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Without the Shedding of Blood April 13, 2017

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Exodus 12:1-14

Maundy Thursday

April 13, 2017

 

Focus:  God sheds His blood for us.

Function:  That the hearers come to the Lord’s Table to receive the forgiveness of their sins.

Structure:  Old Testament/New Testament type and antitype.

 

Without the Shedding of Blood

 

One of the things that a good sermon must do is to rightly apply law and gospel from the text.  It’s the job of your pastor to dig into the Word of God, to dig into the text for that day and see where we’ve failed.  What’s in the text that shows me my sin, how we fail to do what God created us to do?  And once that’s established, your pastor then uses the same text to show you the gospel, to literally preach unto you the forgiveness of your sins.  That ends up being perhaps the most beautiful thing about the liturgy.  Your sins are forgiven again, and again, and again, even in the same service.

I admit, this one was a little tricky.  As I read over the text, it was hard to find the Law here.  It was hard to find the Law in this text that applies to you and to me.  It’s easy to get it wrong.  I could tell you that based off of the Exodus Passover festival, you must do these things.  And since you’ve never slain a lamb and painted its blood on your door, you’ve failed. If I preach that, I’ve failed.

The Law in this text is so easy, we miss it.  The Law in this text is simply this: you ARE a sinner.  Actually, that’s the Law in all three of our readings here today.  There’s nothing here that you must do.  You don’t keep the Passover.  That’s been done for you, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit.  But instead, each of these texts plays out the same.  This is us.  This is simply who we are: sinful human beings, fallen creatures who stand apart from God.

Each of these texts says “this is who we are and this is how God responds on our behalf.”  Let’s walk through these texts and unpack that.

In our Old Testament reading today from Exodus, we see the account of the 10th and final plague.  The plague of the firstborn.  Hundreds of years before this text, God had made a covenant with Abraham, that He would be His God, and that Abraham’s people would be God’s people.

But the Israelites, as Abraham’s people come to be known, failed over and over again in being the people of God.  They kept longing for the gods of their neighbors.  They kept insisting on living life on their terms, not on God’s.  They were sinners.  And it’s not much later that they fall into slavery in Egypt.

And over the next 400 years, living as slaves from one generation to the next, the pattern continued.  Like a dog returns to its vomit, they returned to their idolatry, to their distrust.  And they wasted away in their sins.

But it was at this time that God acted.  He sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh demanding the freedom of God’s people.  And as Pharaoh rejected God, the plagues began.  And that cycle would repeat: Plague, rejection, plague, rejection.  Until we come to our text for today.  The tenth, and final plague that God inflicted on the land of Egypt.

You know it as the plague of the firstborn.  God, in His righteous judgment, as punishment for sin and rebellion, is going to strike down the firstborn son in every household, in every family.

But He also provided a means of grace, a way out.  God institutes the Passover.  Each family was to take a young lamb, without blemish, and slaughter it at twilight on the 14th day of the month.  Now this wasn’t just a cast off lamb.  This is a spotless lamb, from among your best.  This is a call to trust in God and to be His people.

So each family slaughtered their lamb.  And they took the blood of that lamb and used it to paint the doorframe of their home.  And then they ate it.  They roasted the lamb, and made a meal of it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  It was a meal eaten in haste.  There was no telling when the plague would strike, and as soon as it did, the Israelites would be fleeing from the land of Egypt and from the wrath of Pharaoh.

But in this we see the promise of God. He said,

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

 

Salvation, salvation in the blood of the lamb!  The Israelites listened, they slaughtered the lambs at twilight, they painted their doorframes, they ate a speedy meal, and then the plague struck.  And the Egyptians, Pharaoh, cast the Israelites out of Egypt.

Sinners, stuck in their sin, and God comes to them.  He comes to them in the midst of their sins, in the midst of their slavery, in the midst of their suffering.  And He gives them life.  He frees them from their bondage and forgives them of their sins.  God comes to His people where they’re at with His gifts, with His promises.

This event, to the Israelites, this was as a close a thing to Easter as they were going to get.  The Passover feast, or the Festival of Unleavened Bread, is one of the biggest celebrations of their church year.  And, the slain lamb for the forgiveness of sins leads to the rest of Exodus and Leviticus, where you can find the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system through which God gave His people the forgiveness of their sins.

But this event, as significant as it was, this was only the type.  A type is a foreshadowing, an earlier account pointing to some later event.  The antitype is that later thing, that greater thing, the fulfillment of it.  The Passover is merely a type.  It only points to the real deal.

