Please read Exodus 12: 1-14 and Luke 22:1-23 and then pray; Precious Lord Jesus, speak powerfully to me through the Scriptures that glorify your name and call me to live for your honour and praise. Amen!

The image on the screen may bring to your mind the name of a famous film that was released in 1963. Do you know the name of the film? The film is The Great Escape, and the actor in the image is Steve McQueen. This movie was a true blockbuster of its time and continues to be enjoyed to this day. It not only included McQueen in the leading role, but other great actors including James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, and Donald Pleasance. The film was a broadly accurate retelling of how in March 1944, 76 POW airmen tunnelled their way out of Stalag Luft III Prisoner of War Camp which was situated in modern Poland. Escape from this highly secure Camp was thought to be impossible, but the impossible became reality – and this is what the film retells so dramatically.

The Bible contains its own amazing story of a great escape, or as we normally refer to it – the exodus. This is one of the greatest historical events contained in the Old Testament; it is certainly the greatest event as far as the nation of Israel is concerned. Nothing else in the story of God’s ancient people surpasses the significance and magnitude of this awesome event – the exodus. This is because the exodus from Egypt and from hundreds of years of cruel and bitter slavery, marked the beginning of Israel’s national history and identity as they marched away from bondage to become a sovereign nation. After the exodus, which was marked by the establishment of a new national calendar (12:1), Israel, who God had already called “my firstborn son” (4:22) became a unique and separated people belonging to God. (19:3-6).

There are two initial things that we must remember and appreciate concerning the Exodus. Firstly, the Exodus is inseparably connected to the Passover. You cannot have one without the other. Before the great Exodus was possible, the Passover had to take place – and it is the Passover’s importance which we will be considering today. Judgement had to fall, before the Israelites could experience release and freedom. God stood forth as Judge before He stood forth as Saviour and Deliverer of Israel. Without the Passover, which included the vital tenth plague upon Egypt, there would have been no Exodus. Before God saved and delivered Israel “His firstborn son” from bondage, the tragic judgement on Egypt’s firstborn had to be inflicted.

The second thing to note is that the Exodus of Israel as described in the OT, which saw the dramatic release of over 2 million people (12:37) from a crushing and brutal long period of enslavement, was but a foretaste of a significantly greater exodus that would take place through the person and work the Lord Jesus Christ. As we will see later, His sinless sacrifice and death would mean a glorious exodus for a much greater number of souls – “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.” (Revelation 7:9) This freed countless multitude will be gathered in heaven and they will “stand before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” It will be a multitude consisting of both Jew and Gentile, all the people who have become children of God through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. (Galatians: 4:26-29)

Let us now move forward in our consideration of the Passover (Exodus 12: 1-30) which led to the actual Exodus (Exodus 12: 31-42). Before we go into the details of what Passover involved, a most important point must be emphasised and understood. The Passover and Exodus were the work of God alone! It was all God’s doing – all executed by God’s initiative and power. This is revealed in many ways but especially through the first and last verses of chapter 12 and the definitive statement made in v 11.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. (v1),

All the Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought out the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions. (50-51)

Note therefore – God called for this (Passover) and God made it happen (Passover and Exodus)!

This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is THE LORD’S PASSOVER. (v11)

God is in control. God is on the move. God’s power both to judge and to save will be in operation. Again and again in Exodus we are told that Israel was delivered by God’s mighty hand of power! For example, way back in Exodus 3: 19-20, Moses is told by God;

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So, I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them (the 10 plagues). After that, he will let you go.

It is God alone at work in judgement through all the ten plagues which increase in intensity, even as Pharoah’s heart becomes ever more hardened against Moses and the God he represents. But it is only the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, for which God’s own destroying angel is responsible, that finally breaks Pharoah’s stubborn heart, so that the exodus is allowed and even encouraged. God has told Moses prior to giving him the Passover instructions, that He is the One who will “go throughout Egypt” (11:4) to inflict this judgement which will force the exodus and expulsion of the Israelites – and they will not only leave Egypt – but they we leave with much plunder and with a great boldness. (12:36)

Salvation for the Israelites was the work of a compassionate and saving God who heard their cries for mercy. (Exodus 2: 23-25) It was all achieved by God’s gracious and powerful work. And we must remember that our salvation as Christians, yours and mine, is entirely the work of God in and through his only Son – Jesus Christ. You are I are saved only as God works to save us through the sacrificial death and mighty resurrection of His Son. Our salvation, our place in the promised land (heaven) is a gift of God’s grace and power. As Paul writes;

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8)

The exodus, the salvation and rescue of the Israelites was all God’s doing, a gift of God’s grace – the work of his outstretched arm and power – but the Israelites under the leadership of Moses and Aaron (12:1) had to exercise faith by obeying all that God commanded them. Yes, God would save them, and did save them, but they must obey his word to the letter, otherwise the coming judgement would also hit their families and households.

