Monday, April 6, 2009

April 6th - Passover

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron – Preaching
Missions Trip – New Orleans
Christmas/Easter Church Attenders
Hannah Singing

Text – Deuteronomy 26:5-10; פסח Passover πασχα

There are no hard and fast rules in the Bible for how to celebrate Passover in the way that Jesus celebrated Passover during his thirty-three years on earth. But we do have tradition and that tradition is validated in the New Testament.

Just as Hanukah is not established in the Old Testament, Jesus did celebrate the Festival of Lights. The Hanukah celebrated today is really just a response to Christmas and effort to keep Jewish children happy, and is less than 200 years old…it’s not the same as Jesus would have celebrated. So, just as the Hanukah that Jesus celebrated is considerably different than the Hanukah that Jews celebrate today, so is the Passover considerably changed from the Old Testament, to the New Testament, to today.

The craziest thing about Passover is that there are thousands of viable ways to celebrate it. The important thing is remembering the Lamb that was slain, that God saved his people out of bondage, and that he is still saving today. The Passover we’ll celebrate today will be as close to the AD 30 Passover that Jesus and his disciples celebrated as I could discern from the text.

What day is it? For the purpose of this class, assume it is Wednesday, April the 5th, AD 30. But our Easter this year will be April the 12th…why does it change? Passover is on the first full moon in Nisan, which has to be after the Vernal Equinox (March 21st), Passover can never be before the 22nd of March and never after the 25th of April.

Easter is kind of a dumb name for what we’re celebrating, it’s the name of a similar month to Nisan in Europe, it has nothing to do with Christ, Christianity, or Judaism. Passover is a better term, which is what it is called in most of the world.

The go-to text is Deuteronomy 26:5-10 And you shall make response before the LORD your God, 'A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.' And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

What this is is a basic history of Israel, and also a basic history of the Christian life. Jacob, who became Israel, fled to Egypt and there became a great nation in number, but became enslaved to the Egyptians. The Jews called to the Lord, and he heard, and brought them out of slavery showing his mighty power. And he brought them into the Promised Land of Israel.

It is also a basic history of us, we were not a people, we sold ourselves in our sin into slavery, we cried to God, and through his mighty works, even outstretched arms, a great deed of terror, and a great showing of power in defeating death, delivered us out of bondage by ransoming us with his Son. We have not yet entered into the Promised Land of Heaven, for we are still wandering in the desert of this present evil age.

So now we rejoice, and we remember, and we worship God for his faithfulness and our salvation.

So, lets go. A basic poem that would be used in how to administer the Passover is:

Kadesh ur’chatz, karpas yachatz
Maggid rachatz, motzi matzah
Maror korech, shulchan orech
Tzaphoon barekh, hallel nirtzah

There are 15-steps, and can take only a little while, or hours. We’re going to go for the “little-while” option. This would have been an actual meal, but we’re going to forego that part. You notice there is no Lamb, we’ll talk about that in a minute.

So we start by drinking the first cup of wine (grape juice). This is to remind us that God is faithful. We’ll talk about the four cups in a moment.

Our second step is to wash our hands. In the Old Testament this was necessary to enter into the presence of God in the temple. You remember when Jesus washed the Apostle’s feet? That was normal, but he turned it on them to say that unless he wash them, they could have no part in the kingdom of God. Peter said, “Then not only my feet, but my head and hands too.” We are already washed spiritually clean by the blood of Christ, this washing today is a memorial.

We’ll use Purell for ease, but Jews doing this would use water, washing first the right hand, then the left.

Next, we take a vegetable, usually parsley, and dip it into salt water. Two reasons for this, first salt water kills crops, just as sin kills things, it reminds us of our sins. Parsley is chosen because it is somewhat bitter, and it reminds us of the bitter bondage of the Egyptians/sin. We use salt water because it symbolizes the tears that sin causes to fall. We are reminded that we have sinned, that we have shed tears, and that we are in need of rescue.

Here we have three pieces of Matzoh bread, this is unleavened bread. Everywhere in the Bible leaven is symbolic for sin. These three pieces of bread, although not explicitly, likely represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Another reason we think this is because we take the middle-bread, and break it. There is no symbolism in the Old Testament that I could find why we break it, it is entirely a prophecy for the coming Messiah.

Now the story of the Passover. In order to be brief, About 3000 years ago the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians under the rule of the Pharaoh Ramses II. Moses was instructed by God to go to the pharaoh and demand the freedom of his people.

Moses' plea of, “Let my people go,” was ignored. Moses warned Pharaoh that God would send severe punishments to the people of Egypt if the Israelites were not freed. Again the Pharaoh ignored Moses' request of freedom. In response God unleashed a series of 10 terrible plagues on the people of Egypt.

