According to Exodus 12:1-6 families were to get a lamb on the tenth day of the month of Nisan, examine it, and sacrifice it on the fourteenth. The five days between the tenth and fourteenth look forward to the days between the triumphal entry and crucifixion when Christ, our Passover Lamb, was examined.
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During ROTC, after we fired live rounds, we had to clean our M-16s and then have them examined before they could be turned back in. My freshman year was the first time I went through this tedious process. I would guess I cleaned my gun for about 30 or 45 minutes, and then stood up to go have it examined. The cadet I was sitting across from was a junior who had done this numerous times, and he said, “What are you doing?”
I responded, “I’m going to have my gun examined to see if it’s clean enough to turn in.”
He said, “Don’t bother. There’s no way your gun is clean enough yet. Nobody gets to turn their gun in until they have been cleaning for at least three hours.”
I can’t remember if I brought my gun up at that moment or not, but I do remember that when I did bring it up, it was rejected numerous times before finally being accepted. Sure enough, it did take about three hours, which seemed to be the average for almost everyone. So, I was only off by about two hours and 15 minutes. The cadre examining the M-16s would search every spot. If they could pull out their finger or a cotton swab with the tiniest black speck on it, they sent you back to continue cleaning.
I had never seen anything in my life examined like those guns, until my studying this week. I think Jesus faced greater examination than those M-16s did. During the last five days of his earthly life there seemed to be no part of his life they didn’t inspect.
I assume many of you already know this, but even if a few of you don’t, it’s worth mentioning. We use the title “Last Supper” so often we can almost forget that the Last Supper was when Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. Then after the meal Jesus went out to be crucified. So, Jesus celebrated Passover, and then became our Passover Lamb.
Jesus Is Our Passover Lamb
1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.
Every Passover lamb that was ever sacrificed – and there were millions of them – were shadows and types of Christ. Or another way to say it is, every Passover, beginning with the first one back in Exodus, looked forward to, or prefigured, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. Because Passover – like so much else in the Old Testament – looks forward to Christ, let me be clear about what is happening in this chapter:
- Egypt is a picture or type of the world. When the Israelites, God’s people, were delivered from Egypt, it looked forward to us, God’s people, being delivered from the world.
- When the Israelites were delivered from their bondage to the Egyptians, it looked forward to us being delivered from our bondage to sin and death.
- When the Passover lamb was sacrificed and its blood covered the door so the firstborn sons would not experience physical death, it looked forward to Christ, our Passover Lamb being sacrificed and his blood covering our sin so we would not experience eternal death.
Consider these verses:
- Colossians 2:17 These [things in the Old Testament – including Passover] are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
- Hebrews 10:1 [The Old Testament is] a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities.
Passover was a shadow of the good things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. He is the true form of these realities.
And here’s why it’s so important to see Jesus in the Passover: If we read every passage in the Old Testament related to Passover, if we memorize every detail that’s recorded, but we fail to see Christ, then we have made the same mistake the religious leaders made in Jesus’s day, which Jesus condemned them for:
John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
The religious leaders thought they would obtain eternal life simply by learning the Scriptures. But Jesus said they were missing eternal life because they didn’t see Jesus in the Scriptures they were learning! Eternal life doesn’t come from knowing Scripture: eternal life comes from knowing the Christ of the Scriptures! Let’s keep this in mind as we look at these verses in Exodus 12 so we can see Jesus in them.
Exodus 12:1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,
This refers to the month of Nisan, which is the first month on the Jewish calendar. On the 10th day of the month, or on Nisan 10, families would get a lamb for Passover. This tenth dy corresponds to the triumphal entry.
Wholehearted Service to God
The lamb must be “without blemish.” We can read this and find application for ourselves. God didn’t want animals that had defects or were injured. Similarly, God wants our best. He doesn’t want us bringing halfhearted or indifferent spiritual sacrifices to him. Amaziah, King of Judah, came to mind:
2 Chronicles 25:2 [Amaziah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.
Amaziah is a fitting picture of half-hearted devotion to God. The problem is that it leaves half of your heart for something else. God wants all our hearts. He wants us to bring him our best. We want to provide service that is without blemish.
Looking to Christ in Jerusalem
The words “A male a year old” might not look like they apply to Christ, but they do. The idea is God wanted lambs sacrificed when they were in the prime of their lives, and Jesus was sacrificed when he was in the prime of his life at 33 years of age.
Exodus 12:6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
Picture what this looked like: the family would take the lamb into their home on the tenth day, and they would keep it with them until it was sacrificed on the fourteenth day. What would happen between the family and that lamb during those five days? My understanding is lambs are calm and gentle animals. This is another reason Jesus is compared with a lamb: his gentleness.
