Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 12: Passover Celebration
March 28, 2010
· 073, Leftovers
· Exodus 12:1ff
Scripture reading: Exodus 12:37-42 (Michel Jevons)
Q What do you think of when I say that something is “symbolic”
· “Loaded with meaning” – that painting is really symbolic.
· “Representative” – a bald eagle is the symbol of America.
· “Not really real” – the congress’ apology to Native Americans is just symbolic, it doesn’t mean anything.
But we don’t think of them as being deadly serious – if you forget to wear your wedding ring on day, it doesn’t mean your marriage is over (unless your wife finds you in a singles bar).
But today we are going to study the Passover and see that God considered some symbols to be a matter of life or death, and in fact, he still does.
All of human history is a story of us being slaves to sin and death, and you pursuing us with all of you might to deliver us. Help us to understand the depth of your deliverance.
The 1st Passover
Last week we talked about how Israel were slaves in Egypt and how God used the plagues to demonstrate his power over all the gods of Egypt (including Pharaoh himself) and deliver them.
· In this week’s reading, we read about their deliverance.
But before they head out, God has them throw a party. It’s kind of a strange party – there are specific instructions on the decorations, menu, the dress, and the seating arrangements.
Exodus 12:5-11 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire – head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
The blood was to protect them from the 10th plague, the death of the first born (they were automatically exempt from the other plagues). The rest of the special arrangements are so that they will be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Then everything happens as God said it would. The 10th plague did what the others could not:
Exodus 12:29-32 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
And then we read about the exodus, as Michel read. But as I read the story, something struck me: Moses interrupts the action to list a bunch of rules about the Passover and how it is to be celebrated in the future.
Deadly serious symbols
It seems strange (and anticlimactic) to me, like interrupting the big showdown in a movie with a gun safety course flashback. But let’s go with that analogy – why would a screenwriter do that? Because something important will happen there.
· We are being told just how important these rules are, but even more, just how important Passover was.
Passover was a symbolic reminder of slavery and deliverance, of all the plagues and what God did to save them. It was a mixture of the 4th of July and Easter.
God considers this symbol a matter of life or death. Anyone who don’t celebrate Passover or celebrate it wrong “shall be cut off from Israel.” This either means exile or execution; in either case it’s pretty severe for missing a party.
And God was right – it was a matter of life or death. Celebrating Passover and the other traditions God gave them was a matter of survival for Israel.
As they came back into Canaan, there was still a threat of assimilation, of losing their identity. It was vital that they remember both who they were and who God was.
The reason for the plagues was to demonstrate God’s power over idols, but that lesson could be forgotten in one generation.
Exodus 13:3, 8-10 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast...On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.
Every year they remembered the slavery, the plagues, the Exodus, and remembered that they were God’s special people and that he was the sovereign over everything.
how do I know God was right about the “deadly seriousness” of this symbol? Because Israel is the only nation to ever survive 1,900 years in exile, because of the Law.
The Passover was observed from that day forth (with varying faithfulness). By Jesus’ day, there were many long standing traditions. He celebrated it as a good Jew in a form that would be understood by Jews today, down to the Hebrew liturgy.
· I wish I had time explain it because of the rich imagery.
· I can do even better; we’re holding a Passover feast April 1st.
As you may know, the Last Supper was a Passover supper. What is so interesting, and scandalous, was that he literally and intentionally redefined the Passover around himself.
That’s pretty gutsy, like renaming a national holiday after yourself. That only works if you are a big deal, the turning point of history, and Passover actually foreshadowed you.
· It is evident that God had always planned for the elements of the Passover to be symbolic of Christ himself.
Christ in the Passover
There are three main symbols of Christ in Passover. I can only cover them briefly (I go deeper in my 5/17/10 sermon).
1. Passover lamb
Paul calls Christ our “Passover lamb.” Remember that the Passover lamb was killed and its blood put on the door post to save them from the angel of death. Likewise, we are all under a sentence of death, saved by his blood.
Also, God required that the Passover lambs be perfect, unblemished. Not because they taste better, but symbol of Christ as the perfect, sinless sacrifice.
2. The Bread
During the Passover, the unleavened bread is broken. During the meal, the host would interpret the symbolism using standard interpretation (though the listeners knew it well) but Jesus reinterpreted several elements:
Luke 22:19 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.”
Why bread? It symbolizes life. It is “The staff of bread,” it sustains us. Messianic Jews like to point out that matzah is striped, pierced, and broken.
3. The Wine
During the Passover, four cups of wine are drunk, each at specific points with a specific meaning. The third cup was the “Cup of Redemption” and served at the end of the meal:
Luke 22:20 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.”
