Behold, the Lamb of God
(Note: this teaching is in video form here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIl6Y0MH2wo)
The Passover revolves around one central aspect: a lamb that was slain. The other aspects of the Passover meal are supportive of this one key component. It is entirely about a God who rescued His people from slavery, and how the people of Israel were delivered because the angel of death saw the blood of the lamb and passed over. Where does this concept come from? Why does God call for a lamb instead of a bull, goat, ram, or some other animal?
This starts all the way back in Genesis 22. There is this story of Abraham, where God calls him to sacrifice his son – his only begotten son whom he loves. In this story, Abraham mounts the donkey with his son; they have the firewood, the knife, and all of the proper tools to make the sacrifice. One thing they lack: the sacrifice. Isaac even asks his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham then replies, “God will provide the lamb.” As we continue to go through the story, only a few verses later we see Abraham lay his son down on the altar, Isaac goes down willingly, Abraham draws the knife, and just as he is about to plunge it into Isaac…
“Abraham! Abraham!” The angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham to stop him. This man was so attuned and at the disposal of the voice of God that he doesn’t swing his arm anyway. He stops. He calls out, “Here am I!” The angel of the Lord then says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looks up, and sees a ram in caught in a thorn bush.
Don’t go on from there so quickly.
Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb.
God provided a ram. What is happening here? Where is the lamb?
When we progress forward in the story, we find in Exodus 12 that the Israelites are to offer a lamb on their behalf so that the angel of death will pass over their homes and not take their firstborn. It says in Exodus 12:3 that on the tenth month of Nissan each man is to take a lamb for his family. They bring it into their homes. They examine it for four full days. They see whether the lamb has any defect, whether there is any blemish, any spot. Moses says that they are to examine the lambs until the fourteenth day, and at twilight they shall slaughter the lamb. What does that mean?
Here is a little numbers game that we’re playing. The evening was the beginning of the new day. So, we’re seeing that the lamb was supposed to be examined for four days. That puts us at the fourteenth. At twilight on the fourteenth day, we are now officially beginning the fifteenth day – a Sabbath commencing the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Why is this important?
In the book of John, we find the story of Jesus. In the very first chapter we have the testimony of John the Baptizer: The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” A few verses later we read again: The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
Does it seem like John is trying to get us to understand something? Where was the lamb that Abraham promised? Some would say that it was in the Passover. Yet, we find John picking up the hints from both of these stories to say that just as Abraham gave his only begotten son whom he loved, so too is God the Father giving His only begotten Son in whom He loves. Just as God required the Israelites to offer a lamb that He might pass over them, now God is offering a Lamb that He might purge Israel of her sins.
We keep moving forward in the Gospel of John. We eventually come to chapter 12. The chapter starts by saying, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany…” Why is this detail added about “six days before the Passover”? This is the anointing at Bethany, where Jesus says that Mary has prepared Him for burial. Watch what happens in the progression of the story. We keep reading, and we come across verse 12, where it says, “The next day… Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem”. Why is this important? Remember Exodus 12 – for four days the lamb was taken into the home to be examined.
In John 12:21, Greeks had come to the Feast, and they find Philip and ask, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus”. What’s happening? Jesus is being examined by the Greek Jews. In verse 34, the crowd speaks up and says, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man will be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” They are examining the theology of Jesus. Look at verse 39: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe on him.” In John 18:19, we find the commencement of Jesus being questioned by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. What is happening? They are examining Him to see if Jesus has any defect. This is why Jesus says things like, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong.” Pilate examined Jesus and declared, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (19:6).
In John 19:14, the detail is given: “It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.” Why is this detail given? This is the fourteenth day. This was the day when you prepare your home, getting rid of all of the leaven in your house. You are going to slaughter the lamb at twilight. We find later in chapter 19 that Jesus gives up his spirit “now” that “it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath”. What does that mean? The next day began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. At this time, the very moment when the lambs were being slaughtered and the Passover was being set up, Jesus dies as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.