It doesn’t matter what’s on the inside, it’s what’s on the outside that counts.
It’s not the interior – it’s all about the blood on the doorposts. It’s not about the LORD inspecting your house. It's ONLY about the blood outside.
It’s not even about how much faith you have in the blood. If the blood is applied at all, you’re saved. Strong faith in the blood and wavering faith in the blood lead to exactly the same outcome. Because it’s not faith IN the blood that saves - it’s the blood.
People say to me, “I don’t have very strong faith.” And I say “Me neither. But thank God we’re not saved by how strong our believing feelings are! Thank God we are saved, not so much by our faith in Christ’s blood, thank God we’re saved by Christ’s blood!”
...It’s not about the quality of your living, speaking, acting, praying. It’s not even about the quality of your own faith. It’s only about the blood. It’s the quality of His death, not the quality of your life. Your salvation has nothing to do with YOU – and everything to do with HIM. Nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with His performance.
People so often worry that their sins have cost them their relationship with God. Well you can’t out-sin the Blood of God can you?! Think about your sins. No matter what they are. Is your sin bigger than the blood of God?? Nonsense. You have not out-sinned the blood of Jesus. You cannot out-sin the blood of Jesus. Impossible! It’s about His blood outside – not your heart inside...
John the Baptist was a wild and holy prophet whose whole mission in life was to prepare the way for the LORD Jesus. John was prophesied in the Old Testament as one who would cry out in the wilderness and introduce Jesus to the world. And when his big moment came to announce Christ onto the world stage, what did John say?
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Think of all the ways John could have described Jesus. He could have said “Behold the Son of God”, “Behold the Word of God”, “Behold the Christ of God”, “Behold the Priest of God”, “Behold the Sun of Righteousness”, “Behold the Light of the World,” “Behold the Lord of Israel”, “Behold the great I AM”, “Behold the Maker of heaven and earth”, “Behold the Judge of the world”, “Behold the Ruler of the Ages”. He could have chosen any of those, but here’s what John thought we needed to know first: “Behold the Lamb of God.” Behold the Sacrifice. Behold God’s Bleeding Victim. That’s the most fundamental introduction to Jesus.
So then if we want to understand Jesus, we must understand Him as the Lamb. And there’s no better place in Scripture than Exodus 12 to see what this means.
This morning we’re going to quickly get a handle on the details of Passover, then we’re going to see how Passover fits into the whole of the Bible, then we’re going to draw out some implications. So first the details...
Perhaps the first thing to say about Passover is, Passover was a plague! The heading for chapter 11 gives the other name for the Passover, it was “the plague on the firstborn.”
There have been nine plagues prior to this one – nine signs to Pharaoh that the LORD is God and Pharaoh should let the people go. Each time Pharaoh refuses and each time his heart gets harder and so do the plagues. They get deadlier and deadlier as time goes on until finally, chapter 11:4 – here’s what’s going to happen:
4 So Moses said, "This is what the LORD says: `About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt--worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.' Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
What’s the distinction that the LORD is going to make? Is He just going to avoid the Israelite suburbs and only visit the Egyptians?
No, He’s going to pass through the whole country. The distinction will be – some will take shelter under the blood of a lamb and the LORD will pass over them, the rest will be judged.
Well then, how do you take shelter? Chapter 12, verse 3 – on the 10th day of the 1st month, take a lamb into your household. It has to be a lamb – if your household can’t afford a lamb, a budgie won’t do the trick. If you’re too skint then (v4), club together with other families so that you can get a lamb. Only a lamb will do. Verse 5, the lamb has to be male – it’s going to stand in for the firstborn son, so it’s ‘like for like’. And it has to be without defect – not some cheap old thing, a precious lamb without spot.
Verse 3 says, Adopt it into family life – Flossy will become a pet for the next 4 days – one of the family. But on the 14th day of the month at twilight I’m afraid Flossy gets it in the neck. Then (v22) using a bit of hyssop plant as a paintbrush, paint the blood on the outside of your doorframes. Then go inside and don’t come out again till morning – you’re only safe as you shelter under the blood of the lamb. Once inside (verses 8-11), roast the lamb with bitter herbs and eat it with unleavened bread. Eat it fast, eat it standing, eat it ready to leave the country because this is the last night you’ll ever be in Egypt.
