The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining on; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human being and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Why is tonight different from all other nights? That’s a worthy question for any of us taking the time to gather, strangely enough online, to remember Jesus’ final night with his friends. Particularly at a time when we cannot gather with our own friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But that question is not meant for us alone. The same question is asked of Jewish children who gather together for the celebration of Passover. Why is this night different from all other nights?
Long ago, God made it all. The tall and the small, the near and the far, from here to there and everywhere. God brought forth life. Including us. That is, humankind.
God made a promise with Abraham to be his God, for his descendants to be more numerous than the stars in the sky. Abraham begat Isaac who begat Jacob. Jacob wrestled with an angel of the Lord on the banks of the Jabbok river and was given a new name: Israel. A name that means, “You have struggled with God and prevailed.”
Jacob begat Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. But during his time as a stranger in a strange land he was prosperous and eventually brought about the gathering of Abraham’s descendants such that they were fruitful and multiplied in a foreign land.
All was well in Egypt, until it wasn’t.
The Egyptians grew jealous of the Hebrews and began to subjugate them and eventually ordered the deaths of every male child born to a Hebrew woman out of fear that they would one day rise up against their overlords.
Moses was born, saved by his mother by pushing him out in basket to float down the Nile. He grew in strength and wisdom and was called by God from the burning bush to deliver God’s people out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land.
God commanded Moses to have the people slaughter lambs and use the blood to mark their doors. This would be the sign for the Lord to pass over their homes while slaughtering the firstborns in Egypt. God implored the people Israel to gird their loins that night because the time of their delivery was near.
Passover is a night different from all other nights because it is a time set aside to mark and remember the sacred and holy moment of God’s deliverance; Passover is when a people remind themselves of how God made a way where there was no way.
Jesus gathered with his friends in the upper room to celebrate Passover. They sat around a table to think about all that God had done long ago to save their ancestors. And it was around that table, pondering the past, that Jesus took an ordinary loaf of bread and said, “You all see this? This is my body. Take it, eat it, and know that I’m giving it for you.” Later he reached for a cup of wine and said, “This is my blood. It is a new covenant. I am pouring it out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Remember me and what I’ve done for you.”
A night unlike any other night built upon the movements of the days from long ago, Jesus said to his friends, “I’m making a way where there is no way.”
Why does Jesus suffer and die on a cross? Well, the cross is how Rome made an example of those who rocked the boat. But if I were to ask those of you across the great spectrum of the internet the same question, chances are better than good that you would say something like, “He died to make us right with God.” Or, “It’s his way of forgiving us.” Or, “He did it so we can go to heaven.”
Which, to be honest, aren’t necessarily wrong. It’s absolutely true that one of the final things Jesus says from the cross is, “Father, forgive them for they have no idea what they’re doing.”
But if the only thing we needed was forgiveness, couldn’t we have received it without Jesus’ having to die?
One of the things we so often miss, even those of us blessed to have communion in church every week, is that Jesus chose Passover for the time of his Last Supper.
And Passover isn’t about forgiveness.
The Lord didn’t look out on the misdeeds of the Israelites and say, “Okay, time to let bygones be bygones, I will wash away your sins.” No. God says, “I’m getting you the hell out of Egypt. Let’s go!”
Passover is about freedom.
The blood that the Israelites marked their doors wasn’t a sign of guilt or shame or sorrow. It wasn’t a substitute for their own blood as a sacrifice for the sins they’d committed.
The blood marked the people out as the ones God was going to rescue.
When Jesus sits around the table with his friends for Passover, when he takes the bread and the cup he says this is my body and blood, he’s giving them a peak behind the curtain of salvation such that when they see him up on the cross, they would really be seeing a door streaked with blood.
Just as Israel was set free from captivity, given a new identity, sent to dwell in a new land, so too will the world is freed from oppression of another sort, given a new identity, and delivered not to a new geographical location, but into a community where people live on earth as it is in heaven.
Notice the connections:
Jesus was without sin and was innocent of the charges lobbed against him, just like the Passover lamb is supposed to be perfect and without blemish.
Jesus was beaten to the point of death and stabbed in the side shortly before his end, just like the Passover lamb is supposed to be bled before being hung to roast.
Jesus was hung up high and though beaten his bones were not broken, just like the Passover lamb’s bones were to remain intact.
Perhaps we’ve always seen it, but in case our eyes have been fixated on something else, the Bible is begging us to see that the cross is our exodus.
It is our delivery out of captivity into something new.
Look. I don’t know you. I don’t even know who’s watching this. Chances are some of you are from the church I serve. But some of you aren’t. And yet, I’ve been a pastor long enough to know something about every person viewing this. We’re all sinners.
Sin isn’t just something we do when no one else is looking. Sin is who we are. We all do things we know we shouldn’t and we all avoid doing things we know we should. Sin is like shackles around our hands and feet, and no matter what we do we cannot break free on our own.
We’re all stuck in our own Egypts, we’re surrounded by the sins we’ve committed and the sins committed against us. They’re hovering around us all the time. We are held captive by them, and we are stuck in our sins, dead in our sins, and they’re ain’t nothing we can do about it.
But that’s kind of the whole point.
Jesus chooses Passover for his Last Supper, for his last moment with his friends, because he wants all of us to see that God is in the business of deliverance. As Robert Jenson so wonderfully put it, “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead having first raised Israel out of Egypt.”
Jesus Christ is our Passover lamb, slaughtered as a sign and mark of our freedom from the tyranny that surrounds us in every moment.
Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb which means that we are not defined by our mistakes or our sins or our shames.
Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, breaking the chains of our past, present, and our future.
God in Christ does for us what we could not and would not do for ourselves. Jesus is our Exodus. Lift High the Doorpost! Amen.