1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 3 “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 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.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 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.
The first Passover was a practical event. Since the Israelites were about to flee in haste, lambs or goats had to be killed quickly and their blood used as marker paint. Sheep and goats were rarely distinguished at the time; when Jesus later speaks of the separating of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:32), he is emphasising the power and extent of God’s discernment. There was no time for any priestly involvement, the head of the household killed and roasted the lamb almost immediately. The meat could not be boiled (which took too long and required preparation) or eaten raw. It was eaten with unleavened bread—dough baked without yeast, which took less time to prepare and cooked more quickly but would not have risen. The bitter herbs lightened the heavy meal of meat and bread. Unusually, the people had to rush their meal, dressed for departure, which they knew would have to be swift and efficient. It was fast food.
By the time Jesus celebrated a Passover, the feast was cemented in tradition. Yet whichever context for Passover we consider, there is an inevitable, unbreakable association with a meal shared among family, friends and strangers. Passover survives still, of course, but has quietly influenced every Christian feast, so that today our Christmas and Easter dinners, our wedding breakfasts and birthday parties, all owe something to the day when God called Israel out of Egypt, requiring them to gird their loins and dine in anticipation of freedom.
Father God, who gave your people the Passover of salvation, feed us with your Spirit so that we may be always ready to drop anything and do your will. Amen