The Lamb of the Story
These are the raw sermon notes from my message on April 13, 2014. Palm Sunday. You can get more clarity by listening to the podcast.
Exodus 12:1While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. 3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. 4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. 5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects. 6 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb at twilight. 7 They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. 8 That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. 10 Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning. 11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the lord’s Passover. 12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the lord! 13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
The Passover demonstrates the uniqueness. For Jews and Christians – the Passovers defines and gives identity. At the center of Judaism and Christianity is the bloody death of a helpless victim. Why? What does it mean?
There is a Bible long story of the Lamb.
The Offering of the Lamb
The Pharoh won’t let the people go. God says he will strike down every first born.
v.23 Moses says- the Lord will not let the destroyer into your house to strike you down.
There is a simple fact/law: when you violate God’s laws you unleash forces of destruction, disintegration, and chaos.
- If you overwork- career as an idol leads to breakdown of all sorts of life
- Holding a grudge- there is breakdown and disintegration of all sorts.
When God says the destroyer will come, I have scrolled ahead and in one night and in one place, eternal/divine judgment day justice (consequence) will be focused at one point in one place. There will be a preliminary, temporary but devastating judgment day. Not just the forces of destruction, disintegration, and chaos that are out there in general, but for one night there will be a release of destruction.
I’m about to unleash the most irresistible, unstoppable, irreversible force in the universe. The destroyer. It will go through the most powerful military and dynasty that the world has ever seen (Egypt). It will go right through it like a knife going through hot butter.
There is only one thing that will protect you. There is only one way you can face this ultimate destroyer of the universe. A Lamb.
A lamb??!! I will be protected from the most ultimate destroyer, but the fluffiest, meekest, mildest creature possible? Yes, this is the only way. Kill a lamb. Eat it with your family, and put the blood on your door post.
This is confounding and deeply offensive to the modern person. If you put it in the context of the Bible long story of the Lamb it starts to make more sense. There are many chapters in this story.
The Story of the Lamb
Chapter 1: Abraham (Gen22) starts the story of the lamb.
God told him to offer up his own son as a sacrifice. Abraham didn’t think this was to craziest thing that he had ever heard. We would but we are from the ancient world. In the ancient world there was no desire for individual prosperity, individual success, etc. Instead it was all for your family. Not for yourself but for your family. If someone in the family failed then the whole family felt the shame for that. America is the most individualistic culture in the history of the world. We are our own people. This individualism is extremely unbalanced and unhealthy. We are much more a part of our family than what we really think. Most of what we are is from our family influence.
In the ancient world the first-born inherited the whole estate. God said over and over again in the law that the first-born belonged to God. It was an unmistakable message to the ancient culture. They put their whole family identity in the first born, and therefore God said your first born should be my possession unless you redeem him. The message: there is a debt of sin over every family. The first born is liable for the way you are living. He must be redeemed.
When God said to Abraham, kill your son, he understood the concept of what God was getting at. If God would have said, kill Sarah, your wife, then he would have been confused because that went against the pattern of the first born and importance of his identity.
Abraham realized that God was calling in a debt. He was doing something he had a right to do. Abraham knew that God was
Genesis 22:7-8 – I hope with all my being that you will not have to die for my sins. (though that is just) I hope that God will provide a lamb so that my lamb won’t have to die.
Do you object to this? Primitive and unseen? What are the objections?
- It is extreme to say that every single family or person has a debt of sin and is not ‘living right’. We should find our own standards. Ok, let’s say that there are no transcendent, moral absolutes that everyone has to adhere to. Let’s be post-modern for a while. Around your neck is a portable recording device and the only thing it picks up the things you are saying that other people ought to do. It only picks up standards that you call people to ascribe to. It picks the moral standard you keep others to. If at the end of your life we took that recording. There is no one on the earth that could live up to the standard that would be on your recording. Let’s not even go to the 10 commandments, or the golden rule. Let’s use YOUR standards of how people ought to live. There is no one that can face an evaluation of how they have lived their lives. No one can pass a moral evaluation of any sort.
