Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Passover Lamb
Jesus Christ offers Himself as the Passover Lamb for our sins
Luke 22:47 to Luke 23
I’d like to invite you to come with me on a voyage in time and space. We’re in Egypt, the land of pyramids and pharaohs. As you look around, you see millions of slaves called Israelites. Years before, in a time of famine, they came to Egypt looking for food. At first the Pharaohs welcomed them, but then there arose pharaohs who made them slaves and abused them so badly, their cries reached the ears of God and God chose a deliverer named Moses.
Through Moses, God demanded Pharaoh release His people, freeing them that they might go and worship Him. Pharaoh refused. So God poured out nine horrific plagues culminating in one final act–an act so striking Pharaoh would be forced to concede defeat. It would be an act so intense the Israelites themselves would need protection.
From this point on, Israel would base their whole marking of time on this one single, solitary event. It would be forever known as the protecting, the sheltering, the Passover. God would send the angel of death to enter every home in the land to instantly slay just the oldest son. But if a family wanted protection from that angel, God provided a narrow protection. It consisted of six steps.
Step one Let them find a lamb and mark it out as their protecting lamb
Step two Let them watch that lamb for three days to verify it is perfect
Step three On the fourth day, let them kill the lamb on the porch of their house, letting the blood flow into the basin that was at the base of the door of every house in Egypt
Step four They were to take that lamb back inside, roast it with fire, then eat it
Step five They were to be careful not to break one bone of that lamb’s body
Step six They were to take a branch, a hyssop branch, dip into the blood that had been collected when they killed the lamb at the porch of the house and apply it to the top of the door, then dip it again and apply it to the two sides of the door. Then when the angel of death came that night, seeing the blood applied to the door of the house, rather than kill he would pass over and do no harm. The blood of the lamb provided protection.
God planned for this unique ceremony to point to a final Passover Lamb–the last offering, the perfect sacrifice for sin. The final Passover Lamb is Jesus Christ. Tonight I will draw from all four gospels, focusing most of my attention in Luke 22 and 23 to see how Jesus fulfills the requirements of the final perfect Passover lamb.
Step #1 The Passover lamb will be marked out
This meant he had to be separated from the flock and then verbally declared to be the protecting lamb. One of the first things that happens as Jesus begins His public ministry is He walks along the Jordan River and when John the Baptist sees Him he says in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Christ was marked out as the protecting lamb.
Step #2 They will watch that lamb for three days to make sure it was perfect
And they watched Jesus’ life for three years and He was perfect. And as the events of His final year rush by, it becomes obvious that each situation is demonstrating two truths about Jesus:
1 Jesus is God, and
2 Jesus is going to die for mans’ sins very soon
During His last year, much ministry surrounds Jerusalem. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, where He claims to be God’s equal, “I and the Father are one.” They pick up stones to kill Him, so He leaves.
Jesus returns, this time to Bethany near Jerusalem. There He raises Lazarus from the dead–more evidence He is God. At this time there comes a formal decision by the religious leaders to kill Jesus. Suddenly it’s Monday of the Lord’s final week. Jesus enters a crowded Jerusalem because it’s Passover again.
When the crowds see Jesus, they take their coats off, cut off palm branches and lay them down in front of Him. Then they begin to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Words of praise? Absolutely. That’s why it’s called the triumphal entry.
But Jesus knew something else about the words they were saying. He knew on Friday of that week, at 3:00 in the afternoon, all the lambs would be taken into the Temple and killed. And the priests would sing a song right before they killed those lambs. And do you know what the words of that song would be? “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The words sung by the crowds are the same words the priests sing right before the killing of the Passover lambs. Jesus hears these words, and He knows He’s the Passover lamb. He will soon die. Tuesday Jesus goes into the Temple, and for the second time in His public ministry, Jesus drives the animal sellers and moneychangers out of the Temple.
On Wednesday, in Luke 20 Jesus does something even more amazing. He goes back to the Temple and teaches–Jesus is fearless. The Pharisees are furious. They jump on Christ immediately. “By what authority do You do these things?” They engage Jesus in a public debate and lose so badly they’re humiliated.
Their anger is uncontrollable, so Jesus leaves the Temple and takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives. And there Jesus shares His plan with His men saying, “Don’t lose hope; I will die soon, but someday I will come back to rule this planet.”
So for three years they watched Jesus. But the Lord has constantly gotten the better of them and performed miracles they couldn’t deny. Now their rage has reached the point of explosion. The time has come to put this Jesus to death.
Step #3 They will kill the Passover Lamb
But in order to do that, three things have to happen, one right after the other or it’s not going to work.
