Summary: The first Passover points the way to a greater second Passover.
The First Passover: An Exposition of Exodus 12:1-14
The Passover is a special day for the Jewish people. Even secular Jews celebrate it. It serves a purpose similar to Independence Day in the US or Cinco de Mayo in Latin and South America. The Children of Israel had served as slaves in Egypt for a long time. They had been subject to cruel hardships by Pharaoh. God heard their cries, and prepared Moses to be His agent in freeing Israel from Egypt. It took a total of 80 years to prepare Moses. During this time, Israel groaned. 80 years is a long time to wait, on top of the years they had already slaved. Why didn’t God at least intervene 40 years earlier when Moses slew the Egyptian? We must understand that God is God. As God, He chooses the time, place and means of executing His will. What is important is that God’s timing is always right. There was a purpose for the suffering of Israel.
After Yahweh called Moses at the burning bush to be His means of liberating Israel, they still had to wait. He and the elders were ordered to appear before Pharaoh and demand in the LORD’s name to let the Children of Israel go. The LORD knew that Pharaoh would rejects such a request. There would be a series of plagues sent upon Egypt to prepare the way for Israel’s liberation. The LORD could have intervened at any time during this process and delivered Israel at that point. The God who can turn the Nile into blood could have destroyed Egypt in a moment of time and liberated His people. But the LORD did not at this was not the hour he had appointed. Israel had to suffer along with the Egyptians for the first plagues before God made a distinction between the Egyptians and His people.
The hour of liberation had arrived for Israel. The tenth plague was about to happen. God was going to slay all the firstborn of Egypt. This was an act of extreme judgment as the firstborn son was held in much higher regard than all the other children. None of the firstborn were to be spared, from the house of Pharaoh down to the lowest peasant. Any Israelite who did not obey the instructions given to Moses and take hyssop dipped in the blood of the Passover lamb and apply it to the lintel and doorposts would die along with the Egyptians. In other words, by the Israelites obeying, they demonstrated their faith in Yahweh the Savior. This might be speculation, but what if some of the Egyptians did likewise. Yahweh would make an Israelite out of Rahab. Could he do so from believing Egyptians?
Yahweh called Israel to be distinct from the nations. Part of this distinction shows up in the first verse of this text. The time of Passover was to serve as New Year’s to Israel, The Babylonian New Year was six months later. This first of months was as remote as the world’s first month. It is odd that the Jews now celebrate Rosh Hashana (Head of the Year) around October. This seems conflicted with this verse. But we too are just as conflicted. We try to be Christians and serve mammon at the same time. Yahweh seems to have accommodated somewhat to this as Yom Kippur, the day of atonement is in the fall. But for Christians, the Day of Atonement is Passover where the blood of Jesus was poured out on the cross.
Each household was to take a yearling lamb or goat. It is interesting that goats are mentioned here. Lambs are symbolic of innocence, whereas goats are symbolic of mischief. These serve as a sorting of saint and sinner. It is interesting that either would serve for Passover. Perhaps this is symbolic of us Christians. As Luther puts it: “Simultaneously saint and sinner.” Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God dies as the scapegoat. The one who knew no sin became sin for us.
The lamb or goat was to be selected on the 10th day of the month and kept. It was to be spotless. If one follows the chronology of Holy Week, one sees that this day would be Palm Sunday. There are a lot of similarities between the first Passover and the Christian Passover.
Passover was a family celebration. If the family unit was too small, then two families could go together on the lamb or goat. Jesus would have celebrated Passover every year with His earthly family. He had many brothers and sisters, so they together made a family unit large enough to eat the entire lamb. When Joseph his father died, Jesus as the firstborn would have assumed the office as head of the family and thus, the Passover feast. What we find interesting is at the table of the Lord’s Supper, which was the Passover feast, Jesus appears as the head of a new family, His disciples. It is possible that some of his earthly family might have been there, but if they were, they are not mentioned. The Gospels tell us that his earthly family were not believers until after the resurrection. The exception to this is his mother.