søndag 7. desember 2014

Exodus 12:21-51 The Passover: the glorious Cross of Christ

Exodus 12:21-51

On the day that Jesus rose from the dead, two disciples of Jesus, Cleopas and his brother, walked along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a small town a day’s journey away. On the way, they met a man who asked them why they looked so downcast. The man was Jesus, but they did not recognise him. They spoke with grief about the death of Jesus, and that they had hoped he was the Messiah. They said that his tomb was now empty - but they did not understand what this meant.

Jesus’ reply astonished them. Luke 24:25 Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

Well, as we look at this prophetic part of the Law, as Moses’ writings were called, may the Lord cause our hearts to burn as we see the cross of Christ in all its glory: our God, who sent his son to be our substitionary sacrifice – a sacrifice in our place. He took our place in death, taking the blow of death so that he could give us life. This sacrifice was costly. It was efficious (it worked). And leads to eternal glory.

You see, the Passover, as great and dramatic as it is, is nothing but a shadow of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason for the Passover is so that we can understand the Cross better. So that we can see what Christ has done for us. Even at this moment, God had in his mind’s eye the Cross – the final great ultimate rescue of his people from slavery to sin, the Son paying the cost, so that we could go free – truly free, free to serve God and glorify him forever.

That’s what the Passover is truly about. That’s why movies such as the Prince of Egypt or the upcoming Exodus: gods and kings are not Christian movies. Because they may tell the Exodus story, but they miss what it means, its significance. They miss Christ. And as Christ himself said “all Scripture is about me”

1. You cannot escape from death

In Exodus we have at last come to the final and most dreadful of judgements. Egypt’s unrepentance, their refusal to acknowledge the Lord God of Heaven. They have stood against him despite warning after warning. And now the final blow, the final judgement: death.

Death is the great judgment on us. It is the very proof that we have rebelled against God, and that we have all rebelled.
Fools will tell you that God searches our hearts and finds those who are righteous and saves those – but it is a lie. They may even twist the Bible to make it say that – but it is a lie.
The fact is that no-one is righteous, no, not one. We have all turned away, all rebelled against God. And the proof is that we all die.

There was only one who rose again from the dead and lives forever because he had no sin, because he was righteous. I suppose there is a chance that one of us is sinless – maybe you’re clinging on to that hope. But, I’m sorry to tell you that death will probably catch up with you, just like me, because we’re just not good enough. The standard is Jesus, not “better than those people over there”. So if you’re trusting in your own righteousness you will disappointed in that moment just before you die! Urk! Oh bother, I was wrong!

Death has come because of sin. It is the wages of sin. It is our payment for sin. And there is no escape that we can make. There is no way out that we can find for ourselves. The Egyptians had no way out. Judgement was coming. Darkness lay across the land. There was no way out.

But wait – that’s not entirely true is it? Wasn’t there an area not covered in darkness, not under judgement?
Yes, there was! The Israelite area was in the light. In fact there was a way out for the Egyptians then and there is a way out for us now. But it is not a way that we make for ourselves.

There is a way out of death. And this is it: if someone else dies in your place.

2. Jesus’ costly sacrifice – the Lamb that was slain in your place.

Justice must be done. Rebellion against God is punishable by death. Because God is the source of life – life comes from him, anyone who wants to be “free” from God is actually asking for death. The problem is: we’ve all done it. We’re all guilty. Lived our own lives. Ignored him. Lived as if he were dead. And so justice stalks us. The Grim Reaper awaits.

So how can we be rescued? Who can die in our place? I can’t die in your place because the sentence of death hangs over me. The only one who can die in our pace is someone who is sinless, and who therefore will not die. Only someone who lives forever can die for us. And who would do that?

Mk 15:33–34 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

And here we see the amazing grace of our Lord. We see it this Christmas as he shrinks himself down to a human baby. As he becomes human – like us – in order to die our death. He goes into the darkness so that we can go into the light. He takes our place so that we can live. He is our substitute. Like the lambs were the substitute for the lives of the Israelites.
His blood covers us and gives us life, as the blood of the lambs covered the doorposts and gave the Israelites life.

23 For the LORD will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the LORD will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down.

The substitute. For the Israelites, life. But for the lambs – death. This is why John the Baptist cries out in a loud voice “Look, the Lamb of God!” as he sees Jesus, our Saviour. (John 1:29) This is why, in Revelation, the symbol of our Lord Jesus is the Lamb that was slain. He took our place. He protected us from death. He died for you and I.

At what cost?

29 And that night at midnight, the LORD struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.

There is deep anguish in death (anguish is overwhelming pain and sorrow). Many of us, probably all of us, have felt the pain of death – a loved one taken from us. You can imagine the pain of the whole country of Egypt as they taste the bitter justice of their rebellion against God. But the anguish of Egyptians - the great wail that is heard – is just a foretaste, a foreshadowing of the anguish of Jesus as he weeps in the garden of Gethsemane. Matt 26:38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. His anguish as he sweats blood crying out “Father, is there any other way?”. And his aguish as the King on the cross crying out “My God my God why have you abandoned me”. It is the great cry of the king surrounded by his enemies. And it is the heart cry of the Son of God facing the judgement of God, tasting death so that we don’t have to. Our lives are won at a high price. It is a costly sacrifice. Costly does not begin to describe it. And how easily we despise it because it cost us nothing. Can you see it? Can you see the Son of God upon the cross, my sin, your sin upon his shoulders.

