Easter 2) The Sacrificial King

The Sacrificial King

 

The Cup of Sanctification

In Luke’s account of the Passover meal we read ‘17 After taking the cup, [Jesus] gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Lk 22:17-18)’ This cup for which Jesus gives thanks isn’t the cup that we are to drink in remembrance of His sacrifice, that comes a few verses later. This cup is in fact the first of four cups of wine that were drunk during the traditional Passover meal. Each of these cups had a particular name and a special meaning.

This first cup was called the cup of Sanctification. The host of the meal, in this case me, or in the case of the Last Supper Jesus, would thank God for two things, firstly for the wine and secondly for allowing us to gather together to celebrate the Passover. It’s called the cup of Sanctification because with the blessing of this cup the Passover would be sanctified, or made holy, or set apart for God. That’s what Jesus was doing in Luke 22, he was saying that this time spent with his disciples was a holy time, a time to remember how God redeemed his people from Egypt, but also a time to look forward to God’s ultimate redemption through God’s promised king, the Messiah. So I invite you to take your cup as we give thanks to God.

Dear Heavenly Father, you have created the fruit that we have in our cups this morning, and we thank you that we can enjoy even such simple blessings as this. Lord, we thank you for sustaining us in all things. We thank you for bringing us here this morning that we may sit together as your people under your word. Lord, speak to us this day and bring alive your mighty acts in history that we may remember your great love and mercy. We pray these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Drink the cup)

With this cup we are saying to God that we are setting apart this time to focus on what he has done for us. That was what the Passover was all about, and that’s what our worship services are all about as well – focusing our attention on God and on the things he has done. For us Christians we gather together to remember the cross and Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, we remember the source of our salvation, the grace of God in Christ Jesus our King.

 

The Ceremonial Washing

The next part of the Passover service was the ceremonial washing of the host’s hands. Because the meal had been sanctified, or made holy, the host could not touch the food unless his hands had been ritually cleansed.

(Wash hands)

We read about this in John 13 ‘4 [Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (Jn 13:4-5)’ Jesus takes the water to be used for the ceremonial washing and he doesn’t wash his hands he washes his disciples feet. The feet were considered the dirtiest part of the body, which they probably were. They didn’t have foot paths back then only dusty roads and they didn’t have enclosed shoes, just sandals. As Jesus washes away the grim that stained their feet he symbolizes how he will soon wash away their sin. But the weirdest thing in this scene is that it’s Jesus who washes his disciples’ feet. Our King, takes on the role of a servant. Jesus humbles himself for the sake of his disciples. Jesus shows us that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are those who are willing to humbly serve others. In fact the very next day Jesus will humble himself even unto death on a cross for our sake. Jesus turns the ceremonial washing into a beautiful picture of his willingness to die in our place in order to cleanse us from our sins.

 

The Bitter Herbs

Passover was traditionally a family affair and children were not only a part of the celebration they had a special role to play. In your booklets you’ll see three questions and I’d like to ask Abigail to read out the first question: Why do we only eat bitter herbs and why do we dip them in salt water? You might have noticed the small bowls of lettuce on your table, they represent bitter herbs. When God instituted the Passover he told his people ‘8 …to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. (Ex 12:8)’ The bitter herbs were to remind God’s people of their sorrow over the suffering and bondage they experienced as slaves in Egypt. And that’s why they also dunked the lettuce into these bowls of salt water to remind them of the tears they shed. That imagery of being slaves in Egypt, of bondage, is used often in the Bible as a metaphor for our slavery and bondage to sin. So this morning we don’t grieve over how we were treated in Egypt, instead we grieve over our sin and how our disobedience and rebellion hurts God. I’d like to invite you to take a piece of lettuce and dip it into the water and to eat it, and it won’t be pleasant, but that’s the point, that’s what sin does to the heart of God, that’s what sin does to us, it hurts and twists and destroys and kills.

