Sermon for Maundy Thursday based on Exodus 12:1-14
Dear people of the new covenant: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The first time we hear about eating in the Bible, we hear about man’s fall into sin. God had given man everything that he needed for his body and life, and he could choose to eat of all the trees throughout the Garden of Eden, except one. He had only one command – not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam chose to eat of that one tree which was forbidden him, and sin and death entered the world, man became separated from God, and the world was cursed.
How fitting then, that God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation through eating and drinking. Our eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ undoes the effects of Adam’s eating.
Adam’s eating brought curse; our eating brings blessing. Adam’s eating brought sin into the world; our eating grants us forgiveness. Adam’s eating brought forth death; our eating gives us life.
The most important eating in which God’s people in the Old Testament partook was the Passover meal. The Passover was a prophecy of the Lord’s Supper, pointing forward to that which was yet to come. It was a defining meal for the people of Israel in terms of who they were as a people. It celebrated God’s deliverance of the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
God instructed each household to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the houses where they would eat the Passover Lamb. The angel of death would go throughout Egypt and kill every first born son from Pharaoh to slave, both man and beast. The only thing that would turn the angel of death away from a house was the blood of the Passover lamb around the door. The blood of the lamb would cause the angel of death to pass over the house, thus the name for the feast, “Passover.”
Inside the houses with blood on their doorposts and lintels, God’s people would eat the roasted lamb and receive God’s gift of salvation according to His promise. The lamb was sacrificed, and the people would eat the lamb. The blood of the lamb saved them from death, and from slavery in Egypt.
Every year after the first Passover, the people of Israel would hold another celebration of the Passover. These celebrations included a retelling of the events of the first Passover so that future generations would continually hear about the great salvation God worked for His people. The eating of the lamb was accompanied by bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Sometime after their arrival in the Promised Land, wine was added to be part of the Passover celebrations.
Moses calls the Passover celebration a statute forever. Some Christians are confused by this and think that we should still be celebrating the Passover. There are issues with this.
FIrst of all, we do not know what the liturgical rites of the Passover meal were. We don’t know what they were in Old Testament times, and we don’t know what they were when Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. All we have are some writings from well after the destruction of the Temple, from Jews in the Middle Ages.
Second, considering Jesus’ own warnings about the traditions and practices of the Pharisees and rabbis, whatever writings were passed down and still exist have no value to reconstruct such a Passover meal.
Besides, have you ever heard of a church that even attempts to eat the Passover meal with what we do know from the Bible? Does every family buy a lamb and feed it and take care of it until the night they all kill them together and butcher them? No, they pick and choose what they want to have a meal of novelty, mixing the Jewish and Christian religions.
Moses said that the Passover celebration is a statute forever, because it finds its fulfilment in Christ for all eternity. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples on Maundy Thursday not to end the Passover, but to fulfil it.
Jesus took likely the third cup of wine, one of the four cups of wine which was drunk as part of the Passover meal (that is, if in fact at that time they had four cups of wine in their liturgy, we don’t know) and told them to drink His blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, the old covenant or testament is fulfilled as the new covenant has come and taken its place.
There is no more sacrifice of lambs as Jesus sacrificed Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The sacrifice of lambs for Passover pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Thus Saint Paul writes, “Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” (I Cor. 5:7) Why would you go back to the old testament sacrifice of a lambs when you have the new testament sacrifice of Jesus? The old testament sacrifices were a shadow of what was to come (Col. 2:17). Why leave what is fulfilled and realized in Christ and go back to the shadows that pointed to Him?
The event of the Passover itself also pointed forward to Jesus. As God freed His people from bondage in Egypt and brought them safely to the Promised Land, so Jesus’ death for us has saved us from bondage to sin and will bring us safely to our promised eternal home in heaven. Passing through the waters of the Red Sea are called a baptism into Moses, which pointed forward to our Baptism into Christ, in which we receive the salvation which He won for us upon the cross.
There is no more eating of bitter herbs, unleavened bread, lamb, or drinking of wine to celebrate the Passover of the old covenant, but rather we have the unleavened bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, the blood of the new covenant, which is the fulfilment of the Passover meal. We eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus as the Passover Lamb who takes our sins away. The unblemished Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, and we eat the Lamb and are saved from sin, death, and the devil. His blood causes the wrath of God to pass over. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.