A Passover Devotional:
Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 1
The Hebrew Scriptures conclude with two prophecies in the Book of Malachi describing a Messenger (also the meaning of the prophets name!) who would prepare the way for the Lord. The first of these prophecies is found in Malachi 3:1,
Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.
This Messenger would purify the priests so they might once again offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people. As the prophet writes, Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.(Malachi 3:3)
The Jewish people would be judged because of disobedience, but also left with hope. In fact the very last words recorded in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), predict that this messenger identified as the prophet Elijah would call the Jewish people to back to God and reconcile both fathers and sons.
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.
This call to repentance was God’s way of preparing the Jewish people for the One whom Elijah would introduce to the Jewish people. Jesus believed that John the Baptist fulfilled these prophecies and that He was the Elijah like messenger who came to turn the Jewish people back to the Lord. Jesus affirms this in the Gospel of Matthew,
As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send MY messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Mt. 11:7-10)
John repeatedly denies that he is the Messiah and tells those gathered that the One they have really been waiting for is coming and it is simply his job to introduce Him.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “ I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:24-27)
The earth shattering moment comes when John’s introduces this One place at Bethany beyond the Jordan. (John 1:28). He was immersing Jewish people in water as a symbol of their desire to be cleansed from sin. But now he declares that the One who was to come – had come! John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Jewish people on the banks of the Jordan would have understood this to be a reference to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12 with additional information provided by Isaiah in chapter 53.
The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (John 1:29-30)
John mentions this again a moment later to two future disciples when he said,
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)
This theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God would become a major teaching theme by the writers of the New Testament. Peter, also establishes this link, as he was the brother of Andrew, one of the two disciples who heard John’s statement about Yeshua.
…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.(1 Peter 1:18-19)
This link between Yeshua and the Lamb had already made by Luke in the Book of Acts in reference to the encounter between Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke records,
Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: HE was led as A sheep to slaughter; And as A lamb before its shearer is silent, SO HE does not open His mouth. (Acts 8:32), which is our first indication that Jesus was not only compared to the lamb in the Book of Exodus, but the Lamb as well in Isaiah 53.
Rabbi Saul, the Apostle Paul takes this link one step further and declares,
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)
The links between Jesus and the Passover Lamb are overwhelming. In describing the crucifixion of Yeshua John adds,
For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “ Not A bone of Him shall be broken.”(John 19:36), looking back to Exodus when Moses tells the Israelites how the lamb was to be sacrificed,
It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. (Exodus 12:46)
The Lamb in Exodus 12 is a prophetic portrait of the One who would come and shed His blood for the sins of the world.
The Lamb of Isaiah 53
The prophet Isaiah develops the significance of the lamb as an atoning sacrifice.
There are two key passages in Isaiah 53 which conjoin the idea of the Messiah with the Passover lamb…
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
Admittedly, this can be a reference to the lambs that were regularly sacrifice at the temple and especially on some of the holidays. Yet, when you look at the entire passage it does seem that the prophet had the Passover lamb specifically in mind.
And additionally in Isaiah 53:1,
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
The key link in this passage is that the term for arm is zeroah,which refers to the arm or forearm, but is more often used in passages which refer to God’s saving power and intervention in human history. This idea easily brought the mind of an Israelite back to the deliverance from Egypt as a picture of God’s redemptive work on behalf of His people.
Exodus chapter 6, quoted in the Hagaddah teaches this very clearly,
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Ex. 6:6)
Jesus is the saving zeroah of God who intervened in Egypt and into this world to deliver Israel and the nations from spiritual bondage. And when a man or woman, Jew or Gentile, boy or girl, by faith “smear” the doorposts of their hearts with His shed blood with blood of the Lamb that the wrath of God passes over us and pass from death into life.
This is the way to begin the Passover season and Holy Week – knowing that God’s promises are true and that He has provided the Lamb of God to be the Savior for us all.