Passover Sacrifices may seem to have little to do with the fears many people are voicing over the spectre of pandemic disease. People are conjuring up the biblical visions of the four horsemen. These plagues of false religion, war, famine and disease have been the scourge of society for millennia. And today, perhaps the fear is that these horsemen are now riding once again. Some are wondering if they will bring death to them or their loved ones. But is there an antidote to this spectre of death and destruction? Is there a sacrifice that will protect us in times of insecurity, and guard our lives? How does the ancient story of the Passover sacrifice speak to our concerns in this century? What lessons can we learn?
The original Passover story was one of deliverance from false gods, the tyranny of Pharaoh, and a life of slavery in Egypt. But, it also offered a means of escaping the plagues that Egypt experienced as a result of rejecting the Lord’s warnings, his teachings. God was determined to judge Egypt and bring a plague upon them for having murdered innumerable Israelite babies at the Pharaoh’s command. And yet, all those who had faith in God could be spared the death angel’s scourge. If, they willingly sacrificed a lamb without blemish and painted its blood on the doorposts, then they would be preserved, whether Israelite or Egyptian. Sacrificing and following the instructions given by God to Moses, would mean life instead of death. All those who chose to sacrifice and “shelter in place’ would live. And we know many did. They were spared that night and lived to begin a forty year journey the next day towards their Promised Land.
The protective nature of the Passover sacrifice, though a literal reality in Moses time, became a potent symbol for Christians. They looked to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as their ‘Passover Lamb’ the one who willing sacrificed himself to give them life. Paul reminded believers in Corinth that they should keep the Passover, remembering the sacrifice that the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, made in their stead.
The new covenant writers understood that the sacrificial system of the national covenant was a teaching tool to shed light on the spiritual reality. The physical sacrifices of bulls and lambs was an earthly copy of heavenly things. They were designed to help people understand the essential nature of sacrifice. The true Passover Lamb had given his life for his people, and redeemed them in a way that physical sacrifices could not. He is now at the Father’s right hand in heaven interceding on their behalf and giving them the hope of eternal life.
The offering of sacrifices as gifts or fellowship meals with the Lord God had begun with the story of Cain and Abel. From the very foundation of human civilization God knew that the ultimate blood sacrifice would have to be made to solve the problem of sin. Sacrifice had to be costly. One could only offer what was perfect, precious, and without blemish.
And for this reason, the Creator had to come to offer himself as that perfect and precious sacrifice. Only his sacrifice could save us from death, the wages we earn as a consequence of sin. He could not offer something of lesser value. Those who had faith in the Lord’s sacrifice would be saved, liberated from death. And then freed from the kingdom of darkness by Jesus’ sacrifice, just as the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage. Ultimately, believers with faith in Christ’s sacrifice would gain eternal life, their spiritual promised land. The Passover sacrifice is one that gives spiritual life to those who believe and obey.
But the Passover sacrifice does not end there. For, all who accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life are called to a life of personal sacrifice themselves. It was not enough for the ancient Israelites to be spared by the death angel, they had to then leave Egypt. And, they would have to make personal sacrifices while trusting in the Lord to guide them through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
As disciples following the master, we are to conform to his example. And as a living priesthood we will be able to offer spiritual sacrifices. We must live without malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and slander, and follow Christ’s example of love and mercy. He did not revile or threaten others, but willingly offered himself as a sacrifice. When we come before God to show appreciation for his Passover sacrifice, let’s remember to live uncompromising lives. Lives that reflect our willingness to offer ourselves as living sacrifices following in the footsteps of the ‘Lamb of God.’ Having been saved, we are no longer afraid of death, but we are able to go into the world to accomplish God's purpose for our lives.
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