Monday, April 29, 2013

Positioning Passover Pronouns

What amazes me about language is how one simple pronoun can change the meaning in an entire text. 

Imagine if I told my daughter, "Bring a necklace downstairs."  Using that pronoun, I'm likely to get anything from broken Mardi Gras beads to her church-only bling.  However, if I said "bring the necklace," this implies a specific piece we've already discussed.  If I change the pronoun again, saying "bring your necklace," my daughter would know not to raid my jewelry cabinet.

While this is a rather meaningless comparison, sometimes in Scripture, understanding God's true intent seriously comes down to a pronoun, or, rather the pronoun God chose.

Consider His instructions in Exodus to the Israelites concerning how they were to prepare the lamb for that first Passover sacrifice so the death angel passed over their household, leaving their firstborn sons untouched.  God said:

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.  Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats" (Ex. 12:3-5).

Note the progression of pronouns--"a" to "the" to "your," working from general to specific.  It is a picture of what would have happened in this lamb selection process and, more importantly, a picture of Christ as our sacrificial lamb. 

For the Israelite, the lamb would initially be a lamb, merely one chosen for being without blemish from a thousand or more others in the fleecy flock .  Tradition shows this lamb would have then been brought into the household, living with the family from the tenth until the fourteenth day of the month.

Once selected, a lamb became the lamb the family would sacrifice at Passover.  For those Israelites back in Egypt on that first Passover, it was not a way of salvation from the curse of the firstborn's death but was the only way.  

Then, in five days' time, the lamb became your lamb, one that knew and responded to your voice, one that had come to trust you so that when you led it to slaughter at twilight on the fourteenth day, it went willingly with you.  

Imagine what this must have been like.  Place one hand on that lamb as its lifeblood pours out.  Take this active part in its death.  It is impossible to think of the animal as anything but your lamb since you are the cause of, the reason for, its death.  Its sacrifice saved you and your family.

Compare this symbolic series of actions with Jesus, whom John the Baptist referred to as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn. 1:29).

When He began His ministry, many believed Him to be merely a prophet.  Yet, He soon declared Himself not to be a lamb of God but the lamb, the door, the gate--the only way into heaven.

Gentle, meek, and mild, Jesus would have made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem with thousands of other lambs headed towards their Passover slaughter.  Yet, even in the midst of all those other lambs who would be sacrificed for the various families, He was the once-in-all-time perfect, spotless Lamb to be sacrificed for all mankind.

And in that instant, He became your lamb, dying for your sins, saving your soul with His sacrifice.

His Sacrifice became personal.  It wasn't just for mankind in general.  He died for you and you and you.

Just a few simple pronouns...yet, such a powerful message of what Jesus becomes to each of us who seek His face, repent, and accept His gracious, merciful gift of salvation.  He becomes our lamb.

Other Articles in this Jewish Feasts Series:
Preparation Day: 'Go to Church' or Worship
Reorienting Our Lives: 50 Days From the Cross
Understanding the Jewish-ness of Jesus
The Truth About Passover

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