MAUNDY THURSDAY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
When the Lord struck Egypt with His fifth plague that killed all the Egyptian livestock, Moses told Pharaoh, “But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.” And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of Israel was dead.
So why was it so simple when it came to horses, donkeys, camels, herds and flocks but involved so much when it came to the firstborn children? God had no problem in distinguishing between an Egyptian donkey and an Israelite one. He only killed those who belonged to Egyptians and left those of the Israelites alone. So why then when it comes to the tenth plague, where He took the lives of the first born, could He have not done the same thing? If He could tell the difference between identical Egyptian and Israelite sheep, surely it wouldn’t be hard to tell the difference between a circumcised Israelite child and an uncircumcised Egyptian one?
He is God after all, which does mean that He knows everything. Even without circumcision He would have known His own people. So why? Why the sacrifice of the lamb at the door of the house and the pooled blood taken up to mark the top and the sides crossing the entrance to the Israelite homes with lamb’s blood? Surely the angel of death needed no such markings to keep him moving on? As Lord’s holy angels perfectly do His will he wouldn’t have needed extra help to get his job done that night. The Lord no doubt could have directed his footsteps to the right homes just as He had done with the horses, the donkeys, the camels and the flocks.
What is so special about this night? It is a question that Jews continue to ask at every celebration of the Passover to this day. The answer: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm,” is ever so true, and yet, there is more, far more to it, which provides the answer for our question tonight. Why the sacrifice of the lamb and the blood on the door? Why the special meal? It was all with this special night in mind, beloved, the one that we celebrate tonight. The sacrifice of the lamb with the blood on the door and the meal that followed was all for the sake of this night when Our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and when He had given thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples.
Plain and simple, everything that the Israelites where commanded to do on that first Passover was all a prophecy in act and ceremony of what God would do on that distant night, when His only begotten Son would reach out His strong hand, and with an outstretched arm would begin the mass Exodus of His people out of slavery to sin, death and hell. Here, as in many times throughout scripture, we must look back to understand both what is given now, and what lies ahead in the future. You can’t really grasp the fullness of the New Testament without unpacking the fullness of the Old. The prophecy itself uncovers what is given in its fulfillment.
The sacrifice of the lamb points forward to the Lamb of God, who will be sacrificed for the life of the World. The blood marking the top and sides of the door points forward to blood of that Lamb, that is placed on the door of the soul in the waters of Holy Baptism, where the sign of the cross upon the forehead and heart mark one as redeemed by Christ the crucified. These signs, like those of old, are not there for the sake of the Lord, but for the faith of the one who receives them. God knows who are His own, and so, whom He should have the angel of death pass over, when the time comes, but the signs are given to us, as they were given to the Israelites, so that when the night comes, we may lie down and sleep in peace knowing that the Lord will make us dwell in safety.
The first passover meal points forward to this special night, when the Lord begins His greater Exodus with the feast of the Lamb of God that was to be slain - Himself. In the first passover the Israelites came to the meal as Egyptian slaves and left it as God’s free rescued people, while those who come to the fulfilled Passover meal of the Lord’s Supper arrive as slaves to sin, death and hell, they leave it as freed children of God rescued by His forgiveness and grace. In the first Passover, the Israelites were nourished for the journey out of Egypt toward the promised land, while in the Lord’s Supper God’s children are nourished for the journey out of the valley of the shadow of death into the glorious dawn of eternal life. The first Passover happened once and was a repeated as a statute forever, because the Lord Jesus would sit down, as He did on the night when He was betrayed, and make it into a perpetual feast, that He has continued to celebrate up to this day and will continue to celebrate until the end of time.
No, God didn’t need the blood of the Lamb but we did, beloved, which is why it was sacrificed on the First Passover and in it’s fulfillment when Our Lord Jesus Christ took the bread and when He had given thanks broke it and gave it to His disciples. As God doesn’t need what’s given out here this night to know that you are His own, but you do. And so come, beloved, in the sorrow of slavery to sin, death and hell, come and eat and drink, to depart in peace as God’s rescued freed people, nourished and strengthened to carry on your journey toward the glorious dawn of eternal life. Amen.