So, what were the Israelites told to do by God on this night of Passover? What were the instructions that they must obey? How were they to be spared the judgement coming upon Egypt that night? As we consider these crucial instructions which formed the Passover feast and event, we will, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, begin to see the glory of all that Jesus is as God’s gift to the world, and all of what He did for us through his sacrificial and atoning death for us on the cross.

This was all going to take place on a specially chosen night, which would change the annual calendar of the nation for ever. This Passover would happen only once, but it was to be memorialised through future feasts for all time. The Jews continue to celebrate Passover as their most important annual festival and one which marks the beginning of their year. So, in Exodus 12 you have both instructions for what must happen on that one monumental historic night, and instructions on what must happen by way of marking and celebrating the great event in the years to come. But what was it that they must do on that fateful night?

The “whole community of Israel” (2) on the tenth day of what is to become “the first” month are to do the following. This is the word of the Lord their God! The man of the household is to take a lamb for his family – for all who dwell with him. He is to consider the size of his own household but also be aware of and alert to the needs of other nearby neighbours. They are to consider the amount of meat that will be needed to feed everyone in the family adequately. The animals to be chosen must be one year old lambs or goats, but they are to be without defect. The animal must be perfect in every way. It must be the very best animal available to each household. Its size must be taken into consideration because of how many will need to be fed.

The animal needs to be isolated and “cared for” until the fourteenth day of the month. Nothing must be left to chance. At twilight of that fourteenth day, the lamb is to be slaughtered and its blood collected in a bowl. The blood of the lamb must then be painted on to the lintels and doorframes of their houses. Their houses must be marked with the blood. Bunches of hyssop could be used as makeshift paintbrushes. That same night, the lamb must be roasted and eaten by all the family in the house. The blood will protect, and the meat will provide nourishment for the journey ahead. It is to be totally consumed along with bitter herbs (which symbolised the bitterness of their slavery) and bread without yeast (which symbolised their need to be ready to leave in haste). If all the animal has not been consumed, then it must be totally burned up. There was be nothing left! They must stay inside the house. No one must go outside at all! Finally, as they ate the meal, they were to do so, dressed ready to leave, ready to move out of Egypt quickly and efficiently when the time to do so came.

Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. (11)

What will happen during that night as they eat their lamb, herbs, and bread without yeast in their blood-marked homes, dressed ready to leave in haste?

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgement 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. (12-14)

It was essential that all these specific instructions were followed to the letter. Their lives were only safe and secure if they placed their faith in God’s word – and their faith would be shown through their strict obedience to God’s specific instructions. Although God was to do the saving work, they were called to obey his word and they did. (12:50) Likewise, we too must obey the word of the Lord. The NT clearly reveals the need for people to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that they might be saved. (Acts 2:38) We are saved by grace alone – yes, but faith is needed as we put our trust in God’s word and promises! And the word of God to us is this; Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household. (Acts 16:31) You and your household (each of you) will have to put your trust in Jesus and his death (blood) and in his resurrection (regenerating power) in order to be saved. (Romans 10:9)

We must now see how all this information about Passover in Exodus 12 applies to us and especially to the person and work of Jesus Christ. All the contents of the OT point forward in some significant way to the Lord Jesus Christ and the need to embrace and believe in him. The OT looked forward to the coming of the Christ. The Passover and Exodus look forward to the Lamb of God who would come into this world in order to deal with all its sin, and save those who are in slavery to sin and the fear of death. (Hebrews 2: 14-15). And the connection between Exodus 12 and all that we have considered is as clear as clear can be because the apostle Paul announces that;

For Christ, OUR PASSOVER LAMB has been sacrificed (for us) 1 Corinthians 5:7

Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb who offered his life sacrificially for the sins of the world. Jesus did not come just to liberate Israel. John the Baptist declared to his own followers; Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29, 36) The NT clearly identifies the death of Christ as the fulfilment of Passover, and the emergence of God’s new and redeemed community as the new exodus.

