The Face of Grace
Pencil sketch by JC Chambers
Part seven in a series of God's grace from the book of John.
Why did Jesus die?
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” John 1:29
John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God.”
In using this title, John identified Jesus with the lambs sacrificed during the Jewish Feast of Passover. This annual remembrance commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Understanding the role of these paschal lambs helps us better understand the purpose and significance of Christ’s death.
Before emancipating the Israelites, God instructed Moses to, “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” After caring for these paschal lambs for five days, each family was to “slaughter them at twilight” and “to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.”
The blood of sacrificed lambs, applied to the doorframes of these homes, would serve as a “sign” alerting the destroying angel to “pass over” that home and spare its firstborn . . . “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Exodus 12:12-13
There are “impossible-to-miss” correlations between the sacrifice of these lambs and the crucifixion of Jesus. The obvious connection was not lost on Paul. He wrote, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7
• At noon on the day before Passover, the priests sacrificed the paschal lambs in the Temple, the exact time Jesus was condemned to death.
• Hyssop was used to apply the blood of the lambs to the doorposts of the homes. Hyssop was also used to raise a wine-soaked sponge to Jesus’ lips.
• God decreed that no bones of the paschal lamb be broken. In spite of being beaten and crucified, Jesus’ bones also remained intact.
What can Passover teach us about the sacrifice of Christ and the impact of His shed blood?
God the Father did not crucify His Son in order to exhaust His hatred of sin. This is a pagan understanding of what “the gods” require. Pagan gods are angry and vindictive, forcing people to pacify them by killing an animal or a human being.
Typically, we associate blood with death. However, God connects blood with life. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus 17:11
To “make atonement” means to wipe away or remove something. God provided the blood of animals to wipe away sin. Purification, not punishment is the purpose behind these animal sacrifices. This helps us understand why God sent His Son into the world.
As the Lamb of God, Jesus willingly poured out His blood to wipe away our sins. His blood is not to be understood as life taken in anger. His blood is to be understood as life given in love.