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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.

The Blessing of Passover April 2, 2015

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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).