Scheme #1 They have to arrest Him secretly.
Why secretly? If they arrested Him during the day, the crowd loved Him so much that the arrest would have caused an uproar. They want to arrest Him at night, secretly. But there’s a problem. Nobody knew where Jesus and His men went at night; it was a secret, unless one of the disciples told them where Jesus went.
So they engaged the help of the only disciple from Judea, Judas Iscariot. For thirty pieces of silver, not only does Judas agree to tell them the location where they can find Jesus, but also to identify Jesus for them. They make the arrangements for Thursday night.
Jesus and His disciples had just completed the Passover meal. Jesus is now in the garden called Gethsemane in prayer so intense He sweats blood. He knows what’s going to happen in just a few hours and is repelled by it. But He says to His Father, “Not My will, God, but Yours be done.”
Suddenly, the quiet of the garden is broken by the sound of advancing feet and the darkness is pierced by the light of torches held high over 300 soldiers who have come to arrest one man. Jesus says, “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then He says, in English, three words– “I am He.” But in the Greek language, it was only two words, “I AM.”
When He said these two words, “I AM,” the name for God—then some invisible force knocked those 300 men on their backs. As they get up, Judas walks up to Jesus and does what in our culture would be a handshake–he kisses Jesus on the cheek, confirming his identification. Peter takes his sword and fights for Jesus. Missing the head of the servant of the High Priest, he cuts off his ear, but Jesus immediately fastens the ear back on, completely healing the wound as they all watch.
Then the soldiers take ropes and bind Jesus by tying His hands. Even though Christ spoke the name of God, which just knocked these men down–but Jesus plays along, and willingly lays his life down life. And at this point, the disciples all desert Jesus. And because Jesus does not resist what is happening, the religious leaders succeed in scheme number one, arresting Him secretly.
Scheme #2 They have to convict Him quickly
They need to convict Him overnight before the crowds find out. So they take Him quickly to the house of Annas, the previous High Priest, and Annas gloats over Jesus in trial #1. But Annas is not the High Priest and can’t render a legitimate verdict. It’s really a delaying tactic that gives Caiaphas, the current High Priest time to get the Sanhedrin together. It works, and they take Jesus from Annas’ house over to Caiaphas for the Council meeting, as trial #2 begins.
Caiaphas calls witnesses. The law says if any two witnesses can agree on any criminal act committed by Jesus, they can convict Him. Since Jesus is sinless, this is a problem. So Caiaphas gets really clever. He says, “If I can’t get the witnesses to convict Jesus, I’ll see if I can get Jesus to incriminate Himself.”
So Caiaphas puts Jesus under oath and says, “Jesus, I adjure You, by the living God, I put you under oath. Are you the Christ?” then he adds, “The Son of the living God?” And Jesus, knowing exactly what Caiaphas is asking, says “I am.” With those words, the council rips their robes at what they think is evidence of the blasphemy. They declare Him worthy of death and these religious leaders began to beat and spit on Jesus.
But the religious leaders have another problem. The law says the council can’t condemn a man to death at nighttime. So they wait for the first crack of dawn, about a quarter to five in the morning—the time when they can tell a white thread from a black thread, according to the law. Then they gather all the elders for trial #3 and again condemn Jesus for telling the truth, that He is God. So far, from midnight to five a.m., Jesus has had three unjust trials. But this is just the beginning.
Scheme #3 The Jews must to execute Him legally
In order to do that, they need the help of Pilate, the Roman governor, the only one who had the power to execute anyone legally. They take Him to Pilate at 5 am for trial #4, and Pilate asks, “What charges do you bring?” So the religious leaders do something very clever. They know Pilate doesn’t care if a man claims to be God. So they tell Pilate, “This man is guilty of rebellion, because He claims to be a king. He is a wicked evildoer who tells others not to pay taxes.”
Pilate takes Jesus beyond the doors and says, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says, “I’m not the kind of king they’re trying to tell you that I am. If I were, I would have my supporters fighting in the streets.” So Pilate asks a second time “So you are a King,” and Jesus says, “Yes.” Pilate sees His “crime” is not worthy of death–Jesus is not a rebel. So Pilate says, “I find no guilt in this man.”
The crowd that is present goes crazy. They say, “Pilate, you can’t release this man! He’s been leading a rebellion from Jerusalem all the way to Galilee.” But when Pilate hears the word Galilee, he thinks, “Great! Herod is in charge of Galilee, so I can foist Jesus off on Herod. That’s Herod’s problem. I’ll let Herod decide. He just happens to be in Jerusalem for the Passover.”
