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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Christ gives His Believers a Better Feast
Text:LD 28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-04-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 81:1,2,3                                                                                         

Ps 107:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Exodus 12:1-13; 1 Peter 1:13-21

Ps 63:2,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 28-29

Hy 60:1,2,3,4,5,6

Hy 59:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, we all enjoy our public holidays. We look forward to Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas—these are days to stay home from work, and sometimes to celebrate.

The Israelites did this too, devoting certain days for special celebrations. Like we do, they had a yearly calendar of ‘holy days’ (or holidays!). They looked forward to the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the feasts of Firstfruits, and Weeks, and Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. And these events didn’t just happen whenever the people felt like it. God fixed them at certain times of the year, because He wanted them to celebrate them rightly and appreciate what they were all about. These feasts were about God’s great works in history and his steadfast goodness in the present.

Without question, God’s greatest work for his people happened in the exodus. The exodus was salvation. God had freed them from slavery, carried them through the deadly wilderness, and gifted them a new land. For an Israelite, this redemption explained everything important about them: where they came from, who they were, where they were going. This was nothing less than their identity, so they needed to remember.

And remember and celebrate they did, each year again at the feast of Passover. It gave the people a clear visual, a physical testimony. It was a firm reminder of the God who delivers, God who guides, God who provides.

The Israelites had much to celebrate, and we can rejoice even more! For we celebrate the greatest-ever work of God, the saving of sinners through the death of his only Son. And when we look at Christ’s redeeming work, it gives a wondrous new meaning to that old feast of Passover.

I find it interesting that the Catechism doesn’t mention Passover in its lessons on Holy Supper. This is different from when we studied baptism. Then we were reminded very clear about how baptism replaces circumcision (Q&A 74). We don’t read that Holy Supper replaces Passover. But this afternoon, as we consider Lord’s Day 28-29, we hope to see how it really does. This is our theme,

Christ gives His believers a better feast:

  1. we are delivered from sin
  2. we are saved by blood
  3. we are rescued to worship

 

1) delivered from sin: To see the meaning of Passover, and the meaning of Holy Supper, we first need to step backwards into time. And as we look back, we see a hostility written deeply into the pages of Scripture. It’s the hostility at the core of all human history. It is seen in the violence of the devil and his hosts, doing battle with the LORD and his people. It was seen in the Garden of Eden, and it was seen again in Egypt.

For something like three hundred years, the people of Israel suffered in their slavery. It was a hard existence. Under the burden of forced labour, they were driven by oppression every day, and treated ruthlessly. Death was all around them. The work of making bricks was never-ending, and it was combined with Pharaoh’s best attempts at genocide: killing the baby boys of his slave force. On top of all this, God’s people forgot who they were. They no longer knew the LORD’s covenant name. And when you don’t know God, what hope do you have left?

But in the midst of all their misery, a saviour is born: Moses, the man of God. No one notices him at first—indeed, for his first eighty years, he doesn’t do much to help. But the LORD is preparing him for something great. For as Moses himself tells us in Exodus 2, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (v 24). And because our God does not forget, because our God always remembers his covenant, we know something marvelous is about to happen.

Sure enough, the LORD appears to Moses, and He sends him back into Egypt as Israel’s deliverer. Through him, God performs great signs and wonders. He inflicts terrible plagues on the land in a mighty effort to break Pharaoh’s will.

And this wasn’t just about God going up against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. It was God going up against all of Pharaoh’s gods and all the gods of Egypt. Like what happened on Mount Carmel in the days of Elijah, this was a heavenly showdown, a contest to show who was really supreme—who was really God.

We don’t have time to explore each of the plagues, but for so many of them, we see that God meets the Egyptian gods on their own territory. The Egyptians had heaps of gods, many different gods for so many different aspects of daily life.

They had a god who was Lord of the mighty Nile River, the life-giving river at the heart of Egypt. But God turned his river into a stinking and lifeless flow of blood. There was another god who was ruler of the frogs, and God turned all his frogs against the land. The Egyptians had gods of the earth and vegetation, gods of the insects, and the great god of the sun—no longer invincible, for each was put in their place by the LORD.

This is why God tells Moses that He is going to “bring judgment on the gods of the land.” (Exod 12:12). And that’s what God did, crushing them so that He could free his people forever. Such a mighty triumph deserves a celebration!

So God gave the Passover. On their final night in the land, they enjoyed this meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread. This simple supper was much more a light meal before traveling. It stood as a memorial, something physical to remind them: God had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, and from the hostility of those who oppose the LORD. And being released meant they were finally free to go to Canaan, free to receive their inheritance. That night around the Passover table, the Israelites had every reason to celebrate God’s grace!

I’m sure how you can see that the Holy Supper is a meal in the same tradition. Our supper of bread and wine is about being set free. Set free, for the hostility of Satan endures, and he is a cruel master to all who submit. Despite what Satan promises every time he tempts us, it’s not freedom and happiness that he gives, but slavery and death.