Verse 23 – at midnight when the LORD goes through the land, He will pass over every house which shelters under the blood of the lamb. But, v29, for the Egyptians who did not heed the LORD’s warnings He strikes down the firstborn of every household.
And after this plague, Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go and forevermore the Israelites would commemorate Passover as their liberation from Egypt.
Those are the details of Passover. But let me give some context in the bible.
Let’s rewind 500 years – to a hill in the region of Jerusalem. As Genesis 22 describes it, Abraham is walking up the hill with his son, his only son Isaac whom he loves. And he’s meant to sacrifice his son as a sacrifice of atonement. His son Isaac is carrying the wood up this mountain in the region of Jerusalem (sound familiar?). Abraham is carrying the tools of judgement, the fire and the knife.
Isaac pipes up and says “Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham says “God Himself will provide The Lamb.” And of course on this day, the LORD halts the sacrifice of Isaac and provides instead a ram. The ram dies instead of Isaac. But from that day onwards that mountain was called “The LORD WILL provide.” What will the LORD provide? The Lamb. The LORD will provide the Lamb on that mountain in the region of Jerusalem. He will be the true beloved Son. The true sacrifice of atonement. And He will carry the wood up that very hill to die for the sins of the world. Genesis 22:14 says it was common knowledge in Israel "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."
The Israelites knew the Lamb of God was going to come and die as the true sacrifice of atonement. They even knew which mountain He was going to die on. So then, for those Israelites at Passover it must have had such a resonance for them as they killed this little lamb and sheltered under its blood. They knew that there was a coming Lamb of God who would provide the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate shelter.
Fast forward 800 years and we fly over a thousand references to lambs and sacrifices and blood but we come to Isaiah chapter 53. He prophesies the work of the Messiah saying:
7 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.
But, Isaiah says:
5 He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. 6 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.
Isaiah knew that the coming Christ – He would be the Lamb of God, and He would die in our place to bring us shelter, healing, forgiveness and peace.
Fast forward another 700 years and Jesus is entering Jerusalem on a donkey. It’s the tenth day of the first month – and as all of Israel are bringing their Passover lambs into their houses, Jesus enters into the house of God. And on the 14th day of the 1st month, while everyone else is holding their Passover meals, Jesus is hosting His last supper. He’s meant to be carving the lamb and passing it around. But there is no lamb on the menu – not that we’re told of. There is a Lamb at the table though. And Jesus – the Lamb of God – takes bread and wine into His hands and says “Remember My body broken for you. My blood shed for you.”
And then on the cross Jesus dies that bloody Passover death – a Lamb to the slaughter.
No wonder the Apostle Paul says, 1 Corinthians 5:7 – “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.”
No wonder the Apostle Peter writes 1 Peter 1:19 – “You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect.”
And when the Apostle John wrote Revelation he calls Jesus “the Lamb” 28 times.
We heard some of it in our second reading, Revelation chapter 5:
Jesus appears in heaven looking like a Lamb who has been slain and all heaven bursts out in song. They sing:
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. [John goes on…] 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!" 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
The most basic thing you can know about Jesus is that He is the Lamb. And the most exalted thing you can know about Jesus is that He is the Lamb, our Passover Lamb.
So what we see here in Exodus, it’s not just an account of one remarkable night in ancient history. Passover reveals the most fundamental truths about our LORD Jesus.
So in our remaining time, let’s just focus on three aspects of the Passover.
Passover saves the people
First – Passover saves through judgement. And here’s the point we began with. Passover is a plague. The salvation God brings is a salvation through judgement. To get saved you don’t go around judgement, away from judgement, you go through judgement.
Look at Exodus 12:12, and ask yourself – what does Passover save the people from?
12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. (Ex 12:12)
What does Passover save us from? Well one surprising answer is that Passover saves the people from all the gods of Egypt. This is not basically about political or economic liberation, but spiritual liberation from spiritual overlords.
That’s an important aspect of the LORD’s salvation, but it’s not the most important thing the Israelites need saving from. Here’s what the Israelites really need saving from: the LORD Himself! The LORD needs to save them from the LORD. This is repeated v23, v27, v29 – it’s the LORD, the LORD, the LORD who’s coming in judgement. It’s personal.
