Christ: Our Passover lamb
The fifth Sunday in lent is traditionally the Passion Sunday, when we begin to contemplate on the passion/suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Being 14 days to Easter (the Christian Passover), it calls to mind the month of Passover (Nisan) of which the Passover feast took place on the 14th day (Exod. 12: 2, 3, 6). The Passover was not only commemorative, but also typical. The deliverance, which it commemorated, was a type of the great salvation it foretold. The lamb slain typified Christ the “Lamb of God” slain for the sins of the world – “…Christ our Passover Lamb was sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7).
The New Testament indicates the connection between the Passover lamb and Jesus Christ (1Cor.5: 7). John the Baptist recognised him as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29); Peter links the lamb without defect (Exod. 12:5) with Christ (1Pet. 1:19); John the Divine sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6) and as it was, Jesus was crucified at the Passover time (Mark 14:12). The essence and significance of the blood of the Passover lamb are also consummated in the blood of Jesus – escaping (eternal) death (Heb. 9:12, 14) and Divine judgement (Rom. 6:23). As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks the Christian’s release from the slavery of sin (Rom. 8:2). As the first Passover was to be held in remembrance as an annual feast, so Christians are to memorialise the Lord’s death in the Holy Communion, until He returns (1Cor. 11:26).
So, as we count down 14 days to Easter, we begin to contemplate on what our Lord passed through as the Lamb of God. God’s provision for the salvation of sinful man lies in the vicarious suffering and the ultimate death of his Son. Christ’s death brings redemption (paying the price), propitiation (turning away wrath), reconciliation (getting together by removing enmity), justification (declaring righteous), and cleansing (removing the stain). Christ’s death at Calvary is the central theme of the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 46). The death of the Saviour will be the grand theme of heaven, where a new song of worship is addressed to him: “Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Rev. 5:9).
The Bible Readings for the Day (Matins): Isa 53: 7-end; Matt. 27:33-54.
In the periscope (Isa. 52:13-53:12), Isaiah presented the fourth Servant Song, predicting that the Servant would die in the place of the guilty in order to satisfy God’s judgment on sin. He would be led to the slaughter like a lamb, unfairly tried and unjustly condemned (53:8), suffer innocently (53:9), willingly/silently (53:7) and vicariously [in substitution or on behalf of others] (53:5,11b). Early Jewish interpretation of this passage understood the “servant” (52:13) to refer to the Messiah. This also was the interpretation by the early church (cf. Acts 8:30-35). He is Jesus Christ, led to the slaughter like a lamb.
The NT passage is the climax of the passion of Jesus and His crucifixion. The physical and psychological agonies were intense. But the horrible one, which made Him cry out was the spiritual ordeal of separation from God. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (27:46) was a deep expression of the anguish He felt, when He took on the sins of the world, which caused Him to be separated from His Father. But ultimately, as indicated by the miraculous events at His death, the purpose of the whole suffering was achieved: Death and principalities were overpowered and relationship with/access to God was restored.
The Venerable Dr. Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC, is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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