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Without the Shedding of Blood April 13, 2017

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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.

While We Were Still Enemies March 1, 2015

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Romans 5:1-11

Second Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2015

 

Focus:  God sacrificed His own Son for His enemies (us).

Function:  That the hearers rejoice in their Savior.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

While We Were Still Enemies

 

Perhaps, by now, you’ve seen it.  I’m talking about McDonald’s new marketing campaign, that their food is so good, it’ll make even the worst of enemies love one another.  One of the ads they’ve been running so far this year does that, using pop culture from the last fifty years, it shows us bitter enemies, suddenly acting like best friends:

Pacman and the Ghost, Batman and the Joker, a dog and the mailman, Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, Spongebob Squarepants and Plankton, a lumberjack and the tree, Republicans and Democrats, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, Bowser and Mario, a dragon and a knight, a few Smurfs with the wizard Gargamel, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, a beachgoer and a shark, King Kong and the fighter pilot, the two Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, a Packers fan and a Bears fan who we’ll replace with a Vikings fan, and an angry cat with its owner.

I admit, I did chuckle when I first saw it.  But I don’t buy it.  There’s no way that those two robots who’ve been doing nothing but punching each other in the face since they were first designed back in 1964, there’s no way that they’re suddenly going to set the gloves aside and share a bag of French fries.  There’s no food that good.  Restoring a relationship with an enemy takes a lot more than that.

In our text today, Paul reminds us that we made ourselves enemies of God.  Let me paint the picture for you.  In a span of only six days, God created everything.  He created the earth, complete with its seasons and time, night and day, water and land, plants and animals.  The heavens filled with stars too numerous to count, with the sun shining brightly and giving us warmth.  Gravity, Thermodynamics, planets orbiting a sun in a solar system, DNA, and even billions of unique personalities.

God made it all!  And on the sixth day He took a step back, looked over everything and declared, “It is very good!”  Then He placed Adam and Eve, His creations, His people, His friends, He placed them into the garden.  And He gave it to them, He gave the Garden to them saying, “Take care of it.”  All of this vast creation and its beauty, He entrusted to us, to care for it, to preserve it, to help it grow and flourish.

But we know that didn’t happen.  We know that instead of choosing to follow God’s instructions, Adam and Eve chose the side of the enemy.  Despite all God had done for them, despite all that He had given them, they chose Satan instead.  They chose to follow the serpent.

It was a crushing blow to everyone.  It was more than an insult to God.  We betrayed Him, turned our backs on Him, spit in His face.  We chose the temptations of sin instead of His perfect love.  We broke our relationship with Him.  We broke the creation He entrusted to us.  And that’s when pain and suffering and death entered into the picture.  They didn’t exist before we messed it all up.

Now before you get all defensive and say, “Pastor, what do you mean we?  We weren’t in the Garden, we didn’t make that choice.  We’re just paying for their mistakes.”  Let me explain it to you another way.

At another point in history, God interceded, He broke in and tried to reclaim His creation.  He reached out to Abraham and cut a covenant with Him, saying “I will be your God and you will be My people.”  That covenant reestablished a relationship, God reached out to us and claimed us as His own.  And yet in spite of that, we did it again.  Again, we chose the enemy to love.  We chose the temptations and the desires and the sins.  We chose to abandon God and worship other things like money and power and food.  We abandoned God and chose to worship the devil.

Again, I say we because God made that covenant to include us.   But because it was broken, because our ancestors chose to leave it and not be God’s people, because they chose to sever the relationship, we are born outside of it.  We are born apart from a right relationship with God.  We are born sinful, separated from the One who made us.

And even if you still want to try and argue, we have no ground to stand on.  Just as Christ once called out to the Pharisees who wanted to stone the prostitute and said, “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone,” and they all dropped their rocks and walked away, we too know that we couldn’t have thrown the stone.  We know that we have sinned.  We know that we have put other things before the Lord, whether it was work or family, money or food, gossip or lies, whatever it might have been.

One sin, one broken command was all it took to cause thousands of years of pain and death.  One sin took a creation that was very good and made it into a place where the hearts of men were nothing but evil.  We have made ourselves enemies of God.  Both directly and indirectly.

That’s a gloomy picture, the outcome looks bleak.  And a Big Mac isn’t gonna fix it.  But then we hear the words of the Apostle Paul:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

We get his point, we really do.  There’s no way Batman is going to lay down his life to save the Joker.  We wouldn’t do that for an enemy.  In fact, if we’re honest, we’d struggle to do that for someone we care about.  And yet, that’s precisely what God did for us.  We weren’t righteous, we weren’t good, there’s nothing here that could be deemed worth dying for, but He still did.