That’s the profoundness of our reading from Hebrews.  We won’t focus on it, except one verse.  In verse 22, we hear the words “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

The Passover lamb, the burnt offerings, the guilt offerings, the sin offerings, the peace offerings, you name it.  All that blood to cover your sins.  The result of a broken covenant, the penalty of death.  Blood must be shed.  But even this is just a type.  It’s a foreshadowing of something greater.  Here’s an example from Leviticus chapter 5:

14 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 15 “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of Yahweh, he shall bring to Yahweh as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16 He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

 

Here’s my question for you: how could you ever know it was enough?  How could you ever know for certain, that your sins were removed from you?  How could you know that you didn’t unintentionally do it again the very next second?  How could you be sure of your salvation?  And how would we not run out of rams?

We are sinners, in need of a Savior.  And that brings us to the gospel.  Jesus and His disciples have been in Jerusalem now for a few days already, and it’s time for the Passover celebration.  It’s time for the regular, annual rejoicing and remembering of God’s gift in the blood of the lamb.

Scholars debate whether this was Christ’s 3rd or 4th Passover spent with His disciples.  But that number doesn’t matter.  As they recline around the table, and celebrate together, it’s familiar.  There are traditions, routines, common food from one year to the next, just like you will be doing at your family gatherings this weekend.

But then Jesus changes it.  Rather than just talking about the Exodus, He changes the script.  Jesus changes the Passover meal and its very meaning.  He takes the bread, blesses it, and then hands it to His disciples saying, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  And then He takes the cup, gives thanks, and passes it around saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

pause

“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”  This is the antitype.  Christ shows the disciples that the Passover itself pointed to something greater, it pointed to Him.  And while they didn’t understand it yet, the next couple of days would be devastating and wonderful at the same time.

And this is why you’ve gathered here today.  This is why we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the night Christ is arrested.  The night that His path to the cross is set in stone.  The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world is going to the altar to be slain.  To shed His blood for you, for me, for all people of all time and of all places.

Remember the guilt offering?  How could you ever know it was enough?  Where could your assurance be?  That’s not the case now.  Christ is the final sacrifice, the final blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.

That’s why, spacially, the church is designed this way.  It’s not just for aesthetics.  The cross hangs on the wall above the altar as a reminder to us that Christ’s death is the fulfillment of all sacrifices.  Type (pointing to the altar), antitype (pointing to the cross).  It is finished.

That’s the Law and Gospel, not just of these texts, but indeed, of all Scripture.  You are a sinner.  I am a sinner.  And apart from God, we’re dead.  Bound, slaves to sin.  Dead and without hope.  And, yeah, if the assurance of salvation rests here, the doubts will only consume me.

Simply put, we are sinners.  This is who we are.  But this (pointing to the cross), this is how God responds.  God doesn’t leave you in you there, dead in your sins.  He doesn’t leave you trying to work your way back to Him.  Trying to find, and climb, the stairway to heaven.  He came down to you.

So today, as you come before this altar, as you come together here in this place, to partake of the body and blood of Christ, your sins are forgiven.  They already have been in confession and absolution.  They already are forgiven in the words I’ve proclaimed to you now.  And you will be forgiven again in just a few moments.  And the beauty in all of this is that none of it depends on you.  None of this depends on me.  If someone asks you, “How do you know you’re saved?  Where’s your assurance?” you need only point them to Christ.  God has promised it.  In my baptism, in the spoken words of absolution, in the body and blood of the Lord at His Table, forgiveness and life are mine, they’re yours.

Faith in the Promises August 7, 2016

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Hebrews 11:1-16

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

August 7, 2016

 

Focus:  God keeps His promises to us.

Function:  That the hearers trust in the promises of God.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

Faith in the Promises

 

What a wonderful text that we have today!  As we pour into the book of Hebrews, we learn what faith is all about.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

So with just enough faith, if you just believe it to be true, whatever you hope for will be yours.  If I just believe it, it will become true.

Now, just two weekends ago we talked about our need for discernment.  Hopefully you discerned that what I just said was a load of rubbish.  Garbage.  Seriously, that kind of belief about faith is exactly what will undermine your faith.

And you know it.  You’ve seen it.  Let’s consider just a couple of examples.  Illness and death.  How many of us have lost someone we cared about?  We surely hoped they would get better.  We hoped they would recover and everything in our life would go back to normal.  But they didn’t.  Things continued to go downhill.  And we started to question whether we were praying right, were we praying hard enough.  We start to question if we really have any faith.

That same thing can be said about failing relationships, of losing of a friend or even a family member.  It can be said of our jobs, our careers, our livelihoods.  It can be said of our goals and ambitions in life.  If we just have faith, we’ll achieve anything we want.

This isn’t Christianity.  It’s the heresy we call the prosperity gospel.  That idea that if you just have enough faith, if you just believe enough, or try hard enough, or give enough, your life will be blessed.  You will prosper in all you do.  It’s almost like that old legend of Midas, that everything he touched turned to gold.  This is heresy.  It’s not faith.  And yet, this is what most Americans believe.

