The gospel of salvation is not overly complex. It is so simple, in fact, that any rational mind can understand its essential principles. But sometimes the Bible is deeper than it appears at first glance: much clear, significant meaning, incidentally and additionally proving the existence and authorship of God, lies hidden from many. Thirty-five centuries ago in Pharaoh's Egypt, God injected into human culture the message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Fifteen centuries before Christ! But the truth about salvation and grace, revealed in the types and events of that first Passover, was not fully comprehended for the full span of those fifteen centuries — and has been almost universally forgotten, it would seem, the last twenty.
Instructing the ancient Israelites about the Passover, Exodus 12:11 records these words of God: "In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's passover. For I will pass through...."
This verse has been a problem to many. Many have assumed it to mean that the Israelites were to be ready to desert their homes, at any instant, even while they ate, But not so. For God had already said that He would pass through "about midnight" (Ex. 11:4), and He continued to instruct: "none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning" (Ex. 12:22).
Make no mistake, the instruction was to be observed literally, but its meaning was symbolic, not literal. This is shown by the fact that Israel was to eat while holding at the same time "your staff in your hand." If the purpose had been to literally speed their exit, it would have been quite sufficient to have had the staff leaning in easy reach of the door, conveniently ready to grab as the owner dashed through — and their eating would certainly have been more than a little easier with a free extra hand!
But what did the instruction symbolize? Biblical scholar T. H. Gaster believed that eating "in haste" was a symbol of purity, no fermentation having entered into lamb or bread (Festivals of the Jewish Year, p. 33). But this really doesn't answer the question, especially concerning the staves, the sandals, the clothing.
Meaning of Symbols. What we must realize is that the whole ritual was designed in the beginning by God, to picture the atoning sacrifice of His Son. When we rightly apply the symbols, their true meaning should appear.
At the midnight approach of the mob which came to take Him to His trial and crucifixion, Jesus immediately said: "But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matt. 26:56). What prophets? Moses, who wrote the book of Exodus, was a prophet, though more than a prophet (see Deut. 18:18). What prophecy was being fulfilled as Jesus spoke? The verses immediately preceding explain: "While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs [KJV: staves].... 'But how then [else] should the scripture be fulfilled, that it must be so?' At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, 'Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?'"
In all the Bible there is no prophecy that the Messiah or Savior was to be taken by a mob with staves, in haste, prepared with " loins girded" and shoes on their feet to chase Him should He flee. None, that is, except the Passover instructions in Exodus 12.
Shortly before, Jesus had demonstrated His concern to properly fulfill prophecy: "And he said to them, 'When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?' They said, 'Nothing.' He said to them, 'But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture [Isa. 53:12] must be fulfilled in me, "And he was reckoned with transgressors"; for what is written about me has its fulfillment.' And they said, 'Look, Lord, here are two swords.' And he said to them, 'It is enough' " (Luke 22:35-38).
Why Swords? Was there really a need, prophetically, for swords? How could two be enough? And was Christ actually "reckoned with the transgressors"? Verses 47 and on give the answer: "There came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, 'Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?' And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, 'Lord, shall we strike with the sword?' And one of them [Peter — see John 18:10-11] struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, 'No more of this!' [this much was sufficient for that prophecy's sake].... and healed him" (see also Mark 14:43-48).
"Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, 'Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?' " Here was the mob with the staves. (A staff, in essence, is a stick of wood. It may be a walking stick. It may be a weapon of offense or defense. Hence John 18:3 speaks of the mob having lanterns, torches and weapons.)
"'When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.'" What was that hour? "About midnight" — the hour of the death angel, that power of darkness himself, who caused the death of all the firstborn in Egypt except those where the Eternal also was, protecting those who had the sign of the blood.
This was the hour and the situation pictured at Passover even today by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. They kill their Passover lamb at the precise instant of sunset, but do not actually eat till after midnight and in great haste (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, pp. 665, 666).
There in the garden of Gethsemane was the mob in great "haste" — a haste to get rid of the unwelcome prophet Jesus before the people who heard Him gladly should know what was happening (Mark 12:37; 14:2). Their haste continued until they had condemned Him to death and coerced Pontius Pilate into seconding the sentence and carrying out the execution.
Who Killed Christ? But why should the Israelites, who were being given God's protection from death, symbolize the mob who were putting Christ to death? The answer to this is the answer to the question, "Who really killed Jesus Christ?" We — sinful human beings — all of us — we killed Jesus Christ. Our sins forced Him to suffer and die, to make it possible for us to enter into eternal life. The mob was stubborn, sinful Israel in ancient Egypt. They killed Jesus Christ — just as they killed the Passover lamb whose blood they put on the doorposts to symbolize the blood of Christ. The mob was the Gentiles, who have never kept the Passover, and those who have never yet heard the name of Jesus. They killed Christ. The mob was us, all of mankind!
The blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, the very life of the man who was also God, the man who was perfect, the man who never sinned, was sufficient for all times, to redeem all generations. The blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, the very life of the man who was also God, the man who was perfect, the man who never sinned, was sufficient for all times, to redeem all generations. It is more than sufficient, with plenty left over. The same is true of His body. Notice further some vital facts of the gospel of Christ which were pictured by the body of the Passover lamb and shown in the rules for the Passover.
Body of the Lamb. First of all, of course, the body of a lamb to represent Christ had to be perfect, without blemish (Ex. 12:5). Then Israel was told (verse 9): "Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts." The body of the lamb picturing Jesus was not to be dismembered as would occur in boiling it. In fact, not a bone — in lamb or Christ — was to be broken (verse 46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20). This is why Christ had to die from a spear wound rather than having His legs broken like the thieves which were crucified with Him (John 19:31-37). (For further information on this point, write for our free article "Did Christ Die of a Broken Heart?")
The spear could slash open his flesh, On the analogy of what would occur if the Passover animal's entrails were removed, but neither Christ nor lamb were allowed to be cut apart. Then what was done with any amount of the Passover sacrifice which might be left over? The blood, of course, was poured out right at first. It was not eaten. It represented payment for sin. The body of the lamb, however, was consumed, representing an intake of Jesus Christ Himself into the Christian, resulting in a becoming character-wise like Him. But a deadline was set on this physical intake, illustrating the spiritual fact that there is coming a time when this opportunity of taking in Christ's nature will no longer be available to mankind. It will end with the lake of fire. Now read Exodus 12:10: "And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn."
With the fulfillment of the meaning of that, the plan of God for the salvation, sanctification and identification of mankind with God will be complete.