7–13 February 2016.
Exodus 12 has all the characteristics of a frightening horror story. It begins with the killing of a lamb, holding it down while it kicks and struggles, drawing a sharp knife across its throat and collecting the blood that spurts out. It talks about smearing that hot blood over the doors of houses. It talks about a frightening angel of death. And it talks about the terrible killing of innocent children all over Egypt. These are images that we would expect from a Hollywood horror film. That’s why in this ancient Jewish story, it’s so hard for us to recognize the God of love and mercy we know in Jesus.
But while this is a terrible horror story, it’s also an important story of God’s grace. That’s because the Israelites who were saved on that Passover night were not saved because of who they were, and certainly not because of how holy or good they were. There was no essential difference between those Israelites in a house with blood smeared on their door and the Egyptians who lived next door. They were all unrighteous, all sinners. According to the story, the only reason some lived was because they were covered by the blood of the lamb.
For Martin Luther, the famous church reformer, this was an important lesson for Christians to learn. Are we Christians any better than our neighbours? Are we any more righteous or holy? Of course not! We are just as sinful as our neighbours. Luther said that the only difference is that we are covered over by the blood of Christ, which hides our sins from view. So we have no reason at all to look down on others or think of ourselves as better than them.
But once we learn this lesson about the saving blood of Christ, what do we do with that knowledge? Back in Egypt, I wonder if any Israelites told their neighbours how to be saved? Did they desperately encourage their neighbours to quickly come and stay safe under the passover lamb’s blood? We don’t know. But I hope we Christians today really will encourage our neighbours to take shelter under the saving blood of Christ.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis