning

Here they are, finally leaving Egypt. You understand the imagery here: they are to eat this meal in haste, so they don’t have time to leaven the bread—to put the yeast in and let it rise. “We’ve got to go!” I see this as a biblical precedence for fast food. “We’re going. We’re heading out. We have our robes tucked into our belts.” The phrase “gird up your loins” sounds kinda weird. In the ancient world, you wore this kind of tunic robe that went down to here. When you had to really move—when you wanted to run—you took that thing and put it down your belt, because it’s hard to run in a big robe. But when you put that on, then you had some freedom of movement. That’s what they were re doing. They’ve got this on. They’ve got their track shoes ready to go. They’ve got everything. They’ve got their car started. They’re getting the Happy Meals, and they are ready to head out. Why? Because in faith, they believe that they are about to leave.

We probably don’t step back and think about what faith must have been present on this first Passover to believe that what Moses said was actually going to happen. After all, this had been their home for 400 years. Think about it: if one of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great ancestors came over on the Mayflower to Pilgrim Rock in 1620, and your whole family has been here in the United States, you still would not have been here as long as the Israelites were in Egypt. This was all they, their parents, or their grandparents knew, heard about, or talked about.

They were Hebrews in Egypt. They were slaves of Pharaoh. As miserable as it was to be a slave, it was all they knew. It was their home. It was who they were. It was where they had been. Think of the faith it takes to say, “Alright. This is really happening? We’re leaving all of this behind?”

If you know anything about the history of Israel after the Exodus, they often grumbled about their newfound freedom. Too many of us would rather have the bondage we know rather than trust the God we can’t see. “We know that. We didn’t like it all that much when we were there, but we know that. It’s familiar to us. We’ll take Egypt. We’ve got task masters, but we’ll take it.” Some of us are like that with God, even. We keep running back to our old life and old ways, because even though we hate it and know it is bondage, we are used to it. We see it. We understand it. But this God? We’re not so sure.

But for this moment, this first Passover, they did as they were told.

Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. Exodus 12:28

They did as God had commanded them. What an amazing freedom they were about to experience! We can scarcely imagine what this was like. Perhaps some of us, tragically, in our experience as a people have been slaves. We resonate a little bit with what this might have been like.

But for all of us, no matter where we are from or what our history is, we can scarcely imagine what this must have been like. After four centuries, to think: they could wake up in the morning and decide what they wanted to do for themselves. That’s something we take for granted. We wake up: “What do I want to do today?” They didn’t think about that: “What do I want do today? It doesn’t matter what I want to do today. I do what Pharaoh tells me to do or I get the whip!”

Now, for the first time, their children could dare to dream about what they might want to be. Nobody ever had to ask the question of any little kid “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If they were lucky enough to grow up, they would be slaves. Now they get to think, breathe, and dream. “What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to be with?” All of the things that we take for granted, they had never known in Egypt. Now they have a new freedom. Their lives would be amazingly free if they were willing to trade servitude to Pharaoh for submission to YHWH. That was the trade.

As much as we like to wax eloquent about freedom in this country, people still find it a very hard thing to truly embrace. We’re always chasing down other theories. Perhaps it’s genetic determinism. You’re not really free. It’s all your genes. That’s mapped out everything. Who you’re going to be, what you are going to do, and everything is hardwired and written into your DNA code somewhere. You’re not really free.

Or environmental determinism. You’re simply the shape of who your parents were: whether they loved you or gave you a hug, whether you had good schools, or where you are from. That defines who you are. Everything is about your past: you’ll never be higher and never be lower. That’s it!

Or a state-sponsored determinism. You should have an authority that tells you where you should go, what you can do, where you can be born, who you can marry, how many kids you can have, and what you can do—that maps it all out for you. You don’t have to worry about it. You don’t need freedom.