During those days the lamb would become like a pet. Why? God wanted people having affection for the lamb before it was killed. He wanted people knowing the lamb died for them. He wanted people grieving when the lamb was sacrificed.
And all this looked forward to Christ. Jesus spent most of his ministry around Galilee, but during the last week of his earthly life leading up to the crucifixion he entered Jerusalem. The five days, from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14, looked forward to the days between Jesus’ triumphal entry and crucifixion.
When Jesus was in Jerusalem, he was like that lamb living with that Hebrew family. The Jews were supposed to develop affection for Christ, the Passover Lamb. They were supposed to grieve when he died. They were supposed to know the Lamb was sacrificed for their sin.
Christ Our Passover Lamb Was Examined Before Being Sacrificed
There has never been any other Passover like the first one. If Jews skipped Passovers in the future, which they did for years, it was sinful, but their firstborn son wasn’t killed because of it. I’m sure if they did lose their firstborn sons, you can be sure they wouldn’t have missed any Passovers. But at that first Passover the consequence was the death of your oldest son.
If you were alive at that first Passover and you knew that the only thing standing between you and the Destroyer passing over your home was that lamb that had to be without blemish: How well do you think you would examine it between the 10th and 14th day? How many times would you look for any blemish?
Would you do anything that last day before sacrificing the animal BESIDES searching it from top to bottom to make sure there was no blemish whatsoever?
I mention this, because the way these lambs were examined before being sacrificed, looked forward to the way Jesus was examined between the 10th and 14th day, or between his triumphal entry and crucifixion.
Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was watched and tested by his enemies during that final week.Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament volume 1: Matthew-Galatians, page 255
First, the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-8…
Luke 20:1 One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
Next, the religious leaders questioned Jesus about paying taxes in Luke 20:20-26…
Luke 20:21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”
They look respectful, but they’re trying to trap him. Then the religious leaders questioned Jesus about the resurrection in Luke 20:27-40…
Luke 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
See how just in this chapter they examined him with these questions? Luke’s gospel doesn’t record what happened next. In Matthew 22:15-22 the religious leaders questioned Jesus about paying taxes. That’s what we just saw in Luke 20:20-26. In Matthew 22:23-33 the religious leaders questioned Jesus about the resurrection. That’s what we just saw in Luke 20:27-40. It is not recorded in Luke’s gospel, but look what happens right after that. The examination continues…
Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
This means silenced the religious leaders about their question about the resurrection. They can’t handle that, so now they want to question Jesus about the greatest commandment. You can see how the religious leaders have been questioning, or examining, Jesus. When we look at many of these accounts, we will see it did not go well for them. They kept trying to trap Jesus, but he kept trapping them. They kept trying to humiliate Jesus, but he kept humiliating them. As we just read, they were trying to silence Jesus, but he silenced them. They were like, “We are trying to make him look bad, but he keeps making us look bad.”
Because this approach failed so miserably, the religious leaders decided to do something else instead:
Matthew 26:3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
You might remember that after the triumphal entry the religious leaders were already seeking to murder Jesus…
Luke 19:47 The [religious leaders] were seeking to destroy [Jesus], 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
This is why they were trying to trap him with their questioning, because they knew they couldn’t lay a hand on him, because of all the people.
Jesus’ Six Trials
The religious leaders’ questioning wasn’t working, so they decided to arrest him so they could murder him. It says they were going to do so secretly because of all the people. This is when Jesus’ six trials began. I know Jesus’ trials can be confusing, so let me try to make them simple. Jesus faced six trials. He was examined by Jews and Gentiles, three trials from each:
- First Jewish trial, at night, before Annas at his court (John 18:13-24)
- Second Jewish trial, at night, before the Sanhedrin at Caiaphas’ house (Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 14:53-65, Luke 22:54)
- Third Jewish trial, in the morning, before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1a, Luke 22:66-71)
- First Roman trial, during the day, before Pilate at the Praetorium (Matthew 27:2, Mark 15:1b-5, Luke 23:1-5, John 18:28-38)
- Second Roman trial, during the day, before Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12)
- Third Roman trial, during the day, back before Pilate again at the Praetorium (Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:39-19:16)
We can quickly look at the last four trials. Starting in Luke 22:66 is the third Jewish trial before the Sanhedrin, in the morning, after the previous two Jewish trials at night…
Luke 22:66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
They think he blasphemed and now they have all they need to murder him, so they send him off to Pilate. This brings us to the first Roman trial, during the day, before Pilate at the Praetorium in verses 1 through 5.
