The plot to arrest Jesus and have Him executed had been in the works for many months. John the Apostle says that from the time Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath in John 5, “the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him” (John 5:18). During the Feast of Booths in John 7, John again says “the Jews were seeking to kill Him” (John 7:1). The only reason they failed to lay a hand on Him or stone Him in the Temple court is because his hour had not yet come (John 7:8).
It was the plan of God that the crucifixion of His Son would coincide with the Jewish Feast of the Passover. Centuries before Jesus was born, God had rescued His people from slavery and death by giving them a strange command. God had announced a final and most horrifying plague would come upon Egypt. He declared that the Angel of Death was about to come upon the land, taking the life of every first born son.
But with that announcement, God also provided a way for the first born sons in Jewish families to be protected. On the tenth of the month, they were instructed to gather together and prepare a meal. The menu was to feature a lamb – one without spot or blemish. But before the cooking began, the Jews were instructed to take some of the lamb’s blood, and paint the doorposts of their home with it.
God told His people “I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 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” (Exodus 12:12–13).
It’s not that the Angel of Death needed some kind of marker on the doorposts to know which houses to visit and which homes to avoid. God commanded the painting of the doorposts so that for centuries, His people would recall that it was the blood of a spotless lamb that had kept them from certain death.
So it was in the plan of God from ages past that His own Son, the perfect, spotless “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) would be offered up at the beginning of the annual celebration of God’s rescue of His enslaved people.
The events of the first Passover, it turns out, had been ordained by God 1500 years before Jesus was born as a huge flashing neon sign that, only in retrospect, would reveal the sovereign purposes of God. Just as the blood of a lamb had been the instrument of salvation for the children of Israel in bondage in Egypt, so the blood of the perfect Passover Lamb would bring salvation to all who would trust and follow Him.
The writer of Hebrews would look back on the death of Jesus and declare that the Jewish sacrificial system, commanded by God in the years following the Exodus, had always been intended not as a means of salvation, but as a sign for God’s people. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” he wrote (Hebrews 10:5). Instead, he said “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
Five hundred years before the Jewish people were instructed by God to save themselves by painting doorposts with the blood of a lamb, there was another lamb that kept the nation of Israel from becoming extinct before it ever began. As Abraham raised a knife to take the life of His only Son, God held his hand and provided instead a lamb caught in a nearby thicket as the substitute sacrifice that would spare Isaac’s life.
During this Holy Week, we cannot read the account of Abraham on Mount Moriah or the events of the Exodus without recognizing what these events had in view – the death of God’s Son as the payment for our sin. The very name Mary and Joseph gave their son points to His death – the fulfillment of His mission. As He Himself declared “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
This week, we cry out “Hallelujah – what a Savior. The perfect Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
Here’s a quick COVID update, just in case you haven’t heard.
1. The vaccine is now available for everyone age 16 and older in Arkansas. If you want the vaccine and you haven’t scheduled your appointment, it’s time to get in line.
2. The Governor has lifted the statewide mask mandate. Our Mayor is keeping the mandate in force in Little Rock for now. As a church, we will continue to have everyone remain masked during the service at this time.
3. COVID infection rates have been declining in Arkansas for the past three months. Let’s continue to pray that the trend continues.
4. Some states are seeing an uptick in COVID infection rates. And there are many health officials who are very concerned about a possible “fourth wave.” They are urging us to continue to be cautious. This is not a time to be careless.
5. The vaccine appears to be very effective. The director of the CDC reported this week on new data that shows that “vaccinated people don’t carry the virus” and “they don’t get sick.” As an example, in the state of Ohio, 1.9 million people have been fully vaccinated. So far, among those who have, a total of only 34 people have subsequently tested positive for COVID. Five of the 34 had to be hospitalized. No one who has been fully vaccinated has died from the virus.
As a church, we are continuing to monitor the progress being made in the fight against COVID-19. We continue to follow the dictates of our governing authorities. Now that the vaccine is available for all adults in Arkansas, we are beginning to anticipate a date when our worship services will be “mask optional.” Please continue to pray for us as we seek to provide guidance about how we can move back in the direction of normal while continuing to keep one another safe.
GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE – Fri, Apr 2
This Friday night at 7:00, we will gather to reflect again on the death of Jesus – God’s offering of His own Son as our Savior.
EASTER – SUN, APR 4
And then this Sunday, we will come together in person and on line to celebrate Jesus’ triumph over sin and death and hell as we gather for Easter. We’ll have childcare for kids 3 and under on Sunday.
Take a minute right now and ask God if there is someone you should invite to join you for either of these two upcoming services. And then text them with the invitation!
Have you put these upcoming events on your calendar yet?
Friday night, April 30 – A Gathering for women. More details soon.
Saturday, May 22 – A float trip on the Buffalo River for students – and for anyone else who is looking for a great way to enjoy the great Arkansas outdoors.
Wednesday nights in June – Parking lot picnics for everyone, with special activities for kids each week.
Saturday, July 10 – a trip to Magic Springs Amusement and Water Park in Hot Springs, capped off that evening with a concert from Rend Collective.
Save these dates, and keep praying that the COVID trends make all these activities possible for us.
For those interested in finding out more about becoming a member at Redeemer, plan on joining us for our membership get together on Saturday morning, April 10 at 9:00 am at church. There is some reading and on-line viewing we ask you to do in advance of the meeting. If you’d like to find out more about the new members class, email Pastor Matt and let him know you’re interested. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Easter,” N.T. Wright says in his book Surprised By Hope, “was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.” We’ll see how the resurrection of Jesus set in motion God’s plan to reverse the curse.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!