“In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
John 7:37, 38
In order ever to keep the fact before the minds of the Israelites that they were a separated and peculiar people unto the Lord, a people through whom He wished to reveal to the world the Messiah, and the many experiences connected with His life—a number of festivals were given to them, which were to be observed at different seasons of the year, and at a specially appointed place. …
If they would see what was intended by these services they would not only be blessed themselves, but others would be brought into the fold, and learn of the great saving plan of God for a lost and sinful world.
The Passover Feast; When Introduced
The first feast and festival which the Lord instituted was the Passover. This one was not only the first, but perhaps the most sacred of all; and was designed to teach some of the strongest and most forcible lessons concerning the Messiah.
This festival was introduced before the Israelites left their slavery in Egypt; and it was ever to be associated with the thought of their freedom from slavery (Exodus 12:1–11). Closely connected with this festival, and part of it, was the offering up of sacrifice; in fact this was the basis of all the feasts. If there were no sacrifice or offering, the entire season of its observance would be useless, as far as the real lesson which God intended to teach thereby.
The Paschal Lamb
While there were many offerings during the Passover feast, the special and most prominent of them all was the Passover, or paschal lamb. The first instruction given is found in the twelfth chapter of Exodus; and little in addition was afterward given concerning the offering of other sacrifices. There were at least six prominent things to be remembered in the offering of this lamb, every one of which was to teach some truth concerning Him who is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
- There was to be a lamb for every household.
- This lamb must be without blemish.
- The lamb must be killed in the evening (margin, between the evenings).
- The blood of the lamb must be sprinkled upon the side posts and upper door-post of the house, in which the lamb must be eaten. (See Exodus 12:3–7.)
- The lamb must be eaten the night it was killed; and under no circumstances must any part of it remain till morning; if so, it must not be eaten, but must be burned (Exodus 12:10).
- Not a single bone of the lamb must be broken (Exodus 12:46).
While there are other matters of interest in connection with the paschal lamb, these mentioned are the most prominent, and contain the essence of the truth to be taught.
The Lesson of the Paschal Lamb
In instituting this service while the people were yet in the land of their slavery, the Lord evidently intended they should learn from this experience the real meaning of freedom from servitude. Concerning their deliverance and the manner it was to be performed, the Lord said: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12, 13).
After they sacrificed the lamb, they were to take of its blood and to sprinkle it upon the two places previously mentioned. When the Lord would pass over the land to smite the Egyptians, then the house which He would observe had the blood sprinkled, that house would be freed from death. It made no difference what the man might have thought or believed; it made no distinction with the Lord how many years the person claimed to be an Israelite; nor did it differ how long he had been in Egyptian servitude. Neither did it make any difference to what wing of the twelve tribes he belonged. The one thing necessary for the man of the house, or for the entire people of that house, or for all the people in all the houses of the Israelites, to escape having death in the house that night was to have the blood sprinkled in its proper place. Nothing but the blood of the lamb could save a person from death. To do this, however, was efficacious, and brought salvation to the individuals who lived in that house.
Deliverance Only Through the Blood
It would have been as easy for the Lord to have brought the people from Egypt without having this ordinance performed, if the deliverance were designed merely as a temporal affair, or a deliverance from physical servitude only. But the deliverance of the children of Israel was not alone intended to be a freedom from physical slavery, it was the intention of God to teach the people that Egypt was a synonym of the darkness of sin; their deliverance from Egypt was to be to them a deliverance from the slavishness of sin, since they were set apart as a spiritual people. The only means which God had or has to deliver people from the slavery of sin is the blood (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). This people must see the very beginning of their exodus. They must recognize that the only way of deliverance from evil was through the blood of the great Lamb, who should sacrifice His life for them and for the world. They should learn their deliverance from spiritual Egypt was fully as great, if not greater, than their deliverance from the physical slavery of the literal Egypt.
That the Lord intended to use Egypt as a figure, and that there was as real a spiritual Egypt as there was a literal one, is evident from what we read in the Revelation: “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8).