That’s how deep the Father’s love is for His creation, for His people.  That once again, He would break into history by sending His Son to us, that He would go to the cross and suffer a painful death for those who hate Him.  God, help me to love that way.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

 

No amount of self-sacrifice from the lumberjack can give new life to the tree.  He just can’t do it.  No blood, no tears, no guilt, nothing can help that tree grow back again.  Nothing we can do anyway.  But the blood of Jesus, the blood He willingly shed on the cross for you and me, that can.  That blood can forgive sins.  That blood can fix the broken relationship.  That blood can cause the tree to grow again.

In the blood of Christ we are forgiven, we are healed, and our relationship with God has been restored.  That blood washes over us and delivers us from the wrath of God that we rightly deserve.  But as wonderful as that is, that’s not the end!

Christ doesn’t remain in the grave, but instead three days later, the Father gave Him new life.  And the Apostle Paul tells us that if we’re reconciled, if our relationship to God has been fixed by Christ’s death, how much more do we now have through Jesus’ life?

It’s not just the cross, but the empty tomb.  That as Christ rose again from the dead, so will we.  That as the broken world wilts and fades, as we suffer pain and death, as plants and animals around us fade, we have not just a promise, but a true and perfect hope in a resurrection.  Because if while we were still enemies of God, He loved us so much that He would give His Son for us, how much more, now that we are His children, now that the relationship is restored and beautiful again, how much more will He bless us with the good gifts that only He can give?!

11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  We rejoice.  We enjoy the gifts that God gives us, gifts of His beautiful creation, of countless days to soak in its wonders and the blessings of life together with other people, even with the animals and other parts of God’s creation.  We rejoice by spending time with our Lord and Savior in Word and prayer.  We rejoice by loving our enemies just as He first loved us.

A Happy Meal can’t fix it.  But God most certainly can.  And He has.  In the blood of His Son, God fixed our relationship, He healed us, He’s saved us.

 

Freedom by the Blood July 6, 2014

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Zechariah 9:9-12

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 6, 2014

 

Focus: God freed us by His blood.

Function: That the hearers rejoice in the blood of the Lamb.

Structure: This is the historical situation of the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

Freedom by the Blood

 

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation….”

The words of the prophet Zechariah mark a celebration, rejoicing.  They mark the arrival of a King, a King who would bring with Him peace.  Because of this, we can have this reading in the midst of our celebration.

As we come together this weekend, many of you are with your family and friends.  Many more aren’t here because they’ve traveled to see their family and friends.  We are celebrating.  If you were here in town just a couple of days ago, you would have seen the celebration.  The street dance, the festival, the food, the parade, the fireworks.  Stewartville loves to celebrate the 4th of July.

It’s Independence Day.  It’s the day we gather to celebrate the events that happened 238 years ago, as our nation’s Founding Fathers put pen to paper and signed the Declaration of Independence into existence.  It was fought for and won.  It’s been fought for by millions of men and women ever since.  And so it isn’t only a place on our calendar, but it’s the very freedom that makes this country what it is.

After decades of war and civil war, the remainder of God’s people were conquered by Babylon in 587 BC.  For roughly 50 years, they served in Babylon, many, if not all, under poor conditions.  They were weighed down, they were oppressed.  But in 538 BC, King Cyrus the Great led his Persian army against Babylon, and won.  God had sent him.  God had given him a mission.  “Set My people free.”  And so in that same year, Cyrus proclaimed that freedom to God’s children.  They were free to return to Judah and Jerusalem.

“As for you, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

After the United States declared their independence, there was a growing process.  It took thirteen years to get the Constitution in place.  It took time to figure everything out again.  It was no different for God’s people.  Not only did they not have a plan, they hadn’t even begun to think about what freedom might look like.

But God kept His promise.  He reminded them of the blood of the covenant, by which He pledged Himself to be their God, and they His people.  He never forgot.  He was still looking out for them.

So in the midst of their newfound independence mixed with confusion and chaos, God again provided for His people.  He gave them two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah.  In recent history, God’s people only knew the prophets for declaring bad things for them.  Isaiah and Jeremiah forecasted the doom of the nation.  Some prophets are so negative, you’ll never hear about them in most churches.

But not so with Zechariah.  Martin Luther said this about him:

“This prophet lived after the Babylonian captivity.  With his colleague, Haggai, he helped to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple and to bring the scattered people together again, so that government and order might be set up in the land again.  He is truly one of the most comforting of the prophets.  He presents many lovely and reassuring visions, and gives many sweet and kindly words, in order to encourage and strengthen the troubled and scattered people to proceed with the building and the government despite the great and varied resistance which they had till then encountered.”

