Last week I (Helen) had the incredible opportunity to teach Exodus, one of the most foundational books of the Bible. Of course, every book of the Bible is important, but so much of what we see in Exodus reverberates throughout the Scriptures – its themes and its stories are meant to be remembered, and are thus repeated often. Passover is one of many themes that is introduced in Exodus, and is revisited throughout the Bible.
The Passover is first referenced in Exodus 12. Exodus 11 tells us that the final plague in a series of ten plagues brought against Pharaoh and Egypt, was to be the death of the firstborn. Despite the nine previous plagues, Pharaoh had refused to let God’s people leave Egypt, effectively denying the sovereignty and Lordship of God. This tenth plague was a direct attack on Pharaoh. Pharaoh thought himself to be a god, and through the death of his oldest son, all of Egypt would see that Pharaoh was nothing in comparison to Yahweh, the One True God.
Not all would be struck by this plague, however. God made a way for His people to be “passed over.” Each household was to take an unblemished lamb, kill it at twilight, mark the doorposts and the lintel of their homes with its blood, and then eat the roasted flesh of the lamb (Exodus 12:5-12). The blood of the lamb served as a sign – when God saw the blood, He promised that He would pass over the occupants of the house marked by that blood, and no plague would befall them (12:13). Exodus 12 marks the first Passover, in which the people of God did all that the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron (12:28). The plague fell on the remainder of Egypt, and Pharaoh finally allowed God’s people to go.
The Passover was intended to be remembered throughout all generations. It was to be observed as a remembrance of what God had done for His people. It was a testimony of His rescue, a reminder of the way in which God had spared His people from destruction. This sounds familiar to us as Christians, not only because the Exodus story is well-known, but because it was a prelude to the final rescue God had planned through Jesus.
About 1500 years after the first Passover, God’s people would witness the Final Passover. It was no accident or coincidence that Jesus died at the time of Passover – the time when the Jews remembered what God had done for them as He passed over His people, sparing them from death. Jesus’ death marks the Final Passover – He is the Unblemished Lamb, the Spotless Sacrifice who died, inaugurating a new covenant in which all who believed in His atoning work would have their sins “passed over,” just as the Israelites had been passed over centuries prior. The Israelites put the blood of their sacrifices on their doorposts and lintels; today, those who believe in Christ have His blood covering their very lives.
In Exodus 10:21-29, we read of the ninth plague: the plague of darkness. Before the final plague, darkness fell over the land of Egypt for three days. In the New Testament, we read that while Jesus was on the cross, from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there was darkness over all the land (Matthew 27:25; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). Again, we are pointed to Jesus as the fulfillment of Passover. The darkness gave way to light as God rescued His people, first in Exodus from the death of the firstborn, and then in Jesus, through the sacrifice of His Son, rescuing us forever.
Exodus is a rescue story. That story, and the remembrance of Passover, is fulfilled in Jesus. As God affected His rescue of the Israelites, He has affected our rescue through the death of a Lamb, a Lamb who conquered death and will conquer evil once and for all.