photo credit: Trostle
I decided to read my bible more in 2014 and so as an experiment, as I read through the scriptures each day, my goal is to use my blog to journal a devotion or a thought each and every day. Yep the goal here (if all goes according to plan) is to write a something each day and end the year with 365 sermons ready for 2015.
“These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
There are three Pilgrimage Festivals in Judaism, known as the Shalosh Regalim (שלוש רגלים) — Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Tents or Booths). They are called Pilgrimage Festivals because the Israelites living in ancient Israel and Judea would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in order to celebrate them.
In Israel, Passover is the seven-day holiday of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with the first and last days observed as legal holidays and as holy days – and you observe them through special prayers, meals and by not going to work.
Passover is the celebration and the reminder of the story in Exodus of the children of Israel still captive in Egypt. Pharaoh won’t release the Hebrews so God sent 10 plagues on the Egyptian people – and the last one was death, and so to prevent the Hebrews from suffering, God gives Moses and Aaron these instructions:
Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house.
Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which typically falls after Trucktober and Toyta-thon (March or April )
5 Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs.
The Passover Lamb was to be a male without defect – and the entire congregation is responsible for its death; and the lamb is killed at twilight, dusk…
7 They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. 8 That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning. 11 This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the LORD .
None of the lamb is to be left until morning; and those who are covered in the blood of the lamb are delivered… they are spared.
That night, death came to all the first born of Egypt except for those who were saved inside a household covered in blood.
The verb “pasàch” (Hebrew: פָּסַח) means “He passed over,” so this Holy day is the observance when- God withheld death – people were spared – and they were spared because a lamb was killed and the blood of the lamb covered the household of those on the inside. Are we all on the same page?
So then we skip ahead a few books and a few hundred years to the time of Jesus and we see Passover begin to take on New Life.
7 The Day of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John with this task: “ Go and prepare for us to eat the Passover meal. ”
9 They said to him, “ Where do you want us to prepare it? ”
Remember this is a Pilgrimage festival? Jesus is asking to find a room – on the day of. This is going to be like finding dinner reservations for Valentines day, ON Valentine’s day – impossible, right?
10 Jesus replied, “ When you go into the city, a man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters. 11 Say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher says to you, “ Where is the guestroom where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples? ” ’ 12 He will show you a large upstairs room, already furnished. Make preparations there. ”
I know what you’re thinking, a “name” would be nice – find a man in a crowded city? Well, ordinarily only women carried jars, it was there job to get water, so a man carrying a jar would have stood out in a crowd.
15 He said to them, “ I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom. ” 17 After taking a cup and giving thanks, he said, “ Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you that from now on I won’t drink from the fruit of the vine until God’s kingdom has come. ”
Luke is the only one to mention this first cup – and in the traditional Passover meal, this cup is the first blessing given by the host – it’s like saying a “toast.”
Following the opening blessing, then comes the dipping of the bitter herbs and then a second glass of wine is poured and drank.
Then, similar to how we might read the Christmas story on Christmas day, the Hebrews sing the Hallel (or the Hallelujah) from Psalm 113, and 114, as a retelling of the Passover events.
Then they would bless the bread – and pass it….
19 After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “ This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ”
Then after the bread – they would eat the main course which would be the lamb and then a third cup of wine would be poured.
20 In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Then they would each drink from that common cup and afterwards they would recite Psalm 115-118 and then one more cup of wine..
After dinner you would sing a hymn, which Mark 14 continues in v26
…And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
And so even today, much of the Passover meal is still retained and its rituals and observances are still practiced by modern-day Jews.
As Christians, this observance is called, “the Lord’s table, Communion, The Common Table or the Eucharist.”
In our church as well as others, this practice is elevated to something we call an “ordinance.” An ordinance is a church ritual that is believed to have value. Our church actually has 2 ordinances, (as do most churches) and we will talk about the second one next week.
Paul remind us in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 why we observe this ordinance:
24 After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “ This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me. ” 25 He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “ This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me. ” 26 Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.
So unlike the Jews, who celebrate the Passover to remember when God “passed over” their people in Egypt.
Christians now celebrate this with new meaning, to remember the Lord’s death. And Jesus had said earlier in verse 20 of Luke 22 that this was now a “New Covenant.”
But that phrase should ring a bell in your head that makes you ask…. if this is a new covenant? What was the old covenant… ?