Jesus says it in John 8, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (v 34). You don’t have to be slugging bricks in ancient Egypt to be a slave or picking cotton in 18th century America. Slavery is alive and well here in 21st century Australia, even here.

Listen to how Paul warns us in Romans 6, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you…obey it in its lusts” (v 12). Notice the words he uses. Sin can reign over us, dominate and oppress us. In our lives, sin and Satan can become lord and master. And when he offers, when he commands, we “obey,” says Paul—we give in to what it lusts after. That’s not just referring to the lust forbidden in the seventh commandment, but all kinds of lust: the lust in our heart for wealth, for power over people, the lust for status and recognition, the lust for whatever we don’t have and want for ourselves.

Whenever we let a sin get rooted into our life or into our thinking, the danger is real that it’ll be hard to put it away. Someone who always gossips finds it hard to change her ways and talk about something other than other people. A man who watches porn every night will struggle to break free from accessing this pleasure he can have whenever he wants. Maybe you’ve found that a laziness about your devotions is very difficult to change.

It might not always look like it, but we’re enslaved. Sin traps us, which is why Paul cries out in Romans 7, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v 24). Who’s going to deliver you from Satan’s captivating power and the death that results?

But Christ delivers! If you turn to him, He can give you a full release from guilt, and He can give the beginnings of victory of sin. Jesus said in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” When we seek Christ, our lives have a new ruler, a new master. Think of what we confess in LD 1: “He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil” (Q&A 1).

No longer can Satan accuse us in God’s presence. No longer should Satan frighten us with the question of what happens when we die. Neither do we have to listen to what Satan says or believe his deceptions. As it says in Colossians 1: “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv 13-14). We’ve been rescued, set free, delivered!

Christ gives Holy Supper as a meal to celebrate freedom. This is how the Catechism describes the glorious meaning of Holy Supper: when we “accept with a believing heart all the suffering and death of Christ and so receive forgiveness of sins and life eternal” (Q&A 76). We are forgiven—delivered from sin and saved by blood.

 

2) saved by blood: When the Israelites celebrated the feast of Passover, there was one key ingredient, every time. You couldn’t have the meal without it. And the ingredient was blood. There was no actual blood at the table, but blood was never far in the background.

In the first place, the centre piece of the Passover meal was the lamb. And everyone around the table knew how its blood had been poured out earlier that day: its throat cut, its skin removed, and its choice parts roasted in the fire. Now, it’s easy to forget that the meat we enjoy at dinner time used to be a living, breathing animal. We get our meat carefully cleaned, wrapped up in plastic, and not looking much like the animal it used to be.

But it was different for an Israelite family preparing for Passover. They were connected to the lamb they ate. As God commanded, they had selected a good lamb on the tenth day of the month. It had to be an unblemished lamb, an animal that was free of defects or illness—a holy and precious offering to God.

Then the Israelites waited four days until the fourteenth of the month. Think of that: for four days they would’ve laid eyes on the lamb, probably thought about what was going to happen to it very soon. Then on the fourteenth, they watched as its throat was cut and all its blood drained into a bowl.

They roasted the lamb for dinner, and what happened to its blood? “They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it” (Exod 12:7). And that blood was saving blood! For on that first Passover night, God spared those homes marked by blood, “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exod 12:13).

There was no magic power in that blood. But there is symbolic power. Blood stands for life. And God requires life for sin; He requires a payment for guilt. Confronted with the perfectly holy God, there is no way a sinner can pay for sin. A lamb certainly cannot pay for sin! But taking and handling that gentle creature, seeing its bright red blood poured out and smeared on the doorframe, gave the Israelites a good picture of the cost of deliverance. In his grace, God accepted the lamb as the dying substitute for his people. By its blood, He covered their sin and pardoned them from judgment.

If Israel trusted in God, then she would live by the blood of the lamb. And it took faith! Maybe you can visualize one Israelite saying to another on that final night in Egypt, ‘So what do you think? Are we really going to be spared a visit from the angel of death because we’ve got that little bit of blood smeared on our doorframe? Will the blood of the lamb be enough to save us from death? What if it’s not? Should we add something to it, some of our own blood, maybe?’

But this was God’s gift, a deliverance not based on human effort. Israel could not bring themselves out from Egypt. Moses couldn’t bring them out. It had to be God’s work, through God’s promise, through God’s gift of a substitute to stand in the place of sinners.

For many centuries, the people of God celebrated this feast. Jesus did too. As a faithful Israelite, a teacher of God’s people, Jesus kept the Passover as it had been passed down to his generation. Year after year, He kept it, until his final year when He did more than keep the feast, but He took it over and invested it with a whole new meaning.

