After Abraham died his descendants were called Israelites. 500 years later they had become a large tribe. But they had also become slaves of the Egyptians.
The Israelite leader was Moses. God had told Moses to go to Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that he free the Israelites from slavery. This began a struggle between Pharaoh and Moses producing nine plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Even so, Pharaoh had not agreed to let the Israelites go free. So God was going to bring a deadly 10th plague. Click here to read the full account of the 10th Plague in the Bible.
God decreed that every firstborn male in the land would die that night from God’s Angel of Death. But those who remained in houses where sacrificed lamb’s blood painted on the door frames would live. If Pharaoh did not obey, his firstborn son and heir to the throne would die. Every house in Egypt that did not sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on the doorposts would lose a firstborn son. So Egypt faced a national disaster.
In Israelite (and Egyptian) houses with lamb’s blood painted on the doors the promise stated that everyone would be safe. The Angel of Death would pass over that house. So this day was called Passover.
Passover – A Sign for who?
People think that the blood on the doors was only for the Angel of Death. But notice what the Bible says
The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.Exodus 12:13
The LORD was looking for the blood on the door and if He saw it Death would pass over. But the blood was not a sign for Him. It says that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people, including you and me.
But how is it a sign? After this happened the LORD commanded them to:
Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’Exodus 12:27
The Remarkable Passover Calendar
In fact we see at the beginning of this story that this 10th plague began the ancient Israelite (Jewish) calendar.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year…Exodus 12:1-2
Starting at this time, the Israelites began a calendar that celebrated Passover on the same day every year. It marked their new year. For 3500 years Jewish people have been celebrating Passover every year to remember this event. Since the Jewish calendar year is a little different from the Western calendar, the Passover day moves each year on the Western calendar.
Jesus and Passover
If we follow Passover celebrations in history we will realize something remarkable. Notice when the arrest and trial of Jesus happened:
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.John 18:28
They arrested and executed Jesus precisely on Passover of the Jewish calendar. This was the same day all Jews were sacrificing a lamb to remember those lambs in 1500 BCE that caused Death to pass over. Remember from Abraham’s Sacrifice, one of the titles of Jesus was:
The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… ’”.John 1:29
Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, was sacrificed on the very same day that all the Jews alive then were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that started their calendar. This is why the Jewish Passover occurs at the same time as Easter. Easter commemorates the death of Jesus and since that happened on the Passover, Easter and Passover happen close together. (Since the Western calendar is different they are not on the same day, but usually in the same week).
Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs
Think back to that first Passover in Moses’ day where the blood was a ‘sign’, explicitly for us. Think what signs do by considering these signs.
When we see the ‘skull and crossbones’ sign it makes us think of death and danger. The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ makes us think about McDonalds. The ‘√’ on Nadal’s bandana is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this on Nadal. Signs are made to direct our thinking not to the sign itself but to something it points to.
God had said to Moses that the first Passover blood was a sign. So what was God pointing to with this sign? With the remarkable timing of lambs sacrificed on the same day as Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, the sign points to the coming sacrifice of Jesus.
Two Signs – Pointing to Location and Date
It works in our minds like shown in the diagram.
The sign points us to think about the sacrifice of Jesus. In the first Passover the Israelites sacrificed lambs and painted the blood painted so that death would pass over them . This sign pointing to Jesus tells us that likewise the ‘Lamb of God’ was also sacrificed and his blood spilt so death would pass over us.
With Abraham’s sacrifice the place where the ram died so Isaac could live was Mount Moriah – the same place where Jesus was sacrificed 2000 years later. That allows us to ‘see’ the meaning of his sacrifice by pointing to the location. Passover also points to Jesus’ sacrifice, but from a different perspective. It points to the day of the calendar – the calendar started by the first Passover. In two different ways the most important stories in the Old Testament point directly to the death of Jesus using sacrificed lambs. I cannot think of any other person in history whose death (or life achievement) was foreseen in two such dramatic ways. Can you?
These two events (Abraham’s sacrifice and Passover) should show us that it is reasonable to consider that Jesus is the center of a Divine Plan.
But why has God placed these Signs in ancient history to predict the crucifixion of Jesus? Why is that so important? What is it about the world that requires such bloody symbols? God shows the hopelessness of our situation when he gives the Ten Commandments.