This covenant has to do with the Peace offering God made in Exodus 24. After Moses reads the book of the Covenant to the people of Israel (which was more than likely the 10 commandments and the rules that followed) the bible says,
3 Moses came and told the people all the LORD ’s words and all the case laws. All the people answered in unison, “ Everything that the LORD has said we will do. ” 4 Moses then wrote down all the LORD ’s words. He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve sacred stone pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He appointed certain young Israelite men to offer entirely burned offerings and slaughter oxen as well-being sacrifices to the LORD . 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls. The other half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the covenant scroll and read it out loud for the people to hear. They responded, “ Everything that the LORD has said we will do, and we will obey. ”
8 Moses then took the blood and threw it over the people. Moses said, “ This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD now makes with you on the basis of all these words. ”
So Moses reads the conditions of the law, (which is about 3 chapters in our bibles) and the people agree and what happens? The blood is thrown on them – they are covered in the blood as a sign of the agreement.
The people will live according to the law, and through their obedience to it – God will be their God and He will bless them.
But now, skip ahead, we have Jesus who is eating with his disciples; and he takes the elements like bread and wine and he symbolically makes them the flesh and blood of an offering for a new agreement.
But just giving a holiday meal a new meaning, THAT doesn’t make it a covenant. The bible says that in order for a covenant to be made blood has to be involved. The book of Leviticus says that blood HAS to be involved because “LIFE” is in the blood. (Lev 17:11)
So wine does not become “blood” that won’t make a New Covenant, because life comes from blood and in order for a new Covenant to be made – something has to die.
And notice, Jesus seems to be dropping some hints about this. Jesus says at the meal, “this is my last Passover with you.” And he seems to imply that at next year’s Passover, He wont’ be there, because He says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
So somewhere between the Last Supper and 2012, something happened that made the Communion table become an important observance. Because we don’t take communion because we remember the day Jesus ate with his disciples.
Paul says we take communion to “proclaim the Lord’s death.”
Communion is a reminder of the cross.
You see, hundreds of years before Jesus came on Christmas morning, God was already establishing a family tradition of gathering around a common table, and that table was filled with symbols of what was to come.
What happened on the cross was a moment that changed the world forever, it tipped the balance between God and humanity and so when it happened, God wanted to make sure that nobody missed it. So he had been planting seeds for generations…..
Check it out – when Jesus first stepped out onto the stage, the curtains parted and his cousin introduced him to the world – and the first thing that was said about him was this…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “ Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
And from that moment on, Jesus would be the Passover lamb.
And so if Jesus is the new Passover Lamb, and if Jesus tells his disciples that his flesh and blood are the instruments of a new Covenant, then there should be evidence of that…
For your consideration:
At His Roman trial, Jesus is brought to Pilate and accused by the crowds….
The whole assembly got up and led Jesus to Pilate and 2 began to accuse him. They said, “ We have found this man misleading our people, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he is the Christ, a king. ”
Remember – The entire congregation is responsible for killing the Passover lamb
3 Pilate asked him, “ Are you the king of the Jews? ”
Jesus replied, “ That’s what you say. ”
4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “ I find no legal basis for action against this man. ”
Remember -The Passover lamb is to be a male without defect.
32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “ Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing. ” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.
35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “ He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one. ”
36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “ If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself. ” 38Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “ This is the king of the Jews. ”
44 …It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle.
How does the sun “stop shinning?” The sixth hour of the day is noon… but because the Passover lamb is to be killed at dusk, God made the sky dark.
46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “ Father, into your hands I entrust my life . ” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.
47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “ It’s really true: this man was righteous. ”
Why did it happen this way? Because all of this was a reflection of the Passover table and the sacrifice of the Lamb – this is the Passover week, these images should still be fresh in their mind and God didn’t want anyone to miss this moment!
Oh and Look at this, the gospel author John records something interesting…
31 It was the Preparation Day and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath, especially since that Sabbath was an important day. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of those crucified broken and the bodies taken down. 32 Therefore, the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who were crucified with Jesus. 33 When they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead so they didn’t break his legs.
And look at what Numbers 9 says about the Passover meal…
11 They will keep it at twilight on the fourteenth day of the second month. They will eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it until morning, nor break any of its bones.