It wasn’t often a prophet was sent to encourage and build up God’s people.  But in their newfound independence, delivered by the blood of the covenant, they were lost, and encouragement was exactly what they needed.  They had been free for 16 years and they had accomplished nothing.  Many of them, out of fear, hadn’t even left Cyrus’ Persia.

But in the year 520, that’s what Zechariah and Haggai did.  They empowered the people with God’s Word, and inspired them to return to their homes and rebuild.  And so they did.  And by the year 516 BC, the new temple was complete.  And they celebrated.  They’d been set free.

Zechariah did, however, leave them with a couple other prophesies to remember.  He warned them of people who would come, false christs, who would claim to be their Savior.  But these men would only lead them astray.

And then he told them of the true Christ.  Of the King who would come to them “gentle and riding on a donkey, the colt, the foal of a donkey.”  “He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  We celebrated this together on Palm Sunday just about three months ago.

But he also told them about the thirty silver coins and that their shepherd would be struck.  These events came to pass through Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ and then the crucifixion.  The King’s blood was shed.

The peace Zechariah proclaimed to God’s people wasn’t the peace they expected.  After the generations of war, they expected earthly peace, a ceasefire.  But that’s not what we needed.  Instead, God again provided for His people precisely what was needed.  And the blood was shed.

The blood of the covenant, which Jesus calls “the new covenant in My blood,” is again God taking care of His people.  By His blood you are free.  By His blood your transgressions have been forgiven.  By His blood, your sins have been washed away.  By His blood, you have been washed clean.  All of us, and now Emi, are white as snow.  We are clean, we are free.

But in our newfound freedom from sin, we are just like God’s people of old, just like the Founding Fathers of this nation.  We are lost.  If you doubt it, try to read through Paul’s statement again.  It’s tongue tangling!  “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

In our freedom, we’re lost and confused.  We allow ourselves to get caught up in the world and the culture around us.  We believe the lies and we give in to the temptations.  We listen to the false christs who lead us astray.  We seek the comforts of this world rather than rely on the only true source of comfort.

For this Paul tells us there is another law at work, a war being waged.  He says, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The peace that was prophesied wasn’t a ceasefire.  The peace that was prophesied was the blood of the Lamb.  That our sin is washed clean.  That we are free.  The peace of God is salvation.

And to help us in the present time, God has provided many gifts for His people.  There’s the gift of baptism, when God calls us His child.  There’s the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where He freely forgives us of our sins.  There’s the gift of the church and this community, where we gather together to be built up and encouraged.  There’s the gift of parents, teachers, pastors, and others who help to raise us in the one true faith.  There’s the gift of God’s holy Word, which continues to strengthen our faith as we read it daily.  God has richly blessed His people.

Zechariah closed his prophetic ministry with one more prophecy.  He foretold the coming day of the Lord.  He told the people that the day would come when “Yahweh will be King over all the earth.  On that day Yahweh will be One and His name One…Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”  When that day comes, we will no longer be lost or confused.  We will see clearly.  We will not only taste the freedom that we have in Christ, but we will enjoy to the fullest.  And it will be cause for celebration and rejoicing.

 

Blood of the New Covenant April 17, 2014

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Matthew 26:20-30

Maundy Thursday

April 17, 2014

Focus: God has made with us a new covenant.

Function: That the hearers confess their need for a Savior.

Structure: This is the historical meaning in the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

Blood of the New Covenant

 

As you well know, seeing as you’re here, today’s Maundy Thursday.  Today marks an important day in the middle of Holy Week, as Jesus has been in Jerusalem for a few days and the moment at the cross draws near.  But just what exactly is Maundy Thursday?  Outside of Holy Week, you never hear that word.

I could quiz my confirmation class right now, make Karl and Adam come up here and answer that for you, but that would be mean.  So I guess I’ll just tell you.  Maundy is from Latin, from the words mandatum novum, or in English, a new commandment.  It refers to the moments after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  It’s supposed to remind us of Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

But this year, this Maundy Thursday, we won’t focus on that aspect of the day.  Instead, we’re focusing on another new commandment that Christ gave that day.  We’re focusing on the Last Supper.  And in order to truly understand the Last Supper we need to see it for what it really is: a bridge, a link, a transition from one thing to another.

