Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – The Darkness & Passover Plagues Prefigure Christ (Exodus 10:21-12:51)

Two key plagues that Egypt suffers prefigure Christ. First, the plague of darkness: “So, Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days… There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again” (10:21; 11:6). Compare these verses with Matthew 27:45-46, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'”

In Egypt, there was darkness in all the land for three days. During Christ’s crucifixion, there was darkness over all the land for three hours. The great cry that went across all the land of Egypt was the cries of the suffering Egyptians when their firstborn children and livestock were killed. This points to Christ as God’s “firstborn,” only-begotten Son who cried out on the cross just before His death, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Imagine Mary’s cry too, who witnessed the brutal suffering and death of her Son.

This brings us to the first and final Passover. In Exodus, the people of Israel had to paint lambs’ blood on their doorposts so that death—that is, God’s wrath—would pass over them (Exodus 12:7-8). (Also noteworthy is that the shape of this blood on their doorposts was in the shape of the Hebrew “t” letter, tav [ת], which in Greek is transliterated to tau [τ] that makes the shape of a cross.) This is why the Jews have long observed the Passover, also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:17). Just as the blood of the lambs marked Israel safe from God’s wrath, so the blood of the Lamb marks us safe from God’s coming wrath.

In the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, eternal death passes over us—that is, God’s wrath passes over us. As St. Paul says, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). Jesus’ question, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” is more rhetorical in nature to fulfil Psalm 22. Jesus was forsaken so that you and I wouldn’t be.

There is also a reason why Jesus instituted His Supper on the Passover (Matthew 26:17-28). On this Passover, Jesus instituted His true body and blood in the ordinary elements of the bread and wine to give us forgiveness of sins, as He says. We therefore consume the blood of the Lamb of God that literally marks us safe from God’s wrath. Not because of anything we have done or can ever do, but solely for the blood of God’s precious Lamb whom He provided for the sacrifice.

The blood of the Lamb of God was not only sacrificed on the cross “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10), but we also consume it in the Lord’s Supper to receive the forgiveness of sins and be marked safe from God’s just punishment, both temporal and eternal. It was no symbolic blood that saved Israel from God’s wrath, but actual lambs’ blood that marked them safe. So it is with the blood of Christ in the Eucharist. It is no symbolic blood in the Supper that forgives us and marks us safe, but Christ’s actual blood, just as He says, “poured out for many,” for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

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