Exodus 13:14-16 14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
The Lord gave his people commemorations to help them remember what God had done, hope in God’s future faithfulness, instruct the next generation, and to focus their hearts and minds on following God. The consecration of the firstborn pointed back to God’s deliverance at the first Pentecost, but it also looked forward to a future firstborn who would be both offered and spared.
The New Testament refers to Jesus as the firstborn, but what does the Bible mean by that? Jesus had two natures—divine and human. His divine nature took on humanity. As God, the Son of man had no beginning, but in his incarnation (coming to earth) he took on humanity. The Jesus that was born to Mary was both human and God. As a human Jewish child, Mary and his stepfather Joseph consecrated him as firstborn just as Exodus 13 commanded.
Jesus in his humanity also stands as a representative for all of humanity. When the Epistle to the Romans refers to Jesus as the second Adam it is referring to both Adam and Jesus as representatives for all of humanity. Just as the Passover sacrifice and consecration sacrifice pointed to the need of a substitute for the whole family, the sparing of the firstborn due to sacrifice was symbolic of the consecration of all who were in the family. Jesus then by nature of his perfect sinless life and his status as Son of God and Son of Man, is able to be both the firstborn who takes the penalty for humanity’s sin, and the firstborn who is delivered from the penalty sin.
As believers, Jesus is both our God and our older brother. Colossians 1:15 says of Jesus, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Our salvation then is tied to the death and the resurrection of Jesus. See verse 18 “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” For those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, his death takes the place of our death. Likewise, his resurrection is the guarantee of our future resurrection.
As Mary’s son, Jesus was the firstborn Son of Man, as the uncreated and eternal Son of God, Jesus was God’s appointed firstborn representative. That is why Hebrews 1:6 can say, “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” It is why we who are in Christ can be called what Hebrews 12:23 calls us, “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”
Exodus points us back to what God did, but it also points us forward to what God was going to do. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is also the firstborn slain for the sin of his fathers. Jesus is finally, the firstborn delivered from death through his resurrection. As you meditate on the Exodus this week, give thanks for what Christ has done for you.