See the Last Supper isn’t just any meal.  It’s the celebration of the Passover.  It’s the celebration of what God has done for His people.  You know the connections, you know the accounts that I’m talking about.  In Genesis, God made a covenant with Abraham, that He would their God and that they would be His people.

But covenants are tricky things.  It’s not like a promise.  If you break a promise, not much happens.  Okay, maybe a little trust is lost, but that’s about it.  But not with covenants.  If you break a covenant, you die.  Bloodshed is required.  And that’s where all of the animal sacrifices came into play.  God allowed for their blood to cover our sins.

But eventually all of that sin led God’s people into slavery in Egypt.  And it wasn’t pretty.  You can’t make the pyramids without tortured slaves, harsh labor, and death.  God saw the pain of His people and He heard their cries.  And He acted.

Nine plagues later, Pharaoh still wouldn’t let God’s people go.  So God rolled out one last plague, the killing of the firstborn.  And He told Moses what to do.  Have them make a meal and eat it in great haste, for after this plague, they will be driven out of Egypt.  Put no leaven in the bread, as it won’t have time to rise.  Instruct the people to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on their doorposts.  When the angel of death comes, he will not touch their home.  They will live.

That’s where the name Passover comes from.  The angel literally passed over their homes and spared them.  And that night, the Egyptians, led by Pharaoh, drove the Israelites out of town.  They were free.  God had heard them and He had saved them.

For nearly 1500 years after that night, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.  The meal that reminded them of God’s redemption, of God’s deliverance.  That may seem hard to believe, but we’ve been celebrating Christmas and Easter for nearly 2000 years now.  So did they, year after year, they remembered.

And that brings us to the Last Supper.  Christ’s disciples certainly didn’t know it.  They assumed it was another Passover just like any other.  They assumed they were celebrating their salvation from Egypt.  And they looked forward to sharing it with Jesus, just as they had done the past three years.

They didn’t know that this night would be different.  They didn’t know that Jesus was about to change everything.  They didn’t know that that night would change their lives, and ours, forever.

But it did.  That night Jesus reinterpreted the Passover meal.  The Last Supper became a bridge from something old to something new.  A bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  A bridge between the old covenant and the new covenant.  A bridge between the Passover and the cross.

That night, Jesus reinterpreted the meal and all of its parts in light of Himself.  That night, the Messiah taught the disciples how all things pointed to Him.  The Passover deliverance, the meal, the prophets, the blood, everything was meant to point us to Christ.

The Passover meal begins with a blessing and the first cup of wine, and then a preliminary dish, an appetizer, of mostly herbs.  After that, the host, in this case Jesus, retold the Passover story, retold Israel’s history.  Then they drank the second cup of wine.

The host would then speak a blessing over the unleavened bread.  At that point, they would eat the main course, consisting of the lamb, bread, herbs and finally a word of blessing over the third cup of wine.  The meal would then conclude with some singing of a few psalms of praise, followed by the fourth, and final, cup of wine.

The Passover meal is highly scripted.  If a Jewish family were to invite you to their Seder dinner multiple years in a row, you would begin to notice and catch on.  So imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus broke from the norm and started teaching about Himself.

Imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus lifted up the bread and said, “this is my body.”  Imagine the disciples’ faces when Jesus lifted up the cup and said, “this is my blood.”  Imagine the disciples’ faces as Christ took the Passover meal and made it His, as He proclaimed Himself to be the Passover lamb for all people.

That’s the connection, that’s the bridge the Last Supper is building.  Passover, Last Supper, Lord’s Supper.  Christ calls it the “new covenant in My blood.”  As the lambs were sacrificed to save the Israelites, the final lamb, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed to save us.

We are sinners.  We, every one of us, have broken the covenant.  There is no hope of salvation for us now without the shedding of blood.  Without the sacrifice that passes over our sins.  It matters not if it’s lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy or pride.  We need a Savior.

This Maundy Thursday, we wanted to highlight and focus on the Lord’s Supper, on the new covenant, on the forgiveness of sins.  To help us do just that, I baked the bread.  And yes, it’s unleavened.  But today you will see your Pastor break the bread and give it to you, as Christ broke the bread and gave it to His disciples.

Today, you will partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Today you will come into His presence trusting in the words and promises He made in the Last Supper, that this is no mere bread, but His very body.  And this is no mere cup of wine, but His very blood.  Today, you come to His table, trusting in His promise, trusting His words, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Maundy Thursday is not yet over.  Know that the events that are about to happen are part of God’s plan.  Because we have sinned blood must be shed.  But take comfort, for Christ is our Passover lamb!  He is our Savior!  Come, remember, celebrate, and be forgiven!