Friday, March 27, 2015

The Passover

The Passover feast is a celebration of the time when God, by His Mighty Hand, forcibly removed His people, the nation of Israel, from involuntary servitude in Egypt. He eventually brought them into their own land and settled them there, but they were commanded to remember that Day annually when God acted on their behalf and saved them from bondage and servitude in Egypt.

The Passover celebration took prep time but it always ended with the eating of a meal that was symbolic of their hasty departure from the land of Egypt. At the first Passover, young lambs were slaughtered for the feast. The blood of these lambs was painted on the doorposts and lentils of all the houses where the Hebrew people lived. God was about to judge Egypt with the death of all her first born and the Destroyer (angel of death) would recognize the Hebrew houses by that blood and pass over it, saving it's first born inhabitants from God's wrath that was being poured out upon this nation. God did this for the Hebrew people because of the promises He had made to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is a God that keeps His promises and He is also a gracious, forgiving God to those He calls. And such was the occasion on the first Passover.

The people roasted the slaughtered lambs, ate it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread and drank some wine. The lamb provided a mark that set them a part with it's blood. The bitter herbs reminded them of their bitter bondage in Egypt. And the unleavened bread was the bread of haste. There was no time for a nice yeasty loaf. In the morning the Lord would call and they would have to depart quickly. It was a time of thanksgiving and it was a time of sadness. Many died in Egypt on that night. If the blood of the lamb was not on your doors and lentils, your firstborn would perish in God's judgement. But it also represented a new day for God's people.

Fast forward now almost 1500 years to Passover in Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples have taken to the upper room. They are in the midst of the meal. Jesus knows His time is short. He has been trying to reveal as much as He can to his disciples so they will be prepared for the events that are about to unfold. Here is how it went down.

Luke 22:14-23

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.[a] 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, John the Baptist announced Jesus as "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world". After three years of teaching and preaching, Jesus was now ready to become that lamb in the fullest sense. He was betrayed by one of His own, He was tried by the authorities, both Jewish and Gentile. And he was finally executed by the state. Prior to those events though, Jesus transformed the meaning of the elements of the Passover. The unleavened bread would represent His body and the fruit of the vine would represents His blood. From this point on, when His disciples ate this meal, they were to remember Him and offer thanksgiving for the grace and love of God that was made available to all humanity by His selfless act.

Brethren, Christ is our Passover lamb. It is His blood that is painted on the door posts and lentils of our hearts. It is His mark; a sign to His Father, that when judgement comes, He will pass over us. We will be saved by the blood of Christ and the grace and love of the Living God.

It is a powerful thing. He brings us out of the land of sin and selfishness and makes us new. We are His new nation as promised; a people called by His name. We are His light in a dark world.

In today's church, we celebrate what Christ did for us when we take communion. It is not the Passover meal of the Jews, but is to be a time of remembrance and thanksgiving. It is not to be a time of repentance or petition for forgiveness; the time for that was before you approached His table.

It is to be a time of celebration! The creator God of the universe loved us so much that He saved us in spite of our choices. We are forgiven. We are free. We will live and reign with Him forever. The cost was high, but Jesus turned our mourning to joy. We no longer need to fear the wrath of God.

We are saved. Remember that when you take the cup and the bread on Sunday. Praise God for His grace.

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