Christ is Our Passover

This sermon can be listened to at from our 2019 Good Friday service.

4b28f24c3c140bec1d4c1078faa39702Are you looking for transcendence?Something greater than yourself? The transcendentals are the way we connect with God and they focus on three ways: truth, beauty and goodness. Listen to what the 19thCentury Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky provocatively proclaimed in his novel The Idiot, “The Church has lost the truth, is losing its goodness and has forgotten beauty, but beauty is what will save the world.”[1]Of course, Dostoevsky said this in the context of much corruption politically with the oppressive Romanov dynasty of the Czars as he writes in his more famous novels The Brothers Karamazov and Crime & Punishment.The Russian Orthodox Church itself was corrupt as seen most vividly shortly after Dostoevsky’s death with the rise of the evil mystic Rasputin. This is not unlike today where there is corruption in government and in the church with many leaders falling. Much of the truth and goodness has left the church. We are humbly trying to reclaim truth, goodness and beauty at Temple, which is why we have labeled this weekend: Beauty Will Save the World. We want to express in word, and song and artistic expression that beauty in itself won’t save the world, but the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is the ultimate beauty that will save us. But at first it wouldn’t appear that beauty will save the world. This weekend is rather ugly at first glance when you think of Jesus being beaten, whipped and crucified leaving Him one bloody pulp hanging on a tree. To look at Jesus would have been ignominious; not inspiring. This is why at the moment of His death, He had few followers. However, artists tell us that light is most vivid when it is contrasted with darkness. The backdrop of the Cross was dark. Christ died on the Jewish Passover and during the week of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In fact, Easter is celebrated at a different time every year because it is so integrally tied to Passover. One of my sons asked me if we can know when Jesus died and I said absolutely because His death was on the Jewish Passover weekend. Christ’s death is cemented in history. If you are a sceptic here today, please check out the book or movie entitled The Case for Christ.It will show the reasonable evidence for historical person of Jesus Christ.But we want you not just to be educated on Christ but encounter Christ this weekend.

Understanding Passover will help you encounter Christ. Passover begins at sunset on the 14thof Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which changes due to the lunar-solar seasons. Passover harkens back to the Book of Exodus in the Bible and the night when Pharaoh and the Egyptians refused to let their slaves, God’s People, the Israelites leave Egypt so they could worship God. And so God sent the Angel of Death to enact a plague where all the firstborn sons would die. The only protection was if the Israelites first cleansed themselves after slaughtering a lamb without defect. On the night of the Passover, the Israelites and anybody else who believed in God sequestered themselves in their homes and painted the mantle of their doorway with blood from the lamb so that when the Angel of Death came, he would literally pass over that house and let everyone in it live. This is where we get the term “Passover” because the word sounds like its meaning. The Festival of Unleavened Bread was also part of this night because the Israelites were to make bread without leaven. They didn’t have time for the yeast to raise the bread because the next day, they were leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. It was an act of faith that they would survive the night. God would protect, provide and guide His people. If you watch the movie The 10 Commandmentswith Charleston Heston this weekend you will get a better picture of this backdrop.

As we have been studying the Book of Ezra as a church, the returned Jewish exiles finally return to the Passover after years of neglect. Ezra 6:19-22declares, On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover Lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests and for themselves. It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by everyone who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”Notice the process: purity, followed by inclusivity, then exclusivity resulting in a party. The people purified themselves, they sacrificed, they welcomed those outside their group who believed and yet, they stayed faithful to worshipping God alone. And it leads to joy. I was once in Jerusalem on Sabbath Friday night and have never seen a party like it with all the families gathered to celebrate. Jesus’ purity, sacrifice, invitation to follow Him and remain faithful despite what others may do and think will lead to our joy. This new Passover will lead to our joy.

UnknownI want to take a few minutes and explain the elements of Passover and then my dad will explain how Christ’s death was a Passover, which has led to our forgiveness. And as you see the table before me, this all leads to the Lord’s Supper. Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples on the night He was betrayed as Pastor Dan will read later on in Matthew 26:17-30. However, the Passover has developed into a larger ceremony since Jesus’ time, called the Seder, which in Hebrew means, “order.” Most likely, Jesus and His disciples didn’t observe a full Seder meal.[2]There is a picture above me of a Seder Meal. Maybe we have a full Seder here someday for the entire church as I believe only our seasoned saints in Prime Time Plus have been able to experience it. This weekend we want you to use all your senses to encounter Christ – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. After the service, we invite you to go to our Beauty Will Save the World Art exhibit down the hall to my right in our Family Centre to see how we as a church are trying to worship God and witness Christ through beauty. But first stop by our GO Café and sample some of these Passover foods we have prepared. These include the “Matzah (unleavened bread), a bowl of salt water to convey crossing the Red Sea, wine or red grape juice to communicate the atoning blood sacrifice of the lamb, a hard boiled egg (to convey new life), horse radish (a bitter herb to convey the bitterness of life in bondage, which should serve as a reminder that many are still in bondage physically and spiritually) parsley (to convey the hyssop used for sprinkling the door posts – cf. Psalm 51:7) and charoset (a mixture of nuts, cinnamon, honey, cloves and grape juice which serves to sweeten the bitter herbs. It symbolizes the mud mixed in with straw that the Israelite slaves used to make bricks to build Egyptian structures.)”[3]The shank bone of a lamb is often there too, but the Jews do not eat a lamb since the Temple has been destroyed, which is why I left it out. We have been studying a lot about the Temple in Jerusalem at our church these past few months as we rebuild and recreate our property here, but I dare say it isn’t the Temple that has stopped lambs being sacrificed. It is the fact that Jesus came as the perfect, final and ultimate Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.

Jesus simplified all of this imagery to two elements: the bread and the cup. This has allowed believers both rich and poor all across the globe to participate in the essence of Jesus’ gospel message. His Body was broken for our sins. You see our sins are what ultimately destroy our bodies and explains why there is death and decay. The Bible best answers the reason for death and its remedy. The Apostle Paul said it best when he asked, “Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25) And then the cup symbolizes His blood as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Our sins have been a capital crime against God, which requires a blood sacrifice. The blood of the lambs in Egypt were painted on the doorways of the Israelite homes during Passover. The blood of the Lamb of God has now acted as a permanent protection against the Angel of Death. Christ has become our Passover Lamb. The Apostle makes this explicit in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”Did you catch that? Jesus as our Passover Lamb gives us life marked by sincerity and truth. The firstborn of God died in our place and God has now passed over with His forgiveness transforming us to live a new life.

It is this beautiful act of Christ that has saved the world. At the end of the service, you are invited to come and participate in this new Passover, which we call the Lord’s Supper. Like in the days of Ezra, no matter your affiliation or background, you are welcome into the house of God today. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Passover Lamb and your atoning sacrifice, then you can join us in this simple but profound meal. If you are not a believer, consider what God has done for you by giving you Jesus. And if you want transcendence, pursue truth, goodness and beauty and you will find it leads to Christ – our Lamb, Lord, Saviour and great King!

[1]Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

[2]Source: Accessed April 15, 2019.

[3]Source: Dennis Bratcher, “Introduction to a Christian Seder” Accessed April 14, 2019.d

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