Easter in America is big business. Retail stores sell Easter baskets of all shapes and sizes, pastel eggs and egg-dyeing kits, hundreds of candy varieties and loads of decorations to adorn your home. I’m an eager consumer, having already purchased a cute Easter-themed table runner, hung up an “Easter Greetings” banner and begun stocking up on jelly beans.
On Easter morning, our 3 kids love receiving a basket full of goodies followed by an Easter egg hunt on our property. Despite being teenagers, they still look forward to the competition to see who can find the most eggs (i.e. get even more candy). Easter supper is also big business with the constant advertising. I’m already thinking about the meal, although I always make a traditional Easter ham and with careful “planning,” our extended family will bring all the sides and dessert!
While the retail market exploits images of fuzzy chicks and lambs frolicking in the sunshine, we recognize the harsh reality of sin and death. We can’t escape the blood. But…why did Christ have to suffer and die? Let’s consider scripture.
We have to look back to the beginning, back to the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God. Having sinned, they became exposed and ashamed of their nakedness, yet God slaughtered an animal to provide skins to cover their shame (Genesis 3:21). In this way, blood was shed and the principle of the innocent dying for the guilty was first established. The same principle was later set in the Mosaic Law.
Consider Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (ESV) God established that atonement (making amends or reparation for a wrong or injury) is made through the blood shed by an innocent sacrifice. We see this echoed in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Our church has been reading through Hebrews, focusing on the “Hall of Faith” passage which cites various heroes of the faith. Hebrews 11:24-26 describes how Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the Egyptian palace, yet he identified more with his biological parents. He chose the heritage of his people during the time that the Israelites were held captive as Egyptian slaves, even though it meant leaving the palace and sharing in their suffering and mistreatment. Moses prioritized the blessing and salvation of the coming Messiah over the temporary comfort and wealth of the Egyptian palace.
God sent Moses with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go.” When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. Hebrews 11:28 refers to the tenth and worst plague, which was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt on the night of the very first Passover, “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.” This refers to the instructions God gave the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb (“without blemish”) and mark their doorposts with its blood. When the Lord’s “Destroyer” passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood. The lamb’s blood saved the Israelites from the plague and spared the lives of their firstborn children.
The Passover is described earlier in the Old Testament, in Exodus 12:13, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” Isn’t this interesting? Those under the blood were saved. When they marked their doorposts with blood, Moses and the Israelites acted in obedience and faith, putting their trust in God. In fact, Moses is credited as a hero of the faith for this.
The blood was a covering and a sign for God to pass over and not destroy. The Israelites could do nothing aside from trusting in that covering to secure their safety. It did not matter who they were or what they had done to that point; it wasn’t any of their own goodness, rank, or service which saved them, just the blood of the lamb–an innocent sacrifice, which made atonement on behalf of their lives and made them exempt from death. God required the blood shed from an innocent sacrificial lamb to provide a means of protection over his people and God also did the work of delivering. Isn’t this familiar?
Jesus is our Passover Lamb. Scripture confirms the redemptive power of Christ’s blood: 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Christ Himself says in Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” According to Paul in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” And 1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Sin separates us from God. In order to reconcile us, God requires a sacrifice to atone for sin; yet He provided a way to cover our guilt and shame through His Son. We can stand under the blood shed by our Savior and be spared. And through His resurrection we are redeemed by Christ’s victory over death. Let’s joyfully celebrate Easter, praising His name as in Revelation 1:5-6: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”