Thousands upon thousands of lambs—buckets upon buckets of blood—this is the history of the Passover. Long ago, in the land of Egypt, in a land of exile, in a land of slavery, the Israelites suffered under the iron fist of Pharaoh.
This line of pharaohs had forgotten the saving work of Joseph and how he had delivered Egypt from the devastating famine. So, they had enslaved the Hebrew people to do the pharaohs’ manual labor—to build their cities and erect their monuments.
Terrible hardships, brutal labor, and despair were the lot of the Hebrew people. They groaned under the burdens placed upon them, they suffered under harsh taskmasters, and they cried out to the Lord in their misery.
And the Lord God heard their cries, and He remembered His covenant. He sent His servant Moses to bring the people out. He sent Moses to be a mediator between God and Pharaoh, to free the people of Israel from the hand of slavery, to break their yoke of bondage, and to deliver them from the land of exile.
Easier said than done! Pharaoh was a stubborn man. Plague after plague only served to harden his heart further. One plague after another, and yet he stubbornly refused to submit to the will and power of God.
But God had a plan— a final plague—a plague that pointed to His grace promised in the covenant. In preparation, the Israelites were told to take a lamb from their flocks—the best lamb, a male without blemish or spot, a perfect specimen—one lamb for each family.
Then, they were to sacrifice the lamb and spread its blood above and around the door to their homes. Why?
There was one more plague to come, and this blood would protect and save their firstborn males the angel of death. The blood of the lamb would save them from the plague of death that God would bring upon the people of Egypt.
That very night, the angel of death visited Egypt, and the firstborn male in every family died. Even the firstborn male of every livestock died.
All the firstborn males, from the house of the lowest slave to the house of Pharaoh, died. Great wailing and mourning went up from the land of Egypt as they counted their dead.
There was no escaping this terrible, avenging angel of death—only the blood of a lamb could save you. Every door of every house that dripped with blood was passed over.
It was the blood of the lamb that saved the Israelites from death. Pharaoh gave up, and the people of God came out of Egypt.
And so, each year the people of Israel were commanded to celebrate this great rescue, to once again sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood as they remembered the Passover, as they remembered the rescue and deliverance accomplished by the blood of the lamb.
Thousands and thousands of lambs later—after buckets and buckets of blood had been smeared, Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal.
They eat, they drink, they remember the great salvation God worked for His people as He brought them out of Egypt—delivering Israel from the land of their suffering and ending their exile in a foreign land.
Then, Jesus says, “I have something new for you.” Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, takes bread, gives thanks, and gives it to His disciples. “This is My body.”
Then, He takes the cup, drinks, gives thanks, and passes it to His disciples. “This is My blood.” The Old Testament sacrament of the Passover is now fulfilled and replaced by the New Testament Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
The blood of thousands upon thousands of lambs reaches its fulfillment, replaced by the blood of one Lamb who takes away the sin of the whole world, Jesus Christ.
All of those lambs, the best from each flock, lambs without blemish or spot, are fulfilled and replaced by the perfect, pure, and holy Son of God.
The salvation, the deliverance from the land of slavery and exile is fulfilled, replaced by salvation from the slavery to sin and death.
A return from exile, out of the land of bondage into a new freedom—a new covenant.
One holy meal to another, one precious sacrament to another, one blood rescue to another; this is the story, the salvation history, of God’s people.
This is the journey: the return from exile for the children of God. From the land of slavery to sin and death, through the waters of Baptism, into the Upper Room to receive the true body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ—a great journey, a new meal, a new sacrament, and a new covenant in Christ.
And we are the people of this new covenant. We are the people called out of the land of exile. We are the people washed in the blood of the Lamb. We are the people who have received the grace of God in Word and Sacrament. We are the people for whom the blood of the Lamb was poured out upon the frame of the cross at Calvary.
The blood of Jesus poured out upon the tree cleanses us from every spot and stain —all guilt and corruption, all iniquity and sin: washed away. We are rescued and redeemed, returned from exile to a beautiful relationship with God. We are the people of God who live each day in the joy of walking with Him. Once we were “no people,” but now we are “God’s people” once again.
Thousands and thousands of lambs slain—buckets and buckets of blood smeared—all of the Passover lambs, all of the blood points to the cross.
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
The blood shed on the holy hill of Calvary brings us back to the Upper Room, and the words of Jesus echo in our hearts: “Take eat; this is My body, which is given for you. . . .
Take, drink; this is My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do in remembrance of Me.”
The holy meal of the Passover points to the new holy meal that Jesus institutes in the Upper Room and validates upon the cross. And as we eat His body and drink of the cup of His blood, our eyes are turned back to the cross. We remember the sacrifice of the Lamb as He once again cleanses us from sin and shame.
From meal to meal, God delivers His people from the land of exile, rescuing us from sin and death.
Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. His blood poured out shields us from the avenging angel of death. His blood poured out overcomes the triple enemies of sin, death, and Satan. His blood poured out gives forgiveness, life, and salvation to the new-covenant people of God.
A Lenten journey: meal to meal, Passover to the Lord’s Supper. A sacramental journey marked by the blood of the Lamb, our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen.