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The Passover Lamb
Jesus Christ offers Himself as the Passover Lamb for the sins of His children
Mark 11 to 16 and the other gospels
I’d like to invite you to come with me on a voyage of time and space–a voyage of space as we travel to the other side of the planet, a voyage of time as we return to a time as ancient as King Tut over 3,500 years ago. We’re in Egypt about to witness a dramatic encounter between a human king who claimed to be God, and God who is the absolute King.
As we look around Egypt, we see millions of slaves–they’re called Israelites, because they are all descended from a man named Israel, whose father was Isaac and grandfather was Abraham. Years before in a time of famine, they had come down into Egypt looking for food. At first the pharaohs welcomed them, but then there arose pharaohs who made them slaves and proceeded to pile upon them burden upon burden until their cries of desperation reached the very ears of God, and God reached down and chose a deliverer named Moses.
Through Moses, God demanded that Pharaoh release His people, freeing them that they might go and worship Him. Pharaoh refused. God persisted, and He sent upon Egypt plagues of frogs and flies and lice and blood and pestilence. But still Pharaoh refused, because his heart was hardened. So God prepared one last dramatic event.
This would be an act so striking, that Pharaoh would be forced to concede defeat. It would be an act so overwhelming, that the Israelites themselves would have to seek protection. It’d be so significant the Israelites would radically rearrange their calendar around this one event. It will be forever known in Hebrew as “the protecting, the sheltering.” We call it the Passover. God would send the Angel of Death to enter every home in the land to instantly kill the oldest son. But if a family wanted protection from that angel, God provided a detailed formula. To be rescued from that Angel of Death, it required six exacting steps.
Step One–find a lamb and mark it out as their protecting lamb
Step Two–watch that lamb for three days to verify it is perfect
Step Three–on the fourth day, kill the lamb on the porch of their house, letting the blood flow into the basin that was at the base of the door
Step four–then take that lamb back inside, roast it with fire, and 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 hyssop branch, dip it into the blood that had been collected when they killed the lamb at the porch of the house, 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’d pass over and do no harm. The blood of the lamb provided protection. Because the Egyptians suffered for lack of this detailed protection, Pharaoh ultimately released over 2 million of God’s people.
But there was an even more important reason. Buried deep in the wisdom of God was a plan–a plan to use that specific ceremony to point to a future Passover, and to a future Lamb whose blood would literally save millions of His people around the world. And that’s why God told the Israelites to repeat this ceremony year after year as part of their religious New Year celebration. Every year they would reenact what their Messiah would someday do on the cross, though at the time they had no idea the ceremony was actually pointing to Christ.
What is even more amazing is to compare the details of that first Passover lamb to the details of the life of Jesus Christ. You’re going to find they match perfectly. This Easter, follow along in your outline as we look at all four gospels, focusing most of our attention in Mark 11 to 16, to see how Jesus perfectly fulfills the requirements of the final Passover Lamb, and why that’s so crucial this Easter Sunday.
Step #1 The Passover lamb will be marked out–which meant he had to be separated from the flock, then verbally declared to be THE PROTECTING LAMB
One of the first things that happens as Jesus begins His public ministry is to walk along the Jordan River, and John the Baptist sees Him and says in John 1:29, “’Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” From the start, Christ is marked out as the protecting lamb.
Step #2 They watch that lamb for three days to make sure it was perfect–and they watched Jesus’ life like a hawk for three years, and He was perfect
Even when circumstances got really HOT–like during His last week that we’ve been studying here at FBC. Christ controlled the weather, healed diseases, cleansed lepers, walked on water, and raised people from the dead. He proved He was God, and He taught that God alone can accomplish salvation. He alone would provide the only way one can be right with God now, and the only way to go to Heaven later. Now in Mark 11, it’s Jesus’ final week.
On MONDAY Jesus enters a crowded Jerusalem in Mark 11:1 to 11, because once again it’s Passover. When the crowds see Jesus, they take their coats off, cut off palm branches and lay them down in front of Him. They even shout words declaring He’s their Messiah.
On TUESDAY in Mark 11:12ff, Jesus enters the Temple, and for the second time in His public ministry, Jesus drives the animal sellers and moneychangers out of the Temple, defying the spiritual leaders who were ripping people off like a Mafia, forcing them to overpay in order to worship God.
On WEDNESDAY in Mark 12, Jesus does something even more amazing. He goes back into the Temple and begins to teach publicly. Unbelievable–His courage and daring are beyond description! But the Pharisees are furious–they jump on Him immediately. By what authority do You do these things? Jesus humiliates them, then denounces them publicly, calling them hypocrites to their faces. Their anger is almost uncontrollable, so Jesus leaves the Temple and takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives.
Once there in Mark 13, Jesus shares His plan for the future, saying, “Don’t lose hope. I will die very soon, but I’ll rise from the dead and someday I will come back and rule this entire planet.” So for three years they watched Him, debated Him, and tried to trap Him. But He’s constantly gotten the better of them–better answers, better teaching, miracles they couldn’t deny. And now their rage has reached the point of explosion. The time has come to act–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 will not 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 arresting Christ would cause a riot of resistance. So they want to arrest Him at night, secretly. But there’s a problem–nobody knew where Jesus and His men went at night. Jesus always kept their nighttime location a secret. They couldn’t arrest Christ at night, even if they wanted to—unless one of the disciples told them where Jesus went.
So they engaged the help of the only disciple from Judea, Judas Iscariot, in Mark 14:10. For thirty pieces of silver, not only does Judas agree to tell them the location, but also to guide them to Jesus and identify Him with a kiss. They make the arrangements for Thursday in the middle of the night. Jesus and His men have now completed the Passover meal in the Upper Room, Mark 14:26, and have traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ is in prayer so intense He sweats blood.
As sinless God, Christ is overwhelmed in bearing sin for us. As the God of wrath, He’s stressed about receiving eternities of wrath meant for you, and being one with the Father for eternity, Christ is agonizing about being separated from the Father. Far more than the coming physical suffering, Christ knows what’s going to happen in just a few hours, and He is repelled by it. But He says to His Father in Mark 14:36, “Not My will, God, but Yours be done.”
Suddenly, the quiet of the Garden is broken by the sound of advancing feet in Mark 14:43. The darkness is pierced by the light of torches held high over more than 200 Roman soldiers, Temple police and leaders who’ve come to arrest one man. Jesus says, “Whom do you seek?” They say, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then in John 18, He speaks the great name of the eternal God, “I AM.”
And when Jesus says, “I am,” an invisible, divine force slammed those 200 men into the dirt–they are literally thrown down. They’re shocked, yet they get back up and dust themselves off. They arrest Christ, and because this is God’s plan of salvation, Jesus plays along, having already reminded us in John 10:17, “No man takes My life, I lay it down willingly.” At this point, the disciples all run for their lives and desert Jesus in Mark 14:50. And because Jesus is not resisting what is happening, the religious leaders succeed in scheme #1, 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 Christ quickly, in John 18, to the house of Annas, the previous High Priest but current head of the Mafia moneychangers, where 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 assemble the Sanhedrin for Trial #2. Here in Mark 14:55, Caiaphas calls witnesses. The law says if any two witnesses can agree on any criminal act committed by Jesus, they can convict Him. But since Jesus is sinless, this becomes a problem.
But Caiaphas gets really clever. He thinks, “If I can’t get the witnesses to convict Jesus, I’ll see if I can get Jesus to incriminate Himself.” It was not a crime by Jewish law for a man to claim to be the Messiah. But it was a crime, a blasphemy, for a man to claim to be the Son of God, in the sense of being God’s equal.
So in Mark 14:60, Caiaphas puts Jesus under oath and says, “Jesus, I adjure You, by the living God, I put you under oath. Are you the Christ?” And then he adds something, “The Son of the living God?” And Jesus, knowing exactly what Caiaphas is saying, in Mark 14:62, responds “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 night. 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. So they gather all the elders for Trial #3 and again condemn Jesus for telling the truth, that He is God in the flesh. So far, from midnight to five AM, Jesus has had three unjust trials–but this is just the beginning.
Scheme #3 The Jews didn’t have the power to execute anyone
They had arrested Him secretly and convicted Him quickly–now they must execute Him legally. 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 around 5:30 AM in Mark 15:2ff for Trial #4, hoping this early in the morning, a groggy Pilate will confirm their sentence and agree to execute Him without investigating. But Pilate fools them by asking in John 18:29, “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. What Pilate cared about was if anyone was rebelling against Rome. So although the religious leaders have convicted Jesus of blasphemy, now they tell Pilate in Luke 23:2, “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 in John 18:36, ” 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 in Luke 23:3, “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 goes back outside and says in Luke 23:4, “I find no guilt in this man.” Pilate actually publicly affirms Christ’s innocence six times before he condemns Him to death. But the leaders say in Luke 23:5, “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!” Pilate isn’t in charge of Galilee–Herod Antipas was in charge of Galilee. So Pilate says, “Galilee? Jesus is Herod’s problem. I’ll let Herod decide.” And Herod is in Jerusalem for the Passover. Pilate sends Jesus two blocks to Herod’s palace (Luke 23:6 to 12) for Trial #5.
Herod asks Jesus to do a little magic to liven up the early morning. But Jesus, in kingly majesty, refuses. Herod gets upset and dresses Jesus up in a bright robe and mocks Christ. Then he ships Christ back to Pilate for Trial #6 (#1 Annas, #2 Caiaphas, #3 Sanhedrin, #4 Pilate, #5 Herod, and now #6 Pilate). The ball’s back in Pilate’s court in Mark 15:6ff, but Pilate’s got a problem.
The Jews have been complaining to Caesar about Pilate, and if the Jews send another commission to Caesar again, Pilate will lose his job, or possibly lose his life. We know Pilate wants to release Jesus in Mark 15:7, but Pilate’s got to get the crowd to go along with it. He tries three very devious methods of getting the crowd to cooperate.
First Pilate tries CROWD dynamics
He says, “Hey, by the way, isn’t this the time we release one prisoner? I’ll present two prisoners, and you choose which one you want.” Then he loads the deck in favor of Jesus’ release. He brings the lowest criminal he can find, awful brutal Barabbas, thinking the crowd will obviously choose awesome, gracious Christ in Mark 15:11.
But Pilate, being distracted after receiving a note of warning from his wife, has given the religious leaders time to infiltrate the crowds. And from every corner of the courtyard they begin screaming out, “We want Barabbas released–kill Christ!” So Pilate’s first move failed.
Second Pilate tries PITY in John 19:1 and Mark 15:15
Pilate takes Jesus back inside and inflicts upon Him a hideous torture called scourging. They’d tie a man’s arms up and legs down on a vertical pole, and then lash him 39 times with a cat-o-nine-tails, which consisted of nine leather thongs, each one embedded every few inches with a piece of metal or cut rock. When used, this device would literally peel the skin off of a man and expose his insides. Christ took 39 lashes, one short of death.
So Pilate brings Jesus back and displays Him to the crowd, in Luke 23:20, hoping when they see this wreckage of human flesh they’ll have pity on Him. But they don’t. Instead when they see Jesus, it whips them into a frenzy of emotion and they shout out to Pilate, “Finish the job! Just 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 in Matthew 27:24 to make them feel guilty. That gesture was symbolic of saying, “I don’t think this guy is guilty, and I don’t accept the guilt if an innocent man is killed.” He’s hoping this guilt tactic will succeed, but instead the crowd cries back, “His blood be upon us, and upon our children. We’ll accept the guilt, Pilate. You don’t have to.”
Pilate keeps trying to find a way to release innocent Christ. But Pilate is stopped cold by a man who shouts out something from the crowd in John 19, “Pilate, if you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar.” Pilate knows this is a threat that, in essence, if he releases Jesus they will send a delegation back to Rome and complain to Caesar. So Pilate delivers Jesus over to be crucified. Pilate says, “Behold, your King,” in John 19:14.
As they prepare the cross, the Roman Soldiers torture Christ, mocking Him as the Jewish King. They lead Christ to a hill called the place of the skull and crucify Him next to two criminals–Christ taking the cross meant for Barabbas. Physically nailed through the hands and feet, Christ would writhe up and down, pushing against the nails in His hands, then the nails in His feet in order to keep breathing for the next six hours. So here is the Lamb of God being put to death. But unbelievably there is actually something worse to come.
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 wrathful judgment. What happened now to Jesus is so dramatic that God turned out the lights in Luke 23:44. It’s now twelve noon, and God causes a darkness to come across the sky. You ask, “What’s going on?” God is putting on Christ the sin of every one of His children. Jesus Christ is now bearing sin. Somehow this sinless One is taking our sin upon Himself and experiencing all of God’s wrath and punishment for all the sin of all His children.
