Friday, April 03, 2015
"The Lamb" Sermon: Exodus 12:1-14
April 2, 2015 Second Reformed Church
After riding to Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Bethany in the evening to sleep.
In the days to follow, Jesus taught plainly about Who He is, and He foretold the destruction of the Temple and all of Jerusalem, and He told them about a day when He would return to earth.
The Passover feast was near, and the preparations were underway.
“So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.’ They said to him, ‘Where will you have us prepare it?’ He said to them, ‘Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, “The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.’ And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover” (Luke 22:8-13, ESV).
We may remember that the Passover was instituted by God as Israel prepared for the Exodus out of Egypt. After four hundred years in slavery, God was freeing Israel and taking them to the Promised Land.
But first, Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the people of Israel go. Nine times Pharaoh said he would – in response to nine plagues that God sent against Egypt. And nine times, Pharaoh recanted as God lifted His Hand and drew back the plagues.
It was at this point that God instituted the Passover – before the tenth plague – which had been revealed: all those who did not have the door posts and lintel of their homes covered by the blood of the Passover lamb would be subjected to the death of every firstborn male – of each human and animal family.
The Passover Lamb was prophetic of Jesus. Jesus, the Incarnate God, fulfills the Passover feast:
“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.’”
First, we see that the Lamb was sacrificed for a specific group of people – for a household – or several households – not for each individual.
Jesus was sacrificed for a specific group of people.
As Paul wrote: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14, ESV).
And Peter explains: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV).
And John records: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10, ESV).
Just as God called on all the believers of Israel and Egypt on that day to sacrifice the lamb for the salvation of their families from the Wrath of God, so Jesus – the Lamb of God – was sacrificed – not just for anyone, but for a specific people – all who ever come to belief in God the Savior.
And we can have assurance as we evangelize – as we tell others Who Jesus is and what He has done – that all those who will ever believe in the Lamb Who was slain for their salvation will believe – as Jesus promised: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:9-12, ESV).
Salvation is from God, in Christ Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit Alone for the people of God.
“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.”
Second, the lamb had to be perfect – no spots or blemishes or defects, because God will not accept an inferior sacrifice. The sacrifice made to God had to be the absolute best of all possible sacrifices for Him to accept it.
And so, when God sought to save His people, He sent His Only Begotten Son.
As the author of Hebrews says – in order for Jesus – the Son of God – the Lamb of God – to take our place under God’s Law – keeping it perfectly – thus meriting righteousness and the ability to be our Substitute before God’s Wrath for our sin – He had to be sinless: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).
And John wrote, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV).
“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.”
Third, the lamb must be from among the sheep or the goats. The lamb had to be a lamb. The lamb could not be a dove or a donkey or a mouse – it had to be a lamb.
Similarly, the Incarnate Son of God – the Lamb of God – had to be a real human being – He had to be like us in every way – as the author of Hebrews wrote in the passage we just quoted (yet without sin).
Isaiah describes the Lamb of God as an average person from among the people: “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, ESV).
Jesus’ own neighbors didn’t understand how this “nobody” came to be a wise man:
“And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household’” (Matthew 13:53-57, ESV).
Only a real human being could be the Savior of real human beings.
God used the animal – a lamb – to be the sign of those who believe in the Lamb of God – Who is the True Substitute and Savior of His people.
“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.”
Fourth, the blood of the lamb must be shed.
After the lamb was killed, God instructed all those who believed that night to take some of the blood from the lamb and spread it along the doorposts and the lintel as a sign that they were believers – and thus, would not be subject to the final plague.
So, also the Lamb of God had His blood poured out as a covering and a payment for sin for all who will ever believe.
The author of Hebrews explains the necessity of His blood being shed: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22, ESV).
As John writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, ESV).
Just as the blood of the lamb saved the believers from the Wrath of God that night in Egypt, so Jesus’ blood shed for all we who believe saves us – eternally – from the Wrath of God – having taking the penalty for our sins upon Himself on the cross.
“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.”
We can understand why the believers in Egypt needed to eat in haste – they had to run from Egypt as soon as God gave the word.
The burning of the leftovers and bones may have been to keep the bones from becoming “relics” like the serpent on the staff would become or the bones in the Middles Ages.
But as to why the lamb was to be roasted and not boiled or eaten raw – we don’t have an answer.
What we can say is, fifth, that the whole lamb was put through the fire and eaten. After the lamb was drained of blood, the whole animal, with its head and legs and inner parts, was put on the spit over the fire and roasted.
Similarly, we can say that Jesus endured under God’s Law and then under God’s Wrath in body, soul, mind, and spirit – His whole self was involved in making atonement for us with God.
After keeping every one of God’s Laws perfectly, Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest followers – sold for a mere thirty pieces of silver. Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed:
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, ESV).
He was taken away at night, tried in secret, beaten and mocked, condemned as a blasphemer, and turned over to the Roman government to be put to death.
He was questioned, flogged – a leather whip embedded with sharp rocks, metal, and glass was brought down upon His flesh – and it sunk into Him and tore Him.
Then He was crucified – spikes were driven through His wrists and ankles to hold Him to the wood long enough that He should collapse under His own weight and suffocate – if He didn’t die of blood-loss first.
And about the ninth hour, God poured out His Wrath against all of the sins of every believer throughout time and space – and the Sinless One found Himself caught in the horror of being forsaken by God:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46, ESV).
Like the lamb that was roasted – body, head, legs, and inward parts – Jesus endured all of the suffering that His entire being could suffer – He was consumed by God’s Justice.
“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.
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”
Sixth, the Passover is about God’s work of salvation.
In the end, it’s not about the Egyptians or the Israelites or you or me – it’s about God, the Lord. This is the Lord’s Passover – this is the Passover of YHWH – the Almighty God.
God is the Judge of Sin.
God is the Savior according to His Sovereign Will and Pleasure.
God chose to have mercy in the sign of the blood and in the gift of His Son.
The Passover was given and now the Lord’s Supper is given that we would understand that we cannot be right with God on our own. We need Someone Who will stand in our place – Someone Who will died for a whole people – Someone Who is sinless – Someone Who is a human – Someone Who would shed His blood and die – yet live – Someone Who would give His whole self to the obedience of God and submit to God’s Judgment for everyone else who would ever believe – Someone Who would offer up Himself in our place having fulfilled all the requirements of the Passover Lamb.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-18, ESV).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son, the Lamb of God, to incarnate as a real human being, to live and die and be our Substitute before You. Thank You for the great mercy of saving us for Your Glory. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.