Now it is known that the Lord Jesus was not crucified literally, either in Egypt or Sodom; but it is known that these two places were particularly noted for their cruelty and sins, which called down the wrath of God upon them. It is also true that it was sin which crucified our Lord of glory; hence these two places are used as illustrations of sin. This was what the Lord wanted the Israelites to learn concerning their deliverance from Egypt.
Everything Fulfilled in Christ
Now every one of the laws connected with the lamb and its offering at the Passover, was fulfilled in Christ. This was true with no exception. We will, therefore, now consider their fulfillment in the same numerical order as we considered the distinctive features of the typical lamb.
- The Passover Lamb is Christ
The Prophet Isaiah, when speaking of the death of Christ, said: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Soon after the baptism of Christ, He was introduced by John the Baptist to the multitudes as follows: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh [margin, beareth] away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36)!
And again, John the beloved says of Him: “And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, …” (Revelation 5:8).
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, … stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6).
And that He was directly called the Lamb, the Passover sacrifice, Paul says: “For even Christ our Passover, is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
- His Life without Blemish
Nowhere in the history of the life of Christ can we find where it ever was marred by the least performance of sin. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2:22).
- He Died Between the Evenings
The great paschal Lamb, Jesus, died at the very hour the lamb was to be offered, between the evenings; about three o’clock in the afternoon. (b) The Scripture saith He was crucified, beginning at the sixth hour; and at the ninth hour he died, which was three o’clock, (c) the very time they sacrificed the paschal lamb.
- His Sprinkled Blood Only Saves
Soon after the apostles began the preaching of the crucified and risen Savior, they told the people everywhere that it was only through the blood which Jesus shed that they could have the forgiveness of sins; because the blood of Jesus only cleanses from all sins. And Peter, in his first epistle, evidently using the figure spoken of in the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb, says: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).
Thus we see that the sprinkled blood refers to the sprinkling of the blood of the Son of God which saves and purifies the hearts of men and women.
- Christ’s Body Not Allowed to Remain Over Night
When Christ was crucified, it being on Friday, the sixth day, the preparation day for the Sabbath, the Jews came to Pilate and asked that the body of Jesus, and those of the thieves, might not be allowed to remain over the Sabbath as that was a high Sabbath day. And it was not allowable to have bodies hanging over night, as this would be defiling to the people, to the Sabbath, as well as to the festival. Hence Pilate gave orders to have them taken down, and it was done. Thus we have the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the lamb that it should not be kept over night. Yes, in Christ we find the Scriptures all fulfilled.
- Not a Bone in Christ’s Body Broken
When the soldiers came to the bodies of the thieves, finding them still alive, they broke their legs, in order to kill them quickly before the sun should set. But when they came to the body of the Savior, supposing that He was not dead, they were ready to treat Him the same as they had done to the thieves. But to their surprise they found Him dead (John 19:33). In order to be certain that all life had departed, they took the sword and pierced His side, whence flowed blood and water. Hence the Scripture was truthfully and literally fulfilled that not a bone of Him should be broken (John 19:36). The real lesson of the paschal Lamb was Jesus Christ. Not only as a whole was it fulfilled in Him, but every specification met its completeness in Him, the Lamb of God. Yet strange as it may seem the Jews did not see this. Are there not many at the present time who act as did the ancient people? …
The True Passover
But the true Passover, and all its meaning, is to be found in Jesus Christ only. He is the Passover; and we are to eat Him with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). This is the meaning of the unleavened bread; this is the meaning of the Passover. It was a longing desire on the part of the Savior to eat the Passover with the disciples before He suffered, for then these traditions and burdens would be removed from them, and they would know in all its fullness the meaning of the Passover.
If the church of Christ of today could only see that instead of the observance of many of the festivals which are being observed as memorials, whether they be Easter, or Christmas, or some other day, which is similar in effect to the traditions of the Jewish rabbis, would they be more obedient to His will they would then enjoy much more of Jesus Christ, the great Lamb of God, and have a continuous feast in Him who is the great and blessed Passover.
[All emphasis supplied.]
Excerpts from Practical Lessons, F.C. Gilbert, 228–245; Copyright 1902 by F.C. Gilbert. (Facsimile Reproduction printed 1972 by Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee.)