Dam (blood)—All the water was changed to blood
Tzefardeyah (frogs)—An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt
Kinim (lice)—The Egyptians were afflicted by lice
Arov (wild animals)—An infestation of flies sprang up in Egypt
Dever (pestilence)—A plague killed off the Egyptian livestock
Sh'chin (boils)—An epidemic of boils afflicted the Egyptians
Barad (hail)—Hail rained from the sky
Arbeh (locusts)—Locusts swarmed over Egypt
Choshech (darkness)—Egypt was covered in darkness
Makkat Bechorot (killing of the first-born)—All the first-born sons of the Egyptians were slain by God

The holiday's name - Pesach, meaning "passing over" in Hebrew, is derived from the instructions given to Moses by God. In order to encourage the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, God intended to kill the first-born of both man and beast. To protect themselves, the Israelites were told to mark their dwellings with lamb's blood so that God could identify and "pass over" their homes.

The Pharaoh was unconvinced and refused to free the Jewish slaves until the last plague.

When the Pharaoh finally agreed to freedom, the Israelites left their homes so quickly that there wasn't even time to bake their breads. So they packed the raw dough to take with them on their journey. As they fled through the desert they would quickly bake the dough in the hot sun into hard crackers called matzohs.

Though the Jews were now free, their liberation was incomplete. The Pharaoh's army chased them through the desert towards the Red Sea. When the Jews reached the sea they were trapped, since the sea blocked their escape

The waves of the Red Sea parted and the Israelites were able to cross to the other side. As soon as they all reached the other side the sea closed trapping the Pharaoh's army as the waves closed upon them. Then as the Israelites watched the waters of the Red Sea sweep away the Pharaoh's army they were finally free of bondage. God would eventually then lead them to the Promised Land.

That’s the story of the Passover, it could be way longer, or even a bit shorter, but I think the important facts are there. A question and answer period could follow about why certain things represent certain things, but unfortunately we don’t have time for that.

The Passover all began with a promise from God to Moses.

Exodus 6:6-7 Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.

For this reason, there are four cups of wine. The bread is a cool prophecy for Christ, but the wine is so much cooler, in my opinion. We have four cups, we’ve drank one cup of wine (grape juice). That one reminds us that God is faithful and he will save us.

The second is the promise that God will save his people from bondage. In the case of the Israelites it was the Egyptians, in our case it is sin. The third is the promise that God will draw us near and we will be his people. The fourth is the promise of the Promised Land, which with the Israelites is Palestine, with us it is Heaven. Do you notice that we get more in our covenant than they did in their covenant? The Bible talks about our covenant being so much better.

Hebrews 8:6-7 Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Lets drink the second cup, thanking God that he was rescued us from sin.

Now we remember the washing of our souls by Christ, let us wash our hands again, this time thanking God for doing the work of washing our souls.

Today the next step would be followed by eating of the meal, the main dish would be preferably a lamb, but it doesn’t have to be a lamb. In the First Century, these two would be combined, and it would almost definitely be a lamb. Notice there is no lamb…why not?

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Jesus Christ was the Paschal Lamb, slain for us:

Revelation 5:12 Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!

So there is no more lamb sacrifice; for Christ died once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, he is the Just and the Justifier. I think it would be insulting if we had one, so we don’t.

So we bless the bread in a normal way, and break it and pass it around and eat. You can dip it in these two sauces which remind us of the bitterness of sin and the sweetness of freedom. This would be a major meal if we weren’t doing it in Sunday School. We’d probably have a turkey.

Now here’s where it gets neat. If we had more time we would turn this into the Lord’s Supper, but without me knowing where each of you stand with salvation and baptism, and church membership, I don’t want to take a chance just to do it without a much better explanation. So we’re doing this as Passover, not as communion.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom."

Jesus is following in the normal Passover tradition of his time. He took the last piece of bread, broke it and announced that this piece of bread represented him and his work. Then he took the glass of wine, that represents him bringing people to be his people, and he blessed them; and ate and drank.

Do you notice that a cup of wine is left? This is exactly how it happened at Christ’s last supper. His disciples must have known what that meant, that he was foregoing the last cup of wine, the one that represented the Promised Land, until he drank it in his Father’s kingdom…Heaven. It’s huge, and it points out that Christ fully knew that he would die before he would have occasion to eat again.

Now we would sing Psalm 113-118 and 136. Since we don’t have that sort of time, lets read Psalm 113.

Psalm 113 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Now we drink the last cup. This is just a cup of grape-juice, it is not really the fourth cup, we will have that cup in Heaven with Christ.

Finally is the concluding prayer; we don’t know for sure that this prayer was prayed with Christ, but the concluding prayer would be, “L'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim.” Which is a prayer that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem. Jews still pray it today.

Let’s conclude with a song.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
~Stuart Townsend, 2000
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.