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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Good Friday Service, 2006-04-14

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:7,8

According to the biblical account, Jesus went through a total of six trials in Jerusalem on the night before He was crucified - Three of them were Jewish trials: The one before Caiaphas the high priest, the one before Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas, and the one before the Sanhedrin council. This was followed by three Roman trials - twice before Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman procurator of Judea, and once before King Herod Antipas. 

During these trials, our Lord Jesus was mocked, beaten, scourged with whips, arrayed in a purple robe, and crowned with thorns. Then He was led away to be crucified, bearing the wooden cross to Calvary. There He was crucified between two thieves. This began at about 8.00 to 9.00 in the morning and it ended when Jesus breathed His last breath at about 3.00 in afternoon. The gospel accounts tell us that the whole sky was dark from noon until the time that Jesus died.

As Jesus submitted Himself to enduring such a painful death, He knew exactly why He was going through all of this. He had come into this world for the very purpose of going to the Cross. Even at the time when Jesus began His public ministry, John the Baptist had introduced Him as 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' (John 1:29) By saying this, John the Baptist plainly declared that the precious life of Jesus would have to be sacrificed in death. 

No other title of Jesus speaks more of His death on the cross than to be called 'The Lamb.' It is mentioned no less than 26 times in the New Testament, and mostly in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Jesus is called, 'the Lamb that was slain.' And only those who have been redeemed by the blood of this Lamb are saved. Nothing but His precious blood can wash away the deepest stains of our sins. Dear friends, have you been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Have you come to Jesus Christ in humble repentance to have your sins washed away? If you have not done this yet, it is my solemn duty to warn you that a fate worse than physical death awaits you. If you do nothing about your sins, you will spend eternity in endless awful suffering and torment, in a place called Hell. And we all should shudder with great fear to think of the horrible punishment that all unsaved sinners will have to bear in Hell.

Now throughout the whole of man's history, God has been warning man again and again about the awful punishments that sinners will have to bear for their sins. He has allowed the world to be afflicted with all kinds of natural disasters and plagues. All these provide only a very mild preview of the worse torments and suffering that await them after death for their sins. They are designed to turn them to repent of their many sins, and to seek for salvation from eternal death. Today there are earthquakes, tsunamis, SARS, and Bird flu to give us a mild preview of eternal death.

I. The Origins of the Passover

About 15 centuries before Jesus went to the cross, the people of Egypt had already experienced some of the worst divine judgments ever seen in this world. They came in the form of 10 Great Plagues. The waters of the great river Nile turned into blood and all the fish in the river died. All the crops in the fields of Egypt were devoured by locusts. All the farm animals died of disease, and the skin of every Egyptian was covered with painful boils. 

The last of the 10 plagues was the worst one of all. It was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. On that dreadful night, every Egyptian family was bereaved, and cries of sorrow and mourning were heard in every home. But every Israelite family would also have lost their firstborn in the 10th plague, if they had not availed themselves of God's provision for their salvation. This is because unlike the rest of the plagues of Egypt, this last plague was meant to be God's judgment of all sinners in the land, regardless of whether they were Egyptians or Israelites. 

If we Singaporeans had been living there at that time, we too would have been affected by the last plague because we are also sinners in God's sight, and just deserving of death as the Egyptians and the Israelites. As God's Word says in Ezekiel 18:20, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die.' The only way that we could have escaped from suffering the death of our firstborn is by availing ourselves of God's own provision for the salvation of sinners. This provision involved slaughtering an animal and applying its blood on the entrance of the house. When the Lord came to a house and saw the animal's blood smeared on the entrance, he would 'pass over' that house and move on to the next one without taking any human life, because the blood indicated that death had already taken place in that house (Exodus 12:13). But any house that did not have the blood would lose every firstborn son or daughter who lived in it to death. Since the presence of the animal's blood caused the Lord to pass over a house, the animal was called 'the Passover.'