So Pilate sends Jesus two blocks to Herod’s palace for trial #5. Herod asks Jesus to do a little magic. But Jesus, in kingly majesty, refuses. Herod gets upset and dresses Jesus up in a bright robe and has his soldiers mock Him. Then Herod ships Jesus back to Pilate for trial # 6.
But Pilate’s got a problem. We know Pilate wants to release Jesus because Rome is hearing too many complaints from the Jews about Pilate, so Pilate has to get the crowd to go along with his decisions. He tries three very devious methods of getting the crowd to agree with Jesus’ release.
First Pilate tries crowd dynamics
At Passover, they would release a prisoner, so Pilate loads the deck and picks the worst one, Barabbas, thinking if they are given a choice they will pick Jesus over Barabbas. But Pilate has given the religious leaders time to infiltrate the crowds and from every corner of the courtyard they begin screaming, “We want Barabbas released.” So Pilate’s first move failed.
Second Pilate tries pity
Pilate sends Jesus inside and has him scourged. They would lash him 39 times with a cat-of-nine-tails, which consisted of nine leather thongs, each one embedded every few inches with a piece of metal or cut rock; literally peeling the skin off of Him and exposing his organs. Jesus took 39 lashes, one short of death.
So Pilate brings Jesus back out and displays Him to the crowd, hoping they’ll have pity on Him. But when they see Jesus, they scream, “Finish the job! Crucify the man!” That move fails.
Third Pilate tries guilt
He brings out a basin of water and washes his hands in front of the people. That gesture was symbolic, saying, “I don’t think this man is guilty and I don’t accept this responsibility,” hoping this guilt tactic will cause them to change their mind, but they shout back, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” We accept the guilt, Pilate. You don’t have to.
Pilate has tried to find any way he could to get Jesus released. Finally he is stopped cold by a man who shouts out, “Pilate, if you release this man you are no friend of Caesar.” Pilate knows this is a threat to get Pilate in trouble with Rome, and since Pilate is more interested in preserving his career than in preserving justice, he delivers Jesus over to be crucified. He says, “Behold, your King.”
The soldiers of Pilate then take Jesus into the courtyard of their barracks. These men always tortured criminals before they crucified them, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do now with Jesus. They find out Jesus has claimed to be king, so “they stripped Him of His own robe and they put a scarlet robe on Him“–a kingly robe.
Then they decide a king needs a crown–“After weaving a crown of thorns, they put that on His head.” Then they said a king needs a scepter. So they took a reed (like a broom handle) and put it in His right hand and mockingly knelt down before Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” “Then they spit upon Him” and began beating Him on the head with the broom handle, driving those thorns into His skull like hundreds of tiny nails.
After this torture, they led him to Golgotha and crucified Him. They drove a railroad-sized spike through each hand. And even through that pain, the Word of God tells us Jesus looked up at the men who were driving stakes through His flesh and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
As they took his legs and folded one over the other in a bent fashion, they drove a spike through both ankles into the wood of the vertical beam. They bent the legs for a reason. You see, a man didn’t die hanging on a cross from loss of blood or from pain. A man hanging on a cross died from suffocation. You could breathe in, but you couldn’t breathe out.
In order to breathe, he would literally have to push himself up on the spike through his ankles, but then the pain in his ankles would become so intense he would be forced to fall back down, hanging again only from the spikes in his hands. So men who died on crosses would move up and down, writhing in pain with each move, struggling to breathe.
Now Jesus is hanging there, bleeding, in the process of dying as the religious leaders come to gloat over His death. They want to make fun of Him. As Jesus hangs there experiencing horrible pain, those watching Him hurl abuse at Him, wagging their heads in disdain as they say, “You who are going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! [Listen to this part] If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
They dared Him to do the very thing that He could do. And Jesus Christ, who could have dropped these men to their knees with a single word, did nothing except choose to die. He showed incredible love, even for the ones who were mocking Him. So here is, the Lamb of God being put to death. But there is something worse to come. What’s worse?
Step #4 The Passover Lamb will be subjected to fire
The Passover lamb was roasted in fire, and in the Bible, fire is a symbol of God’s judgment and wrath. What happens now to Jesus Christ is so dramatic that God turned out the lights after three hours on the cross. It’s now 12 noon and God causes a darkness to come across the sky. But that darkness is no match for the darkness coming upon Jesus Himself.
What’s going on? God is putting on Jesus the sin of every one of His children. Jesus Christ is now bearing sin. Somehow, Jesus the sinless One is taking our sin upon Himself and experiencing all of God’s wrath and punishment for the sin of all His children. In the middle of that agony, Jesus screams out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Why had God forsaken Him? The answer is simple, but so important. God was forsaking His Son on the cross because the punishment that really should have fallen on you–the punishment that will fall on every single person who won’t repent is falling on the Lamb of God.
