Text: Exodus 12:21-28
Second Sunday After Epiphany, Series A
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The King of Abyssinia once took eight British subjects prisoner and incarcerated them in the high fortress of Magdala. No reason was given for their confinement. When the Britain Empire found out, she demanded an immediate release for her citizens. King Theodore refused.
Within ten days after the refusal was received, ten thousand British soldiers were sailing down the coast headed for Magdala. Then marching across an unfriendly country for seven hundred miles, they went up the mountains to where the prisoners were being held. They gave battle, tearing the gates of the fortress down and reached the depths of the dungeon. They lifted those eight British subjects out, placed them on their shoulders and carried them down the mountains to the coast where a big ocean vessel soon sped them safely home.
That expedition took several months and cost the English government twenty-five million dollars. The entire resources of the government were made available in the rescue and protection of only eight citizens. And on a far larger scale, this is what God did for the people of Israel.
Israel’s Passover Lamb
The Israelites had spent generations as slaves to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. But, the time had come, and God demanded an immediate release of his people. Pharaoh, of course, refused. So, God went into battle for Israel. Water turned to blood. Frogs were everywhere. Gnats were on every man and beast. Ungodly swarms of flies pestered the land. A deadly pestilence fell upon all Egyptian cattle. Festering boils broke out on men and beasts throughout Egypt. There was thunder and hail, fire and storm. Locusts devoured all growing things. Then, there were three days that were so unnaturally dark it could be felt. Still, Pharaoh obstinately refused to release his slaves.
God had told Pharaoh through Most just how precious Israel was to him. Israel was God’s firstborn. (Ex. 4:22). So, because of Pharaoh’s dark and stubborn heart, God was sending an angel of death to visit and slay every firstborn in the entire land of Egypt. The Lord was done playing games.
The Lord, the just judge, has decreed death for every firstborn in Egypt. So far, the Lord had spared his people from the results of the nine plagues which had befallen the Egyptians. But this time, when God went to act as judge, his eyes were on them also. They needed protection from God’s wrath, his just anger. The Israelites were just as stubborn, just as idolatrous as the Egyptians. If the firstborn of Egypt were going to be killed, then Israel, God’s firstborn, should be on the list too! So Israel, God’s firstborn, needed protection from the just judgment of God.
But the Lord had a means of protection. The Israelites were to gather in the houses. Sacrifice a male lamb. They were to use hyssop brushes to paint their doors with blood. The sacrificial lamb stood in place of the firstborn. A life in exchange for a life. A Sacrifice which serves as a substitute. Just like that ram caught in the thorns saved Abraham’s son Isaac from the knife and the fire. The blood above the door protects those who are inside. Where the blood was painted on the wood, there death passed over. The firstborn was spared. The Lord had spoken and promised protection and true to his word, he gave it.
Israel walked out of Egypt into freedom through bloody wood. Their doorposts and lintels were soaked in blood. They were a people protected by the blood of the lamb. But, remember, they were no better than the Egyptians, no less deserving of slavery and death. But they were a people who were under the protection of blood. A Passover people. God’s people.
Our Passover Lamb
It should be obvious what this means for us. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” There in the Jordan River is God’s unblemished, sinless Lamb, washed for the sacrifice. On the celebration of Passover in 30 AD, he was slain for us sinners.
He did nothing wrong, and you can do nothing right. He deserved to live, and you deserve to die. He is innocent, you are guilty. He is spotless, you are marred beyond measure. He is free, you are as bound to sin and dead as an Israelite in Egypt. But God made you alive in the Lamb. His blood brings you life and freedom. Behold God’s Son, God’s Servant, God’s Lamb, who lays down His life for your life, who sheds his blood for your blood, who bears your sin, who dies your death.
But, for the Israelites, there was need for an act of personal, appropriating faith. “The people bowed the head, and worshipped. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded” (vv. 27, 28). The writer to the Hebrews said, “Through faith (they) kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood,” (Heb. 11:28). They showed they had faith by sprinkling the blood on their door-posts and lintels, and by finding shelter for themselves inside. Nothing short of this would have helped to save them. Faith is the bunch of hyssop. The Israelites needed to heed God’s word, they had to put their faith in the mercy of God. They had to trust in the blood of the Lamb to protect them. So it is not knowledge about Jesus, but faith in him; personal application of his blood, and trust in it as the means of salvation, which secures our safety. It’s not enough for you to just believe that Jesus exists, do you trust his blood to save you?
Later in this chapter it says (12:30) there was not a house without someone dead. The judgment of God had swept through the houses of the Egyptians, from the royal family at the top to the single-parent family at the bottom. Yet, there was also ‘someone dead’ in the houses of the Israelites too, because the lamb had died and had been brought in to the houses to provide the main part of the Passover feast. The lamb was slain. His blood was upon the door. And they ate his flesh. The slain lamb becomes the food of the new life. The Israelites enjoyed a sacrificial feast upon the flesh of the lamb. This was a feast of freedom, peace and fellowship with God, but it was also an act of nourishment for the journey. Similarly, under the Gospel, the our new life is nourished by feeding upon Christ, his true body, his true blood. “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf, you are protected from death. Jesus’ Body and His Blood go with you wherever you go – your home, your work, your worship. To your grave. And from the grave, He will raise you, for He will not deny His own Body and Blood. Death cannot contain Him, nor can it hold you who have His Body and Blood. St. Ignatius called communion the Medicine of Immortality.
Because of the blood of the lamb, Israel escaped from God’s judgment. Because of the blood of the lamb, they were freed from slavery. Because of the blood of the lamb, they were guided, cared for, and instructed in the desert. Because of the blood of the lamb, they ultimately received the promised land. What do we receive, through Christ? Through the blood of Christ we receive the pardon of all our sins. Through the blood of Christ we receive a complete justifying righteousness, and along with it, eternal life. Through the blood of Christ we receive personal renewal and sanctification by the Spirit. Through the blood of Christ we receive every needed temporal and spiritual blessing in life. Through the blood of Christ we will receive heaven at the end of our lives, triumph over death, the hope of a resurrection, and of finally being perfect in glory.
Entering and remaining behind that blood covered door showed that the Israelites received by faith, all that the lamb’s shed blood meant and accomplished. Within the house of God, the Church, you are safe and protected by the blood of the lamb. Are you outside or within the blood-stained gateway? You can show that you have received by faith all that Jesus did for you, by being in and remaining in God’s Holy Church. While you are in the Holy Church, you are protected from sin, death, and the devil. Protected, so that you may enter the promised land of the News Heavens, and New Earth. You are protected for life enteral.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.