Passover and The Exodus

Main Point – Man is in bondage to sin and to be brought out of it requires a costly sacrifice.

1. History and Overview

The book of Exodus, written by Moses, is written in mainly a narrative format. Because we’ll be picking up the story in Chapter twelve this morning, I’d like to read the whole section aloud to give us a better feel for the context. It’s not often that we read this long of a section of text together, so let’s take this opportunity to put ourselves in the original audience’s position and listen as if it’s the first time we’re hearing it.

Listen as if you:

  • Are a first generation Israelite after the Exodus from Egypt, somewhere around 1400 B.C.
  • Have been wandering in the desert following a strange pillar of fire by night and cloud by day.
  • Have witnessed water miraculously come out of a rock to quench a thirsty nation.
  • Have at times been disgruntled and complained against Moses because you were sure he brought you out to the desert to die.
  • Are hoping and praying that your God is real and powerful enough to deliver on the promises made to your ancestors.
  • Are desperate to be reminded about what is true when everything around you is different and doesn’t make sense.

(All of Chapter 12 was read here during the service, but we won’t include the whole thing in this text. Please do actually find it and read it, or listen to it read in the recording that accompanies this post.)

2. The Passover

On the eve of one of the grandest rescues in recorded human history, God tells Moses, to tell the elders, to tell the families, to slaughter a lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes, then eat it.

There were no tunnels being dug, no weapons being stashed and no secret meetings to draw up plans for this great escape.

Approximately three million people were going to be liberated from over 400 years of indentured servitude the next day and there was nothing for any of them to do but hunker down, kill a lamb and eat it?

Sounds strange doesn’t it?

Why not a military uprising to show to the mighty power of God’s people with this final step of the rescue?

Why the death of the firstborn of all the land except for those firstborn that were atoned for within the households by the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorposts?

What was God up to with the institution of the Passover that led to the Exodus?

God was graciously illustrating, in terms His people could understand, what the effects of sin were and what it would cost to free them from it. God was making His power through the Gospel known to His people. The Gospel that in ages past had been hinted at and foreshadowed.

From the Genesis account where God promised that the seed of the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, but the seed of the woman would crush his head, to the costly cleansing of the sinful earth with a flood, with a faithful few rescued, to Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son to God on a mountain alter only to have God provide a ram to take his son’s place, Biblical history up to the time of the Exodus was dripping with examples pointing to a God who had a rescue plan.

But with the institution of Passover, God was bringing his ultimate rescue plan into focus and beginning to train His people, who now numbered in the millions, on how to see and understand it.

Main Point – Man is in bondage to sin and to be brought out of it requires a costly sacrifice.

So let’s take a look at some of the elements of this first Passover that led to the Exodus, and since we today have the amazing blessing of living after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we get to look at it through the lense of Christ’s fulfillment of it. We get to benefit from looking into this early foreshadowing of the Gospel as it points us to the One true Gospel.

Passover Elements that pointed to Christ and the Gospel

Taking a lamb and keeping it for four days before slaughtering it would likely have had emotional implications for many in each household.
If any of you have children, or remember being a child, you know how fast the bond to animals can happen. Imagine yourself as a child, or your children now, taking in a one year old lamb for four days. The petting, feeding, watering and cleaning up after would create an immediate bond. It would also likely be named whether the parents wanted it named or not.

So when dusk came, on the night of the first Passover, there would likely have been many tears shed for the 200,000+ young lambs that the heads of the households were duty-bound to sacrifice. It wouldn’t have been an easy or uncomplicated matter. The sights, sounds and smells of that night would have been overwhelming to say the least.

In a similar way Jesus took on flesh and blood and had relational and emotional bonds with many during his time growing up in Bethlehem and ministry years as an adult.

The true lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world, was once held and cherished by a young mother, cooed at and tickled, and loved deeply by many.

Those that wept for him at the foot of the cross did so with a very real, wholehearted emotional and relational despair. Their tears were not coming from religious piety and lofty theological convictions. They were truly broken-hearted for the one that they dearly loved was being taken from them and punished unjustly.

