Blood of the Lamb

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” the child asks. The golden twilight feels heavier than usual. Father ties up his sandals hurriedly and mother paces looking out the front window. Dustier by the minute, neighbors and friends suddenly stir up the narrow streets with suspense. Bleating little lambs, anxious shouts across the houses, serious murmurs swirl along this evening breeze. The child listens for the answer to his question, he knows something is coming, but cannot understand.

Father leaves with his knife, mother sweeps the dirt out the front door. Sister sets the table and makes the little ones put on their shoes. The family sits at the table, silently, waiting. Mother is breathing steadily fighting to relax her shoulders with every exhale. But when Father returns, she breaks into a relieved smile. He sets a delicious roasted lamb in the midst of his family and they feast like never before. Satisfied and full, the child almost forgets the strange ritual of his family that night. But his unanswered question still hangs in the darkened, quiet house. It is evening, and mother pulls her children close as they drift to sleep.

Screeching commotion. The child blinks his sleepy eyes in the middle of the dark black night. Running, gathering, crying, rejoicing. Passed over from the angel of death who visited Egypt that fateful night taking the lives of the eldest children. But here, tonight, the firstborn children are alive and well in this house. Devastated Pharaoh declared the Israelites must leave immediately, and God’s people are set free from slavery! Soldiers are rushing friends and neighbors out of their dark houses. The child clutches tight to mother’s hand as his sandals walk out of his childhood home for the last time. A sweet inhale of a new beginning fills his lungs for the first time, looking up at the millions of stars God shines on his path forward. But something drips on his forehead, standing under the doorway of his house that night. 

The blood of a slaughtered Lamb is spilled for this child. He is free.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” the child asks. The dusky horizon is thick with anticipation. Father bursts open the door surrounded by strange men. Mother is surprised at the unexpected crowd. She is preparing the special meal for the family, but thirteen more guests just walked through the door. The child recognizes a man in the middle of the group, he is the healer, the teacher, the one who they say will be king. The child ponders the commotion this evening, he knows something is coming, but doesn’t quite understand.

Father leads the men to the room upstairs, mother works in the kitchen below. Two gentlemen linger downstairs with the family, chopping and pouring, laughing and talking. A happy spirit sings out from the house this night as friends and family, and now even strangers are celebrating the yearly Passover meal. The Feast of the Unleavened bread, wine, food and prayers break through the quiet streets of Jerusalem.

Father falls asleep, mother puts away the cups. But the child wonders at the serious talk in their upper room. He tiptoes up the stairs and hides himself behind the door. 

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” 

Although he doesn’t quite see, the boy hears the institution of a new Passover meal. Wine and bread, a sacrificed Lamb who is Jesus Christ. The child could never forget the strange words from the lips of the Son of Man that night. “Eat, Drink.” It becomes dark, and mother finds her lost boy to put him to sleep.

Passionate wailing. The child blinks his sleepy eyes in the early morning. Men and women gathering, talking, yelling. The man from the upper room is in trouble. Condemned to die, dragging his tortuous cross to the hill outside the city. Soldiers are laughing and pointing. The child clutches tight to mother’s hand, as a bloody body hangs for all to see. A deep dark cry fills his tiny soul for the first time, looking up at the stricken Son of God dying on a cross. But something drips on his forehead, standing under the Savior that day.  

The blood of a slaughtered Lamb is spilled for this child. He is free.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” the child asks. Quietly sitting in church as the sun sets on this Thursday night. Soft music and warm light fill the sanctuary where he has grown up. Father opens the worn, familiar hymnal, mother folds her hands. A crowd of people he knows from Sunday morning gather in the pews beside his family. Pastor proclaims the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The child hears this night is called Maundy Thursday. It is the beginning of an ancient three-day worship service, The Triduum, including Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are celebrated on the three days preceding Easter. He hears that these three days will tell him a story that has changed his life. So, the child listens closely, he knows something is coming, but doesn’t yet understand.

Tonight, he sees bread and he smells wine. Tonight, he hears body broken and blood shed. Tonight, he listens to God’s story of justice, sacrifice, and mercy told in the context of a heavenly feast. During the Exodus, a sacrificial lamb marked the people God would save from death. During the last supper with his disciples, Jesus was the celebrated Passover Lamb who was prepared to die. God has often remembered His beloved people by the blood of a Lamb. This Lamb of God was, is, and will be between the wrath of God and His people. Jesus’s blood is a new covenant, one of merciful forgiveness on account of Christ, and tonight it is dripping from the cup right before the child’s eyes.

Praising and signing, eating and drinking, proclaiming the Lord’s death and resurrection until He returns. Maundy Thursday is only the beginning of the long grievous road Jesus must take before “it is finished” three days later. This night foreshadows the Lord’s triumphant celebration feast to come, resulting from His excruciating journey to the cross. Good Friday, night, death, and darkness are coming.  But on Maundy Thursday, even a child enters Christ’s holy path of pain focused on the hope of a promised Lamb.

Sure enough, the blood of a slaughtered Lamb is spilled for this child. He is free.