- There is a debt to sin – Surely if there is a God, God can simply forgive what he wants. The answer: no. There has to be payment. Please think about this for just a moment. If someone really, really wrongs you. What happens? There is debt that must be paid. It can’t be ignored. It is a debt. There are 2 things you can do. They can hurt them, berate them, find ways to coerce them or exclude them. As you see them pay down the debt you feel it is being released. The Bible is clear if that is the course you take it will dehumanize you. The other option is to simply forgive. Ok, right answer, but let’s talk about what forgiveness consists of. To forgive someone absorbs the debt. Literally when money is owed, then the amount must be made up somewhere else by the forgiver. (every action has an equal and opposite reaction). The forgiver must not hurt them even when they want to. When we want to slice up their reputation and destroy them, we don’t. When we want to think awful thoughts and focus on how bad of a person they are, we don’t. Forgiveness means not acting out on the vengeance that is obviously felt. IF WE CHOOSE TO DO THAT, over time, our anger subsides. WHY? Because you are paying down the debt yourself. The forgiver is paying for the debt. You are paying down. It is costly and difficult. It doesn’t just go away. When a real wrong is done. Psychologically there is a lot of difficulty. Someone has to pay it, either they pay you back OR you forgive and you pay it internally within yourself.
- Example- we find a man who is guilty of rape and murder. The judge presiding over the case, “Well, he says he is sorry. Let’s let him go free.” There would be outrage immediately. If he doesn’t pay, then society will pay. Right? To let him go would mean the victims are worthless and that society is worthless. There is no deterrence. He will go on doing it or others will go on doing it because it wasn’t punished. Either he pays or we pay.
There is no such thing a wrong being done without someone paying for it. Either the person who did it or someone else.
Despite our best intentions and new age philosophy, wrongs truly exist AND wrongs have to be made right.
If even us with our fuzzy moral compasses feel that, then how much more does God feel it at a cosmic level?
Therefore, what this means, Abraham knows this. He is not a modern American individualist.
- we owe it to God to live for him
- We owe it to our neighbor to love them
We fail at both of these and should pay the debt that we owe. Our debt is called and at the last minute, God says, “Abraham, don’t do it.” This leaves us with a few questions. There is a debt to be paid, but the lamb doesn’t show up. There is a ram that is provided and is sacrificed but more as a thank offering. The fact of the matter is that there is a debt, God is entitled the payment but it doesn’t get made so where is the lamb.
Chapter 2 Moses
Again, God claims the life of the first born. He claims it and again he says the only hope is a lamb.
Spiritual Egalitarianism – v.12:22 after you put blood on door, not one of you should go outside before the morning. The destroyer is not just coming for the Egyptians. It is coming for everyone. Look, Israelites. You are the oppressed. They are the oppressor. You worship the true God. They worship idols. And yet in yourself, if you were to meet judgment tonight, you would find whether it is on the 10 commandments, or the golden rule, or the portable recording device around your neck you would be lost tonight. In yourself, you are no better than the Egyptians. In the final spiritual analysis, the morally ethical, the biblically righteous, the doctrinally proper if you go out and try to meet judgment on your own, your race, your pedigree, your ethnicity, your religion, your belief, your doctrine, your ethical behavior, none of that will help you. You will be as lost as those you distain the most. The Egyptians.
Spiritual Substitutionism – In the homes that night, there either would be a dead son or a dead lamb. The lamb got what the son deserved. The lamb was a substitute. Every first-born son in every Hebrew home looked at the lamb and said the only reason that I am not dead is because that is.
Let’s get out of yourself for a moment (our individualistic American culture).
We know that there is a debt. We have not been living as we should. Just as the guilt of some could be transferred to one, so could be the redemption of all be transferred to one.
It is possible that someone I am in solidarity with is paying my debt. It’s a beautiful thing.
This passage is saying it is not the last chapter. Yes, the Israelites are the victims. But, even if you go out from under the lamb you will be smitten tonight. When God says that, what he is actually saying is even though I am delivering you tonight, you are still under the weight of sin. You need a deeper deliverance than this one. As powerful and important as this one is, you need another one. You need one that bring radical salvation. There is a bigger and deeper spiritual bondage that needs to be paid.