No, the author of Hebrews tells us what faith looks like, if only we leave it in the context in which he wrote it.  He’s going to spend this entire chapter giving us examples of what this faith looked like.  And here it is.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

So he starts with Abel.  Abel, one of the first sons of Adam and Eve, all the way back in Genesis 4.  Abel brings an offering before the Lord.  As a shepherd, he brings the firstborn of his flock, that first little lamb.  And his brother Cain also brings an offering, as a farmer, he brings some of his crops to offer to the Lord.  God saw the offering of Abel as pleasing, but not Cain’s.  Why?  Does God hate corn, or whatever it was Cain was growing?  Not at all.

This is a matter of faith.  Abel brought the first of his flock.  Cain brought some of his crop.  The difference is in their faith.  And here’s where we need to define that.  Faith is the Latin word for “trust.”  The difference is in their trust.  Abel trusted in God and in His promises.  Abel trusted that if he gave God the firstborn of his flock, God would still provide for him.  Cain didn’t.  He gave an offering, but it was leftovers.

The trust of God’s provision wasn’t there.  And so Cain gets angry, and over the issue of tithing, kills his brother.  Did Abel’s faith, his trust in God, lead to a long and prosperous life?  Quite the opposite, it got him killed.

Then we see Enoch, who we really know next to nothing about.  Enoch appears in Genesis 5, in the genealogy of Adam leading us to Noah.  Enoch is in that line.  We learn he is the son of Jared, we learn he fathered Methuselah, and we learn that he lived 365 years.  We learn that he walked with the Lord, and that then the Lord just took him away.  Enoch is just one of two people in world history that we know of who never saw death.  Faith, trust in the promises of God.

Because even as early as Genesis 3, there’s already the promise of a Savior.  Even in the moments after the fall, in the moments after Adam and Eve sinned and broke this perfect creation of God, even then, God is already promising hope, life, and salvation.  He’s already promising a Savior, a champion over sin, death, and the devil himself.  That’s where the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen comes from.  That’s the source, it is the object of our faith.  A Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom Abel and Enoch placed their faith, their trust.  They had never seen Him, but they were convinced, they were sure.

We also get Noah, and not the cutesy version.  God tells Noah of a global destruction, a catastrophic event the likes of which the world had never seen.  It was a promise, and Noah believed it.  Noah went out, and as he was instructed, he built that ark, together with his sons.  And when the time came, and God sent the animals to board the ark, so did Noah, his sons, and their wives.  They hadn’t seen it, but they believed it.  They weren’t righteous, they weren’t good, but on account of their faith, their trust in God, they were saved.

Then we get Abraham, or Abram at this point still.  And as he’s living in the land of Ur, God calls out to him, makes great promises of innumerable offspring, a nation for himself, and wealth beyond compare.  Just imagine that call, and it was a unique call, but just imagine God saying that to you, calling you to leave behind everything you know, and to trust Him alone.  To go to a foreign land, with nothing but your wife and the clothes on your back.

And then the author is nice to Sarah as he looks back on her.  That God promised her a child, and that He delivered on that promise.  Now, we could quarrel over how strong her faith actually was, over just how much she actually trusted that promise from God, as she laughed at the very thought of it.  But nonetheless, God’s promises depend not on us.  He fulfills them.  And He gave her a son, and they named him “he laughs.”  Or Isaac, as you know him.

From our last paragraph of our text today, verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, none of these saw Jesus Christ.  None of them saw the Savior of promise, the Messiah to whom all of the Old Testament points.  But they trusted, they were waiting.  Verse 16 concludes in saying “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.”  Salvation is theirs in Christ.

So many people today ask that question.  “But if we have to believe in Jesus to be saved, what happened to all those people who lived before Jesus died on the cross?  Are they saved?”  It really is a common question, and the Scriptures answer it.  Right here, in this text.  They are saved, not by what they did, but on account of Christ.

And this verse, which we should all commit to memory, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  This verse about faith, this is true today, too.  This verse applies just as much to you and me as it did to them.

Think about it.  The Lord’s Supper.  How many of you can truly say you understand it?  That somehow, this bread becomes the flesh of Christ.  That somehow this wine becomes the blood of Christ.  And yet, at the same time, they’re still bread and wine.  This is what Luther meant when he described the sacrament as “in, with, and under.”  He meant, we have no clue how it works, we just trust that it’s true because God said it, because God promised it.

And baptism is the same.  When we baptize someone, can you see the forgiveness of sins?  Can you see the Holy Spirit create faith in their hearts?  Can you see that same forgiveness granted in the Lord’s Supper?  Can you see that same forgiveness in confession and absolution?  We can’t see it, but we trust it’s there.  We trust because God promised us.  And God is indeed faithful.

That’s faith, that we trust in His promises, even though we can’t see them, we can’t see the forgiveness, we can’t see the risen Jesus, but nonetheless we trust.  We don’t trust in the things of this world, our relationships, our wealth, our health.  We trust in God.  And we put our hope in His promises.  Your sins are forgiven in the blood of Christ.  And in His resurrection, you too have the newness of life.