All of us have done our own thing. Each one of us has sinned against God. We all deserve Hell. But God loved us so much that He laid on Jesus the punishment for our sins. So for three long hours on the cross, Jesus experienced the Hell of isolation and separation from God that we deserved. Suddenly at 3 pm Jesus cries out, “It’s finished!” Sin has been paid for. The price for your sins is paid. Jesus tells God the Father, “I am giving up My spirit now in death to you, Father.” And with that, three things happen in a row:
- The earth begins to shake and roar.
- In the Temple, the veil is ripped in two by the invisible hand of God.
- And in the same instance, Christ willingly chooses to yield His Spirit to God the Father.
All this happens at 3:00 in the afternoon, the precise moment when, 750 yards away at the Temple, the Passover lambs are being slain. At the same time their heads are bowing in death, the head of Jesus is bowing in death. Jesus, the perfect, final, Passover Lamb has died. Jesus meets the requirements of the final Passover Lamb.
1 He was marked out as the Passover Lamb by John the Baptist
2 For three years, the religious leaders watched Him to see if He was perfect, and He was
3 Jesus was put to death just as the Passover lambs died
4 He was roasted with the wrathful fire of God’s judgment against sin, and
Step #5 The Passover lamb will have no broken bones
If the Roman soldiers wanted the man on the cross to die more quickly (like at the Passover celebration), they’d use something like a sledge hammer to break the legs of the man so he could no longer push himself up to breathe. The crucified person would suffocate in minutes once his legs were broken.
The soldiers did this to the man on Jesus’ left and he died. Then they did it to the man on Jesus right and he died. And they intended to do this to Jesus. But the captain of the guard looked up and saw that Jesus was already dead, so he made an exception and stopped them. That one exception had been predicted thousands of years before in the picture of the Passover lamb found in Exodus and again one thousand years before Christ’s death by David in Psalm 34:20, where he prophesied about the body of the Messiah, “not one bone will be broken.”
Memories are important–remembering is crucial. And God knew His children would need help to remember the price He paid to provide forgiveness for us. So God instituted a regular ceremony called the Lord’s Supper to help us remember what Christ did for us as the Passover Lamb. It is so important, it is to be practiced regularly. And it is so important, it comes with warnings.
Prior to partaking, you must examine your heart for any known sin to confess. You must make certain you are right with your family in Christ. And you must remember what Jesus did for you. But taking a piece of bread representing His broken body and taking a little cup of juice representing His shed blood won’t save you, or earn any points with God.
Let’s give thanks to God for doing all the work of rescuing you and doing all the work to forgive your sins and thank God for continuing to do all the work to transform you into a new person. And finally,
Step #6 The Blood must be applied to YOU
The most shocking part of the Passover lamb is the final action. Like the original Passover lambs in Egypt, the death of Christ will not do you any good if the blood of Christ is not applied. Imagine back in Egypt, a family goes through the whole ceremony of the Passover lamb and then forgets to put the blood on the door where it will protect them. The whole point of killing the lamb was to put the blood on the door where it could save you from God’s judgment.
Friends, the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross does not mean everyone gets to float up to Heaven. It’s not enough just to know Jesus is God’s Son or to pray a prayer once. Becoming a Christian is something God does to you, transforming you from the inside out. You must have the blood of Christ applied to your life.
It is something so divine, only God can do it. God begins this work by making us hate our sin. He allows us to see who Jesus is and understand what He’s done. But ultimately, if He awakens you, you will respond in dependent faith and turn in repentance from your sin to obediently follow Christ alone. Remember the two thieves? One died in his own sin and ended up in Hell. The other placed his sin upon Christ and Jesus said to Him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
One day you will stand before Christ, and the issue on that day will not be how many good things you did in comparison to the bad. The issue is going to be much simpler–has the blood, the death of Jesus Christ been applied to your sins?
The main event of history is the cross of Jesus. Do you hate your sin enough to turn to Christ, trust Him alone, following Him, obey His Word every day? If you are thinking, “Why should I trust in someone who is dead?” Well, He isn’t dead. Three days after the crucifixion, He rose from the dead. Then He ascended into Heaven and now lives to give new life to His own–not turning over a new leaf, but giving a totally new life.
If God is clearly drawing you to Himself, respond to Him. If you don’t, when you stand before Him at judgment, Christ will say: “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
Tonight, if you’re His child, worship Christ with a heart of thanks, follow Him with all your obedience and trust Him for everything in this life and the life to come. Let’s pray.