Why wine? Though condemning drunkenness, wine is a biblical symbol of joy. The ancient rabbis had a saying: Without wine there is no joy.
This joy didn’t come cheaply. Jesus is intentionally mixing metaphors, for “the blood of the convent” was also from a sacrifice to confirm the Mosaic covenant.
Communion is the new Passover
Q Do these words we’ve read sound familiar?
This was when Christ instituted communion. He didn’t end Passover; he fulfilled it, and showed that Passover was looking to him. In effect, he transformed Passover into communion.
· For Israel, Passover celebrates deliverance from slavery.
· For us, communion celebrates deliverance from sin and death.
That is the big idea for us – Communion celebrates our deliverance. It is our Passover. And like the Passover, communion is a symbol that God takes very seriously:
1 Corinthians 11:27-31 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
Like in the OT, flippancy is dangerous.
Q What does “unworthy manner” mean? This phrase has frightened some into avoiding communion altogether.
Most importantly, it does not mean that the person taking it is worthy: We are all unworthy! None of us deserves what Jesus has done. Grace is the whole point!
· The point is we need to remember what communion represents: Christ’s death which purchased our deliverance.
When communion is taken in an unfitting manner (whether a wild, irreverent or a meaningless ritualistic manner), Jesus and his sacrifice is dishonored.
I think this passage calls for all of us to prepare for communion by asking ourselves if we are taking it is a manner that honors Christ and his sacrifice:
Q Is this a just a ritual or a meaningful reflection?
Q Am I in unrepentant sin or genuinely seeking him?
But in response to abuse, some churches forget one of the most important points: Communion is a celebration!
· We take communion somber and downcast, forgetting that we are celebrating our deliverance.
When I studied communion last year, I learned that communion is supposed to be a joy-filled event. This study has radically changed how I take communion – it is not a sober, but joyful!
· I think there should at least be a little smile on your face, even in the bad times, remembering Christ’s freedom.
There’s time for somber reflection, but communion is a party! Bread and wine are a rather austere party, but the original communion was a full feast, that sometimes got out of hand.
· Community Groups this week will be “love feasts.”
Communion is not meant to be celebrated alone, it is meant to be celebrated in community.
Both Passover and communion anticipate something greater:
Luke 22:15-16 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
communion is a shadow of the real party: Heaven. “The Kingdom of God is like a banquet,” he means the kingdom of God is party. The OT describes a rich feast with the best meat and fine wines.
There are three different groups sitting in this room, and communion represents, symbolizes something different to each:
1. Children: Communion teaches about deliverance.
As we read, Passover was meant to teach about God and his deliverance. As you will see, it is filled with interactions with the children.
· Passover uses all five senses to recall the story (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste).
Likewise, communion serves as an ongoing reminder both of our deliverance and what Jesus did to secure it. It is also a reminder that our salvation is rooted in historical fact.
For that reason, I believe that children should be allowed to take communion as we teach them what it means.
2. Christians: Communion is a reminder and assurance of our deliverance.
God reordered the entire calendar based upon the Exodus and Passover. How fitting that it would be reordered again for Christ!
· Our “personal exodus” is the starting point of our new life – everything changes in Christ.
Our identity and meaning is found in God, our life is directed towards him. Far better to be his slave than the master of this world, but better yet, we are friends and children.
Communion is a perennial reminder of being delivered from sin, that “once I was lost, now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
· Like Israel, we were slaves, but now we are free.
It is also our assurance that we have been forgiven. It’s so easy to get down on ourselves and our failings, to feel unloved and unforgiven.
· Communion is a weekly reminder that I have been forgiven, I am loved, and God is not angry with me.
And this happens in the context of community, we remind each other that we are forgiven and loved.
3. Non-Christians: Communion represents the potential of deliverance.
The word “potential” is very intentional: Remember learning about potential and kinetic energy in school? Kinetic energy is energy is actual use, potential could be used but isn’t.
· A tank full of gas represents a lot of potential energy, but it’s useless if you never start the car!
Communion only has meaning is you are a Christian – if you have submitted to him as your Lord and Savior and received his forgiveness.
You should not take communion if you are not a Christian, not because something bad will happen to you (an incorrect popular interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:29), but out of respect for us.
· It’s meaningless to you, but has deep meaning to us.
On the other hand, this is a great time to submit yourself to God, to embrace the meaning of communion, so that you too can celebrate it as your deliverance.
Q & A
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· Christ turns Passover into Communion.
· Communion is a celebration of deliverance from sin for the believer.
· For the non-Believer, it is the potential of deliverance.
· Communion is a teaching tool (especially for the kids) of our faith.
Objectives of sermon:
· Communion is the celebration of the deliverance from sin.