The lamb must be a young male and unblemished.
Hebrews 9:14 speaks to Christ’s fulfillment of this element, “…how much more will the blood of Christ,who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

It must be eaten completely with none of it left to rot or see decay.
The atoning sacrifice was to be consumed in total with nothing left to see the corrupting influences of decay.

Just so, the Messiah was spoken of in similar terms in by David in Psalm 16:10 and referenced again by Paul in Acts 2:27,
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

The lamb must be killed and it’s blood placed on the doorposts of the home.
The blood on the doorposts was a sign of belonging to the Lord and the death angel did not execute the punishment upon that home.

The lifeblood of the lamb had to be placed upon or incorporated onto the dwellings of the families or the death angel would not have recognized them as distinct from the Egyptians.

Blood and substitutionary atonement were a big deal and continued to be a theme throughout biblical history for both rescuing/saving purposes and also for cleansing and life.

Later, as the sacrificial system developed through the giving of the law to Moses, the responsibility for the yearly sacrifices for the sins of the people was eventually placed upon the Levites and in particular, the high priest who would enter into the holy of holies to sprinkle blood upon the altar and all the instruments of worship.

Nearly 1,500 years later Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh, lived a perfect life, was crucified, His blood was spilled upon a cross, He was buried and three days later He rose from the dead.

Jesus became an atoning substitutionary sacrifice whose blood was infinitely better and more powerful to forgive sins and save than any Passover lamb or animal sacrifice ever could.

Hebrews 13:11&12 speaks to this: “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”

Ephesians 1:7 tells us that: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”

John 6:53 & 54 add to this: “So Jesus said to them, ‘truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Unleavened bread was to be eaten both during the Passover meal and also for seven days after.
Leaven, or yeast, is an alive fungal micro-organism that can infiltrate bread dough and cause it to rise as it feeds on sugars, multiplies and gives off carbon dioxide and other by-products.

In many instances throughout scripture leaven is compared to sin.

In Exodus 12:15 as the Feast of Unleavened Bread was being described it says this,
“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”

It was clear that leaven represented a corrupting influence that they were to ceremonially remove during these holy days.

The New Testament references leaven as a bad or sinful thing as well.

Matthew 16:6 says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

1 Corinthians 5:6 says, “…Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

In perhaps the most bold language that connects the unleavened bread of Passover to Christ, Jesus in the midst of the Passover and holding a piece of unleavened bread, in Matthew 26:26 says, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

There could be no other interpretation than that of Jesus telling His disciples that the unleavened bread that they and their forefathers had been eating for centuries had been pointing to the perfect and sinless Son of God in the flesh that would soon go to the cross to pay for their sins.

3. The Exodus

Exodus 12:37-38 “And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.”

Two to three million people left Egypt! They were free! They were loaded with Egyptian gold and they were released from bondage to never again toil in the clay pits and brick ovens.

The tenth and final plague was executed on that first Passover night. The death of the firstborn of all the land, both men and animal that wasn’t marked by the blood of the lambs on the doorposts.

200,000+ lambs also died that night in exchange for the firstborn men and animals of the Israelites.

An excruciating amount of suffering took place on that night.

Main Point – Man is in bondage to sin and to be brought out of it requires a costly sacrifice.

God’s people were in bondage in Egypt. Their rescue was costly and required great sacrifice. That much is clear.

But it is infinitely greater news to know that God was using this great rescue story to point to the overall condition sinful men and our need for rescue from a more serious type of bondage.

All men are in bondage to sin and our rescue required the most costly sacrifice of all, the atoning death of the Son of God on a cross.

When the Israelites placed the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, they were identifying themselves with the living God. They knew He was their only hope for freedom and survival.

We now have a better blood, one that speaks better than the blood of animals. When by faith, we repent of our sin and place our whole trust in the crucified and risen Christ, we are cleansed, marked, owned, and set free by the blood of His sacrifice. The doorposts of our hearts are splattered in red and we can march out from bondage to sin and death proclaiming like John the Baptist did,

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”