Our Passover Lamb
A few weeks ago we thought about some of what the Bible has to say concerning Jesus as a Lamb, the Lamb of God. This evening I want to return to this theme and to see how one of the ways in which the NT seeks to explain the phenomenon of Jesus Christ is by understanding him in the light of some of the OT feasts. These feasts were ordained centuries before his coming into the world and provide us with some wonderful types for understanding our Lord and his significance..
Three Feasts in a Week
Last Sunday we celebrated Easter and the week leading up to Easter is known as Passion Week. During that week, that climaxed with Jesus’ resurrection, the Jews celebrated the feast of the Passover – Jesus and his disciples shared that feast together before he was arrested, tried and condemned.
The Passover was however merely the first of three feast that took place at that time.
As soon as the day of the Passover Feast was over -
These three feasts belonged together and together they provide us with a schema whereby we might interpret the climactic events that occurred at the end of our Lord’s earthly life.
You are, I’m sure, already aware of the way in which the Passover Lamb functions as a type of Christ. The apostle Paul asserted that in our text which contains the words "Christ, our Passover lamb." The lamb was an animal that was offered in sacrifice and that is the way in which we must understand Jesus’ death; the death Jesus died was not a mistake, it was not a tragedy, it was a sacrificial death. If we fail to understand that then we will inevitably get our whole understanding of Jesus and the Christian faith entirely wrong.
But there is more to be said. The comparison of the passover lamb and Jesus our ‘passover lamb’ involves more than just this sacrificial component. For a lamb to be acceptable as a sacrifice it had to pass a quality control test; it had to meet a stringent list of requirements. Those necessary qualities find their true counterpart in the person of the Lamb of God, our Passover lamb.
Jesus is well portrayed by the picture of a lamb for he was innocent and harmless, meek and humble and patient.
Jesus too was a lamb without spot or blemish. Again and again in the OT when sacrifices are being spoken about the requirement that the animal needed to be "without blemish" is underlined. The point is driven home by being repeated more than 50 times. In turning to read descriptions of Jesus in the NT we find that his life is assessed as having met this particular criterion. We’re not to think about external physical appearance but of his being morally and spiritually spotless. The life that he would lay down in sacrifice would be a pure and holy life.
The writer to the Hebrews says of Jesus that he "offered himself without blemish to God," (Heb.9:14).
And the apostle Peter writing about the means of our redemption tells us that it hadn’t been bought with silver or gold "but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (1Pet.1:19).
You know how the very first Passover came about: it occurred when the Lord God was in the process of securing the deliverance of his people Israel from Egypt. The tenth and final plague that would finally force Pharaoh’s hand to allow God’s people to leave was about to fall. It was the terrible plague of the death of the firstborn. In every household in Egypt God said the firstborn would die. And yet God intended to provide his people with a way of escape. God’s people were to slaughter a spotless lamb and the blood of this ‘Passover lamb’ was to be collected into a basin and then sprinkled on the lintel, and two side posts of the doors of their homes. Where the Lord saw this blood he "passed over" those houses as he went through Egypt to destroy the firstborn. (Hence the name of the Passover.)
This sprinkling of blood serves well to illustrate how the blood of Christ works on behalf of believers. Marked by his blood ie. by putting their complete trust in his death on the cross, the believer is protected from avenging justice, from the curse and condemnation of the law, and from the wrath to come. The believer who is thus protected by this blood shall never be hurt by the second death. Thus Christ is our archetypal passover. He was sacrificed; his body and soul were offered as an offering and sacrifice unto God for us and he has become proper food for our faith cf. his words "I am the bread of life" (Jn.6:35, 48). Having stood and suffered in our place he has completely satisfied divine justice for all our sins and transgressions.
This is the great teaching of the gospel and we are meant to receive it and embrace it and enjoy it. This costly salvation, while it is offered to us as a free gift of God’s grace, cost our Lord his very life-
Christ is indeed our passover lamb!
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Immediately the Passover was over this next feast began and it too is referred to by the apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth.
The church there was proud of its attitudes and its practice. How tolerant they were! And Paul condemns them for it. They were not demonstrating a set of true and godly values as they tolerated in their midst behaviour that was held to be utterly reprehensible in the wider pagan community. The church had been duped into thinking that because Jesus had died for their sins sin was no longer a particularly serious matter. The same sort of argument has not died out as Christians can still be led astray into imagining that concern about sanctification, godliness and Christ-
Paul confronts such error head on: "your boasting is not good" he writes before going on to refer to the Jewish practise of ridding their homes from every trace of leaven for the Feast of Unleavened bread.
Leaven was not something that was itself evil or dangerous but it was symbolic of sin. Just as a little bit of leaven will spread and affect the whole lump of dough so just a little bit of tolerance towards sin will allow that sin to spread and so to contaminate the whole.
If the Jews could perform this act of spring cleaning in their homes to remove every last crumb of bread that might contain traces of leaven in order to be ceremonially clean then the Christian, knowing that his Passover Lamb, Christ, has already died, will want to free his life from every trace of sin:
This effort of the Christian and the Christian church to cleanse their life/lives from sin is not some desperate attempt to try to secure salvation or to make ourselves acceptable to God but precisely because Christ our Passover Lamb has died! Salvation has been secured and the Christian believer has been freed from his bondage to sin and its consequences and for that very reason how totally inappropriate it is for him to go on living comfortably with sin.
This is the Christian doctrine now, not of justification, but of sanctification. Our ultimate destiny is to be made like Christ and while that goal will not be achieved until he appears and we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1Jn.3:2) the work of transformation must begin and be pursued now. It is not the place to set faith on a pedestal and misuse it as an excuse for compromising with sin or for refusing to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.
Yes, of course it is true that we are saved by faith alone but saving faith never comes to us alone but it brings the principle of life, godly life. A faith that is not accompanied by such works is not saving faith but dead faith and as such useless (cf. Jam.2:20).
The Jews kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread for just a week but it was a time of celebration. Christ, our Passover Lamb has died and ushered in not a week of celebration but a lifetime of it. The old life dominated by sin, malice and evil has gone for good and now is to be replaced by sincerity and truth. This is NT Christianity and there is no other:
Cf. 2Pet.1:5 "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-
The Feast of Firstfruits
The third and final feast we are going to think about this evening is that of Firstfruits. This feast took place on the day following the first Sabbath after the celebration of the Passover. And that means it was what we now call Easter Sunday!
And how appropriate that is!
Still writing to the church in Corinth Paul spoke at length concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in chapter 15. As he did so he described Jesus’ resurrection in the following way:
On the day of the Feast of Firstfruits Christ rose as the firstfruits from the dead! The idea lying behind the term "firstfruits" is of a full harvest to follow later. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the sign and guarantee that his followers will themselves also be raised from the dead!
Jesus our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed:
He has secured our forgiveness and he has set us free from sin
He has given us great incentives to joyfully progress in the way of sanctification from a position of safety and security out of thankfulness
He has been raised – no further sacrifice is needed – our future is gloriously bright. We serve a living Saviour who’s in the world today and we will go on serving him forever and ever!
Let us rejoice and live to his praise and honour and glory.