Chapter 3 – Jesus celebrates the Passover meal.
Shock #1- Jesus is sitting at the head of the of the table. The position of the father. The tradition was for the father to stand up and explain the Passover meal. They expected for Jesus to say that this is the bread of our affliction. Our ancestors suffered in the wilderness so that we could be free. INSTEAD, he says this bread is my body. This is the bread of my affliction. I am going to suffer to give you the ultimate freedom. Not just from political and social bondage, but from sin and death itself.
Shock #2 – In a typical Passover meal, they would have the bread, the four cups of wine, and a lamb. There is no reference to a lamb at this Passover meal. What kind of a meal is this? There is no lamb on the table because there was a lamb at the table. “My Death is the central event to which all of the history of God’s relationship to the world has been moving. Tonight, I am giving you that ultimate salvation that even Moses understood that that Passover was pointing to. The debt of sin that had hung over Israel for thousands of years was being remitted because this night is unlike all other nights.” This is the reason that John the Baptist said, behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He was saying, “I get it!” Our first borns are saved because God gives up his first born. God was saying to Abraham, “I will lay the wood on Jesus”. They only reason that Abraham’s son didn’t have to die is because Jesus did. When Jesus on the cross cries out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” God paid the ultimate price in his silence. Behold the perfect lamb. The gospels declare that no bones were broken because it had to be a lamb without spot or blemish. Jesus died just at twilight, because the lamb had to be slain at twilight.
Beholding the Lamb of God – think, realize, take it in, LOOK!, grasp it!
If you are exploring Christianity: I don’t understand why Jesus had to die:
- Do not let your American individualism obscure what the Bible say (and most other cultures): that you have wronged God and your neighbor, there is a debt that must be paid. Don’t let that be obscured. When Jesus cried out on the cross, Jesus paid that debt.
- The accounts of Jesus life all point to the reason and purpose for his death on the cross. You can’t subtract the cross and still make sense of Jesus’ life. If you were making up a religion, you would never put in the garden of gethsemane. You would never put in the star of the religion say, “I’m forsaken”. Thousands of people have faced executions with much more swagger than Jesus did. He was wimpy! It had to have happened. He must have been forsaken. He had to BE IN OUR PLACE. He had to have been substituting for us.
Some may say: I don’t believe in a God of judgment and wrath. I only believe in a God of love. Ironically, a God of more wrath than yours is necessarily a God of more love than yours. It is one thing to say you have love for someone, but it is much more loving to show it.
It is in my darkest hours that I have felt the most loved. When I was at my lowest point, it was those people who SHOWED their love that made the difference.
A god that says he or she loves you, but you don’t have Jesus and you don’t have the cross, just says they love you. Ironically, the God of the Bible is a god of more love.
The truth is the cross and the lamb. Jesus dying for people that didn’t believe in him. Only in him are you loved. If you take this all in, it radically changes the way you see glory and achievement.
In San Marcos and Texas State, glory and achievement is acquiring.
In the cross and lamb, glory and achievement is humility, serving, giving.
It radically, changes your view of suffering. If we really beheld the Lamb of God, our suffering would be totally different.
We eat the lamb with others. The community of God is here for us to behold the Lamb of God together until it transforms.
If you were to interview a Hebrew in the Sinai desert and ask them who they were, they would say, “I was an alien in a foreign land under the penalty of death, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb and even though morally, racially, and ethically I could not save myself, I was saved and now I have been brought out and God is in our midst. He is now taking me to the Promised Land. WE NOW HAVE THAT SAME TESTIMONY.
Now, we do this in remembrance of Him.
Much of this sermon came from research done by Timothy Keller.
Posted on April 14, 2014, in Sermon Notes, theology and tagged atonement, exodus 12:13, Jesus Christ, lamb of God, sacrifice, sermon notes, sin offering, son of God, story of the lamb sermon, substitution, timothy keller sermon. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.