Saved by Sacrifice
What happens in Communion? Why do Christians eat the bread and drink from the cup?
As we seek to answer these questions, not many of us think to look back to Moses. If we stand too close to his story, all we’ll have is a truncated view of the bulrushes, burning bush, and plagues. But if we step far enough back, we will see and be able to share the glory of God’s big picture.
To set in motion the exodus of His people Israel, God, passing through the land in judgment, sent the last of ten plagues on Egypt, and every firstborn Egyptian was killed. The Israelite firstborns also would have died, for they were not innocent of sin, and sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). But God provided a way of escape for them through the Passover. When the Lord saw the blood of a sacrificed lamb on a doorframe, painted up using a hyssop plant (Exodus 12:22), He passed over that household.
In the Old Testament, this passing over was the great act of God’s salvation. In and through it, God taught His people a vital principle: God saves by substitution. He saved these people because animals were sacrificed in their place. As Moses records, that night in Egypt “there was not a house where someone was not dead” (Exodus 12:30). A son had died, or a lamb had died. God’s people deserved death for their sins, but because they trusted in the sacrifice of another, as God had commanded and that God had provided, they were delivered. Every year throughout Old Testament history, God’s people looked back to this event and remembered that great truth: God saves by substitution.
All those years and all those feasts underline the significance of the moment when, as John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Here was someone who was God’s provision to save His people from sin and set His people free, just like the Passover lamb.
Israel’s exodus is a foreshadowing of mankind’s great exodus: when men or women, deserving God’s judgment, trust in the blood that was shed on their behalf on the cross, they find freedom from sin. Every shackle is broken, just as the Israelites’ chains were shed when they were set free from slavery.
Next time you are thinking about Communion, consider the story of Moses, the burning bush, and the plagues. Then connect the dots and remember that the reason we take Communion is because Jesus is our sacrifice. He is the Lamb of God. He is your substitute. You have no judgment to fear, for it lies behind you, paid and dealt with at the cross. You are on the way to the promised land.
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