So when Jesus breaks bread and passes the cup with his disciples, he tells them directly, this will be a new covenant, and this familiar meal, this holiday will now have a new meaning. From this moment on, you won’t celebrate Passover to remember Egypt, you will do this to remember me. And that’s what we do here at Walden Church:
1. Passover is a remembrance of what Jesus did.
John Wesley said, “I am to show that it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as they can.”
We partake to remember, because it is a command of Christ. Plus, this command was given by Jesus just hours before he died. They are, quite literally, his dying words to all of us.
Communion is a memorial and we find memorials all through life.
There are also memorials in the scriptures.
After the flood God established a memorial of His promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. The rainbow is a visual reminder of God’s covenant with Noah.
With Abraham, God established the memorial of circumcision-a physical act that symbolized a spiritual reality.
Communion also reminds us of the teachings of Jesus;
When he hold the bread we are reminded that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” and when we hold the cup, we are reminded that Jesus said, “I am the vine.”
And Memorials are important because they serve as beacons, not just to us who remember, but even to those who are too young to remember. After the Israelites crossed the Jordan river, they took 12 stones and built a memorial and the book of Joshua records why this was important.
6 This will be a symbol among you. In the future your children may ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you will tell them that the water of the Jordan was cut off before theLORD ’s covenant chest. When it crossed over the Jordan, the water of the Jordan was cut off. These stones will be an enduring memorial for the Israelites. ”
Memorials are teaching moments…. that’s why each time we celebrate communion the children are always invited to stay. Why? Because we believe these are moments that they should observe. Some things Children need to see.
The bread and cup is not a meal, it is a remembrance of the life of Christ.
2. Passover is a new covenant washed in blood.
Communion is a remembrance of what Jesus did, and what he did was die on the cross. As Paul says, we do this to remember his death. But his death was not meaningless, it wasn’t a magic trick – his death was important because it was his perfect blood that was being shed to make a new and lasting covenant.
The author of Hebrews writes
But now, Jesus has received a superior priestly service just as he arranged a better covenant that is enacted with better promises. If the first covenant had been without fault, it wouldn’t have made sense to expect a second …when it says new, it makes the first obsolete. And if something is old and outdated, it’s close to disappearing.
In other words, the Exodus covenant was broken – because it relied heavily on “us” being perfect people. The Israelites said, “yea, we’ll do all of that stuff, we will obey the law” and they couldn’t. So every year a lamb was to be sacrificed – blood has to be shed to ward of the punishment that threatens.
Under the old covenant, God lived in a box – he lived behind the curtain in the temple and nobody was allowed to go back there. Nobody was worthy, nobody was clean. We could not come into God’s presence. He was not accessible.
Remember earlier, we read that when the sky went dark – the temple curtain was torn in two? The author of Hebrews continues….
Brothers and sisters, we have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus’ blood.
God isn’t far off in a cloud, or in a box, or behind a curtain…. the new covenant allows us to enter into God’s presence, regardless of our behavior.
The covenant of Jesus – his blood – not only gives us free access to each other in fellowship, but it allows us access to God.
His blood – this new Covenant cleanses us from … all sin. (1 John 1:7)
The word Eucharist means “giving thanks” but the etymology is so much more interesting. It’s actually made up of two words.
Eu - which means good
Charis – which means grace
2012 is going to start with a lot of promise. The New Year always brings resolutions, hope, and dreams about a new life. But what do you really need this year? A new job? More money, to loose weight?
Or do you need “good grace?”
But to accomplish any new resolution, the work is all on you – that’s why we fail at all of them. Our habits are well worn and so any new tradition we try to add, gets outvoted by our old life. A new habit takes at least 21 days to develop…
Memorization typically begins between the 30th and 40th time you read or see it. This is why gym memberships skyrocket at the beginning of the year, but then always taper off.
Self-improvement is hard. That’s why there is a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
And then what happens when we fail? We beat ourselves up. We call ourselves names, we shake our head, we pull our hair… we can’t do anything right… this always happens to me… I can’t believe it…. this is so typical….
We all need Good grace, don’t we?
You see, the good news of grace is – Jesus did all the work on the cross. None of us could ever be a lamb without defect – we all have our baggage and our darkness that keeps us tied down and what Jesus did was - he set us free so that we could live in his forgiveness forever.
The cross is unmerited favor, blessing, forgiveness, it is a slate washed clean.
And it is the key to a fresh… new …life.