When Israel suffered under the cruelty of Egyptian slavery, God visited His people and delivered them through a mighty act He called His Passover. In preparation for the Lord’s Passover, the Israelites were commanded to set apart a Passover lamb and slaughter it. Then, dipping a hyssop branch into a basin filled with its blood, they were to daub it on their lintel and doorposts. This sealed everyone inside from the judgement about to fall on the land of Egypt. The Israelites then ate the lambs. As they ate, safely inside homes covered by the blood of the lambs, the angel of death moved through the land of Egypt, bringing terror to everyone outside and death to any and all firstborn. Israelites sealed by the lamb’s blood were spared. The angel of death – the Lord – passed over their homes. It was the Lord’s Passover. That final act against rebellious Pharoah and the fake Egyptian gods, set Israel free from slavery, free to live in the kingdom of God – for the Lord was their king and bringing them to a new land.
As the apostle John wrote his Gospel, he emphasizes the timing of these events in three different places. Jesus was crucified on the “Day of Preparation.” Some suggest that this is the day when all the Passover lambs were slaughtered in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover meal.
If this thought was indeed the case, then a rich reality unfolds that good Friday. As the lambs are being slaughtered in remembrance of the first Passover when Israel was delivered from the hand of Egypt, the final, perfect Lamb of God offers Himself as the Passover sacrifice that sets sinners free from slavery to sin, death, and hell. The spotless Son of God lays down His life to deliver you. He seals you from the judgment to fall upon the earth. Covered by the blood of God’s Lamb, you are rescued from your sins that lead to death and condemnation. God’s innocent Lamb suffers so that you may live.
Others suggest the Day of Preparation referred to all the cooking and other work needed to be done before the Sabbath day – the day of rest – began at sunset. When the Lord gave the Sabbath command to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, He said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” The Lord’s command also fits His pattern of creation. He did all His work for six days. When it was finished, He declared it “very good.” Then God rested on the seventh day.
Likewise, Jesus labors on the sixth day. Though He could have stopped it at any moment, He suffers at the hands of sinful men, subjects Himself to God’s burning anger unleashed on Him for the sinfulness and every sin that you, me, and every human being has ever committed, and He lays down His life. Paul speaks of how one might dare to die for a good man. When I hear that, pictures of rescue moments – pushing someone out from being hit, taking a bullet for another – these come into my mind. That’s the “work” that Jesus did – and not for good people. For sinners. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In a mysterious way, He suffered the rejection of God and the loneliness of being forsaken because He carried the weight of our sin. Jesus once told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work. The culmination of Christ’s work unfolds on Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus suffers for the world.
Christ’s work of redemption by means of the cross is preparation for you. The Lord told His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross was a very real preparation for you, me, and all believers. As He sheds His blood for our sake, the angel of death passes over us, meaning that a place in God’s eternal kingdom has been prepared, and indeed it’s ours now. For “our citizenship is in heaven.” Though we live in the veil of tears, you are citizens of God’s kingdom, as a result of your Lord’s work. After Christ Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit, He was laid in a tomb where He rested from His work.
Christ the Lord offered Himself as the once-for-all Passover Lamb, shedding His blood as your covering that redeems you from slavery to sin, death, and hell. You may serve your Lord in gladness – not fearful of condemnation, not mortified by death, and not terrorized at the prospect of hell. For the Lord has prepared a place for you in the kingdom of His Father.
Sometimes what I’m about to say next catches people off-guard, but it’s so very important! The Lord accomplished all this while still on the cross. As He commended Himself to His Father and bowed His head in death, Jesus uttered one word: “tetelestai.” That word means so much for you and me. It means everything in the world. “Tetelestai.” In English we would say, “It is finished.” The sacrifice is complete. The debt is been paid. The innocent has taken the place of the guilty. Sins are taken away. Death has passed over. You are set free from sin. Satan is chained up. Hell’s reign of terror is done. Jesus has prepared a place for you, and the kingdom of heaven is opened to you and all believers! It is finished. God is propitiated. His anger is stilled. Though we offended our Creator, justice is served. Jesus – God’s Lamb – secured our redemption. He gave His life voluntarily as a ransom for many.
Today is not a day about feeling sorry for Jesus. Today is not a funeral service for Jesus. Today is a day in which we mourn our sin, give thanks for our Savior, and proclaim the great work He has done to cover us from death and prepare a place for us in His Father’s house. The Lord wants you to remember why this day occurred. “For the joy that was set before Him” – your salvation – Jesus “endured the cross, despising its shame.” That’s what Scripture says.
Jesus went through suffering at the hands of men and God’s judgment in love for you, so that all who believe may have eternal life. Because we already know the outcome. We aren’t left in suspense. Jesus defeated sin, death, and hell on the cross. So once death claimed Him, it had to let Him go, and He arose on the third day. Thus, today is Good Friday. Jesus is our Passover Lamb – who sets us free to live, serve, and love eternally to the glory of God. Amen.