The Passover was not a feast which Israel devised on her own, but one which God designed and very carefully prescribed. The sparing of the Israelite firstborn was not a matter of merit, but of grace, so God now owned them. Passover would become a constant reminder to all subsequent generations that the firstborn belonged to God, and that this was due to the sparing of the firstborn at the Exodus. Thus, every time the first boy was born to an Israelite family, the parents were reminded of their “roots” and the reason for their blessing, and every child was retold the story of the exodus.
“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the Law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand” (Exod. 13:9; 13:14, 16; 3:20).
Since the firstborn of the Israelites belonged to God, (in the case of an animal) they had to sacrifice them or (in the case of a son) to offer a sacrifice to redeem them. Because God has spared us from his wrath by his mercy, we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).
(1) The time of the Passover meal. Since the Passover was the beginning of a new life; the month (Abib) was to be first month of the Hebrew year.
(2) The Passover lamb (12:3-8). The blood of the animal was to be put on the sides and tops of the door frames where the animal was to be eaten (12:7). This blood was to serve as a sign, which would protect the Israelites from the death angel (12:13, 23). There is no clearer example of salvation by grace in the Old Testament than the Passover. Every person in Egypt, whether an Israelite or an Egyptian, was worthy of God’s divine judgment; but by grace God saves those he has chosen.
The striking of the firstborn of Egypt should cause us to rethink the matter of sin. Sin is serious stuff. But God gives us a solution. The solution to the problem is, once again, a Lamb, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on whom our sins were laid. He died for our sins; He bore the wrath of God, so that men could escape from the coming wrath of God, and could participate in His promised blessings (Isa. 53).
(3) The Passover meal. This is meal was to be eaten with an atmosphere of readiness and anticipation; in the same way that we might eat in an airport restaurant, knowing that the departure of our flight was about to be announced. In the future, the meaning of the celebration was to be explained to the children (13:8). The “bitter herbs” (12:8) would certainly reinforce the story in the children’s senses.
Communion, too, reminds us of the salvation which Jesus accomplished for us by His death, burial, and resurrection.Just as the Passover celebrations provided an opportunity to instruct the children concerning God’s work in the past and its significance for the present, so the baptism and communion provide us with teaching opportunities which we dare not neglect.
(4) The participants of the Passover. The Passover was a corporate celebration and a family matter. Foreigners who placed themselves under the Abrahamic Covenant (as signified by circumcision) were allowed to participate, with no distinctions made between them and (other) Israelites (12:43-49). It was a kind of dividing line between a true believer and an outsider.
(5) The Passover Lamb was a model, a prototype (a type) of the Messiah (Exod 12:5-7, 46-47). John the Baptist immediately saw who Jesus was: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). There are several similarities between the Passover lamb and the Lamb of God:
The sacrificial lambwas to be without defect (Exod 12:5), just as the Lord Jesus was without blemish (1 Peter 1:19).
The shed blood of the lamb saved Israel’s firstborn from the plague (Exod 12:12-13, 22-23), just as it is the shed blood of the Lamb of God which saves men from the judgment of God (1 Peter 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9).
The Passover lamb had no bone broken (Exod. 12:46), so too no bone of our Lord was broken (John 19:32-36).
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
(6) The Passover meal was a model, a prototype (a type) of the Lord’s Supper. For Christians, the Passover meal transforms into the communion service. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). The first Passover, along with each subsequent annual remembrance, was an event of great significance, one which was to be celebrated from that time on; so too the death of Christ and its regular remembrance at communion.
(7) Because Christ is our Passover Lamb, we are God’s possession and should live holy lives. Just as the firstborn of Israel had to be redeemed because God had spared them, and therefore they belonged to Him; those who have trusted in Christ belong to him, and must live in the light of this.
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor 7:23).
“Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:6-8).