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The Blessing of Passover April 2, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Mark 14:12-26

Maundy Thursday

April 2, 2015

 

Focus:  God does the work.

Function:  That the hearers live as forgiven children of God.

Structure:  Bridging the Old and the New.

 

The Blessing of Passover

 

The week is proceeding according to plan.  We have celebrated the arrival of Christ on Palm Sunday as He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  He then cleansed the temple and cursed a fig tree on Monday, spent His Tuesday teaching in the temple courts, and on Wednesday, Judas hatched a scheme to betray Jesus for what amounted to 30 pieces of silver, or about 1/3 of a year’s pay.

So today, we find ourselves gathered together for worship on Maundy Thursday.  Maundy is from the Latin words mandatum novum, which are actually the first two words of John 13:34 in Latin, “A new commandment I give to you.”  But even though that’s not our text for today (you’ll just have wait until next year to hear about the new commandment), we can look at something else new that happened on Maundy Thursday.

In fact, over the course of our Scripture readings today, we actually get several new things.  And there’s a common thread, there’s something binding all of them together.  And that’s what we want to look at today.

Mark chapter 14 begins with the words, “And on the first day of Unleavened Bread.”  So before we can even start to look at the events of Maundy Thursday somewhere roughly around the year 30 AD, we have to rewind, we have to return to the year 1446 BC, to the year that Moses returned to Egypt under God’s command, “Set My people free!”

Moses recorded these events for us in Exodus chapter 12.  We learn that God spoke to him and told him about the 10th plague, the plague of the firstborn.  That every firstborn son in the land of Egypt would be killed.  But at the Lord’s command, the firstborn children in the homes of the Israelites would be spared.

So the Lord speaks to Moses and says, “This shall be the first month of the year.”  That’s one that we don’t really ever talk about.  As God is preparing to deliver His people from their slavery in Egypt, He actually tells them that they’re starting a new calendar.  Right now, this moment, is day one of a new year.

And it’s totally unlike our New Year.  We celebrate a New Year and we come up with some kind of a resolution.  And within the first week, we’ve failed.  A New Year means new things to do.  More work to be done.  But not here.  See, this new year begins with God.  It begins with what God has done for them.

Every time you think about the calendar, every time you celebrate a new year, you can remember how God delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians.  You’re free!  It’s not what you do: it’s what God’s done for you.

God continues, and He instructs Moses to tell all the people of Israel that on the 10th day of the month, they are to go out and find a lamb without blemish and bring it into their homes.  And then on the 14th day, at twilight, they are to slaughter the lamb, take its blood, and paint it on their doorposts.  When the angel of death comes that night, he will pass over their homes.  Their sons will be spared.

Then they are to roast the lamb.  There’s dinner to be had and a good one at that.  Roast the lamb, all of it, and eat it together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This meal is about haste.  There’s no time to let the dough rise, that’s why it’s unleavened.  There’s no coming back for leftovers tomorrow, because you won’t be here.  So finish the meal, leave nothing for the morning.  “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste.  It is Yahweh’s Passover.” (Ex. 12:11)

The Lord then told Moses that this was to be a memorial, a regular celebration among the people.  At this time every year from this point forward, celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrate the Passover.  Remember that God has delivered you and your families from Egypt.  He has saved you.

Begin the week, on the 14th day of the first month of the year, begin with a holy assembly.  You shall do no work that day.  All week long, there shall be no leaven within your homes.  And on the last day of the week, again, have a holy assembly, and do no work.  It’s all to remind God’s people that He has saved them.  He has done the work.

In one of his other writings, Numbers chapter 29, Moses actually tells us that even though it starts on the 14th, there’s also a big feast on the 15th.  You can only imagine, that on the day after the Passover, after Israel had fled Egypt, they celebrated with a feast.  A new year with a new feast.

And in our Old Testament reading today from the book of Exodus, we see Moses come down from the mountain of God with the law in hand, with God’s instructions for how His people were to live.  And they gladly received them and pledged to do them.  It’s the Ten Commandments, a new law, a new word from God to live by. And yet, this is something we struggle with today.

My favorite way to number the commandments is actually different than what we find in our Small Catechisms.  Back in the days of Jesus, the synagogue actually began the numbering of the commandments not with “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Not at all.  Instead, they began with the verse before it: “And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:1)

The synagogue, known for its rule-abiding religious leaders, like the Pharisees, actually based the commandments on what God has already done for us.  They rooted it in the power of the gospel, that God has saved us.  That’s irony; it’s beautiful, but it’s irony.  A new year with a new feast and a new set of commandments, but it all starts with God.

And so we jump back to Mark chapter 14, to roughly 30 AD.  It’s the Thursday after Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem.  Unbeknownst to eleven of His disciples, He’s already been betrayed.  It’s the 14th day of the first month of the year.  It’s the day that the Passover lambs are to be slaughtered at twilight and then roasted and eaten for dinner.  It’s the day for the feast of haste, for the first day of the Passover of Unleavened Bread.

And Christ sits down with His disciples to eat this meal together, to celebrate salvation together.  They were just doing what they always did.  It was a Passover just like any other, their typical celebration of a fun holiday…until they did a double take.  Until Christ changed the script and said something completely different.

And then in their very midst, He changed the celebration altogether.  We get another new thing.  “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”  This is roughly when the night shifts.  This is roughly the time when Judas departs to go and find the soldiers to lead them to the garden.  This is roughly the time when things start to click, and the disciples start to realize that things really are happening here in Jerusalem.  This is it!

But, they still didn’t fully get it.  Jesus even gave them a pretty clear hint: “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  But Jesus, tomorrow’s the 15th, what about our even bigger feast than tonight?  You couldn’t possibly not have wine tomorrow!  But He didn’t…a little vinegar, but no wine.

A new covenant in the blood of Christ.  It’s not something we do, it’s something He did for us.  That He willing went to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.  That He allowed Himself to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, tried, and then finally crucified, died and was buried.

And out of this new covenant, we receive the forgiveness of sins.  It’s nothing we do, it’s what He’s done for us.  As we come today to His table in His presence, we take of that blood, we partake in the new covenant which He so willingly gave for us.

In our sinfulness, this is a struggle for us.  We want to do the work.  The Israelites wanted to be out of slavery, but they couldn’t free themselves.  The people at the foot of Mount Sinai so gladly and so willingly received the commandments and said, “All the words that Yahweh has spoken we will do.”  And yet, they failed.  They couldn’t follow through.  And neither do we.  We fall short, we fail to keep the commandments that we so willingly pledged ourselves to, whether in our baptisms or in confirming our baptisms.  We can’t do this alone.

Whether it was the Passover, the Commandments, or the New Covenant, it all starts here (pointing to the cross).  It’s not about what we do.  It’s about what God has done for us and how that transforms who we are.

Through the Passover, they were no longer slaves, but a new nation, God’s nation.  Through the 10 Commandments and the giving of the law, they were no longer people with no leader and no direction, but they knew and trusted that they were headed to the Promised Land.  And through the blood of the New Covenant, we are no longer failed sinners destined for the fiery pits of hell, but we are children of God, blessed, redeemed, and forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  We are no longer destined for death, but for life, and it all starts right here (again, pointing to the cross).

 

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