In ancient Israel, God instituted the feast of Passover. Each household was to slaughter a lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of the home. Lambs were sacrificed for the sake of entire families:
“Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:21-23)
God’s final plague had been prophesied upon Egypt, and only those homes protected by lamb’s blood would be spared. The plague was not for the heads of households. Rather, the plague was upon the firstborn children. If a man happened to be a middle child, or the youngest sibling in his family, he was in no danger. The plague would not touch him. Still, he applied the blood of the lamb to his home, to protect his firstborn child.
When God’s people spread lamb’s blood on their doorposts, it usually wasn’t to save themselves.
It was to save their children.
The Passover feast was the greatest and most central feast celebrated by God’s people, prior to the coming of Christ. And from the beginning, it was a feast centered around family relationships, and the protection of one’s children.
According to St. Justin the martyr, Jews normally impaled the lamb on a piece of wood, and then put another piece of wood crossways, to which the lamb’s legs would then be tied, in preparation for roasting.
“For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb.”
~ Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho – chapter XL
The Passover lamb was roasted on a cross of wood.
Its body was eaten by all in the household.
The lamb’s blood saved them from death.
The Passover lamb pointed forward to the coming of Christ.
“For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
(1 Corinthians 5:7)
Jesus was crucified on a cross of wood.
His body and blood are eaten by all in the Church.
The Lamb’s blood saves us all from death.
And it is not just a salvation for individuals.
It continues to be a salvation for entire families:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children . . .” (Acts 2:38-39)
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. . . . she and her household were baptized . . .” (Acts 16:14-15)
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:31-34)
“I thank God . . . when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice . . .” (2 Timothy 1:3-5)
Israel’s Passover lambs shed their blood to save children, to protect families.
Christ, our Passover lamb, shed His blood to save us, and our children, and our children’s children, even unto a thousand generations.