How many of you have played with a yo-yo? A yo-yo is a simple toy, but it is a lot of fun. Some people can make the yo-yo do amazing tricks, but the main thing a yo-yo does is go up and down, up and down. That is also a good picture of us. We all have our “ups and downs,” don’t we? Sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. We may be hard working one day and lazy the next. We may be honest one day and dishonest the next. Can you think of other ways that we have “ups and downs?” In the Book of Exodus, we heard that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, also had his “ups and downs” and we heard how God punished Pharaoh for his wicked ways.
You will remember that God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set his people free. They had been slaves in Egypt for many years. So Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to see Pharaoh and asked him to set God’s people free, but Pharaoh said, “No, I will not let them go.”
Because Pharaoh refused to obey, God began to send terrible plagues on Egypt. One time he sent frogs all over the land. There were so many frogs that Pharaoh thought he would croak. At other times, God sent gnats, flies, and locusts. That really bugged Pharaoh! Well, Pharaoh had more ups and downs than a yo-yo. When God would send one of the plagues, Pharaoh would tell Moses that if God would make it go away, he would let his people go. But after God made the plague go away, Pharaoh would change his mind and refuse to let the people go. Since Pharaoh was so hard-hearted and refused to let God’s people go, God continued to send plagues upon Egypt — there were ten in all.
The final plague was the worst of all. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that the last plague would be so terrible that it would change his heart and he would let the people go. Every firstborn son and every firstborn male animal would die. How sad! It is always sad to see what happens to people when they refuse to obey God. Since Pharaoh and the people in Egypt refused to do what God told them to do, they suffered terribly! That may be hard to understand, but remember – God had given them many opportunities to do what he told them to do, but they refused.
God gave Moses instructions on how his own people were to prepare for the last plague. He said that every family was to take a one-year-old lamb, one that was perfect in every way, and prepare a meal. They were to take some of the blood from the lamb and smear it on the sides and tops of the doorway of their houses.
God said, “I will go through the land of Egypt on this night and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether human or animal, and bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. The blood will serve as a sign on the houses where you live. When I see the blood, I will pass over you—no harm will touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
After God sent that tenth plague, Pharaoh repented and freed God’s children.
The symbolism of Passover for Christians is rich. The Passover Lamb is a type of Christ. Passover marked the beginning of months for the Hebrews, and the coming of Christ into our lives marks both the changing of our world and the beginning of our lives.
God began the calendar year of Israel with the Exodus. The first month of the Hebrew year, called Abib (or Aviv), literally means “the ear” month because at this time-about April for us-the ears of grain have developed. Passover was to begin Israel’s year. It was a reminder of their coming into being as God’s delivered people.
The Passover was a sacred meal. It was intended to honour God and His relationship with His people. Burning leftover meat represented the sacred nature of this observance, making it clear that it is food for the soul and food for the Body. The bread and wine (or juice) served during the Eucharist is also food for both the body and the soul. Our gathering in worship and God’s saving grace should motivate us and encourage us to perform acts of justice and mercy.
God’s specific instructions about the Passover lamb would ensure that in every way, it was fit for sacred service. A lamb without flaws was to be the perfect sacrifice for the Passover meal, just like Christ was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Nothing but a perfect sacrifice could satisfy God’s requirements, because God Himself is perfectly righteous. No sacrifice was adequate, so God had to provide the Lamb that was without blemish-Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Passover became a festival to celebrate the visiting and redeeming God-the One who comes to dwell among us, not only as Protector but as Sustainer and Giver of Life. The Passover Lamb represented the work that Jesus would finish in His death and resurrection. That’s why he said, “It is finished” just before He died on the cross.
The Israelites were told to be ready to leave their bondage at any time. We as Christians today must also be ready to leave at any time. We don’t know when Christ’s return and the final judgment will take place. The Israelites were also told to eat unleavened bread. In Scripture, leaven represents evil. Our bread of life must be unleavened. We can’t have communion with Christ when there is sin in our lives.
The bitter herbs represented the memory of the Israelites’ bondage, and today we who are saved must not forget the cost of our redemption. Our sin-filled lives must be constantly crucified. Deep down in our hearts, the drinking of His cup and being baptized with His baptism will be our taste of bitter herbs in the feast.
The one who would “pass through the land” was not some angel of death as is commonly assumed. According to the repeated pronoun “I”, it was the Lord Himself, bringing judgment against all the gods of Egypt. Just like the angel of death passed over the blood-stained doorways of the Israelites, Christ’s blood allows eternal death and separation from God to pass over us. We can pass over from physical death to eternal life. Only the blood of Jesus can save us.
God did not protect the Israelites because they were better than the Egyptians, but because they were His people. God gives grace to His followers-whether through the blood of the Passover lamb or the blood of Jesus-not based on merit but on His lovingkindness. Christ’s blood saves us from the penalty of spiritual death just like the blood of the Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn children and animals.
The passage from Exodus is about freedom from slavery, new beginning and leaving behind. It’s about life and death. It teaches us how to get ready to move fast. Christ’s death and resurrection are also about freedom from slavery, a new relationship and life with God and leaving behind our old sin-filled lives. Christ’s death and resurrection mean freedom for all who believe in Him. The Lord’s Supper is open to all He invited, all the baptized, who remember that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. The blood of the host at this banquet means that God will pass over the sins of all who partake. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
God cares for us just like he cared for his children in Egypt long ago. In fact, He made a way for us to get out of our messes too. Just like Pharaoh, we have our ups and downs, but Jesus died on the cross for all the wrong things we have done. If we believe in him and ask him to come into our hearts, he makes a way for us to go to Heaven.
For Christianity, the passion narrative is built, at least in part, on the Passover narrative. In Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples gather in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal, at which time Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, offering the wine as a sign of the blood of the covenant poured out for the forgiveness of sins. While Passover had nothing to do with the sins of Israel, it does speak of liberation, and the cross is itself understood in that context. In John’s Passion narrative, the connection of Jesus to the Passover Lamb is even more explicit. He is crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, the day when the Passover lambs are sacrificed in preparation for the feast. Thus, for John, Jesus is the Passover Lamb, through whom liberation takes place. It is his blood placed on the doorposts as a sign to the angel of death. The good news, the gospel, is that God is a liberating God, and in our worship, we are invited to continually retell the story of how God acts to liberate.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 89-90)
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 21: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 132-142)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Ron Moore, “Nothing but the Blood.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Passover Lamb.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
- Mark S. Gignilliant, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Anathea Portier-Young, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- Ralph W. Klein, “Commentary of Exodus 12:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
- “The First Passover.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4KIds.com