There is a certain radio news commentator whose style I enjoy. He tells things in such an interesting way. In one of his features, The Rest of the Story, he gives down-home” accounts of sometimes ordinary and sometimes historically monumental incidents. He brings each account to its seeming conclusion, and then after a dramatic pause, he says, “…and now the rest of the story.” I, too, am thinking of such a story just now—a historically monumental story—a Bible story.
To me, one of the most interesting biblical accounts is that of the Passover. Oh, it didn’t begin with the Exodus from Egypt as some might suppose. It began long before that, with drought and famine in the land of Canaan—a famine that the sons of Jacob feared they could not survive. On their father’s advice, they made a decision to act. In a delegation they went to seek aid from the powerful, awe-inspiring monarch of Egypt, because through wise advance planning, the grain storehouses down there were full.
Little did those sons of Jacob know that Pharaoh’s chief economic planner was none other than their despised and rejected brother Joseph. They had hated him so much that they had sold him to the Arabians. That’s right! They had sold their own brother—and yet God had intended even that for good. Because so many years had passed, Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him when they got to Egypt. Oh, he knew them, all right, but he didn’t let on that he did. He treated them like total strangers, and he even set them up with a bad rap so he could frighten them into bringing his younger brother Benjamin next time. Well, after some suffering and a few tears, a great family reconciliation took place, and the whole clan, including Father Jacob, took up residence in Egypt.
It should have been merely a temporary arrangement, but it didn’t turn out that way, as sometimes happens with temporary arrangements. When the famine was over, Jacob’s family did not return to their God-appointed land. They were too comfortable in Egypt. Unknowingly, by neglecting to act on God’s promise that they would occupy the land, they pawned their national birthright. They ended up “on the shelf” in Pharaoh’s hock shop, and suddenly it was too late to go back.
A new dynasty had come into power. The new Pharaoh did not know Joseph or his family, and he felt no particular gratitude toward them. The Hebrews became serfs, like everyone else in Pharaohland. But then it got worse. They incurred even more disfavor because of their high birthrate. Fearing that the Hebrew population explosion would shake all of Egypt, Pharaoh intensified their slavery. He not only required more work than they could do, but also decreed infanticide for all their newborn male children. What the Hebrews finally had to face then in Egypt was far worse than the famine their ancestors had escaped in Canaan. But God, with whom they had made the forgotten covenant, never for one moment forgot them. He purposed to redeem them—to buy them back from the predicament they had gotten themselves into.
This time, however, they had to do things his way. Not one soul was going to leave Egypt alive without following the Almighty’s instructions. His means of rescue and the price of redemption was a yearling lamb. There had to be one lamb for each household. Those to be rescued were to feast on that lamb after they had painted its blood on their doorposts. They were to finish the whole lamb at one meal, and they were to eat the banquet in a stance of readiness, alert to leave at a moment’s notice. That meal was the Lord’s Passover.
The call came, and amidst many miracles, God redeemed the multitude that had come to Egypt generations earlier as a small, half-starved desert clan led by an aging patriarch. Now God had further instructions for them. They were to remember that first Passover night forever. Once a year, on the 14th day of the first month, every Hebrew family was to feast on a yearling lamb to celebrate that great rescue. And so a holiday was instituted. And to this day, Jewish people observe it.…
And now, here’s the rest of the story:
God had been good to his people. He had provided everything they needed. He had even fought their battles for them. But still, well, you know how people are. They were somewhat less than grateful. The fact of the matter is that they sinned, and they continued to sin, though not in the same way as when they had built and worshipped the golden calf. But it was not only the Hebrews who sinned; it was all people. And now it was up to God to provide a bigger, better, more lasting rescue for everyone. So instead of sending lambs for every family on earth, God appointed one Lamb—one sacrifice. That’s right, only one.
The irony of it all is that it was not the sheep that was sacrificed, but the Shepherd. And in that one sacrifice, all the families of the earth can find salvation if they apply the blood to the doorposts of their hearts. Death passes over the soul of each person who is protected by that sacred seal. But there is even more to this story.…
That Shepherd was not merely a man, or just any man. He was a very special man, one whose true identity proved to be a shocker. That’s right. It was a shocking turn of events because that Man was God himself who came down to rectify a hopeless situation. He came down to be not only the Redeemer, but the price of the redemption. But that is not the end of it yet.…
Unlike that lamb in ancient Egypt and the many subsequent lambs that were slaughtered for Passover feasts, this one Lamb (who was a man, and who was, in fact, God) didn’t stay down. Oh, no. He rose from the dead, and he is alive. And he will intercede for us right now, if we ask.
But even that is not the end of the story, for the rest of the story is yet to come. That Lamb of God is coming back some day. He is coming back to redeem body and soul, all who believe in him and to unite them with God. That will be a celebration to end all celebrations.
And now you know the rest—and the best—of the story!