Because what is the life of a lamb, compared to the life of your first born son? That is what the Israelites had to do – offer up the life of a lamb as a substitute for the life of their son. But that is not a fair trade – the life of the son is worth much much more than the lamb. But for the Lord this little sign of faith is enough, because it points to the substitute of Jesus, the Son of God, for their life and for our lives! He is worth so much more than us, of infinite worth, and yet he died, in our place.

The second verse of the song “How deep the Father’s love for us” by Phillips Craig and Dean sums it up well:

Behold the Man upon a 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

Jesus’ costly sacrifice – he died in your place.

3. It worked – you are free! No longer a slave to sin! No longer under judgement.

“It is finished”. Jesus’ last words on the Cross as he gave his life. His rescue mission was complete. The True Exodus was done. The price was paid. There was forgiveness for sinners.

When Jesus rose from the dead he went to Peter, who had gone back to fishing, a broken man. He was broken because he had betrayed Jesus, denying him publically “I don’t know Jesus!”
So when Jesus found him he said “Peter, you bastard, how dare you betray me! Burn in hell you sinful failure.”
No, he sought him out. He called to him. He spoke gently to him. Ate with him. Restored him. There was forgiveness for the betrayer Peter because Jesus had taken his betrayal and dealt with it on the cross. Peter was free. Jesus just had to help him understand it.
A few months later Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, challenging everyone to come to Christ – and 3000 responded. No longer Peter the Betrayer, Peter the Apostle. That is the grace of God.

It is a story we see time and time again in the Bible.

Here we see the people of Israel. A people who responded to God’s word by saying “go away”, who told God’s leaders, Moses and Aaron to leave them alone because “you have made us stink to Pharaoh”. Sinful people of no faith. Yet at the end of this chapter God has rescued them from slavery, made them a people, dealt with their sin so that death has passed over them, and blessed them so abundantly with silver and gold and riches that they could barely carry it all!

This is our God.

They were no longer slaves, doomed to a life in Egypt. They were now free men, with a new hope and new destiny. We are no longer slaves to sin, doomed to a life in this broken world. We are free men (and women), with a new hope – Christ in us, the hope of glory! – and a new destiny. We are headed for the new creation, restored, perfect. When every sin is dealt with and there is no more death, no more suffering.

Did you accomplish that? Did I? Did you wash away your own sin and restore creation? No? Then why do we sometimes act like we do – that it is dependent on us?

What did the Israelites do to rescue themselves? Nothing. Except believe God’s word and take action.

What do we need to do: believe his word and take action. Repent of our sins, confess them to him, and then act like we are forgiven and free.

51 On that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.

You can imagine the huge crowd of people. 600 000 men, plus wives and children, flocks and herds – a massive exodus of people! But as everyone is rushing back and forth, getting everything ready, loading up their backpacks – there’s an Israelite sitting in his house, looking sad.

“Hey brother, why so sad?”
“I’m so tired of being a slave”
“But we’ve been set free!”
“No, I don’t deserve it. I’ll just stay here”
“Of course you don’t deserve it. None of us do. But God paid the price. Come on!”
“Oh no. I don’t have enough faith. Anyway, God wouldn’t pay for my sin. You don’t know what I’ve done.”
“Who cares? Are you crazy? Look around you! Look at all the people who have been saved. You’re already rescued. Look at the blood covering your doorposts. You’re not dead!”

How often are we like that Israelite, cowering in our house, refusing to believe that the death of Jesus really worked. That all our sins are covered. You might be sitting there thinking: “not my sin. I sinned deliberately. God can’t forgive wilful sin”. Or “my sin is too terrible – God cannot forgive me”. Do you know that some of the worst Nazi war criminals, those who experimented on people and gassed people to death – they found forgiveness at the Cross of Christ. His wounds were sufficient even for them. If they can be forgiven, so can you. It is a costly sacrifice. Costly enough to cover your sins.

The death of Jesus worked, just like the sacrifice of the lambs. The angel of death passed over the houses were he saw the blood. Just like the judgement of eternal death will pass over those of us who are covered by Jesus’ blood.

His death brings life. It is sufficient.

4. We are made for Eternal glory

35 And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. 36 The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favourably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!

As they were leaving, the Egyptians basically threw their money at them, and the Israelites stripped Egypt. Great. Why?

Ever wondered why you and I are blessed so abundantly. Why we have money and time and talents and gifts and relationships? Ever wondered why we’re still here. After all, God could just whip us off to heaven the moment we are saved. Whee.

Well, the reason the Israelites got all this gold and silver and so on was because it all would be used to build the tabernacle of God. The tabernacle was the tent where God “lived” right with them. They had all this wealth to give back to God for his glory because he was going to live with them! You see, we’re not saved just to be saved. We, like the Israelites, are saved in order to be HIS people. With him, intimately, personally.

We are his people. We are free men, free to serve our King, our Father, our Brother. We are free to be what we were born to be. Born to give glory to God. In this life, imperfectly, always slowed down, ruined a bit by sin. In the next life, gloriously, perfectly, giving praise and glory to the One who saved us. The One who lead our Exodus. The One who died in our place.

Let our lives sing praise to our Lord Jesus, both now and forever. Amen.