A year or two back Russell bought a Digibox- eighty channels, and often there is still nothing worth watching. Last night was an exception when I heard Shirley Williams give the Centenary Lecture on the life of Nancy Astor.
One of my favourite programmes is “Who do you think you are?” - born out of the world's growing interest in genealogy- made so much easier with computer access to records .
More than the individual stories of well-known personalities- actors, presenters, sportsmen and women, are the way it charts Social History, and in particular huge movements of people around the world:
the Potato famine in Ireland;
the land clearances in Scotland;
Huguenots and Jews around Europe;
the slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean and Southern States of America.
Our reading from Exodus 12 is about another population move- the Hebrews/ Israelites
leaving Egypt in what we know as the Exodus.
In Genesis 12 God calls Abram/ later Abraham and promises him that his descendants will be as numerous as the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the heavens. And that through him all peoples of the earth will be blessed.
Years later his grandson Jacob, later Israel moved his family now numbering 70 to Egypt where Joseph had now been elevated from prison to second only to Pharaoh.
If any of you know the Wells family of A J Wells and Sons, Eileen and her husband had nine or ten children; on her eightieth birthday there were seventy family members, which included forty grandchildren. Since then there are almost as many great-grandchildren- with at least another two on the way.
After Joseph's death, the Israelites/ Hebrews “were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous so that the land was filled with them (Ex 1 : 6).
The new Pharaoh, not knowing Joseph became threatened by this huge number of people, especially if war should come, so he introduced two measures:
1)He oppressed the Hebrews with hard labour making bricks
2) He also ordered the Hebrew mid-wives to kill the boys born to Hebrew women, but let the girls live. Among those was Moses whose Mother hid him in a basket, only to be discovered by Pharaoh's daughter, and raised in the palace.
Years later, at the age of eighty, God called Moses to return to Egypt to be the spokesman before Pharaoh in getting him to let God's people go.
These requests were refused, and met with a succession of plagues: river Nile turned into blood; frogs; gnats; flies; livestock; boils;hail; locusts and darkness.
Nine plagues thus far; then came the final plague on the first-born son of every Egyptian household and of their livestock too.
In order to be safe-guarded from this visitation of the Angel of death- beautifully danced in last year's production of “Pharaoh to Freedom”-
the Israelites were instructed by God through Moses to:
Take a lamb.. for his household, or to share one between smaller families
Year-old males without defect either sheep or goats, cared for from tenth to the fourteenth day of the month.
Slaughter all the lambs at twilight
Take some of the blood and put it on the door-posts and lintels
Are to roast the lamb, with bitter herbs ( to signify their years of oppressions)
and bread without yeast (they were leaving in haste and there was no time to let it rise).
Eat it with their cloak tucked into their belt, sandals on their feet and a staff in their hand- ready for departure. These people are “on the move”
“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”
On finding what had been visited on his people and his own household, Pharoah finally begged the Hebrew people to go-
This was now a nation 600,000 (six hundred thousand men, besides women and children). Even at four per family that is 2.5 million, but likely to be much higher- all this from the initial family of 70 that had arrived with Jacob.
The Passover was established as a Festival for generations of Jews to come.
And it was this feast- the Last Supper that Jesus was celebrating with his disciples in the Upper Room before his betrayal, arrest and death on a cross.
As this is a communion service, let's look at the parallels between the Passover- and the death of Christ:
In the New Testament, The Gospel of John and the Revelation to John give us almost every reference to Jesus as “The Lamb of God”
In parallel, the letter to the Hebrews shows how Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old testament laws regarding sacrifice, bringing in the New Covenant (testament) by the shedding of his blood. The word “Diathekos”/ testament is like a will, only becoming effective on the death of the testator.
Isaiah prophesies the suffering servant, “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”
John the Baptist identified Jesus, on whom the Spirit had descended as a Dove, saying
“Look, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”(Jn 1)
And in Heaven Jesus is worshipped as the Lamb..
“Then I (John the Apostle) saw a Lamb, looking as though it had been slain,
standing in the centre of the throne.. (Rev 5:6)
The continual song of in Heaven is:
“Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise...(Rev 5:12)
Also from Rev Chs 5-7;
Lamb who was slain.. worthy is the lamb.
Washed white in the blood of the lamb..
the wedding supper of the Lamb..
A lamb without defect
Jesus committed no sin so he is able to be that perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world:
“We have one who has been tempted in every way as we are- yet was without sin..”
“We all like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord has laid in Him the iniquity of us all”
Isaiah . 53:7
Not his sin, but ours is the reason for the death of this suffering servant, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.. the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
When I see the blood I will pass over you
When the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice and his shed blood is “applied” to our own hearts and lives- as the Hebrews applied the blood to the posts and lintels of their doors- then God is able to look at us and “pass over” his judgment and vengeance for sin- because it has been paid for in the death of Christ.
John a Jew is the only Gospel writer to note two apparent parallels with the first Passover and Christ's death:
The use of Hyssop-
to paint the door posts and lintel of the Hebrew homes in Egypt
A bunch of Hyssop (probably attached the longer reed mentioned by Matthew and Mark)was used at the cross to offer Jesus a sponge soaked with wine vinegar in response to his cry “I am thirsty” Jn 19:29
No bone of the Passover lamb was to be broken
Ex 12:46 No bone of the animal was allowed to be broken
John 19:36 “Not one of his bones will be broken”
One of the strengths of the Bible as we have it, is how so often the Old Testament finds fulfillment in the new.
Again, from Paul this time,
“Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed..”
and because of this our behaviour should be different..
“ ridding yourselves of the yeast of malice and wickedness,
and becoming new with sincerity and truth.. 1 Cor 5:7
The first Passover involved the blood of a lamb without defect applied to the doors and lintel so that when God saw it His judgment would !pass over” his people.
Christ's death, at Passover time, meant that he the sinless Lamb of God, shed his blood for the sin of the world- by crucifixion; when he thirsted and was offered a drink on a hyssop branch.. and later because he was already dead, his legs would not be broken as was customary. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
Song from Roger Jones' “Pharoah to freedom”-
“When I see the blood I will pass over you”.