Israel was commanded, emphatically and repeatedly, to keep the Passover every year, as a remembrance of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
Detailed instructions were given by God on how to keep the Passover, recorded in Exodus 12, Numbers 9, and Deuteronomy 16. God said, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14, reinforced in additional passages. It appears they only obeyed this command now and then—but that’s another story.)
As I’m sure you know, the central feature of the original Passover, and the yearly commemoration, is a lamb. In the original, the lamb is sacrificed and its blood is smeared on the doorframe of the house, and the destroying angel would therefore “pass over” the house, and not inflict death there. In the later commemorations, there is still a lamb sacrificed and eaten, but blood isn’t put on the doorframe.
There was to be a Passover lamb for each household, or a couple of small households could eat together. Here’s how they were to go about it:
Did you notice? They weren’t to pick out the lamb on the day. They were to set it aside four days earlier. Now, think about what’s going to happen. Lambs are, well, adorable. Even at a year old. For four days, this lamb is with the family. They’re feeding it, the children play with it. The family is going to grow very fond of this animal!
And then they have to kill it.
You know very well who the lamb represents. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7; see also Acts 8:32-35 (quoting Isaiah 53:7-10), John 1:29 & 36, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 5:5-10.)
It would have been heartbreaking to kill the lamb on that first Passover. It was supposed to be! The people were supposed to identify with that animal. And we are supposed to identify with our “Passover lamb”, the Lord Jesus. We are supposed to love this Lamb. It is supposed to hurt, the reality that to deliver us from slavery to sin, this perfect Lamb had to be sacrificed.
The point is that Passover was designed so the people of Israel were invested. It wasn’t casual, it wasn’t ritual, it wasn’t theoretical. It was designed for us to become invested, participants not spectators, joining in the humbling realization that the Lamb died for me.
But that’s not the end! We also join in the world-filling song of praise: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)
It is something sobering, yet still something to rejoice in! The Passover is fulfilled. The victory is won by the Lamb. And we are delivered.