When Jesus was transfigured in front of three of his disciples – Moses and Elijah came to Him and spoke to Him. But what did they speak to Jesus about? Luke 9: 31 tells us;

They spoke to him about his departure (his exodus), which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem.

Jesus would lead the new exodus through his soon coming suffering, self-offering sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension. He would provide “a way out” of slavery and oppression for those who placed their trust in him. Jesus was to be the greater once-for-all Passover Lamb. And as Jesus approached his death, the words he used at the last supper with the twelve are most significant. Luke, as we have heard today from the 22nd chapter is quite definite in saying that the last supper was a Passover meal. (22:13) This was a meal that Jesus had eagerly desired to share with them. Jesus draws attention to the bread and to the cup and to what was about to happen to him. He himself is the sacrificial lamb whose blood is being poured out for many. In John’s gospel the connection is just as strong as John’s chronology reveals Jesus to be hanging on the cross, bleeding and dying at the exact hour the lambs are being slaughtered for Passover. (John 19:14)

Two further connections are also intriguing. The first is the hyssop branch that was offered to Jesus whilst he hung on the cross. Hyssop that had brushed the doorposts with blood now brushed His face as he hung desperately thirsty upon a cross. The second is that Jesus’s legs were not broken which echoes God’s commands to the Israelites not to break the bones of the lambs. (Exodus 12:46, John 19: 33, 36). Jesus is the Passover lamb who is sinless, perfect, without blemish, who dies in the place of those like you and I, who are sinful, imperfect, and blemished in heart and mind.

The apostle Peter famously wrote; “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 forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1: 18-21)

John’s Revelation is all about the glory of the Lamb who was slain (5:6) – the Lamb who now sits on the throne and who will return in glory and power. In the opening words of the book John writes about “him who loves us and has freed us (from slavery) from our sins by his blood.” Later in the book, the way to overcome the enemy for the saints is revealed. They overcome by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. (12:11) So the apostle John, along with all the NT writers, want his readers to understand that without the freely shed saving blood of the Lamb, there is no salvation, no freedom from sin, the corruption of the world which is the kingdom of darkness, the fear of death or power of the devil. Our redemption is only possible as we look to his blood and remain under his blood. There is no other place to hide from the coming judgment of God upon the world. Christ and his blood are our safe hiding place and shelter. We must stay inside “him” and his redeeming work and love. We must remain and abide in Jesus!

The chains of slavery which trouble and shackle us all can be broken through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The chains of greed, bitterness, unforgiveness, alcoholism, drug addiction; the idolatry of self, self-gratification, the plague of sexual immorality, and stubborn unbelieving arrogance can be broken by Christ and the power of his blood. Forgiveness and freedom are possible and available through Him and His most precious grace. Thousands upon thousands of people testify to this every week of every year. There is a possible exit from slavery – and Jesus is the Lamb who provides the way of hope and deliverance. Paul writes; “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7)

Is it any wonder that a Christian can sing such words as these; And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood. Or words like these; He breaks the power of cancelled sin. He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me! Is it any wonder that Christians the world over regularly celebrate holy communion according to the careful instructions of their Lord who is the Lamb of God. Christians receive communion with heartfelt humility, thanks, and praise, continually hearing the immortal words; This is the blood of the new covenant shed for you and for many. Drinks this in remembrance of me. Whilst Jews around the world celebrate their great Passover and nationhood each April, just as Americans celebrate their Independence Day every 4th July, so Christians of all times and places celebrate their Lord’s overwhelming victory, rescuing power, and amazing grace through receiving and eating bread and wine, the simple symbols of liberation and hope.

Our communion is merely a foretaste of a greater banquet yet to come in a promised land and future kingdom. That will be a time Jesus foresaw and spoke about, a day when you and I and all who have been cleansed and freed by his blood, will eat with him in his glorious everlasting kingdom.

I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God. (Luke 22: 15-16)

Until that final fulfilment on that final Day, may all the glory be given to Christ our Passover Lamb. Amen!

Revd Peter J Clarkson (10.9.23)