As Passover approaches, we have a special reminder to focus on the virtue of innocence: a lamb.
Specifically, the Passover lamb is our picture of purity surrounded by utter darkness. To understand the importance of the innocent sacrifice, first we must confront the depravity of man that caused the first Passover.
In Exodus 12, God concluded His series of 10 plagues by causing the death of the firstborn sons in Egypt to drive Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. The Lord brought death to the firstborn son of every home in Egypt unless its residents spread the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts. The Lord spared those homes, for the sacrifice of the lamb satisfied His command.
A Spotless Sacrifice
God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb as an intentionally chosen picture of His holiness. He commanded that the Passover lamb be “without blemish” in Exodus 12:5. An untainted sacrifice is of the utmost importance throughout Scripture.
Think back all the way to the second generation of humanity: Cain and Abel. Both brothers brought a sacrifice from their respective fields of work—Cain’s fruit of the ground (Genesis 4:3) and Abel’s firstborn of his flock (v. 4). It always piques my curiosity that Cain’s offering was not accepted. But the reason is simple: Without the innocent blood of a choice lamb, Cain could not gain God’s favor as Abel did. God prioritizes spotless blood sacrifices.
God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in Genesis 22. When Abraham took his son to the mountain to sacrifice him, Isaac asked where the lamb was for the offering. Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (v. 8). With his own son, the blessed child his wife Sarah miraculously conceived, Abraham was prepared to make an excruciating blood sacrifice to the Lord. God spared Isaac and instead let Abraham sacrifice the blood of a ram, but Abraham was prepared to sacrifice the lamb, his own son, as our holy God commanded.
Why Is Blood So Important?
Blood was the key component of each of these sacrifices. That’s no coincidence—blood is essential in taking away sin. Hebrews 9:22 reads, “According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”
Just as the blood of the spotless lamb saved the Israelites from the 10th plague, so, too, does the blood of the spotless Son of God save us and make us clean.
The forgiveness of sin clearly revolves around the shedding of blood. But why is it necessary? Leviticus 17:11 answers that question: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I [God] have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” We need a blood sacrifice because it is the sign of life. A body cannot survive without blood. When the Israelites made these sacrifices in the Old Testament, life was offered back to God, the Lifegiver.
Our sin has always been our reason for needing a blood sacrifice. Since the first sin of Adam and Eve in the garden and the sin nature that resulted in all people, we have been separated from the God with whom we were designed to have fellowship. God cannot tolerate sin in His holy presence. As a result, we’ve found ourselves in need of an unblemished sacrifice to atone for the sin separating us from God. Just as the blood of the spotless lamb saved the Israelites from the 10th plague, so, too, does the blood of the spotless Son of God save us and make us clean.
An All-Encompassing Sacrificial Lamb
Throughout Scripture Jesus is heralded as the Lamb of God. The Messiah is given this title in Isaiah 53:7, as His suffering is compared to that of a lamb:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
John the Baptist gave this same designation to Jesus at the start of His earthly ministry, as John exclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” in John 1:29. Peter even makes a specific reference to Jesus as the Lamb in 1 Peter 1:19, saying, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Several times throughout Revelation (5:6, 12; 13:8), John makes reference to Jesus as the Lamb who was slain, showing the eternal significance of His sacrifice as the Lamb of God.
What a perfect picture Jesus’ death creates to parallel the Passover lamb! The Son of God took the humble form of a human being, surrounded by a world corrupted by sin, and made Himself not like a conquering lion, but instead took the role of the most meek, subordinate, selfless creature on Earth: a lamb. He shed His blood to cover our sins and reconcile us to the Father, just as the Passover lamb’s blood covered the Israelites’ doorposts to save them from God’s wrath. He knew we could never atone for sin on our own, and He knew the only way we could ever enjoy fellowship with Him would be through His sacrifice.
The Blood That Lasts Forever
No other sacrifice would suffice for our sin. The innocence of an animal, often a lamb, was necessary in the Old Testament for sacrifice. Yet the blood of animals could never purchase anyone’s salvation. God required a spotless offering, clean of impurity, to cover the filthy sin of one offender. To cover the sins of all mankind, God required the most perfect Lamb: Jesus, His only Son.
I love how Hebrews brings together Old Testament sacrifices and Jesus’ sacrifice. We know that God commanded Israel to sacrifice the blood of animals in the Old Testament. It couldn’t atone for their sin, no matter how many lambs were sacrificed; it could only show them that they were incapable of covering their own sin. But Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross offers permanent fulfillment. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). This sacrifice was final. It brought an end to the rigorous offering requirements of the Old Testament: “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (10:11–12).
Let this Passover be a time to reflect on the perfect innocence of Jesus, our Passover Lamb who died to take away the sins of the world once and for all and now offers salvation freely to everyone. Without His blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin. Through Christ’s sacrifice, we can have final, secure redemption from sin and freedom in Him.