Read parts of Exodus XII.
R ECAPITULATE the last lesson. We have been thinking of the historical fact of Israel's deliverance. But there is something to ask before we go on. Do you think there was any meaning, any lesson for us in the peculiar ceremonies ordered, the slain lamb, the blood sprinkled to save the people, the memorial established for all generations? Do you think it pointed forward to some other great fact? What did it teach? The Lamb? The Passover Memorial?
I do not mean to say that the Israelites recognized all this meaning. I think that all they learned here was that God chose this curious means, a slain lamb and sprinkled blood, for their deliverance. They did not understand about the Lord Jesus and His atonement that was to be. There was a dim prophecy of it in Eden (Genesis iii. 15). Then this strange order about the lamb and the blood. Then later prophecies (see Isaiah liii. 7). Then all through the New Testament we find our Lord spoken of as the Lamb of God, the Lamb that was slain, etc. (Get Concordance and work out this more fully.) So as we think of all this and see how our Lord was slain for the deliverance of the world, we cannot help thinking that God meant here to shadow forth the Atonement on Calvary. You remember our story (Lesson VII) about the old king? That helps us a little towards understanding. Do you think that young man would have been so touched by his father's love if the king had said, "Never mind the law or the punishment appointed, you may go free"? No, that would be a bad lesson for him and for all. They would think they could do wrong more safely again. So it would be bad for us. But God said, My sinful children have brought this sad result on themselves. What can I do with them? I can't bear to let them perish; I must go down and suffer for them that they may be set free, and may be touched in their hearts, and hate sin for ever. We can't here explain all about the Atonement. Only we know that in some way it was necessary that our Lord should die, that His blood should be shed for our salvation. Now tell me how Israelite story was a sort of picture of ours. Point out, (1) The plague was ready to fall on all, both Egyptian and Israelite; (2) God provided a way of escape, and only those who sheltered themselves under the sprinkled blood were safe; (3) Even if Israelite felt frightened behind the blood-stained door, still he would be just as safe. So are we if we come to Christ ever so timidly; (4) They were set free to start on a new life in God's presence, which should end in the Promised Land. Show how all this is a picture of our condition. So this old story concerns us closely—not merely the Israelites.
Now about the remembering of it. Do you think these Israelites who spent that awful night in Egypt would ever forget it? But as years passed by in their new life, and this whole generation of Egyptian slaves had passed away, do you think that their children and grandchildren would remember so well all this that God had done for their fathers? So, to prevent their forgetting, what did God command? Every year, on this same day, a memorial feast, in which they should act over again the fact of their deliverance.
Tell me briefly the directions. How long did they keep it up? Yes, as we saw last day, they keep it up in some measure to our own day. This year and last year the Jews all over the world still kept the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. (Impress this fact on the class, it will make the story seem less of a vague, hazy, old-world story.) All this was to keep in their memory how God had delivered them by the slain lamb and the blood-shedding. Now I want you to shut your eyes and make three pictures rapidly in your minds.
The first Passover in Egypt. Teacher turn back to last lesson. Try to make a vivid word-picture of that scene, the blood-sprinkled door, the frightened group within, the death angel passing, the cry of agony ringing out on the midnight through Egypt, the great sigh of relief as the dawn came and they found all safe, and with deep wondering awe thanked God, and went forth on their new life, resolving that through generations to come they would keep the Passover in memory of their deliverance.
We change the scene. Fifteen hundred years later. A Jewish carpenter with his family has come up from the country to keep the Passover in Jerusalem. In the little company round the board is a boy of twelve years old, who has now, for the first time, got a glimpse of the big city and the great outer world that lies beyond his little home at Nazareth.
The feast is begun, far more elaborate than the hurried meal in Egypt. I see the cups of wine pass round the table, and the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and then the slain lamb is placed before the head of the family—pointing back for those Jews to the slain lamb in Egypt—pointing forward for us Christians to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Now, before the lamb is touched, comes a beautiful part of the Jewish ritual. Amid solemn silence the youngest child rises at the board, and the boyish voice breaks the silence, "What mean ye by this service?" And then the oldest man present rises to reply, "It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed," etc. (Exodus xii. 26, 27). What curious questions arise as we think of that scene! Who do you think was the youngest boy? (Luke ii. 42). Don't you wonder what were the thoughts in His mind as He watched for the first time that ceremony which for 1500 years had been pointing forward to Himself, and as He asked that question, "What mean ye by this service?" I wonder did the child Christ understand it all and know what was before Him in the future. Who can tell?
We change the scene again. Twenty years more have passed. It is evening. The Hebrew boy, now a thoughtful, solemn Man, is again at the feast. Around Him are sad faces of men who for years past had followed Him and loved Him, and who are now wakening up to the meaning of His hints about His departure and His sufferings. Sorrowfully they sit as the first wine-cup passes round, and the bitter herbs are eaten, and the Passover lamb is placed before them on the board. And now great high thoughts press on their Lord's attention. The Jewish Passover is to be done away. He to whom it had pointed for 1500 years, the Lamb of God, is to be offered up to-morrow on Calvary, a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He is to change the Jewish Passover for a new Memorial Feast to keep men in remembrance of His death upon the cross.
So, amid wondering silence, He rises, takes a piece of the unleavened bread, and blesses and breaks it, and gives it to each one, saying, "Take, eat. This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. After the same manner He takes the cup, saying," etc. (see Luke xxii. 14-20).
So the Jewish Memorial Feast was exchanged for a higher one, and all through the ages since the Church has kept that memorial. Any Sunday in church, as we look at preparation for the Holy Communion, we can go back in imagination, Sunday before Sunday, in one long line of commemoration till we come to that quiet evening in Jerusalem just before His death, and hear our Lord say to His disciples, "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Do you think people ought to do it? If your mother a few hours before she died asked you to come on that day every year and put flowers on her grave in remembrance of her, should you not be ashamed if you neglected it? Even if you could see no use in it but just gratifying her wish? Do you think the same of our Lord's memorial? Even if you could see no use in it, but just because He asked you? But it is of enormous use to us. Not only keeps our hearts touched by the memory of what He has done; but also in a mysterious way that we can never explain communicates to us God's own nature and so tends to make us more like Him.
It is very thoughtless and ungrateful that people should neglect this great memorial of the Lamb of God. And it is very foolish, for they lose such blessing by its neglect. What was done to Jews if they neglected their memorial? (Numbers ix. 13). But now no threat. Only just the Lord's loving words, "Do it in remembrance of Me." When you are older and are admitted to it, don't neglect it or treat your Lord disrespectfully. You will then be taught how to prepare for it. If rightly prepared for and rightly received, it will be the greatest help and blessing of your lives.
Do you think those Israelites would ever forget that night of deliverance?
Might not their descendants forget?
What did Moses arrange by God's direction to keep them from forgetting?
Has our Lord done anything like this to keep us remembering His great deliverance?
What do we call His memorial feast?
Can you recall the three Passover pictures in this lesson?