Even the folks that talk about sexual freedom don’t really understand freedom, for real freedom is not the ability to be whatever you want. Real freedom is the ability to be what you ought. Remember, the freedom from Egypt meant that they could go into the wilderness and worship and serve the Lord. That’s what God has been saying all along. We remember, “Let my people go!” but it was “Let my people go that they may take a trip into the wilderness and serve the Lord their God.” It was never simply freedom to define their own reality. It was a freedom to be the people that they were created to be: God’s people, God’s servants, God’s sons and daughters—to give worship to the true God, not to these false gods.

I want you to notice something in verse 12: “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…” Many of us are familiar with that. That’s the Passover. He’s going to kill the firstborn. But do you notice what it says then? “…and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” Have you noticed that before? Just as much as the death of their firstborn was a punishment upon Egypt, it was just as much (or even more so) the final, cataclysmic judgment upon the false gods of Egypt.

Do you see that familiar refrain at the end of verse 12? “I am YHWH. I am Jehovah. ‘I am the LORD.’” We’ve seen, time and time again, this big theme in the book of Exodus: it is about the God who makes Himself known. Yes, it’s about freedom from slavery. Yes, it’s about delivering his people. But ultimately, it’s about the God who makes Himself known—the God who goes public with his glory. That’s what Exodus is about. That’s why it states, at the end of verse 12, “I am the LORD”. That’s the message that you are to get from this Passover. “I—not Pharaoh, not Osiris, not Amon Ra—I am the Lord, and you’ll see it. All the deities of Egypt have fallen.”

If you think about it, if God had come with just one plague, the people of Egypt might have said, “Well, we saw the Nile turn to blood. We have a goddess of the Nile, and we divinize the Nile, so we can see that the Nile goddess isn’t all we thought her to be. But we still have a god of the sun.” If God had just come and darkened the sun, they could say, “Well, we see that Ra, our sun god, is not as impressive as we thought, but we still have a frog goddess.” They were polytheists. They had gods and goddesses for all sorts of things. If God just comes with one plague, they’d say, “Well, that god over there is not so strong, but we’ve got a bunch of other ones.”

But when God comes with plague after plague, each of which correspond to one or more of their deities, by the time you get to the 10th one, the Egyptians have no conclusion left to reach except, “Our gods don’t work. They are nothing compared to this God of Moses and the Hebrews. They have all been routed, and decisively so, in this tenth plague.”

What did the gods do? You don’t have to be an expert in ancient Egypt mythologies to understand. Why did people have gods and goddesses? Why do you have a god who helps you grow crops, a god who brings rain, a god who brings fertility and helps you have babies, a god who gives you health, and some gods that give you safe passage into the next life, into the afterworld? Do you see what all of those gods and goddesses were about? They’re really all about the same thing: life. “Are we going to have enough to eat? Well, we’ve got a god who gives us some crops.” “Are we going to outlast ourselves? Well, we have a god who gives us children.” “If we don’t have rain, then we don’t have crops, and we are going to starve. There’s a god who gives you rain.” There’s a god for everything, but it all has to do with that one thing. Life. They had gods and goddesses because they wanted to have some control over death.

So here comes the destroyer, YHWH, visiting the Egyptians of every household with death. All that they had been banking on was fruitless. Their gods and goddesses were helpless. They had no control over death. That’s why, in this final plague, we read that he defeated the gods of the Egyptians, because everything that they were after—life, safety, and security—had the wrong gods for that.

I hope you can realize that we aren’t all that different. We don’t have statues or worship frogs and snakes, but we’re after the same thing: life! How can I be healthy? How can I live longer? How can I have lasting security? How can I be sure that, when I die, whatever thing exists beyond this life will be ready for me and will be good for me? “That great apartment in the sky.” “Looking down on people.” “Rooting for our favorite sports teams.” We want the same things: a God who will give us life. Yet we’re looking, and looking, and looking. I read a survey recently (and it seems to be pretty accurate) that roughly 100 out of 100 people die. The fact-checkers are still checking it, but it seems to be true. We haven’t conquered death. We haven’t found a way to live forever. We haven’t found a way to be healthy.

