“Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every family must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a household is too small for a lamb, it along with its nearest neighbor will procure one, and apportion the lamb’s cost in proportion to the number of persons, according to what each household consumes. Your lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole community of Israel assembled, it will be slaughtered during the evening twilight.” ~ Exodus 12:3-6

David and I are participating in a study of the book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist for Lent. It’s a fascinating look at what the original Passover and Exodus was, what it had evolved to be for the Jews by the time Jesus walked the earth, and how He purposefully modeled His ministry to be the NEW Exodus, with the NEW Passover (or perhaps purposefully set up the “original” to foreshadow, since we know He’s the author of all).

There are so many fascinating historical details in this book, so many “Ohhhhh!” moments I’ve already had in the three weeks and three chapters. But today I want to focus on one little detail of the original Passover narrative.

One little detail that I’ve noticed before but had never really paused to fully think through.

“You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month…”

So on the 10th of the month they select a lamb and they “keep it” until the 14th.

How do you suppose each family kept the lamb, when they were living in a city? For that matter, how would each one “keep it” when they were in the wildness, after they’d selected it? What did this “keeping” entail?

It meant that they took the lamb into their house (or tent or dwelling, whatever the case may be). It meant they lived with that lamb for four days. It meant that they fed it and gave it water, and that the children probably petted it and played with it (because we all know what happens when kids and small animals meet, right?). It means that this people who identified as shepherds–who took care of their lambs, who would go off in search of the one that had strayed, who would fight lions and other wild beasts to keep these lambs safe…they gave very preferential treatment to this beautiful, perfect, spotless lamb.

They made it, for four days, a part of their family.

And then they sacrificed it.

Just pause for a moment. Let that sink in. And ask yourself WHY God, through Moses, commanded this.

Why did He tell them to choose the best of their herd? Why did He tell them to keep it for four days? Why couldn’t that part happen on the day of Passover?

Because this lamb wasn’t just giving its life for their food. Not even just as what would become normal offerings throughout the year. This lamb was literally saving the life of their firstborn. A direct trade–its life for his. The blood of this lamb told the Angel of Death “Don’t stop here.” It marked that house as belonging to God.

It was supposed to hurt.

It was supposed to be hard to kill that lamb.

It was supposed to cost them something.

It was supposed to make them pause and consider how important this was. How much it meant. What belonging to God demanded and gave. It was supposed to matter.

And let’s note that God gave the instructions not just for that FIRST Passover, but as what should be done every year. That same process for the lamb, yes–but also the instructions for what to say. Every year, even thousands of years later in the time of Christ, the father of every household said these words, when the child asked why they observed the feast: “It is because of what the Lord did FOR ME when I came forth out of Egypt.” (Emphasis mine, Exodus 13:8.)

Even from the beginning God was setting in motion a ritual that would make certain each new generation experienced this miracle anew. That each one understood how serious it was.

Christ set up the same instruction for us, with the Last Supper. He told us, too, to eat His flesh just as the Israelites had to eat that lamb they had sacrificed. Why? Because only His blood will save us from ultimate Death. Only His blood marks us as belonging to God.

So…what about those days, then? What about taking the lamb into the house? What’s the parallel for us today, as Christians, who don’t bring in a literal sheep or goat?

How are you taking Jesus into your house in the days leading up to the Paschal celebration? How are you dwelling with Him? How are you drawing closer and closer, so that when you relive the events of those three miraculous, earth-shattering, history-changing days, it hits you anew, as if you were there in Jerusalem for the Last Supper? As if you were there on the hill of Golgotha?

This is why the season of Lent has been part of the church for so long. Not just four days, but forty. Forty days to grow closer to your Savior. Forty days to invite Him anew into your house. Forty days to make Him a part of your meals, part of your conversations, part of your prayers, part of your daily life in a new, deeper way. Forty days to remind yourself of how He is your friend, your brother, your King, your rabbi, your everything.

Because then, when you look anew on the cross, it will be real to you. Then, when you take the bread and the cup, you’ll remember what it cost. Then, when you explain to your children or grandchildren or your own stubborn heart why we observe this same thing year after year, you’ll know the answer.

“It is because of what the Lord did for me when He went to Calvary, when I came forth out of sin and into true life.”

Bring the Lamb into your house this year, friends. And lavish love upon Him. Because we need to remember what our salvation cost.

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