Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-13
This morning, we’re changing gears a bit. We’ve spent the last 3 weeks looking at prayer, and now we’re dropping into the middle of the book of Exodus; the ongoing story of the people of God and their journey in Egypt and beyond.
Today is also world communion Sunday, a day we will share in communion together here at Carman, but also realize that we are sharing in this meal with Christians all over the world. So what is a solitary act, in that we are accepting the sacrifice of our Saviour by taking the bread and the juice, it is also a communal act as we, the church of Jesus Christ, do it together with millions of other people.
That’s what’s beautiful about communion. We take the bread and juice personally. In that we eat. We drink. Eating is a personal act. It is the taking of nourishment for our own bodies. We eat so we can live.
But communion is more than just the taking of nourishment for our bodies. It’s more than breaking down the bread and extracting the nutrients to strengthen us. Communion is nourishment for our souls as well. It is the acceptance that Jesus gave his life for ours. And that we are one with him in his death and alive with him in his resurrection.
In Romans 6, Paul writes,
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:5-8)
Part of communion is the realization that we are one with Christ, who gave his life for us. And by partaking in communion, we are accepting this ultimate sacrifice.
There is a strong connection between communion and the passover story we read this morning.
Today as we read from Exodus, we are nearing the end of the Israelites stay in Egypt. Moses has already seen the burning bush and God has instructed him to go back to Egypt to free God’s people from slavery.
Moses has gone to the Pharaoh asking him to let the Israelites leave. But the Pharaoh won’t have it. Even after 6 vicious plagues have pummelled the nation, the Pharaoh won’t let them go.
So God is preparing to send his final plague upon Egypt. The firstborn of every family will die.
But God is willing to spare the Israelites. He instructs Moses as to what the people are supposed to do in preparation for the final plague.
Get an unblemished lamb, one that is perfect and without any visible flaws, and slaughter it. Put it’s blood on your doorposts. Then you roast the lamb and eat it, leaving no leftovers. If there are leftovers, you burn them. You leave nothing behind.
The neat thing about this directive is that if your family cannot afford a lamb, or a lamb would be too much for you, you can join with your neighbour and split one. No one is to go without a lamb.
This meal, this night, this plague, is what institutes the Jewish holiday known as Passover. It all starts thousands of years ago in Egypt. And it is still remembered today.
Why is it called Passover?
Simply because God caused the plague to pass over the homes which followed the instructions. As the plague descended on Egypt, death of the firstborn did not come to houses with lamb’s blood on their doorposts.
Thus the simple, yet very appropriate name Passover.
Did you know that Jesus is not only found in the New Testament. If you look carefully when you read through the Old Testament, you can see glimpses of him. Certainly there are some pretty clear examples, like the prophesies that point to his coming, and the circumstances of his birth and death.
But there are many more connections between Jesus and the Old Testament.
Today, as we celebrate the sacrament of communion, we are remembering one of those connections.
Jesus is called many things in the New Testament. The Son of God, the Son of man, Saviour, Messiah, and so on.
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is preparing people for the coming Messiah, the Saviour of the world. As John was baptizing people in the Jordan River he saw Jesus coming towards him. As he sees him he cries out, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
The next day, John is standing with some of his disciples and he sees Jesus go by. What does he say? He says “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)
Now why would John call Jesus a lamb?
The lamb of the Passover meal is a sacrifice to ensure that the people within the home will live. The lamb has given it’s life for those who share in the meal.
Today, we will take the bread and the juice, which represent the bread and the wine Jesus shared with his disciples at the Last Supper. And at the Last Supper, what did Jesus call these things?
As he handed around the bread, he said, “This is my body broken for you.” As he shared the wine he said, “This is my blood shed for you.”
Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb as the disciples ate together on the night before his execution. The night they shared this meal on was Passover.
Just as the lamb of the Passover was a sign of those who are part of God’s chosen people, Jesus is the Lamb for us. His death saves us.
There are plagues in the world which are destroying people, destroying homes and families; destroying entire communities. These plagues are the sins of the world. Our sins.
God wants to protect us from sin, these plagues which are destroying His beautiful creation. So He sent us His Son, Jesus, to show us how to live. How to live free and apart from these things.
It was of great importance. So important that Jesus gave of himself freely.
Jesus is the unblemished Lamb which was sacrificed so that we may live. Jesus had no sin in his life. He is the perfect Son of God, both fully man and fully divine.
Unlike the Passover lamb, Jesus chose to die for us. We didn’t pick him off the farm. We didn’t take the knife to his body. We didn’t smear his blood across our doorways.
Jesus chose death himself.
He gave his own body and blood freely.
The Passover lamb had no choice. It was picked randomly from the flock. It had no say in the matter.
Jesus chose himself. He was sent here to give his life for our own. It was his blood which stained the cross he hung on. It was his body which hung broken on that tree.
The perfect man, the perfect Son of God, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world for those who live in him.
Remember last week we talked about the importance of abiding in Jesus, so that he would abide in us.
When we take the body and blood of Christ, in the bread and in the wine, we are marking ourselves with him. We are making a visible sign that we need God to protect us from the evils, the plagues, the sin in this world.
We are asking God to help us live. Not just a life here on this earth, but to avoid the death that comes to us when we live lives of sin.
Communion is not just a little snack to hold you over until you get home from church. Communion is the acknowledgement that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb who gave his life for us.
Passover is a celebration of rescue. With the final plague that enveloped Egypt that night, when all the firstborn sons died, those sons who by default were the next leaders in the family, God showed he was serious about saving those who follow Him.
Jesus, in his death, showed that God wants to rescue us too.
All those things Jesus taught, he meant it. He means for us to know his Father, our Father, our God who loves us. He means for us to live lives of love and gratitude in service to Him. He means for us to love him and to share that love with others we meet.
The world is a tough place to live in right now. Churches are trying to find ways in which they can reach out to the communities they live in.
For some of those churches, they are willing to give up things which were once important to them in an effort to be more attractive to those who pass by their doors. They are trying to be more like the world around us.
For a very few of those churches, it’s working. They might have a few extra people coming in once and a while. But they are also sacrificing their own relationship with God in doing so.
There are churches which have given up on not just tradition, but they have given up on core values of what it means to be Christian. In extreme cases, some churches have removed God from their buildings and their services.
This is not what God wants His church to be.
God wants us to be even more faithful. He wants us to look to Him for what we do next, not what the world wants us to do.
It may mean we need to stand up against the popular theme of the day. Gambling is certainly way up there as we find ourselves in a world captivated with chasing aces. That’s not right, and we need to stand against gambling.
How can we ignore the teachings of Jesus when he did what he did? How can we simply ignore the fact he gave his life so that we can be free from our sin?
God’s love for His children extends back to creation when He provided for Adam and Eve even though they chose to disobey him. They were cast from the garden, but God made sure they had what they needed. In that moment of disobedience, they moved from an abundant life to one of death. And still, God was there.
In Jesus, God provides the ultimate sacrifice so that we may know of his abundant love. In Jesus, God tells us there is no other way we can earn our salvation, because he gave it to us.
All God asks for is you.
He gave His Son for you. Can you give yourself to Him?
Part of receiving communion is that together we are proclaiming(!!) Jesus is central to our lives and we have died to our sinful ways, just as he died for our sin.
We are proclaiming(!!) Jesus is our Saviour, and that in his death we have received pardon and protection from God.
We are proclaiming(!!) Jesus is our Lord and our Saviour, we have no need for anyone or anything else to save us.
The Passover lamb has been replaced. The Lamb of God, who, as John reminds us, takes away the sin of the world when we follow him.
There has never been a greater sacrifice than God laying down his own life for our own. Jesus, the firstborn of God, died in our place. At Passover, the Israelites were spared losing their children, but yet God was willing to sacrifice His own firstborn Son.
We are followers of Jesus, a people who, by a proclamation of faith, in the simple elements of bread and juice, are declaring our willingness to die to the sin in our lives so that we may live with him.
What a powerful statement we make with millions of other Christians all over the world this morning.
Do you believe it?
Do you believe Jesus died so that you may live?
Do you believe he is the perfect Lamb of God who saves you?
We are all children of God, brought together into His family through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord.
May we, as we walk from this church, remember this sacrifice and all the blessings we share because of him.
The perfect Lamb of God has done this for us. May we know him more, and welcome him into our hearts and homes this day and forever more.
Let us pray.
We come into your presence here today seeking to understand the depth of your sacrifice. You freely gave of yourself so that we may have eternal life in your presence and be freed from the power of sin in our lives.
May we grow in our understanding. May we see the joy of living in and with you, as we turn from darkness into your light.
We give you all thanks and praise, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.