Luke 23:1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”
Pilate didn’t want to deal with Jesus, so he sent him off to Herod for the second Roman trial in Luke 23:6-12…
Luke 23:7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod only wanted to see a miracle. When Jesus wouldn’t perform one, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate for his third and final Roman trial in Luke 23:13-25…
Luke 23:11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate.
Christ Our Passover Lamb Was Without Blemish
Pilate was afraid of a riot, so what happened after this trial, or examination? They led Jesus away like a guilty sinner to be crucified. As Isaiah 53:7 says like a lamb that is led to the slaughter. They crucified Jesus between two guilty sinners to make him look even guiltier. Instead of looking without blemish, all of this makes Jesus look blemished. But spread throughout the trials, God goes to great lengths to show that his Son, our Passover lamb, was unblemished.
Think about Judas returning the money. What did he say?
Matthew 27:4 “I have sinned by BETRAYING INNOCENT BLOOD.”
There are numerous places in the Gospels I could show you where people declare Jesus’ innocence , but because we are in Luke 23, let’s just stick with this chapter. Look at Luke 23:4. When Jesus was before Pilate:
Luke 23:4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I FIND NO GUILT IN THIS MAN.”
Pilate said, “This Man is without blemish.” But that wasn’t enough for the people…
Luke 23:13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And AFTER EXAMINING HIM before you, behold, I DID NOT FIND THIS MAN GUILTY of any of your charges against him. 15 NEITHER DID HEROD, for he sent him back to us. Look, NOTHING DESERVING DEATH HAS BEEN DONE BY HIM.
Pilate examined Jesus, but he couldn’t find him guilty of anything, and Herod couldn’t either. We are not talking about godly men here. But even ungodly men, like Pilate and Herod, couldn’t find any blemish.
Luke 23:22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I HAVE FOUND IN HIM NO GUILT deserving death.”
For the third time Pilate told the people that Jesus had done nothing wrong. But Jesus goes to the cross anyway, and look what one of the criminals said about him in verse 41…
Luke 23:41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but THIS MAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG.”
Even this wretched sinner declared Jesus’ innocence. Jesus died and now look at verse 47…
Luke 23:47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly THIS MAN WAS INNOCENT!”
The Roman centurion, although probably not personally responsible with crucifying Jesus, was still part of the group of Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus, and he said he was innocent. Whether it was Judas, Pilate, the thief on the cross, or the Roman centurion, Jesus’ innocence was repeatedly declared. They found no blemish. He passed the examination between the tenth and fourteenth days. This is why we read…
1 Peter 1:18 [We] were ransomed…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, LIKE THAT OF A LAMB WITHOUT BLEMISH OR SPOT.
Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God:
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 [He] knew no sin.
- 1 Peter 2:22 [He] committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth.
- 1 John 3:5 In him there is no sin.
And why is it so important that Jesus be a lamb without blemish? Because if he sinned, he wouldn’t be able to serve as our Passover Lamb. Instead of our dying for our sins, he would have to die for his own sins.
Christ Our Passover Lamb Passed God the Father’s Examination
Jesus passed man’s examination, but whose examination did he really have to pass? Who ultimately had to approve of the Passover lamb? It didn’t matter how pleased man was with the lamb if God the Father was displeased.
There is no question that God the Son passed God the Father’s examination as our Passover Lamb. I’ll use just Matthew’s Gospel. Listen to the number of times God the Father said He was pleased with his Son. When Jesus was baptized…
- Matthew 3:17 Behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”
- Matthew 12:18 quotes Isaiah 42:1, which is a passage declaring the Messiah is God’s chosen servant…
- Matthew 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with WHOM MY SOUL IS WELL PLEASED.
At the Transfiguration God the Father interrupted Peter to declare…
Matthew 17:5 [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”
Christ our Passover Lamb passed man’s examination, but more importantly God the Father was pleased with him.
I would never minimize the importance of obeying God. I would never want to make people feel comfortable in sin. When people have sinned, I would never want to make them feel like they don’t need to repent. But because none of us have obeyed God perfectly. Because all of us have sinned. Because all of us must repent and will need to continue repenting throughout our earthly lives, it can be tempting to believe God is not pleased with us. So, there is another message we also need to hear…regularly.
God the Father sees us through his son, Jesus, the perfect, spotless, Lamb of God, who died as our substitute. God is as pleased with us as he is with his Son, not because of anything we have done or could do, but because of what Jesus did for us.