(Take some lettuce, dip it into water and eat it)

Dear Heavenly Father, as we sit here with this bitter taste in our mouths may we be reminded of the effects of our sin, may we be reminded of how sin breaks your heart, of how sin stains our souls, of how sin warps our minds and ultimately leads to death. Lord it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, it makes us grieve, it brings us shame. Lord we ask that out of your great mercy and grace that you will forgive us our sins, that you will take this taste out of our mouths, that you will refresh us once again and renew our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

 

The History of the Passover

To understand the Passover you need to understand it in its historical context. Many years ago God came to a man called Abraham and promised him that he would become the father of a great nation and that he would inherit the Promised Land. Abraham believed God and left his family and country and travelled to Canaan, but while he arrived at the Promised he did not possess it, he was a stranger there and lived in tents moving from place to place. And his son Isaac and his son Jacob didn’t possess the Promised Land either. But then there was a great famine in the land and Jacob moved to Egypt where his son Joseph had risen to great power. And because of Joseph God’s people for the first time find stability. Pharaoh gives them Goshen the most fertile land in all of Egypt to be their own and they settle and they grow comfortable and they grow complacent. Egypt is good, but it’s not the Promised Land.

And hundreds of years pass and God’s people grow in number, until one day a Pharaoh who doesn’t remember Joseph comes and enslaves God’s people. He makes them build his treasure cities, and he drives them hard, and because there’s so many if one dies another can take his place. But still they grow in number and so Pharaoh kills their sons. Finally God’s people remember God and cry out to him for help. God answers their prayers and raises up a man called Moses who goes to Pharaoh and demands that he let God’s people go, but God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in order to show the world that he alone is God.

God sends the 10 plagues. He turns the Nile into blood, as if he’s slain the river god. (let a drop of wine fall into a saucer after each plague) He plagues the Egyptians with frogs and biting gnats and flies. He attacks their livestock, he afflicts them with boils. He destroys their crops with hail and then locusts. Then he covers the land with darkness, defeating their greatest god, the sun god Ra. And finally he defeats Pharaoh himself as he kills the firstborn sons throughout all of Egypt.

You may have been wondering why I’ve been putting these drops onto this saucer? This is the cup of iniquity, the cup of God’s wrath. God pours out his anger against those who have rebelled against him, those who ignore his power and turn their backs on his will. And that’s why the last plague is against all those in Egypt, the Egyptians and the Israelites. God says ‘12 “…I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn… 13 …[but] when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Ex 12:12-13)’ The Israelites were not exempt from God’s wrath, because they too were sinful, they too had turned their backs on God’s covenant promises. But God was merciful and he gave them a way out, he saved them from his righteous anger.

The Hebrew word for Passover is the word Pasah. It’s a unique word, which comes from the Egyptian word pesh which means to cover, particularly when a bird spreads its wings over its chicks in order to protect them. That’s what Jesus is talking about when he says ‘34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…’ Jesus desired to cover God’s people, to protect them from God’s wrath. That’s what God is doing here in the last plague, protecting his people. Exodus 12 says ‘3 …on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect… 6 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. 7 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. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 11 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. (Ex 12:3-11)’

When God saw the blood on the doorframes of the house he would Passover that house. But it’s even more than that, in a sense because of the blood, God protects that house, he guards the door. Verse 23 says ‘23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your house and strike you down. (Ex 12:23)’ God will not permit the destroyer to enter your house, God will stand guard there, he will protect you, he will cover you with his wings and keep you safe. And God does that by providing a substitute, the lamb. The lamb, which has done nothing wrong, dies instead of the person who should have died. It’s like when it rains, it rains on everyone, unless you have an umbrella. An umbrella protects those under it from getting wet. In the same way the blood of the lamb protected God’s people from His wrath. That night they discovered God’s loving protection in the face of his fierce judgment. They were saved because they put their faith in God’s promise to Passover over them because of the blood of a lamb.

