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March 29, 2018

Meal to Meal: The Passover to the Lord's Supper

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lent & Holy Week 2018: Return from Exile Category: Biblical Scripture: Exodus 12:1–13

Maundy Thursday

March 29, 2018

Exodus 12:1-13 and Mark 14:12-26

 “Meal to Meal: The Passover to the Lord’s Supper”

At this particular point in my life, I enjoy watching TV shows about food. I don’t know what that says about me, but hopefully it says something good! Some of these shows include “Lidia’s Kitchen” with celebrity chef, Lidia Bastianich on PBS, whose specialty is Italian food. Another is “The Great British Baking Show,” also on PBS. And a more recent find is a Netflix series called “Somebody Feed Phil,” hosted by Phil Rosenthal, a very funny man who is the creator of the TV series, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He goes around the world trying new foods in different countries, thereby meeting and connecting with new people. It’s fascinating. Food really does connect us to one another. If we had the time, it would be great to share a particularly memorable meal that each of us enjoyed. Maybe it was at a favorite restaurant. Maybe it was part of a special trip or vacation. Maybe it was a home-cooked meal with family or friends. Whatever it was, we tend to remember these special meals; they stick with us. On this Maundy Thursday evening, there are two special meals that are before us in our Scripture readings: the institution of the Passover meal (tonight’s Old Testament lesson in Exodus 12:1-14) and the institution of the Lord’s Supper (tonight’s Epistle lesson in 1 Corinthians 11:12-32). One leads into the other as the blood of the sacrificial Passover lambs point us to the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Our Lenten preaching series, “Return from Exile,” continues this evening with the theme: “Meal to Meal: The Passover to the Lord’s Supper.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

Our first meal this evening is the Passover, which commemorates the tenth and final plague that the Lord God brought upon Egypt – or more appropriately, “on all the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12), as represented by Pharaoh, king of Egypt. The previous nine plagues, bad as they were, paled in comparison to the final one. The water turned into blood, the frogs, the gnats, the flies, the death of livestock, the boils, the hail, the locusts, and the darkness (Exodus 7:14-10:29) only served to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:13; 8:19, 32; 9:7, 12, 35; 10:20; 11:10). The tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians, was the tipping point that made for a new beginning for God’s people who had been enslaved for more than 400 years. Even how they reckoned time changed as the Passover now marked the first month of the year for them. The only thing that saved the firstborn of the Hebrews from the same fate as the firstborn of the Egyptians was the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts and lintel. With this blood, the angel of death passed over. And so year after year, God’s people were to observe the Passover and remember what God had done for them. Every year, they were to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood at the entrance to their homes as their ancestors had done. Every year, they were to eat this special meal of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, giving thanks for God’s mighty deliverance in bringing his people out of Egypt. Although the meal has changed somewhat since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (since there is no longer a sacrificial system, lambs cannot be sacrificed), our Jewish friends and neighbors still celebrate Passover each year, and this begins at sundown tomorrow evening (March 30).

Thousands and thousands of lambs and countless generations later, Jesus gathers with his disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal. They eat, they drink, they remember and give thanks for the great salvation which God had accomplished for his people in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. In the context of this Passover meal, Jesus institutes a new meal: “… the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-25). The old covenant of many lambs being sacrificed to deliver the people gives way to the new covenant of one spotless Lamb without blemish who would become the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), takes that unleavened bread and that cup of wine and through them gives his very Body and Blood. This is the second meal, the new meal of the Lord’s Supper, that Jesus instituted and to which He invites us this evening, the anniversary of its founding. As the old meal of Passover celebrated God’s mighty deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the new meal of the Lord’s Supper celebrates God’s mighty deliverance from our slavery to sin and death. Through this gift, we return from exile, out of the house of bondage, into a new freedom; into a new covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus. Each time we come to the table of the Lord and in repentant faith receive the gifts which He alone can give, we are joined to Jesus and He to us. Even our very communing at the altar becomes a living witness to the world: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It is through the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, whose blood cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7), that we are able to do what He has commanded us to do: “… love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

On this Maundy Thursday evening, the sermon has talked about two special meals: Passover and the Lord’s Supper. But in truth, there is a third special meal that awaits us. It is yet to be revealed, but Scripture often speaks of it. It is the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom (Revelation 19:6-10), and you and I have been invited! We’re invited not because of how important we are or what we have accomplished. Nor are we uninvited because we are too sinful or unworthy, somehow beyond the scope of God’s redemption. No, the invitation comes only through the amazing grace of our amazing Savior Jesus. This is the feast that Jesus prepares for us in the courts of heaven. When we come here to the Lord’s altar to receive Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for us, it points us ahead to that great marriage feast of the Lamb of God that we will eat with him in heaven.

As we enter into the sacred mystery of these Three Days, may the Lord Jesus bless our eating and drinking in this special meal here at his altar this evening, and prepare us for that special meal that awaits us in heaven. Amen.