Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 53
New Testament Reading- Luke 22:14-20
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 3, 2021
God knew from the beginning that it would take His power to save us. That’s right, God placed us in paradise, but knew we would fall, and He knew that we would not have the ability to save ourselves, so He had a plan for salvation all along. God was giving His children pieces of this plan along the way, never giving the whole plan all at once, but allowing us to experience and learn from life’s lessons and God’s saving grace each step of the way.
In Leviticus 17:14 God tells Moses that the life of every creature is its blood. In fact, in Genesis when Cain kills his brother Abel, God tells Cain to listen, that his brother’s blood cried out to God from the ground on which it was spilled. All of this, long before the marvels of medical science, where we all now know that what had been taught from the beginning is true beyond the shadow of doubt, that without blood you cannot live.
The sacrificial system of the ancient Israelites was known, even as far back as Cain and Abel, and Father Abraham, who offered the blood of a ram to God in sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. The penalty for sin is death, that was the law from the day that our first ancestors rebelled against God. Blood of an animal, without blemish or defect, and not guilty of our sins would pay with their blood making atonement for our sins.
Moving forward, hundreds of years, to the time of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, God tells Moses that the first-born male of every household will die after midnight. God then tells Moses to tell the Israelites that they should each take a lamb for their families. These lambs should be without defect, and they should be slaughtered at twilight. The blood of the lamb should be wiped on the top and sides of the doorframes of the homes where they eat the lambs. At midnight the Lord will pass through Egypt and all the first-born males of every household from the richest to the poorest will die, but when the Lord sees the blood on the doorframes, He will pass over these homes, leaving their males alive and well.
After the Exodus from Egypt, God instructs Moses to teach the Israelites to remember what God did for them in bringing them out of slavery and that they are to remember and observe this time by a holiday called Passover. By observing Passover every year, from generation to generation, the Israelites would remember all the good and mighty things that God had done for their people and that His power was greater than any other, so-called gods.
During all this time, through different prophets, God would reveal more of His plan. Someday He would send the Messiah, or Savior, God’s own Son would come into the world to save the world from sin. The blood of sacrificial animals was only a temporary way to show God’s people what the real sacrifice would be. For true salvation to happen the blood would need to come from a human, but humans were sinful and not worthy to stand as a sacrifice. We were already guilty of sin and therefore our penalty would be death. God alone could provide the solution, He would humble Himself to become human flesh through Jesus, His Son. Human and divine, God as a man, the second part of the Holy Trinity. This would be the ultimate sacrifice, the one and only blameless and sinless human being that would knowingly and willingly go to His death, condemned for a crime He did not commit, and die a horrible death. This death served as payment for sins of human beings for all time. Jesus was resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven and sits on the right side of the Father. He had defeated death; it could not hold Him. That is why we call Jesus the Lamb of God. Just like at the Exodus, when the Israelites brushed the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the doorframes, now the blood, the life of Jesus would stand for all time as the way for God to pass over us and not look at our sins because we are saved by the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ. Christians remember this time each year during the season of Lent and the holiday of Easter, but we also remember it another way. First, we must go back to the time when Jesus was still in His earthly ministry.
Jesus and His disciples had come to Jerusalem to observe the holiday of Passover. Passover was one of the pilgrimage holidays when many Israelites would come to Jerusalem to worship and sacrifice at the Temple. Jesus was no different, He had come to do the same things, but it was extremely dangerous for Him, as the Jewish hierarchy was looking to put Him to death. Jesus’s disciples had even warned Him about this fact, but Jesus did not seem concerned. In truth, Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen, but He knew that His time had come, this was His time to fulfill all prophecy about the Messiah, He was walking to His own death. I often believe that today we don’t think that Jesus was bothered by this fact, but He was definitely worried about it. Jesus was still part human, and by nature, humans do not want to die. Jesus had to feel and experience all the same things that we do if the sacrifice would really work. He experienced temptation by the devil, He experienced pain, love, sorrow, and anger just like we do. He was one of us, and therefore, worthy of becoming the perfect sacrifice. He was not sent to die, like He was being euthanized, either quite the contrary. He was being sent to die by way of crucifixion, one of the cruelest means of torturous death even to this very day. Yes, we all know we are going to die, but we have the luxury of ignorance on how and when it will happen, imagine, Jesus knew and was walking to it anyway.
When they came into Jerusalem, Jesus had sent some of His disciples ahead to prepare for the Passover meal. They would get a room and all the elements needed for the meal to observe the special holiday. Later that evening, Jesus and His disciples came together to celebrate the ancient custom. They sang songs of praise to God, they prayed together, and they recited and remembered the events of the Exodus from Egypt, how God brought them from slavery to freedom. We are told in Luke 22:14-20 these words,
‘When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’
This is no accident that all this takes place at Passover for the hour has come, when God will reveal His plan for ultimate salvation. Jesus says it, “This bread is my body, broken and given for you for forgiveness of sins,” the sacrifice of the lamb. The cup, which Jesus tells them, “This is my blood, take and drink it.” Jews were not permitted to drink blood, so this would have been shocking to the apostles, but Jesus is telling them, His blood, His life, is being offered up for sacrifice for their sins and that those who want to live, they would have to accept and partake in the blood of the Christ. Paul tells us later in 1 Corinthians 11:26, ‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ You proclaim, you declare publicly, that you believe that Christ died for us so that God would not look at our sins, He would pass over them and not find us guilty.
Jesus told His apostles that He very much desired to share His last supper with them, His friends, before His suffering. It was a joyous occasion for Him and them. It should be the same for us, yes, we should be reverent, as our observance of the Lord’s Supper takes place in every Christian church and is a sacrament, meaning it is sacred or holy, but it is also a joyous event.
"...even though we didn’t deserve it, God forgives all who believe and gives them eternal life. If that isn’t something to celebrate together and be joyous about, then I don’t know what is." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Today we celebrate World Communion, but what does that mean? World Communion Sunday was started at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA in 1933 and has spread to be observed by several Christian denominations, where it is meant to promote Christian unity and cooperation. Through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Christians everywhere and in every time, whether alive or dead celebrate and remember together the sacrifice that was made by Jesus Christ, the Son of God for us, sinners, and that even though we didn’t deserve it, God forgives all who believe and gives them eternal life. If that isn’t something to celebrate together and be joyous about, then I don’t know what is.
So, today as we observe and participate in the Lord’s Supper, let it never become so familiar to you that you do not appreciate it, or feel it a burden that just lengthens an already long service. Do not worry about, what kind of bread is used or whether wine or juice is used, or how it is presented, those things are not important. Focus on what is important, that we all come together, here at Eastminster, and also in all Christian churches around the world, celebrating the giving of thanks for the greatest gift that could ever be given, the gift of the One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world. Remembering that when the Jews celebrate Passover, they celebrate their deliverance from slavery to freedom, as Christians, we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus, where God delivers us from the slavery and death of sin to freedom and life in Him. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us in 4:4-6,
‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’
Thanks be to God! Amen.