The Passover Lamb
Many Christians are unaware that the celebration we call Easter should coincide with the Passover celebration and is, in fact, the fulfillment of what the Passover in Egypt foreshadows. The Early Church celebrated it at the same time as Passover. Still, it became separated as a result of church politics and attempts to separate the Church from her Jewish origins.
We see from the description in Exodus chapter 12 that one lamb was chosen for a household and not one for each person. Then in Acts chapters 11 and 16, we see whole households coming to salvation in Christ, so there is meaning for family groups in Scripture, as well as individuals.
The chosen lamb was to be without blemish, and Pontius Pilate was quite clear that he could find no basis for a charge against Jesus (John 19:4). None of the lamb’s bones were to be broken, and John’s account indicates that unlike the two criminals either side of him, none of Christ’s bones were broken (John 19:33,36).
Passover is clearly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, as confirmed by John the Baptist:
‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’.” (John 1:29-30)
And also by the Apostle Peter:
‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Removal of Leaven (sin)
The removal of anything associated with leaven (yeast) from houses before Passover is an important feature, with leaven often used in the Bible as a picture of sin and corruption – it spreads widely. Indeed, the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread includes Passover, when the Lord commands that ‘no leaven is to be found in your houses’ (Exodus 12:19).
In the Jewish custom, a few days before Passover, the children and others are sent in search of any leavened bread, breadcrumbs, or other items of similar food, which are then swept up and removed or at least stored away during Passover. This is done well in advance of the actual Passover meal.
The lesson for Christians is obvious – sin, or anything connected with sin, is to be confessed and put away before coming to the Lord’s Supper. There is no place in a true biblical celebration of the Lord’s Supper for unconfessed sin and wrong relationships. That is why the apostle Paul wrote:
‘Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).
The Anglican service for Holy Communion is always rightly preceded by the confession. We would do well to include something like this whenever we meet to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which is, of course, linked to the Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples.
The Blood of the Lamb
The word ‘blood’ is said to occur 324 times in the Old Testament and is often used to mean ‘life,’ ‘ancestry,’ etc., as it is in the New Testament, where it occurs 100 times. Of those 100 appearances, 34 refer to the blood of Christ.
At the time of the original Passover, God told Moses that the Israelites should slaughter the lambs and put the blood on the sides and tops of their doorframes, explaining:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13)
It was not what the Israelites felt or thought about the lamb, their fears, or certainties, but its blood on the doorway that saved them from God’s action against the Egyptians and their gods. The God of Israel did not say, “When you see the blood and value it as you ought,” but “when I see the blood.” The blood was outside – the Israelites were inside and could not see it. The blood was for God to see.
And now the blood of the Lamb of God is the ground of a sinner’s peace with God (Romans 5:1, 8-9). Our peace and acceptance with God do not rest on ourselves but on the blood of Christ.
Some Christians use phrases such as “I put myself under the blood” or “I put this person under the blood.” But is it Biblical to do so? All the references to the blood of Christ in the New Testament have to do with redemption from sin and reconciliation with God. The phrase ‘They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 12:11) probably refers to the fact that Satan has no legal hold over believers because they are justified before God by the blood of Jesus.
That blood removes believers from any claims the enemy might make on them and frees them from all guilt. It, therefore, robs the devil of any authority over them and enables them to use the authority of the name of Jesus against the devil and his servants.
In other words, Revelation 12:11 should be understood in the light of overcoming Satan as the ‘accuser of the brethren,’ which is confirmed by the teaching of Hebrews 9:18-28. We need to be clear about the real place of Christ’s blood in redemption and not drift into an almost ‘magical’ belief in speaking out phrases about the blood of Christ.