Six hundred years before, the prophet Isaiah predicted this. It says in 53:5 and 6, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Each one of us has sinned against God. We all deserve Hell.
But God loved His chosen 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 the Hell of separation from God that we deserved. Then at 3:00 PM, Jesus cries out, “It’s finished!” The price for the sins of those who believe is paid. Jesus tells God the Father in Luke 23:46, “I am giving up My spirit now in death to You, Father.” And with that, three things happen in a row
#1 The earth shakes
#2 The six-inch thick, 30-foot tall Temple veil tears in half
#3 Christ choses to die
All this happens at 3 PM 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 ultimate Passover Lamb, has died. Like a hurricane that comes and suddenly leaves, calm now returns, the light comes back, the shaking stops, and the astounded Roman soldiers, men who have crucified thousands before, declare in astonishment in Luke 23:47, “This truly was the Son of God.” Can you see how the details of Jesus’ life meet the requirements of the 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 make certain He was perfect, and He was
3 Jesus was killed, just as the Passover lambs died
4 He was roasted with the wrathful fire of God’s judgment against sin
Step #5 The Passover lamb will have no BROKEN bones
If the Roman soldiers wanted the man on the cross to die more quickly (perhaps at a time like 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. Mark 15:27 tells us 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.
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 predicted by David in Psalm 34:20, where he prophesied about the body of the Messiah, “Not one bone will be broken.” And finally . . .
Step #6 The Blood must be applied to YOU
I saved the most shocking part of this account for the last. 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 to you. Imagine back in Egypt, a family does the entire ceremony of the Passover lamb, but then forgets to apply 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 Christ died on the cross does not mean that everyone gets to float up to Heaven when they die. Becoming a Christian is something God does to you. True salvation occurs when God transforms you from the inside out–something so divine only God can do it. God begins this work by making you hate your sin so much, you are convinced you should go to Hell for eternity.
He causes us to see that Jesus is God, enables us to fully depend on Him and follow Him alone. But ultimately, if He awakens you, you will respond in dependent faith and turn in repentance from your sin to follow Christ by obeying the Bible alone. You must have the blood of Christ applied to your life.
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 with the bad things you did. The issue is going to be much simpler–has the death of Jesus Christ been applied to your sins? As you stand before God, He will either condemn your sin or see the blood of the Passover Lamb covering your sin.
The main event of all history is the cross of Jesus. Do you know Christ personally? If you do, you will follow His Word. If you’re 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 ascended into Heaven, and can give new life to His children. This is not turning over a new leaf, but being given a totally new life.
Easter is not about new dresses, bunnies, eggs, candies, or Peeps–Easter is about Christ rising from the dead. Jesus repeatedly told His men He’d be killed, but then rise from the dead. This is God’s plan. Mark 8:31, “The Son of Man must . . . be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 9:31, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men . . . and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” Mark 10:34, “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
Jesus knew He would rise on Easter Sunday—and He is alive today! So embrace what that really means–if Jesus came back from the dead, then biblical Christianity is true and all other religions in the world are false. John 14:6, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” There are not many ways to God, just one.
And the resurrection proves life does not end at the grave. Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Are you prepared to face judgment? Jesus’ resurrection proves that people are not essentially good, requiring just a little religious refinement, but rather human beings are sinful to the core of their beings, and require radical transformation by a power outside themselves.
The God/man Christ had to die for our sin in order for anyone to get to Heaven, for anyone to be right with God. That’s how sinful we truly are–God had to die to take care of sin. And get this, in order to go to Heaven, you have to be perfect. God hates sin so much, just one sin will keep you out of Heaven. That means none of us are going to make it. The good news is Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin on the cross.
If He awakens your heart, then your sin will be punished on His cross. Only then can His perfect standing be given to you. His righteousness allows you go to Heaven. It’s His perfection alone that can save you from your sins. If you’re His child, in the future Christ will say to you, “Come, blessed of My Father, inherit what I have prepared for you.”
But if you don’t trust in Christ, submit to Him, surrender your life–when you stand before Him, His word will be, “Depart from Me, I never knew you,” as you are condemned to everlasting Hell forever. Happy Easter! Today I plead with you–turn to Christ alone! Let’s pray.