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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

In Egypt, The Lamb

Third Wednesday in Lent


The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 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. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, 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. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 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. 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. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 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.


“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. 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.


“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.


At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.


During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”


The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:1-16,29-36


Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.


The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.


Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”


Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.


The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”


“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”


Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”


“He is worthy of death,” they answered.


Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Matthew 26:57-68


Today we begin by going back to the Egypt of Moses. By the time Moses arrived on the stage of history, the majestic pyramids had guarded the land for a thousand years. The Great Sphinx had watched the mighty Nile flood and recede for a millennium. The magnificent temples, edifices for the gods of Egypt, with their hundred-foot columns and endless inscriptions, dominated the cities. In their graves, the pharaohs lay in silent splendor amid the wealth of the nation sealed with them in their tombs. The Hykos nation had been driven from the land. For 3-1/2 centuries pharaohs had maintained their dynasty.


Commerce flourished. The arts flourished. The army was strong. Egypt was feared and admired. The Nile was then, as now, the strength of Egypt. Every year that great river flooded, watering the land a short distance on either side, enough to produce the grains and fruits the nation needed. Beyond that narrow, fertile strip of water and greenery, lay the desert. Only the life-sustaining waters of the Nile kept the land alive.


It was because of the constant Nile that Joseph and his brothers came to Egypt. Famine in their own land drove them, along with many of their countrymen, to seek food in this ancient “Bread Basket of the World.” The family stayed on in Egypt, settling in the delta lands of the great river known as Goshen. The family grew through the years into sizable numbers. It was content to farm the delta soil or to find employment in the capitol nearby.


Four hundred years pass, and with the passing years, new pharaohs. Joseph’s great contribution to Egyptian history was long-forgotten, and with him the passing history of the people in the delta country. Pharaohs, unsympathetic to the descendants of Joseph, made them work on construction jobs. The descendants of the proud family had become slaves in the land they loved.


Of those people, Moses was born. In spite of Pharaoh’s edict that all male children of Israel should be killed, Moses and many others survived. Moses was adopted into the Pharaoh’s family by Pharaoh’s daughter. For 40 years he enjoyed the education, the privileges of the palace. Then, learning of his “roots”, he identified with the slaves, who labored under the blistering Egyptian sun and the stinging whips of their overseers.


In a rage, one day, he attacked and killed a slave driver. That attack forced him to flee into the great desert. Then for 40 years he shepherded sheep, leading them wherever he might find water and forage for them. As Moses had learned to know Egypt, so now he learned the ways of the nomad in the lands of Midian. When Moses was 80 years old, though he didn’t know it, he was ready for the purpose God had in store for him.


And God came to Moses in the burning bush, and said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering… So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7,10)


God’s hour to gather a people for Himself had come. Moses’ education for the task was over.


Now came the encounter with Pharaoh. No way would he release the slaves. So God plagued Egypt with a bloody Nile, and frogs and hail and darkness and other plagues. Pharaoh vacillated between letting the Israelites go and keeping them as slaves, over and over, with each plague.


Then came the night of terror and freedom. God would destroy the eldest child in every Egyptian household, and the first born of all the beasts. That visitation would be so horrible that Pharaoh would vacillate no more.


Preparations must be made by the people of Goshen, by the children of God. Among other things they were to select a lamb. God’s lamb is there again!


Remember? It was on the altar at the first recorded worship service by Abel. It was tangled in the bushes where Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac. And here it is again – in the confusion of the plagues, in the bewilderment of God’s people – a sign of their freedom.


Moses delivered the will and plan of God to the people. Lambs were selected according to instructions. The lambs were slain. Their blood was smeared on the door frames of each house. While the lambs roasted on the fires, the people gathered whatever they could carry. They dressed for the journey. While they ate, the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, in houses that had not been marked with lambs’ blood.


Then the signal! The march to freedom began. The slaves of Egypt became the people of God. The holy nation was in the making; God had chosen Himself a people.


But more than that. The lamb had been placed front and center again on the stage of history of the people of God when their freedom began. And the lamb would be there in the commemoration of the night of Passover until the time of Christ.


God had given His people a sign, a lamb which all the people of God would see and taste and touch at the Passover celebration. The type anticipating the antitype – the shadow announcing the substance – the lamb prophetic of The Lamb!


The celebration of the Passover came and went some 2000 times. Year after year the people of the Old Covenant gathered and ate the lamb, and remembered the night that freedom came to them.


Until, one night, Jesus knowing the hour was at hand, gathered His disciples to eat the Passover meal. 2000 times the rehearsal had gone as scheduled. Now the rehearsals were over. The prolog to the drama had begun. The new Paschal Lamb was identified. God had chosen His Lamb!


The Lamb would this day be led as a sheep to the slaughter. He would be sacrificed on the rocky altar of the skull-shaped hill. He would be “spitted” on the cross. He would be exposed to the raging fires of Hell.


His blood, sweat from His brow in Gethsemane, drawn from His hands and feet by nails, and drained from His side by a Roman spear, would be shed. But not a bone of Him would be broken!


At the same hour that lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, God’s Lamb would be dying on the cross. Christ our Passover would be sacrificed for us. As He set the lamb in the midst of the ancient Passover, so He has set His Lamb in the midst of His Church. As they once ate the Passover meal, so God’s people today eat the “Passover” of Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood.


As long ago God led His people to freedom from the tyranny of the law and sin, from His judgement and death.


As once He commanded His people to commemorate the fateful night in Egypt, so we are bid with our Redeemer’s words, “This do in remembrance of me” to commemorate His fateful night. The Passover meal with its prescribed ritual has become the Passover meal of the New Covenant, sealed with the body and blood of God’s Lamb.


It was the last meal of Jesus, on the night before His Passion. It marked the beginning of the new Israel, the people of the New Covenant, and freedom!


It has become the great and mystic meal of the Christian Church. At the end of it is freedom; for Jesus said long ago, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)


The little Passover lamb, the symbol of the ancient liberation, is the type of the Great Passover Lamb, whose blood has set us free to be the people of God.


Amen

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