posted on Sep, 14 2018 @ 06:42 PM
“For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians ch5 v7)
The teaching of the New Testament centres upon what Jesus achieved when he died upon the Cross. The key point is that something was done about the
problem of sin.
Since this was a unique event, it can’t be explained without metaphor.
One such metaphor identifies him as the New Testament’s Passover lamb.
That is prompted, of course, by the fact that his death took place during the Passover season.
According to John’s Gospel, he was crucified on the day of “preparation” for the Passover.
In other words, on the same day that the Passover lamb was killed. Almost the same time.
John also makes the connection more explicit, by taking the Exodus instruction (that the bones of the lamb should not be broken) and applying that to
Jesus as a prophecy (ch19 v36).
John has to be right, incidentally, about the day of the crucifixion.
If the Last Supper on the previous night had been a true Passover meal, then all the activities which followed the meal would have been legally
Everything from Judas going out “to buy food”, through to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, would have been taking place in the middle
of the high Sabbath (as distinct from the weekly sabbath), which commenced just before the meal was eaten.
Paul was probably writing to the Corinthians before John’s Gospel was written, so his own use of the phrase “paschal lamb” shows that the church
was already making this connection.
His application of the image has a particular purpose.
He has been rebuking the Corinthians for their indulgence towards immorality, urging them to drive it out of the community.
He reminds them of the proverb that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”, the equivalent of our own proverb that “one rotten apple spoils
the whole barrel”.
Then, perhaps inspired by the near approach of the Passover season, he compares this necessary cleansing to the ritual of preparing for Passover by
eliminating leaven from the household;
The point of his allusion to the sacrifice of the lamb is in the timing of the event, in the schedule of preparations for Passover.
It is almost the last thing that happens before the feast begins.
So if Christ, our lamb, has already been sacrificed (on the Cross), then the Passover cleansing of leaven is obviously overdue, and they must
be running out of time.
The community needs to be ready to meet their God.
“Let us celebrate the festival not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1
Corinthians ch5 vv6-8).
For the more general significance of the Passover lamb, we need to look back to the well-known story in Exodus.
God’s people needed to be saved from the power of Egypt.
The climax of the campaign against the Egyptians was that God “let loose on them his fierce anger, wrath, indignation and distress” (Psalm 78
Moses was given warning in advance;
“I will pass through the land of Egypt that night” (Exodus ch12 v12).
Then he was given instructions about the Passover lamb.
The function of the lamb was to protect the Israelites from what was happening to the Egyptians. Each household was to sacrifice a lamb (“from the
sheep or from the goats”) and then touch some of the blood on their doors;
“For the Lord will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over
the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you” (Exodus ch12 v23).
In other words, it protected the Israelites from the wrath of God, by identifying them as God’s people.
Would their God not have known them anyway? Yes, of course, but then there would have been nothing to tell the Israelites they were being
identified as God’s people. It was a visual aid.
The implication of the “Lamb” analogy is that the death of Christ has the same function as the blood of the Passover lamb.
God’s people are troubled by an adversary. In this case, the great adversary is the unrighteousness of the world, the whole complex of sin-and-death
which arose out of the events in Eden.
There is an expectation of God’s wrath against unrighteousness.
There is a need that God’s people should be protected against his wrath.
That will be the function of “the blood of the Lamb”, which is shorthand for “the fact that Jesus died”.
That is, our association with his death identifies us as God’s people, and therefore keeps us under God’s protection.
The imagery of the sacrificed lamb is also associated with redemption metaphors.
We have been ransomed “by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter ch1 v19).
In one of the scenes of Revelation, he stands in the form of a slain Lamb to be praised by every creature in heaven and earth; “for thou was slain
and by thy blood didst ransom men for God” (Revelation ch5 v9).
Another song declares that “the accuser of the brethren” (representing the judgement of their sin) has been conquered “by the blood of the
Lamb” (Revelation ch12 v11).
These themes are intertwined. We are identified as God’s people Israel by accepting what he has provided for our redemption.
Therefore the function of the paschal lamb is to identify and protect God’s people in the promised time of judgement.
They are protected by the fact that the death of Christ on the Cross has dealt with the problem of sin.