It’s not like the plagues of hail or darkness or gnats. With those plagues, Moses would stretch out his hand and the plagues would come through him. This time the LORD says even to Moses – “Run for cover, I am coming.” All of Israel, even Moses must take shelter because the LORD Himself is judging the land. Salvation if it’s going to come has to be salvation from God. People need to be saved BY the LORD, FROM the LORD.
How will He do this?
Passover was a meal certainly. But as v27 says, before it was a meal, it was a sacrifice. And the real key to the sacrifice was its bloodiness. See verse 23 – this is what averts judgement:
When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and sides of the door-frame and will pass over that doorway, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
It’s the blood that makes all the difference. When blood is in our veins – it means life. When blood is out of our veins, it means death. And the blood of the lamb is the sign of its sacrificial death. That’s what turns aside the judgement of God – the blood. And only the blood. Without the blood of the lamb you forfeit the blood of your firstborn. If there’s going to be salvation then judgement must fall – it’s not salvation that goes around judgement or away from judgement but through judgement. But the judgement falls on the sacrifice. That’s what happened at Passover, it’s what happened at the cross. The cross was the judgement of the world, focussed down like a magnifying glass until it burned with divine power upon Jesus our willing sacrifice. But that’s how salvation comes – only through judgement falling on the sacrifice. It’s blood for blood. Death for death.
And that’s the third aspect of Passover – the people are saved through substitution.
Look at the last line of verse 30:
there was not a house without someone dead.
That’s true of every house in Egypt that night. Whether Egyptian or Israelite. Every house had someone dead in it. Either there was a dead lamb or there was a dead son. If there wasn’t a dead lamb there would definitely be a dead son. Do you see how Passover is a substitutionary sacrifice? A sacrifice that takes your place. It’s you or your substitute. It’s you or Flossy. “Sorry Flossy, it’s you.” Flossy dies instead of you.
Now I’m sure the firstborn sons in Israel were grateful for what Flossy did in their place. But surely that’s nothing compared to our gratitude towards Christ the Lamb. Flossy wasn’t a willing substitute. Jesus was. He freely laid down His life. In fact it is His eternal glory to lay down His life in substitutionary sacrifice. But bring the cross to mind and think of what a climb down this was.
On that cross: the LORD became the Lamb. The Saviour became the Sacrifice. The Judge became the judged. Our Maker was crucified – slaughtered as a Lamb. He bled His own heart’s blood – the blood of God as Acts 20 puts it – and He did it FOR YOU. It’s a substitution – the blood of God was shed FOR YOU.
There is a day of judgement coming. There is blood demanded from each one of us. But Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. The blood demanded from us has been offered for us – in our place, on our behalf, as our substitute.
If you are trusting in your Lamb, the LORD Jesus, then His blood shelters you from that coming day. If you are not trusting in Jesus the Lamb, then nothing else can shelter you from that coming day. The blood of Jesus is entirely sufficient. But the blood of Jesus is entirely necessary.
So have you taken shelter in Jesus Christ? In His death on the cross for you? Jesus the Lamb sits on the throne right now, waiting to receive yet more people who trust in Him. He longs to shelter them also from that coming day. Call on Jesus right now and ask for shelter. He will not turn you away. And you can know even today absolute peace about the coming judgement. If you ask, you will be kept safe in Jesus the Lamb.
Let’s imagine three Israelite houses on the night the LORD passes through.
House A is a very religious house. They love to have Moses over to hear the words of God. They’re always praying. They’re always talking about father Abraham. They’re always doing good deeds around the neighbourhood. They hear about Passover and on one level they’re a bit miffed because they’d quite like the LORD to come inside the home and see how good they all are. They’re sure He’d pass over them once He saw how religious they all were. Thankfully Moses persuades them out of that suicidal idea and they kill the Lamb and apply the blood.
House B is not like House A. In House B they were going to be in that night anyway because they all have ASBO’s. They are drunkards, gluttons, liars, benefits cheats and notoriously promiscuous. But somehow they catch wind of Passover and they figure they’d probably better cover themselves. They’re not sure it’ll do any good because if the LORD pokes His head around the door He’s bound to judge them anyway. But nonetheless, they kill the lamb and apply the blood.
House C is nothing like as good as A and nothing like as bad as B. But in C everyone is very nervous. They keep calling up house A and saying ‘I’ve killed the lamb, I’ve applied the blood but I’m just not sure. I mean I don’t really see how the blood of a lamb can make a difference.’ And they spend the night pacing up and down wondering whether the blood will really do the trick.
