Bible Text: Exodus 12:21-23 | Preacher: Pastor Steve Wilbraham | This summer we have been working our way through the book of Exodus. When the book started, the people of God were slaves in Egypt. Today, in chapter 12, they will leave Egypt as a free people. When Pharaoh refused to let the people go, God sent a series of nine plagues, each of which demonstrated God’s power over Pharaoh and his Egyptian gods. Still, Pharaoh would not obey. Now, God is preparing to send a tenth plague and this one, God tells Moses, will cause Pharaoh to finally relent and let the Israelites leave Egypt. The plague will be the death of the firstborn of Egypt, both human and animal.
In preparation for this plague and for their subsequent departure from Egypt, God tells Moses to give the Israelites a series of instructions. These instructions include directions for a very special meal called the Passover meal, and it is this Passover meal that gives us insight into how God rescues his people. This insight from the Old Testament will be clarified and focused in the New Testament through Jesus, the Son of God, and the meal he shares with his disciples on the night before he is crucified. As such, the Exodus Passover meal affirms Jesus’ statement that the Old Testament points toward him, and that in him all of God’s purposes as revealed in the Old Testament are fulfilled, including this purpose of God redeeming his people from slavery – from slavery in Egypt and from slavery to sin. In the Exodus Passover meal, as well as in Jesus’ meal with his disciples, the two primary elements of redemption stand out. They are sacrifice and faith. Having received his instructions from God, Moses shares them with the Israelites. I’m reading Exodus 12:21-23
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and said to them, “Go, pick out a lamb or young goat for each of your families, and slaughter the Passover animal. Drain the blood into a basin. Then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood. Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the doorframes of your houses. And no one may go out through the door until morning. For the Lord will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the Lord will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down.”
What a strange set of instructions. To kill an animal so that it can become part of a meal is normal behavior, but to take its blood and smear it on the front of your house is anything but normal. And to do this so that a supernatural being doesn’t come into your house and kill you is about as far from normal as one can get. The Israelites did not understand the deeper spiritual meaning behind this command – and neither do we until it is clarified in Jesus Christ – but they obeyed. Let us take a closer look at how Exodus 12 points to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
First, redemption requires a sacrifice. All of us are under a sentence of death, whether Israelite slaves to Pharaoh who will die in their slavery, or human beings who are slaves to sin and will die in that slavery. The Bible is clear: all who sin are slaves to sin, and the consequence of that slavery is death. Therefore, we all need to be redeemed in order to be saved from death – death to Pharaoh’s slavery, death to sin’s slavery. The price of that redemption is a sacrifice, a substitute death. A lamb must die so its blood can be spread on the doorposts so that the angel of death will not be permitted to enter the house and kill its inhabitants. The lamb of the Passover redeems the Israelites through its death; its blood takes the place of their blood, its death takes the place of their death.
In the same way, a sacrifice is required to take the place of my death and your death. If we are not going to die as a consequence of our sin, then someone else has to die, someone else has to shed his blood, on our behalf. That someone is Jesus Christ. He made this clear at the meal he shared with his disciples when he took the cup of wine and said: “This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.” Jesus used the cup as a symbol, an illustration, to help us understand the purpose of his death. He dies because of our sin so that we will not die in our sin. His blood is shed so that our blood will not be shed. And, as with the blood of the Passover lamb brushed onto the doorframes of the Israelites which kept the angel of death out, so the blood of Christ figuratively covers us so that on Judgment Day, death will not be able to claim us. As Jesus was raised from the dead, so we will be raised. Like Jesus, we will die a human death. But, because the blood of Jesus covers us, we will be raised into eternal life. So, the first thing redemption requires is a sacrifice.
Second, redemption requires faith. The sacrifice, though necessary for redemption, does not benefit anyone unless he or she accepts that sacrifice. This acceptance involves faith. In order for the sacrifice of the Passover lamb to save the Israelites from the angel of death, they must apply its blood to their doorposts. They must believe, have faith in, the word of God through Moses that it is the blood, and only the blood, that will save them. And so it is for you and me as it relates to the blood of Christ. Jesus died for all people on the cross; his blood was shed on behalf of everyone. But, for that sacrifice to save us, each one of us must personally and individually respond with faith. We admit that we are sinners; we recognize that our sin has made us slaves to sin, with death as the only outcome of our slavery, and that we can do nothing to save ourselves; and, we accept the death of Jesus and the covering of his blood as the only way that our sin may be forgiven, our slavery to sin released, and our freedom to live eternally with God secured. All the Israelites had to do to be saved from slavery and death in Egypt was to trust God. Likewise, all you and I have to do so be saved from slavery and death to sin is to trust God.