Exodus 12:1–4, (5–10), 11–14 (NRSV)
Chapter 12The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: Verse 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Verse 3Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. Verse 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Verse 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Verse 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. Verse 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. Verse 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Verse 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. Verse 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. Verse 11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. Verse 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. Verse 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Verse 14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
The Exodus story narrates the struggle between the Lord and Pharaoh concerning to whom the people of Israel would belong. Would they belong to Pharaoh, the false human lord who enslaves and imposes hard labor? The god of death? Or would they belong to the Lord, the true divine being who frees and saves? The struggle was long; it was life and death. In the end, “death” is exactly what it took for the Lord to free the people and claim them as his own. At the Passover, the Lord sent the angel of death to claim the firstborn of every family, both human and animal. Death passed over the homes in which the blood of the lamb had been painted on the doorposts and lintels. The result was life, freedom, and a lasting relationship with the Lord. Centuries later, God’s own firstborn Son, the true Passover lamb, died to secure new life for all.
Lord of life, from death you create life. Send forth your Spirit, to renew the face of the earth and grant us new life. Amen.