The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are the most important of the Jewish festivals because they remind Israel of their redemption and the creation of their nation.
so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.
Time and again the whole of the Old Testament, the priests and the prophets, urged the people of Israel to remember God and not to forget what God has done for them, and especially to remember God’s supreme saving acts in the Exodus. And these event in the salvation of Israel foreshadow our own salvation through Jesus Christ. As we understand what God did for the Israelites in the Exodus, so we understand better the glorious salvation we ourselves have received. So, to help us prepare for Easter, let’s remind ourselves this morning of the Passover which in turn reminds us of the events of the Exodus – the Great Escape.
Escape from the death of the firstborn
Deuteronomy 162 Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name.
Exodus 12 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. … 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. … 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 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. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.
26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ”
29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
The lamb, the sheep or the goat without defect, died so that its blood would give protection against the Destroyer which would kill all the firstborn in Egypt. All the ten plagues on Egypt were God’s punishment on the sins of the Egyptians who had exploited the Israelites and on the demonic gods of Egypt they served. This final plague brought death which is the consequence of sin.
The Passover reminds us that all of us deserve death. Romans 6 23 For the wages of sin is death,. The consequence of sin is always death. Physical death. And ultimately spiritual death. Eternal separation from God who is the only source of life.
For the Israelites it was the death of the Passover lamb who saved their firstborn from death. And the apostle Paul reminds us that Christ is our Passover Lamb, Christ was sacrificed so that death the destroyer would pass over our houses, leaving us living.
Romans 6 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us pause and reflect on Christ our Passover Lamb.
Escape from slavery
Deuteronomy 16 3 Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.
Exodus 12 31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favourably disposed towards the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the LORD for the generations to come.
Remember the slavery the Israelites were escaping from. The cruelty of the slave masters, the forced labour, making bricks without straw! Pharaoh commanding the midwives to kill any new-born baby boys. No wonder the Israelites ran away so fast!
But the Bible tells us that without Christ, all of us were once slaves to sin.
Ephesians 2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath
Just as much as the Israelites were slaves of the Egyptians, so all of us are slaves to sin. We needed God to rescue us just as much as the Israelites did.
Romans 6: 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 … Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
The Israelites ran away from Egypt “in haste”! There wasn’t time for the dough to rise as they baked their bread – and they spent a whole week eating unleavened bread to help them remember that urgency, that hurry.
Sometimes we Christians are not in so much of a hurry to run away from the life of slavery God rescues us from. Sometimes we would rather stay in Egypt than make haste to enter the promised land.
Let us pause and reflect on the life of slavery to sin God has rescued us from.
Escape through the Red Sea to the Promised Land
8 For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the LORD your God and do no work.
Not just a single meal to remember the Passover and the deaths of the first-born. But a whole week set apart to remember that the Tenth plague was just the beginning of the events of redemption. Still to come was the escape across the Red Sea and the journey which would take the people to Mount Sinai where God would give them the Law, leading on to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey.
Remember the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over. Then the seas closed in again to drown the Egyptian army in pursuit.
Exodus 15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.
2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
6 “Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power.
Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 “The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
13 “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
Escape from Egypt and the destruction of their enemies the Egyptian armies. Many preachers have seen crossing the red sea as a picture for baptism, God washing our sins away.
Then onn to Mount Sinai and the giving of the Law of Moses – the Ten commandments – the Old Covenant, which we will think about after Easter. We don’t live under that old covenant of law but we live under the new convenant of grace!
And into the promised land – all the blessings of salvation.
Sins are forgiven
Sharing Christ’s resurrection life – eternal life, life in all its fullness
Certainty of heaven
Victory over sin and the devil
Holy Spirit living inside us
Knowing God as our Father
Church, Christian friends
Answers to prayer
Grace and strengthening
Joy and peace
All these wonderful blessings of salvation worth so much more than pearls or diamonds or gold or great big houses. The buried treasure and the pearl of great price which is the Kingdom of God.
God gave the festival of Passover to his chosen people Israel, so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.
Escape from death. Escape from slavery. Escape into the Promised Land.
And Jesus took this Passover feast and transformed it as he broke bread and passed around a cup to his disciples and said “do THIS in remembrance of me – not of the Exodus, but of me”. God wants us, all the days of our lives, to remember the time of our escape from sin and into the glorious liberty of the children of God!
Let us pause and reflect on the wonderful salvation God has provided for us in Jesus Christ.