If you want real, lasting, life-long freedom, you need a way to solve the problem of death. That’s what the Egyptians were after. That’s what the Americans are after. That’s what the Brits are after. That’s what the Kenyans are after. That’s what we’re all after. YHWH shows Egypt, “You’ve been looking in all the wrong places. You have no power over death, and your gods and goddesses are nothing. I hold the keys of death and Hades, Heaven and Hell.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15

We’re still slaves if we haven’t figured out this death problem. What happens? When will it come? How will I know? How can I be sure? Will I be safe? They had their gods and goddesses. We have our pills. Do you have the only remedy? They had a new freedom, if they would follow this God who could set them free from the fear of death.

The Passover: a New Forgiveness

The holy day is called ‘Pesach’ in the Hebrew, which can be translated in a number of ways. Traditionally, it has been rendered, as you see in verse 13, as ‘Passover’. “I will pass over you…” Some scholars think it can actually mean “skip over” or “dance over” but that would sound a little weird. “What are you doing for Danceover?” Passover.

What are they to do? They are to select a lamb on the 10th day of the 1st month. We see that in verse 3. Then they kill their lambs at twilight of the 14th day of the 1st month. This would be the full moon. Twilight is literally “between two evenings”. In Deuteronomy 16, it’s called “sacrifice in the evening at sunset”. The Greek translation says that the sacrifice is toward evening. We don’t know exactly when it was, but sunset is a pretty good guess. If the Israelites are going to live, a lamb must die.

I entitled this sermon The Plague that Wasn’t because, you see in verse 13, “…I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you…”. You can imagine some of the Israelites turning their head and saying, “What? Wait a minute? No plague? Of course. Plagues are for the Egyptians. You’re the plague God. We like you. What do you mean, no plagues for us?” Well, they needed to be forgiven as well.

There’s a verse that you may have heard before and forgotten from Joshua 24. Years later, when they would renew the covenant at Shechem, Joshua said, “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” You don’t think they weren’t complicit in some of this idolatry? That’s why Joshua says, looking back, “Get rid of these gods.” They are still struggling with these false god. The ones that they worshiped in Egypt.

You don’t think that you live in Egypt for 400 years and don’t start adopting some of the culture and their gods. “Everyone’s doing it. Maybe that frog thing or the sun god will help. I don’t know. Let’s just try it.” They had sins to be forgiven. They needed to be saved from the destroyer. They had a plague that would fall on them unless they had a sacrifice—a costly lamb, a yearling, a male without blemish, something valuable.

You see, the blood on their doors, mantelpieces, and sideposts was not so much for God—as if God was going through the camp at night with a flashlight, saying, “No, no hold back. Not that one. They’ve got blood. Stop! Stop!” Like Rudolph and his red nose. “I can’t quite see…” The blood’s not because God can’t see. We’ve already had plagues. God has no problem making a distinction on his own about where the hail’s going to fall or who’s going to get this plague or that plague. God could have easily done it. The blood is not because God can’t figure this out on his own.

The blood is a sign for them. Verse 13. “The blood shall be a sign for you…” It was a public sign, an assurance, a visceral reminder to them. It was a sign and a seal, testifying to them that life will come through death. “We will live tonight because something has died in our place. We will be safe because of blood.” It was a sign for them. The blood was there to testify that their guilt would be taken away. That’s called expiation. It was also there to testify that the wrath of God would be turned away. That’s called propitiation. It would be expunged or removed, and God would be made propitious (meaning pro-them, for them, on their side). They needed the blood because they needed to figure this out, not because God couldn’t.