II. Christ is Our Passover

Now, out of the many requirements that God gave about the Passover, there are four which I would like to highlight to all of us tonight. The first 3 are found in Exodus 12:5 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.' First of all, the Passover animal must be a lamb. For all ordinary animal sacrifices the Israeites could use oxen, sheep and goats and even doves and pigeons. But for the Passover, no animal could be used except the lamb. 

I believe you can now understand why Jesus is called 'the Lamb of God,' or the 'Lamb that was slain' as was mentioned earlier - Because it designates Him to be our Passover. A look at the other 2 requirements mentioned in the same verse will confirm this: It tells us that the Passover had to be without blemish, and that it had to be a male. This aptly corresponds to the sinlessness of Jesus, and to the fact that He is a man. 

The 4th requirement for the Passover is mentioned in Exodus 12:46 'neither shall ye break a bone thereof.' This means that the Israelites had to be careful to keep every single bone of the Passover lamb intact when they killed it, when they roasted it, and even when they ate it. Why was such a strange requirement as this necessary? There is only one possible reason: To make it even more obvious that the Passover lamb points to Jesus Christ! 

The Gospel of John (John 19:31-36) records that when Jesus was crucified, none of His bones were broken. It was the Roman custom to hasten the death of those they crucified by breaking their legs. This was done to the two thieves who were crucified beside Jesus - The soldiers broke their legs, and they died soon after that. But when the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that He had already died. And so His legs were not broken. None of His bones were broken throughout His crucifixion. Without knowing it, the Roman soldiers had made the Passover lamb with its intact bones a perfect representation of Jesus Christ in His Death!

Dearly beloved, from all this I believe that we now have a fuller understanding why Jesus Christ had to die and shed His blood on the Cross: So that He may become our Passover Lamb, who was slain in our place, to pay the price for our sins. This truth is expressed so clearly in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that says 'Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us'

Having learned that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to be our Passover, what we want to do now is to explore the implications of this glorious truth on us. I would like to highlight 3 implications that are given in our text of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 5:7,8 

III. Some Implications of Knowing Christ to Be Our Passover

A. The Motivation We Can Obtain from Pondering Our Substitute

The first implication can be found in the latter part of v.7 'For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us' These last two words 'for us' are extremely meaningful. They literally mean, 'on our behalf.' They bring out the fact that Jesus is our substitute. Dearly beloved, every time we gaze at the Cross, let us ponder deeply over this important truth: We should have been the ones to die on that cross, not Him. 

Why should Jesus die for us, when He is so wonderful and holy, and the least deserving of suffering such a painful death? Why should we have been spared from facing a death which we fully deserve for all our sins against God and against our fellow man? How can it be that God's only begotten Son should die for me? There is only one satisfactory answer that can explain these things: The pure, selfless love that Jesus has for us! No love has ever been as great as this. Tonight, I would like you to meditate deeply on this matchless, infinite love that Jesus has shown unto us in His death for us. And allow that meditation to be used of God to revive your love for Him. There is really no better remedy for hearts that have grown spiritually cold than this. 

And that is why God wants you to meditate on it regularly. But how often do you really take time to ponder over the great love that Jesus has done for His own? When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He told His disciples to do it often in remembrance of Him. For whenever we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are proclaiming His death. Let us therefore look forward to each time that we can partake of the Lord's Supper. It should be something we crave for; something we earnestly prepare ourselves for, because we see it as an opportunity for personal spiritual renewal, when we put in the effort to meditate deeply on His death for us. 

It is for the very same reason that God commanded Israel to observe the Passover annually. It served as a regular reminder to them of the great debt which they owe to Him for having delivered them out of slavery in Egypt with the tenth plague, and from dying with the Egyptians in that plague. The Jews still observe the Passover every year, and it usually falls around Easter. This year, they observed the Passover just yesterday. Each Jewish family would gather together at the dinning table for their Passover meal. They would follow a prescribed order which included thanksgiving prayers, the breaking of the unleavened bread, the drinking of wine, questions asked by the youngest child, reciting of certain psalms, and a retelling of the story of how God delivered His people from Egypt and from the 10th plague.

The Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples was actually a Passover meal. It was during that Last Supper that Jesus used the unleavened bread and a cup on the table to institute the Lord's Supper. This means that our Lord's Supper is really a Passover meal with a new meaning: Not to remember the Israelites' deliverance through a lamb's blood any more, but to remember our deliverance through the blood of Christ which He shed for us on the Cross of Calvary. As we will be having the Lord's Supper after this sermon, let us remember to do one important thing: Ponder its significance deeply, and then respond appropriately from your hearts. And what is an appropriate response? Obedience, dear Friends, obedience!

II. The Commandment We Must Obey, of Purging Our Sins

The knowledge that Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us, must lead us to obey God's commandments. Verse 7 of our text begins with the commandment to 'purge out the old leaven.' This is God's command for us to be holy as He is holy, by purging out our personal sins and all sinful elements from within the church. You will notice that in this command, sin is represented by leaven. Leaven is another name for yeast which is the ingredient used in the making of bread. It gives bread its bulky, spongy texture. Bread that is made without leaven will be flat and hard like a biscuit. This is called unleavened bread and it is similar to what we use in the Lord's Supper.

Leaven has an interesting property: It multiplies quickly when it is mixed into a lump of dough. All that you need is just a little bit of leaven, and within a few hours, the dough would have increased in bulk because of the leaven. This makes leaven a very appropriate symbol for sin. Like leaven, sin always starts small in a person's life - perhaps just with an evil or lustful thought. And we ought to nip it right there in the bud before it grows any further. But all too often, we do nothing about it and just allow it to grow. Soon the sin dominates our life and we suffer from its terrible effects. James tells us that, 'when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished [or full grown], bringeth forth death.' (James 1:15) 

When Paul wrote the commandment in v.7 to the Corinthians, there was grievous sin in the midst of their church. In the beginning of the chapter he rebuked them very sternly for failing to discipline a member who was living in open immorality. They were not only allowing that member to continue to worship with them; according to v.6 they were also glorying in their tolerant attitude! If this situation were to continue for long, sin would soon multiply and pollute the whole Corinthian church! 

This is why Paul had to use the most persuasive reason to urge them to purge out the sin from their midst - the reason that Jesus Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us.

Dearly beloved, this is also the strongest reason for you to purge out your sins from your life. If you keep tolerating these sins in your life, you are in effect, insulting the very death which C(rist died for you! You are showing absolutely no regard for the awful pain and the selfless sacrifice that Jesus went through on the Cross to atone for your sins. How can you go on sinning when you know how much grief it has caused to Him who loves you?

Please make every effort not to allow sin to take root in your life. And please be most diligent to examine your heart and remove any sins that have already started to develop. You should not merely confess your sins to the Lord tonight, but make a firm commitment to rid your life of anything that grieves Him at His heart. It may be some sinful habit that you have been tolerating for too long. It may also be your continued neglect of doing those things that you know full well Godkwants you to do.

III. The Exhortation We Should Observe, of Promoting Our Sanctified Living

And as you commit yourself now to purging away all the leaven of sin from your life, let your heart be encouraged by the exhortation that is found in v.8 'Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'

The feast mentioned here is the Old Testament Feast of Unleavened Bread which begins on the very same evening as the Passover meal, and continues for the next 7 days (Exodus 12:15-20). This 7-day feast is a time of joyful celebration ' to celebrate the freedom of being delivered by God from death, and from slavery.

While the Passover directs our thoughts to the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, the Feast of Unleavened Bread directs our thoughts to the new life we should now be living in response to His death - A life that is free from our old sins, and filled instead with new godly virtues like sincerity and truth. And while the unleavened bread of the feast was eaten for only 7 days, the unleavened life we ought to live should go on all the days our life. 

Dearly beloved, the new life that our Lord Jesus purchased for us when He died on the Cross is meant to be like keeping a perpetual feast. There is a sense of joyful freedom in us as we keep on feasting upon Him, and enjoying the wonderful delights of living with Him and for Him. Let us live this new life well, to honour Him who is our Great Saviour, the One who was willing to die in our place.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11