The meal Jesus gave us (Easter message)

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Well here it is again, my Sunday message. This time though it is an Easter Sunday message. It was a great service when this was preached, the house was packed out, the busiest I’ve seen it. At the end of the Sermon we all participated in the last supper. It was great getting everyone involved in it. Presenting Easter as a meal seemed to make it more real for people- strange.

It would be helpful to read Luke 22:1-20 before going any further.

the Sermon

Last week’s message came quite easy for me. I hand’t preached on Palm Sunday before, and so Palm Sunday was, in a sense, a blank slate. I was free to explore the different nuances, and themes that emerged from the Palm Sunday passages.

After exploring I could pick a passage that took my fancy and then run with it, knowing that it wasn’t something that had just been preached on, knowing that it wasn’t something people would have been hearing about each week. However this week’s message, is not like that. I’ve found very hard to prepare for.

The problem lies in the fact that Jesus’ death and his resurrection is the one subject that we as Christians focus on more than anything else, or at least we should. As preachers it is our aim to bring it into every message. The cross is the main pillar of our faith, the one thing Christians know the most about. There in lies my difficulty today.

How do I present the Easter Story; Jesus‘ death and resurrection, in a fresh and exciting way, all the while still remaining deeply Biblical. How do I shine fresh light onto something that we already know all about? And so that is the question that I’ve been wrestling with for most of last week.

But then it came to me, while I was hanging out the washing, on windy Wednesday afternoon. And it came to me in the form of a question, “How did Jesus tell the easter story?”

See when Jesus wanted to give his followers-then and now- a way of understanding what was about to happen to him, he didn’t actually teach them a theory, nor did he give them a big book of systematic theology.

Theories, and systematic theologies about how Jesus‘ death has dealt with our sins have come and gone throughout the history of the Church. Theories, are helpful and have their place, Systematic theologies are helpful and have their place. But it wasn’t a theory, nor a systematic theology, that Jesus used to explain what was going to happen to him.

Jesus, instead, gave his disciples an act to preform. Specifically speaking, he gave them a meal to share. And it is this meal that speaks more volumes than any theory, or big book of systematic theology ever could.

The best way to find out what this meal says about Jesus‘ death and resurrection is not to talk about it but to do it. And so that is what we are going to do this morning, we are going to preform an act, we are going to share a meal, that celebrates and explains what Jesus did on the cross, and in his resurrection. But before we do, and while I am up here, I want to talk about this meal for a bit.

Now there is a few things that Jesus is wanting to draw out as he shared this meal with his disciples; the twelve of them, symbolically charged-representing the 12 tribes of Israel. But first and foremost, the thing that we need to understand is that this meal is a passover meal.

Jesus didn’t just happen to have his last supper coincidently fall on the night of the passover meal. He didn’t get his dates wrong or double book. No, he chose this day, because he wanted to symbolically load what he was going to do on the cross and in the resurrection with all the Passover significance that he could.
So Jesus used the passover, and he used it to tell his disciples what he was going to do. But what was it about the passover meal that Jesus was wanting to draw out?

Luke in his gospel all along has told us that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to ‘accomplish his Exodus’ As Luke writes at the transfiguration in Luke 9:31, “Moses and Elijah spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”

The NIV uses the word departure, another translation uses the word death. But what is interesting is that the Greek word is exodos, which incorporates both of these terms, but in fact better points to the first exodus. Jesus has come, so it seems, to do for Israel and the whole world what God did through Moses and Aaron in the first Exodus.

And so we take a little stop here to understand briefly the seven features of the first exodus, and by understanding what happened with the first exodus it will help us understand what Jesus is going to do on the cross and consummate in his resurrection, with the Second exodus, that the Jewish nation was longing for and anticipating.

So the seven themes of the first exodus are these:
There was a wicked tyrant- Pharaoh
There was a Chosen Leader- Moses
There was a victory of God- God’s defeated Pharaoh, in a cosmic battle, through the plagues and the ultimate destruction of Pharaoh in the Red Sea.
There was a rescue by Sacrifice- The Unblemished lamb-slaughtered and it’s blood used across the door posts of the Israelites to mercifully protect them from the God’s Judgement of the Egyptian oppressors.
Then there was a new vocation and way of life given to the Israelites- the tablets of law were given at Mt Saini proceeded by the commissioning of Israel to be a Royal priesthood and holy nation.
Then came the presence of God- God’s presence in the Cloud by day and fire by night, and his presence in the tabernacle as they journeyed through the wilderness.
Lastly came the Promised and Inherited Land-of Canaan

These were the seven themes, or the seven aspects of the first exodus. And the passover meal was to celebrate this event. Now this is where our culture depart from the Jewish one. When we remember someone, or something we look back in time, almost like looking through a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel there is that event.
We may celebrate it, but it stays at the end of the tunnel, it stays as a memory. But for the Jews throughout Israel’s history and especially in the first century the exodus was celebrated, and as it was celebrated it dwelled in the past, the present and the future. In that while it was an event that took place in the past, by celebrating it Israel held onto the hope that it would become a reality in the present and the future.

