Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
September 4, 2011 Pentecost XII
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
From the Book of Exodus:
The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
From St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.
And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Our Old Testament reading today was on the Passover. We don’t usually talk about the Passover during the summer months; we think of the Passover at Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday and Easter. But it is very appropriate to talk about the Passover for the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Passover marked a new beginning for the Jews and bound them together as a nation. When the Lord liberates you from bondage, it’s the dawning of a new day and the beginning of a new life. Whenever you meet the words “redeem” or “redemption” in the New Testament, they speak of freedom from slavery. There were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire. Jewish believers would immediately think of Passover and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through the blood of the lamb.
The Jewish nation in the Old Testament had two calendars, a civil calendar that began in our September – October, and a religious calendar that began in our March – April. New Year’s Day in the civil year or Rosh Hashanah fell in the seventh month of the religious calendar and ushered in the special events in the month of Tishri:
the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. But Passover marked the beginning of the religious year, and at Passover, the focus is on the lamb. Our sacrificial lamb is Jesus Christ.
Isaac’s question “Where is the Lamb?” when he was about to be sacrificed, introduced one of the major themes of the Old Testament as God’s people waited for the Messiah. The question was ultimately answered by John the Baptist when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). That the Passover lamb is a picture of Jesus Christ is affirmed in the New Testament by the Evangelist Philip (Acts 8:32-35; Isa. 53:7-8) as well as by the Apostles Paul (1 Cor. 5:7), Peter (1 Peter 1:18-20), and John (Rev. 5:5-6; 13:8).
The lamb was chosen and examined on the tenth day of the month and carefully watched for four days to make sure it met the divine specifications. There is no question that Jesus met all the requirements to be our Lamb, for the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). During the days preceding Passover, our Lord’s enemies questioned Him repeatedly, waiting for Him to say something they could attack. During His various trials and interrogations, Jesus was repeatedly questioned, and He passed every test. Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), did no sin (1 Peter 2:22), and in Him there was no sin (1 John 3:5). He’s the perfect Lamb of God.
On the fourteenth day of the month, at evening, the lamb was slain (Ex. 12:6a-7; 12-13, 21-24). And its blood was applied to the lintel and side posts of the doors of the houses in which the Jewish families lived. It wasn’t the life of the lamb that saved the people from judgment but the death of the lamb. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). Some people claim to admire the life and teachings of Jesus who don’t want to deal with the cross of Jesus; yet it’s His death on the cross that paid the price of our redemption (Matt. 20:28; 26:28; John 3:14-17). Jesus was our substitute; He died our death for us and suffered the judgment of our sin (Isa. 53:4-6; 1 Peter 2:24).
However, to be effective, the blood had to be applied to the doorposts; for God promised, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13). It isn’t sufficient simply to know that Christ was sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). We must appropriate that sacrifice for ourselves and be able to say with Paul, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), and with Mary, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46). Our appropriation of the Atonement must be personal: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
The Jews dipped flimsy hyssop plants into the basins of blood and applied the blood to the doorposts (Ex. 12:22). Hyssop was later used to sprinkle the blood that ratified the covenant (Ex. 24:1-8) and that cleansed healed lepers (Lev. 14:4, 6, 49, 51-52). Our faith may be as weak as the hyssop, but it’s not faith in our faith that saves us, but faith in the blood of the Savior.
The lamb was roasted and eaten and the eating was done in haste, each family member ready to move out when the signal was given. The meal consisted of the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, each of which symbolized an important spiritual truth.
We trust Christ that we might be saved from our sins by His sacrifice, but we must also feed on Christ in order to have strength for our daily pilgrim journey. As we worship, meditate on the Word, pray, and believe, we appropriate the spiritual nourishment of Jesus Christ and grow in grace and knowledge.
Along with the lamb, the Israelites ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Tasting the bitter herbs would remind the Jews of their years of bitter bondage in the land of Egypt. For us, it reminds us of the bondage of sin and death. Their bread was unleavened or without yeast for two reasons: there wasn’t enough time for the bread to rise (Ex. 12:39), and leaven was a symbol of impurity to the Jews.
Yeast is an image of sin: it’s hidden; it works silently and secretly; it spreads and pollutes; and it causes dough to rise or be “puffed up.” Both Jesus and Paul compared false teaching to yeast (Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Gal 5:1-9), but it’s also compared to hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) and sinful living (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Paul admonishes local churches to purge out the sin from their midst and present themselves as an unleavened loaf to the Lord.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother” (Matt. 18:15). When sin is not dealt with honestly, it always spreads. What was once a matter between two people can grow to involve four or five people. This is why both Jesus and Paul compared sin to leaven, because leaven spreads.
If any meat was left over from the feast, it had to be burned. The lamb was so special that is couldn’t be treated like ordinary food. In a similar way when the Israelites were in the wilderness, the manna was special and couldn’t be hoarded from day to day, except for the day before the Sabbath (Ex. 16:14-22).
Though there were many Jewish households in the land of Goshen, God saw all of them as one congregation. When local Christian congregations today meet to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, God sees each individual assembly as part of one body, the church. That’s why Paul could write about “the whole building.. the whole family..the whole body” (Eph. 2:21; 3:15; 4:16). Israel was one nation because of the blood of the lamb, and the church is one fellowship because of Jesus Christ.
“Love one another” is the basic principle of the Christian life. It is the “new commandment” that Christ gave to us (John 13:34). When we practice love, there is no need for any other laws, because love covers it all! If we love others, we will not sin against them. As believers, we do not live under the Law; we live under grace. Our motive for obeying God and helping others is the love of Christ in our hearts.
We have come a long way in our reasons for obeying the law: from fear to conscience to love to our devotion to Jesus Christ! As His servants, we want to be found faithful when He returns. The completion of our salvation is near! The light is dawning! Therefore, we must be ready! The Christian wears the armor of light, not the deeds of darkness.
Jesus Christ is the sacrificial lamb! He is the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. As we remember the Passover, let us remember the body of Jesus Christ, broken for you; let us remember the blood of Jesus Christ shed for you. May the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, assure us of His grace and a place in His everlasting kingdom.
Let us pray:
O Lord, most merciful and gracious God, who art the strength of all who put their trust in thee. May we love others as you have loved us. Give us the courage to proclaim your saving grace which has been made possible in the broken body and blood of your only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we live and pray.