Imagine what a shock that would’ve been for the disciples. They’d been used to celebrating Passover in exactly the same way for as long as they lived. Kind of like we’re so used to our own Holy Supper celebration: we know the Form, we know the routine of going to the table, and the words are ever so familiar, “The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ. Take, eat, remember and believe…” We all notice if the minister makes a mistake, and anything is done even a little differently.

So consider the shock of the disciples at Passover when Jesus takes the bread and says, “Take, eat, this is my body.” Or the cup, about which Jesus says, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”

It would’ve been a stunning moment. It was a moment showing that for centuries the Passover had simply been a rehearsal, a practice run. It was a meal of shadows. The unleavened bread and the lamb revealed in blurry shapes what was going to happen when Christ arrived.

Already near the start of Jesus’s ministry, John the Baptist had announced his coming, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was going to be the perfect substitute, the one without blemish who could die for his believers.

And when the time came for Christ to die, He truly was without spot. Remember how Pontius Pilate declared three times that he could find no fault in Jesus. The Sanhedrin too, struggled to find a legitimate accusation against him. Of course they struggled, because “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet 2:22). Later, even when Jesus is hanging on the cross, He remains the flawless lamb, for his bones were not broken.

When Peter describes our redemption through Jesus, he uses Passover language throughout: “You were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

So on that final Passover, it is right for Jesus to focus all the attention on himself. He was going to take onto himself the wrath of God that should’ve fallen on us for our sins. He was going to absorb all the misery of our unrighteousness. And Jesus would do it willingly, the words of Isaiah ringing true: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isa 53:7).

At every celebration of Holy Supper then, we celebrate the Lamb. It’s not Passover, so the Lamb’s blood isn’t on our doorframes. Holy Supper is a sign, not the reality, so his blood doesn’t fill those little cups. But the blood of the Lamb was truly poured out, so that our sins could be taken away. Receiving bread and wine with our hands and mouths, we remember. And looking beyond the bread and wine into heaven above, we believe: Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world—who takes away my sin.

There is such a comfort and immense hope in what Christ has done. In the sight of God, you are forgiven and whole, you are washed and restored. The Catechism puts it this way, that as we see the bread broken and the wine poured out, “so surely was his body offered for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross” (Q&A 75). Believe this gospel! Trust in the Lamb! Know that you are saved by his blood, and rescued to worship!

           

3) rescued to worship: There’s two ways to think about deliverance. It is deliverance from, and it is deliverance to. Sometimes we don’t think a lot further than the fact that Jesus rescues us from sin, from Satan, and from death. That’s important, but there is more! We are delivered to a new life—freed for a holy purpose.

This is already clear at the first Passover. God was doing more than lifting the burden of hard labour from their backs. Remember, the exodus explained everything important about the Israelites. By it, God was giving them a new identity and calling.

We see this in how the LORD actually resets Israel’s calendar at the time of their deliverance. Listen to Exodus 12:2, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” God was going to make the Passover month the very first month of the year! It would be a new beginning. At the start of every year, Israel could remember that life begins with God’s mighty deliverance.

For from that moment, their life was all about serving God, not serving Pharaoh. The LORD rescued them from Egypt, to bring them to the Promised Land. That’d be the place where his name dwelled, the place where they could worship him, at the temple and in the home and their fields. God wanted Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a people who always walked in his ways and who did his will.

So why did God rescue you, brothers and sisters? Why did He give his only Son for you? Not merely to forgive your sins, to lift your burdens and give you hope. But God delivered you so that you can worship him. God saved you so that you can bring glory to his great name. Christ resets the purpose of our life, so that it’s all about serving him. It’s why we’re here!

And so in the same passage where Peter talks about the precious blood of Christ, he calls us to live out our task on earth, “as obedient children” (1 Pet 1:14). If you have truly been redeemed, then you will be obedient: keeping the Word of God and living by it in everything you do. And if you have been redeemed, then you’ll also strive for holiness: “As He who called you in holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1:15).

This is why the Catechism mentions the Holy Spirit a few times in these Lord’s Days. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can live for God. Q&A 76 says that “we forever live and are governed by one Spirit.” We live by the Spirit. We are governed by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who sustains us for service and worship.

And our purpose of worshiping Christ extends far beyond the present time, our life here on earth. Listen to what Q&A 79 says: “[Christ’s] crucified body and shed blood are true food and drink for our souls to eternal life.” The Lord wants to sustain and strengthen us forever. Because that will be our purpose, in the presence of God and his angels: to praise him!

Beloved, you were saved to worship—delivered to present your whole life as a sacrifice to God. If this is why God rescued you, then you have work to do, and I have work to do. Think of all that God has given: his precious blood to ransom us, his Holy Spirit to renew us. So now ours is a holy task.

Don’t waste the life the Lord granted you. Don’t give your first and your best to things that don’t matter. Don’t surrender again to the captivity of sin. But live in the freedom of Christ. And with all that you are, live for the glory of Christ!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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