With this as the Exodus story, and with Jesus as one of the greatest communicators of all time, we must assume that at this passover meal he was wanting to link the story of the Exodus, celebrated at Passover, with his own mission, death and resurrection.

Except Jesus was going to do in a radically different way than what the Israelites were expecting. The Israelites were expecting much of the same. In the first Century the themes may have looked like this:

The Wicked tyrant would have been the Roman Oppressor Octavian Caesar Augustus.
The chosen leader would have been God’s messiah.
The Victory of God- The messiah, and an Israelite army rising up and wining a battle against Rome.
Rescue by sacrifice- well that was sort of forgotten, or at least a separate office from God’s messiah.
A new vocation and way of life- the temple sacrifice would come back into full on significance.
Presence of God-that’s the simple one, God’s presence would come back to occupy the temple.
Promised/ Inherited land- again a simple one. The Jews would take back the full land given to them by God, back at the time of David. They still considered themselves exiles, because, their land was occupied by the tyrant of Rome. Get rid of the tyrant, and you are delivered into the promised land.

And so there you have what the new exodus, that first century Israel was longing for. But It seems, as we find out as Jesus shares the passover meal with his disciples, that Jesus’ understanding of this new exodus looks very different to what the Israelites of the first century thought.

Already in the first part of this passover meal story, the wicked tyrant is not the caesar, nor is it the Chief priests, though the wicked tyrant of this story does use both of these to achieve his purposes. The wicked tyrant in this story is the Devil. Let’s read Luke 22:1-6
“1 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.” (Luke 22:1–6 NIV11)

Here we have, two aspects of the New exodus coming into play.
The wicked tyrant is the Satan, the prince of darkness.
The Cosmic Battle, that God will ultimately win, is being set. Satan is working through worldly evil powers to achieve his purposes. The Chief priests, Roman officers of the temple, and Judas, one of the twelve, are part of Satan’s armory.

From verses 7-13 Jesus is seen as the leader, that is very clear. And so while Jesus is a victim, wrongly accused and executed on the cross. He is in a sense very much in charge. He know what is happening, he is orchestrating events to suit his purposes. And so Jesus is God’s chosen leader who will deliver the Israelites.
The Victory of God was going to be won. The tyrant that is the Devil was going to be defeated. But there was a twist. The Victory of God wasn’t going to be achieved except through one final unblemished sacrifice.

And so in verse 15 Jesus says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” It was in fact God’s chosen messiah that was going to be the unblemished sacrifice, given to protect the Israelites, and atone for their sins, and this chosen messiah was going to take all that the devil, and all the forces of evil, would throw at him, even death it’s self.

But that is not the end of the story, Jesus, was filled with a hope based in God’s reality. He in verse 16, and in verse 18, was not going to partake in this meal again until he was in God’s kingdom, with his disciples.

This was it, the battle was going to be won. All that the Devil, and the forces of evil were going to throw at him were found lacking. Jesus would rise from the dead. Being raised from the dead brought about God’s victory, God’s kingdom, and God’s rescue and atonement of his people.
So Jesus’ body and his blood, represented in these items of bread and grape juice, were poured out, to win the battle against, evil, but to also forgive, and protect his people from God’s judgement, and ultimate destruction over all that is evil.

But this new exodus story doesn’t end there. His blood, poured out, was given as a new covenant. We read in Jeremiah about a new covenant, and one has to wonder if this is in fact the covenant that Jesus was talking about.

“31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD ,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them, ”
declares the LORD . 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD .
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD ,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD .
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:31–34 NIV11)

Jesus’ death and his resurrection, brought about this new covenant. Sins would be forgiven, the law, not on tablets, would be written on people’s hearts, and knowing the Lord would mean that the Lord would dwell within his people, once again.

And so in closing as we partake in this meal loaded with Symbolism, we will sumarise the seven themes of the new exodus, that we remember and see working out in the past, present and future.

Firstly: the wicked tyrant-the devil, the powers of evil, and death.
Secondly the Chosen leader- Jesus
Thirdly- the Victory of God, and the divine judgement of God over the devil, the powers of evil, and death.
Fourthly- Rescue by sacrifice, Jesus’ death on the cross, atoning for sin, and protection from the judgement of God.
Fifthly- New vocation and way of life. A new covenant written in people’s hearts, life lived out as God’s people on earth.
Sixth- the presence of God, in the spirit of the risen God.
Seventh-Promised land- resurrection of the dead, kingdom of God, his ultimate rest.
The new exodus, was, and is, and is to come.

“23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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.”

25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NIV11)

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