Next morning – which house loses its firstborn son? A, B or C?
None of them do! Because it’s got nothing to do with what’s on the inside of the house. You won’t often hear a preacher say this, but here it’s absolute gospel truth: It doesn’t matter what’s on the inside, it’s what’s on the outside that counts. It’s not the interior – it’s all about the blood on the doorposts. It’s not about the LORD inspecting each household to see whether it’s up to scratch. It’s ONLY about whether the household is sheltering under the blood. That is the ONLY issue.
And it’s not even about how much faith you have in the blood. If the blood is applied at all, you’re saved. Strong faith in the blood and wavering faith in the blood lead to exactly the same outcome. Because it’s not the faith IN the blood that saves it’s the blood.
So often people say to me, “I don’t have very strong faith.” And I say “Me neither. But thank God we’re not saved by how strong our believing feelings are! Thank God we are saved, not so much by our faith in Christ’s blood, thank God we’re saved by Christ’s blood!” And when we really get that we can breathe a sigh of relief, let our shoulders relax and say “Thank You Jesus.”
Do you see how Passover teaches us about our Christian lives. Christ saves you by His blood – not by anything in you. It’s not about the quality of your living, speaking, acting, praying. It’s not even about the quality of your own faith. It’s only about the blood. It’s the quality of His death, not the quality of your life. Do you know that? Your status with God both now and into all eternity is NOT down to the quality of your life – it’s purely down to the quality of His death. Your salvation has nothing to do with YOU – and everything to do with HIM. Nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with His performance.
People so often worry that their sins have cost them their relationship with God. Well you can’t out-sin the Blood of God can you?! Think about your sins. No matter what they are. Is your sin bigger than the blood of God?? Nonsense. You have not out-sinned the blood of Jesus. You cannot out-sin the blood of Jesus. Impossible! It’s about His blood outside – not your heart inside.
It’s not the quality of your life. It’s the quality of His death. 1 John 1 verse 7: The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from EVERY sin.
Eyes off your sins. Eyes off yourselves. Our salvation is entirely outside ourselves, it’s all about Jesus our Lamb. But you know, we forget this all the time.
Which is why our last point is this.
This is right through the chapter. Just look at v14:
"This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come…”
V17: "Celebrate the Feast
V25: "observe this ceremony."
Even before they’ve experienced Passover they’re planning how they will remember it in generations to come. Because Passover is to be woven into the fabric of Israelite life. They are to BE the people of the Lamb, they are to BE the people who are saved through substitutionary sacrifice. They must keep remembering this. Why? Because they will forget.
It’s the same the night before Jesus dies. You’d think Jesus would be too busy preparing for His own death, and yet He spends so long telling His followers how to commemorate it. “This is my body broken for you, this is my blood poured out for you – Do this in remembrance of me”. Because the cross is to be woven into the fabric of our lives. We are to BE the people of the Lamb, we are to BE the people who are saved through substitutionary sacrifice. We must keep remembering this. Why? Because we forget.
We lead our lives as though my performance, good or bad is what counts before God. And God keeps saying – “Have you forgotten already??! Remember your Lamb. Remember His death – His death is far more significant than your life. So remember who you are. You are a people saved by the blood of your Lamb. You are a people nourished by feasting on your sacrifice. You are a people who need His death just so you can live. You have NOTHING to contribute, you can only receive. You are that needy, you are that sinful, you are that dependent, you are that famished. You must rely on the death of your substitute. And not just to get you through the judgement, but to get you through the day. Trusting in your Lamb is not just a one-off saving event – it’s a whole way of life. So remember, says the bible.
The bible’s not really about what to DO. It’s far far far far more about remembering what He’s DONE. Your doing by comparison is IRRELEVANT. His DOING is EVERYTHING. So forget yourself and remember Christ. Weave remembrance into your lives. As a church we take communion to remember – we’ll be having a small service of communion after the morning service, join us to remember. But we also remember through Scripture, through meditating on Scripture, through prayer, through encouraging one another – through any means we can we just echo John’s cry “Behold the Lamb.” That’s the whole meaning of life and the whole glory of eternity “Behold the Lamb.” In remembering Him, in beholding Him, that’s our life, our joy, our comfort, our peace, our security and our eternal song of praise. So friends – “Behold the Lamb.”