Rev. Tim Burton, Pastor, Dianella Church of the Nazarene, Perth, WA, Australia
Text: I Corinthians 5: 7b – “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”
Who doesn’t love a little lamb? Mary in the nursery rhyme did. Is there anything as cute and vulnerable as a lamb? Why then, is it a lamb that takes center stage in the Easter story? We have been prepared. When Christ Jesus presents Himself for baptism at the beginning of His earthly ministry, John the Baptist proclaimed: “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29). The Apostle Paul, in our text, echoes that theme with his statement that Christ is the Passover Lamb, and the sacrifice of His life is for us all. So what does this mean?
We are People of the Passover
Exodus 12 is the account of the provision of a Passover angel for the benefit of the Israelites, so that the first born in their homes would not die in the final, dreadful display of God’s power to Egypt’s Pharaoh. To be protected from this event, God told Moses that each household must slaughter a lamb and use the blood to mark their doorframes. With this display of faithfulness, the angel of death would pass over their homes and a life spared. But the lamb dies. The gift of the Passover was an opportunity to put faith into action and to have God’s mercy applied.
God continued to offer mercy to His chosen people throughout their history. But repeatedly, they were called to ‘remember’ (Exodus 12: 17). The annual sacrifice of a lamb at a special feast would be a lasting reminder that sin has consequences, and that people need not face an angry God. Sin has been forgiven through death, repeated year after year. Blood has been shed – sin is serious – and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9: 22).
That which affected the people of Israel in Egypt, impacts us today. We have our own slavery to sinfulness – marked by human selfishness, and we too, need a sacrifice. Do we have a lamb for the offering to God; for the blood sacrifice; to die in our place? Yes, Christ Jesus is our Passover lamb.
God is a God of Sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a concept upon which nations have been built. Australians look to the sacrifice of their forefathers in conquering the land and in fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today. Sacrifice is the willingness to give up something of great value for something offering a greater reward. There is loss before gain. Many athletes tell us that makes the reward all the greater.
John 3: 16 proclaims the sacrifice of God the Father: giving up His Son to be the Passover Lamb for all the world, that whoever believes on the value of this sacrifice, will not die but have everlasting life.
Our lives are of great value to God. He was willing for His Son to be sacrificed for us all. The Cross is the outpouring of His love to all, and it becomes powerful for those who believe. Just as a generation was called to apply the blood of the lamb to their doorframes, so we are called to apply the blood of Jesus to our hearts. Recognise the love of God displayed for you. Say thankyou and accept His wonderful gift of forgiveness and life!
We Become a People of Sacrifice
As we receive this gift of life that comes with our forgiveness, so we also are called to live out lives of sacrifice to honour God, and to be demonstrations of His love to others. The context of the I Corinthian text, is a call to live a new type of life: not like those who live around us and certainly not how we used to live. It is a call to purity and uses the example of having dough baked without yeast, “Get rid of the old yeast so you can be a batch [of dough] without yeast” (I Cor. 5: 7a). This is the reason for God’s love and sacrifice: that we live new and exciting lives that “serve the living God” (Hebrews 9: 14). The blood of Christ’s sacrifice has a purpose, and that is new life for us. What a gift!
A letter to the editor in a newspaper leading up to Easter asked, “Why do Christians make such a fuss of Easter when it is a pagan festival to the goddess Eastre?”
The answer is – we know it as something far more! Whatever the celebrations of other cultures and traditions, the story of the Passover relates to our lives today. We are slaves to sin. We need a Saviour. We need to escape the wrath of a Holy God who will judge all in this world – and so we can.
The death of Jesus, the Christ, is remembered as a supreme act of sacrifice and an act of great love.
The forgiveness before our Creator that we need to find, because of our universal lack of living in a way to honour Him, has been offered. We can receive it. Blood has flowed – the blood of a Passover Lamb. The promise given ages past that “God will provide a lamb” (Genesis 22: 8) as been fulfilled. That lamb is Jesus. He died on a Roman Cross – yet by His death we live. Praise God!!