The Passover and the Sacrifice of Jesus
In the book of Exodus, we can read about the redemption of Israel. They were oppressed and afflicted by the Egyptians, and after many signs, wonders, and plagues, Pharaoh would still not let the people go. Finally, as many of you know, Moses commanded the people to make their preparations for the first Passover in order to save the firstborn. The reason that the firstborn represented the family in this redemption story instead of the father is because it is following the pattern established in the offering of Isaac in the book of Genesis.
In the New Testament, the speakers and authors throughout speak of Jesus as being the fulfillment of these “types and shadows” of the law. This simply means that the Law was a taste, glimpse, or shadow of what would happen under the New Covenant. Paul even calls Jesus the Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:7. John the Baptist also made reference to the Passover when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). But there is one particular way of identifying Jesus as the Passover that is easy to overlook since it can be easy for us to disassociate the New Testament from the Old Testament and even forget how they are dependent upon one another This way of identification is by use of the term ‘firstborn'. This does not suggest that Jesus was a created being, but it does call back to the Passover in the Old Testament. The blood of bulls and goats could forgive sins, but those sins were never taken away (Leviticus 4:20; Hebrews 10:4). Understanding this, Jesus knew that sins would not be forgiven through the offering of a lamb, but through His own perfect, unblemished sacrifice as the firstborn. Paul tells as that they were removed through that sacrifice (Hebrews 10:15). He would offer His life in our place so that we could have life (Romans 3:23-24).
An illustration of how this is used can be found in Romans 8:29. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:29). In Romans 6, Paul spoke of baptism (something that cast a shadow on Israel's passing through the red sea: 1 Corinthians 10:1ff). He also spoke of being in bondage to sin throughout Romans 6 – a theme that would remind the people of Israel's bondage. In Romans 7 Paul speaks of the giving of the Law and, as seen in Romans 5:20, how it caused the offense of Adam to abound. The Law, in other words, openly displayed the sorry state of humanity and the need of a Savior. See that tabernacle? The presence of God is there, but you can't go in. See these sacrifices that you offer? It doesn't matter how good the lamb is; they can't take away sin. No matter how hard they worked, they could never overcome the dominion of sin (John 8:31-33). In Romans 8, Paul describes their entrance into the promised land. To illustrate, the children of Israel left Egypt, but the reproach of Egypt wasn't rolled away until their entrance into the Promised land (Joshua 5:6). Likewise Paul, representing Israel's conflict under the Law, says, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” He goes on to speak of how they were walking and being led by the spirit of God – words that were chosen on purpose to remind them of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness (Romans 8:4, 14). They were given the Spirit until the true sons of God would be revealed. Was it those of Egypt or those of Christ? In the New Testament, John called Jerusalem Egypt (Revelation 11:8). So, was it those who put their faith in Jerusalem or in the Jerusalem above (Galatians 3:21-31)?
Paul, in Galatians 4:21-31 (I would really encourage you to read this today), speaks of this same issue – even going on to speak of bondage in Galatians 5:1. Who are the true children? Who are the true sons of God? His conclusion in that passage is “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.” In other words, the true sons of God would be revealed when the sons who persecuted the heir would be cast out (see Matthew 8:10-12). Paul reaches the same conclusion in Romans 8. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). This is a reference to what took place in the first Exodus: they plundered the Egyptians when they left and went on to receive the riches of Canaan (Exodus 12:35-36). Continuing this theme, Paul calls them “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:36). Do you see how Paul's reference to the firstborn, among other things, should bring to our mind the Passover and what God did through Jesus' death in terms of releasing not just the Jews (what Paul calls “the creation”), but the Gentiles as well (“the whole creation”) from the bondage of sin?
So when the Bible speaks of Jesus being the firstborn, it is taking our minds back to the Passover. In their case, they were being redeemed from their physical bondage in Egypt. In terms of the New Covenant, Jesus' sacrifice meant an Exodus from spiritual bondage in the dominion of sin into life and liberty in Christ (Romans 6:22).
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