One quality that is unique to the Bible is that it tells one continuous story from beginning to end, even though it is written by many different authors over thousands of years. In this series of posts we will examine some of the major storylines in the Bible, some of the symbolism used and how authors continue these storylines and use these metaphors to tell one continuous story even though they are living and writing thousands of years apart.
Perhaps it would be good to remind ourselves of the general story of the Bible. God created all that is. Adam and Eve live in Paradise, enjoying all of creation and God Himself. Adam and Eve choose to eat of fruit God had previously forbidden. There is Noah and the flood. God makes a covenant with Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky and that all nations will be blessed through his people. Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel are eventually enslaved by the Egyptians. Moses leads the Exodus out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The nation of Israel is divided into two kingdoms, experiencing different wars and occupations. Various prophets predict judgment and reward for different nations. Prophets also predict salvation through a Messiah. God becomes man in Jesus to be the predicted Messiah. Messiah Jesus lives among humanity for around 30 years, is crucified, buried and resurrected. The church is born.
This is the general outline of the story of the Bible. Let’s look now at the specific image of the Passover Lamb that continues throughout the various books of the Bible.
In the book of Exodus, we are told the story of how Moses lead the people out of captivity in Egypt. Through Moses, God uses plagues on the Egyptians to try to convince Pharoah to let the Israelites go free. The last of these plagues is the death of the firstborn. In order to be spared from this plague, the each Israelite family sacrifices a lamb and puts blood on the frame of their doors. This night came to be known as Passover–a feast was later implemented in order for the people to remember and celebrate how Death passed over their houses that night. Part of the celebration and ritual implemented was that a lamb was to be sacrificed every year. The lamb was to be male and without blemish.
This image of the Passover Lamb is picked up by many of the later authors in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah says of the coming Messiah “…he was lead like a lamb to the slaughter…” The New Testament authors pick up the image of the Passover Lamb and apply it to Jesus. In 1st Corinthians, Paul says “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Peter says “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 (the) Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The image of Jesus as the Passover lamb is magnified when one considers the death of Jesus. We are told in the Gospels that Jesus is crucified on the night of the Passover. Consider what this means. Just as Jesus is being crucified and dying, the priest is in the Temple, sacrificing the Passover lamb. As the priest moves to slit the throat of the lamb, Jesus utters “Into thy hands I commend my spirit” and as the passover lamb dies, the Passover Lamb dies too. Just as this happens, the sun goes out and the veil in the Temple is torn from top to bottom.
The Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Let us now celebrate how we are no longer bound by Sin and Death. Let us celebrate how Death has passed over us, thanks to our Messiah Jesus.