And so God instituted the Passover as an annual feast in order that people would always remember what God had done for them. Every year God’s people celebrated the Passover to be reminded of God’s salvation. And the point of this was to remind them that this wasn’t just history, but something they had to experience personally. It was to remind them that their hope wasn’t in their obeying the rules and regulations, or performing the sacrifices or observing the festivals, it was in the fact that God in his grace and mercy would Passover their sin, that God would vindicate his people and have compassion on them. In fact, they would read God’s word to remind them of God’s goodness and compassion. So I’ve asked Alison to read Psalm 135.

 

Bible Reading: Psalm 135:1-9,13-14

 

The Cup of Praise

You’ve had that cup sitting before you for quite a while. This cup is known as the cup of Praise. It’s not called that because God’s anger was poured out on the Egyptians, which is what the cup of iniquity represents. It’s called the cup of Praise because God’s anger wasn’t poured out on his people. It represents the joy of being spared, the amazement at God’s grace, the thankfulness for God’s mercy. God has passed over us, he has not treated us as our sins deserve. Please join with me as we drink the second cup and as we stand and give God the praise due his name.

(Drink the second cup)

Jesus our King was nailed to the cross for our sins. Jesus died in order to redeem us to the Father. Jesus’ blood cleansed us from all our sin. And because of that we praise his name, and we declare our love for him.

 

The Unleavened bread

Emily can you please read the second question: Why do we only eat unleavened bread on this night? You may have noticed the plate of unleavened bread and the bowl of charoseth on your table.  

Let’s start with the charoseth. During the Last Supper Jesus announces that one of his disciples would betray him and they all wonder who it will be, and Jesus replies ‘26 …“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. (Jn 13:26)’ The dish was most likely filled with charoseth, a mixture of chopped apple, nuts, raisons, cinnamon and wine. Charoseth comes from the Hebrew word ‘clay,’ and it reminded God’s people of the mortar they had to mix for the bricks as slaves in Egypt.

So that’s the charoseth, but why did they eat unleavened bread? Firstly, it was to represent the haste with which they had to be ready to leave Egypt. God’s redemption would occur so suddenly they wouldn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, so don’t bother using yeast. But more importantly, leaven, or yeast, was a symbol of sin. Yeast puffs up bread in the same way sin puffs up people. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes ‘7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor 5:7-8)’ Paul’s point is that since we have been redeemed by Christ, our Passover Lamb, we need to put away our sin, or the yeast of malice and wickedness, and be unleavened people, people without sin, people full of sincerity and truth. And that’s exactly God’s point in the Passover, because we have been redeemed we are to put away our sin. That’s why they ate unleavened bread at the Passover. As you eat the unleavened bread with the charoseth remember that because God has redeemed you, because he has saved you and passed over your sin, you are called to live new lives, lives that contain no sin, lives that are holy just as God is holy. The easiest way to eat this is to spoon a bit of charoseth into the bread.

(Eat the Unleavened bread and charoseth)

 

The Passover Lamb

Meg can you please read the third question: Why do we only eat roasted lamb on this night? Let’s take a look at the Passover lamb. The lamb was to be the very best they had, without spot or blemish, perfect in every way, because God desires only the very best that we have to offer. They took this lamb into their own homes for four days and cared for it. It would have quickly become a pet, especially for the little kids. And then they were to slaughter it and pour its blood into the basin and paint the blood on the doorframes of the house. Then they were to roast the meat and eat it as a family making sure the bones weren’t broken.

It’s amazing how much the Passover Lamb foreshadows God’s ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Firstly, Isaiah 53 tells us that God’s servant ‘7 …was led like a lamb to the slaughter… (Isa 53:7b)’ Jesus said ‘22 …The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected… and he must be killed… (Lk 9:22)’ Like the Passover lamb Jesus was slaughtered.