Passover and Easter

Do you see how all of this and more is what we are celebrating this weekend—what we remember, sing about, and rejoice in today? Easter means a new beginning. It was certainly a new beginning for Jesus, raised from the dead. It was a new beginning for the disciples. They had a new sense of their mission. Soon the Holy Spirit would come and they would be new people. It meant a new beginning for the whole world, whether anyone realized it or not. We have entered into a new age after the Incarnation, the Resurrection, Pentecost, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s a new world that we live in on the other side of the cross and the empty tomb. It’s a new beginning, and it could be for you.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Right before that, Paul says, “Therefore, we no longer look at each other in a worldly way, because something new has happened. You don’t think the same way that you used to. When you’re joined to this resurrected Christ, you feel, see, and believe things differently. It doesn’t often happen all at once, but there is a profoundly new beginning and new freedom for you.” Romans 6 says that we’re no longer slaves to an ever-increasing wickedness, but slaves to righteousness. Instead of being these bondservants who just can’t break free from all of our old habits, old friends, and the things that keep you saying, “I hate that I’m like this”, you’ve got a new freedom and a new forgiveness.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Some of you, if you’ve been to church for long stretches of your life, are saying, “Yup, yup, yup. Same story.” It is the same story, because it’s still true and you still need to hear it! You sinned this week. You did. You’re on Facebook, I know it! I sinned this week. Ask my kids. “Daddy, why do you do that thing where you go like that?” “Well, that’s when I do the thing where I shouldn’t be doing the thing that I’m doing when I’m upset.” I sinned this week. I did. Really. So did you. You need this story. You need a new beginning, a new freedom, and a new forgiveness.

It gets better! Easter means the end of Passover as they knew it. Sometimes Christians will get together and celebrate Passover. Some of you probably do that from time to time and do the Seder meal, the cups, and the bitter herbs. That’s fine as an effort to understand what it must have been like historically. Maybe this helps us to remember some things—so long as you realize it’s not an official holy day in the church, because it’s been swallowed up in all the best possible ways by Good Friday and Easter. God has passed over us, and we do not need another lamb.

Have you ever realized, from the very beginning of the Bible, the need for a sacrifice? Cain brought something. Why was Abel’s accepted and not Cain’s? Because it came from the flock. Do you see this building progression? You have Isaac with Abraham, and he’s going to be sacrificed. At the last second, he finds in the thicket a suitable animal. You remember how, before that, Isaac says to his father, “I see the wood for the offering, but where is the lamb?” So we see in Genesis that a lamb can provide for an individual.

Then we come to Exodus, and we see that each family would sacrifice a lamb. Okay, so a lamb can provide for an individual. We see that with Isaac. A lamb can provide for a family. We see that in Exodus. Then you go to Leviticus 16, with the Day of Atonement. Once a year, in the Holy of Holies with the high priest. They will let one lamb go, and then they will sacrifice a lamb to show that a lamb is sufficient to provide for the nation. From a person to a family to a nation.

Can it get any better? John the Baptist sees Jesus and says, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This lamb is sufficient for people everywhere. Not just one for Isaac. Not just one for your family. Not just one for Israel. This one has blood enough for every sinner who will repent. This was God’s plan from the very beginning. Revelation 13:8 says the lamb was slain from the creation of the world. Don’t think of God, when he comes to the New Testament, going, “Hey, the lamb thing—that’s a cool picture.” No, Christ is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. He is reinforcing, time and again—to individuals, to families, to nations, and to the whole world—“If you are going to be safe, have freedom, and be forgiven, you need a lamb.”

Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7b

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 1 Peter 2:22

…but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Pilate found no basis for a charge against him. John 19.

…Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God… Hebrews 9:14

And here’s why it is even better than we could possibly imagine and than they even understood: our lamb lives! He came back to life! For centuries, millions of lambs were slaughtered, but no more! Sin has no wages which Christ has not paid in full, which is why he can say on the cross, “It is finished.” You don’t need another lamb. You don’t need another Passover. The justice of God did not pass over Christ, so that it might pass over us. The empty tomb is there to tell us that, unlike all of the gods of Egypt and all of the gods of our age, this time it really worked. Death has been defeated, the grave has been conquered, and our sins have been passed over. Let’s pray.

Father in Heaven, what good news, and what a great Savior. Give us voice, heart, strength, and faith to worship the risen Christ! In his name we pray. Amen.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.