Secondly, we’re told that ‘21 If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. (Dt 15:21)’ Peter tells us that Jesus was ‘19 …a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Pet 1:19)’ Thirdly, the blood of the lamb is actually painted in the shape of a cross. The blood was poured into a basin which wasn’t a bowl, but a small trench before the door which stopped water coming inside the house. And then it was painted on the lintel and the sides of the doorway. The blood marked where the crown of thorns sat on Christ’s head and the nails that pierced his feet and his hands. The blood on the doors that covered God’s people from his wrath pointed to the cross where Jesus did the same for us. Fourthly, God said ‘46 …Do not break any of the bones. (Ex 12:46b)’ The Apostle John writes ‘33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” (Jn 19:33,36)’

The Passover Lamb foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. That’s why John the Baptist could say ‘29 …“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:19b)’ And in Revelation John says ‘6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne… (Rev 5:6)’ and all heaven sings ‘12 …“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev 5:12)’ As you eat the lamb be reminded that Jesus was slain as your substitute. Jesus our King ‘5 …was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53:5)’

(Eat the Lamb)

 

The Lord’s Supper

It’s at this point that Jesus does something extremely unusual. Traditionally, after the lamb no other food was consumed. But we read ‘23 …The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ Jesus stops and does something new, he turns the Passover into the Lord’s Supper. In a way he’s saying that like the Lamb was the sign of the old covenant, bread will be the sign of the new covenant. Jesus likens the bread to his own body and says just like this bread is broken so too will my body be broken for you. But even more than that just as the bread contains no yeast, so Jesus contains no sin. His body is the perfect sacrifice. Every time we gather as God’s people and break bread together we are to remember that Christ’s body was broken in order to reconcile us with God. I’d like to invite you to take a piece of bread, to eat it, remember and believe that Christ’s body was broken for the complete forgiveness of all your sins.

(Eat the Bread)

The next thing Jesus does is just amazing. He takes the third cup, the cup that was called the cup of Redemption and he says ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood.’ Like the blood of the lamb protected God’s people from God’s righteous anger, so Christ’s blood will also protect us from God’s anger against our sin. But Christ’s blood is even better than the blood of the lamb, that sacrifice was one of countless sacrifices God’s people had to make to deal with their sinfulness. But the letter to the Hebrews says ‘12 But when [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Heb 10:12,14)’ When we drink this cup Jesus calls us to remember that he laid down his life, his blood was spilt to restore us into relationship with God. By his one sacrifice on the cross he has made us perfect and holy in God’s sight. I’ve asked some people to hand out the small cups of wine, or just use the juice if you prefer.

As you drink remember and believe that Jesus’ blood was spilt for the complete forgiveness of all your sins.

(Drink the wine)

Did you notice that this saucer is still here? Who remembers what it’s called? (the Cup of Iniquity) In going to the cross Jesus drinks this cup on our behalf. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath that we were meant to drink. Jesus took all of God’s anger against our sin on his own shoulders. And because of that we get to drink a different cup, the cup of Redemption, or as Psalm 116 puts it, the cup of Salvation.

 

Bible Reading    Psalm 116:1-9,12-13

 

That’s what the Lord’s Supper is all about – lifting up the cup of salvation and calling on the name of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

 

The Cup of Acceptance

The final cup is called the cup of Acceptance. It symbolizes that we have accepted what God has done for us. It shows God that we accept his grace and his forgiveness, that we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. When we celebrate the LS we are challenged to live a new life as redeemed people, we are called to be holy as God is holy. Like the Passover the LS is more than just a memorial feast, it’s a promise that God will one day return and redeem us fully. And so Jesus said ‘whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ We accept that we live in between the cross and the second coming, we accept that we must live with suffering and hardship in the hope of eternal life. We accept that Christ will return and bring us home into the eternal reign of our Lord and King.

So this morning I want to propose a toast. Fill your cups again and stand. In Revelation 5:12 the angels sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Let’s toast together: Worthy is the Lamb, Jesus Christ! At the end of the Passover Matthew tells us that ‘30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mt 26:30)’ Jesus left knowing he was going to his death and yet he left with a song of praise on his lips. And so we leave this place knowing that we will face hardships and difficulties but also knowing that the love and faithfulness of our God will follow us always. So leave here knowing that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you all. Amen.

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