British scholar Michael Green once wrote, What an astonishing way for a religion to start – founded on a cross! Imagine the incongruity these days of starting a religious movmt. based on a hangman s noose. And yet think of the amazing spread of that cross, all b/c Jesus died on one 2000 yrs ago The Empty Cross of Jesus, 1984).
A. Ever since Jesus died & rose, the cross has been at the center of Christian faith – not so much as a religious symbol, but as the focal point of God s love & power.
B. We sing about it, preach it, live in light of it, & sometimes even wear it, b/c we fully realize that apart from the cross we have no hope – but that through the cross we have life everlasting. – Jn. 12:32 – I will draw all men to myself.
C. Yet not everyone loves the old rugged cross. In Phil. 3:18 Paul spoke of many who live as enemies of the cross of Christ – & the cross continues to have its opponents today: people who reject it, scoff at it, criticize it, demean it, & just ignore it.
D. In 2004, The Passion of the Christ served as a lightning-rod for our civilization s animosity toward the cross. It became publicly evident how many truly despise the cross we cherish.
E. In this series we’ll be studying the cross together, exploring its meaning & significance, trying to understand anew just what happened there & why it ought to change us. NOT primarily b/c the cross has its detractors, but b/c it deserves all the attention we can give it, & so we can be reminded that the message we proclaim is that of Christ – & Him crucified.
F. In the OT certain crucial events & ceremonies foreshadow what God would later do through the cross of Christ. One of the most significant of these is the Passover ritual. Passover is so closely linked to the cross that in 1 Cor 5:7 Paul refers to Jesus as our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed.
I. Passover, like the cross, was about being saved from death by means of a death.
A. 1st Passover observance came in connection w. last of the 10 plagues by which God forced Pharaoh to let Isr. go: death of the 1st-born of Egypt.
B. Passover was the means of protecting Israel from that plague.
1. Ex. 12:1-28 gives detailed instructions: gather as families, slaughter unblemished lambs at sunset on 14 Nisan, eat it roasted & leave nothing. Eat with shoes on & staff in hand, ready to leave when God gave the word.
2. Important: Blood of the lamb to be smeared on doorposts & lintel of every Israelite house. 12:13 & 23-24.
C. Result was 2-fold: 1) preservation from death & 2) freedom from slavery.
D. Repeated observance of Passover became an annual reminder of what God had done in delivering & preserving His people, which powerfully foreshadowed what He would later do through the cross of His own Son.
1. Jn 1:29: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
2. Matt 26:26-29. Last Supper was an observance of Pasover, but transformed by Jesus to show its ultimate meaning – the blood of the covenant. . . for the forgiveness of sins. As Isr. was protected & set free from Eg., we are from sin, b/c we are in covenant relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus.
3. All 4 NT Gospels give accounts of the LS, & the one element of the meal never mentioned in any of them is the lamb – b/c Jesus is the Lamb!
4. Rev 5:6, 9-14 – by thy blood thou didst ransom. . . .
2. But the parallels betw. Passover & Cross aren t limited to a meal & the shedding of a lamb s blood. Both Passover & Cross. . .
A. Created a holy people.
1. Prior to Passover & Exodus, Isr was a rag-tag group of slaves. After, they were a holy nation for God s service 12:14-20). Passover was their defining moment, as they became a people devoted to doing as God directs in order to be holy.
2. 1 Pet 1:13-19. Peter says the same about the cross & the church: we are to be holy, b/c we’ve been ransomed by the blood of Jesus. Notice the obvious Passover allusion.)
3. Problem: Isr frequently lost sight of their sacred identity & calling. Forgot why God redeemed them. The times of their greatest apostasy from God were also the times when they didn’t observe Passover. 2 Ki 23:21-23). What was the connection? When they weren’t observing Passover, they lost sight of their identity & purpose.
4. As the church, we have to be certain that doesn’t happen to us. B/c it can, & sometimes does.
a. Reason why, from earliest days of the church, the Lord s Supper has been a weekly feature of Christian worship. B/c we need the reminder! We aren’t just called to be something, but to do something – serve God by showing His love to the world. Examples: Evangelism, caring for those in need as in Matt 25).
b. But eating the supper is no guarantee we’ll remember our mission. Some see selves as called to nit-pick rather than to serve. Not servants, but critics.
c. Each of us needs to examine our own hearts & lives continually: Am I being what God has called me to be through the cross? Think about that as you eat the Supper.
B. Brought freedom at a price.
1. Israel: Set free, but only through deaths of the 1st-born of Eg & death of an unblemished lamb.
2. Church: As Peter said, Ransomed, not with earthly, material things, but by the blood of God s own Son, OUR Passover Lamb. That’s how we obtain freedom from sin.
a. Jn 8:31-34. Slavery to sin is even worse than physical bondage, b/c it means certain death, separation from God forever.
b. Heb 2:14-15, Rom. 8:1-2.
3. That’s why we can’t purposely go on sinning – our freedom cost too much!
4. Badly misunderstood by those who say, Once forgiven, it doesn’t matter what you do. But the cross says, B/c you re forgiven, your freedom is too costly to trifle with it!
C. Disclosed the identity & nature of God.
1. Ex 5:2. Who is the Lord? – Pharaoh found out, that night the 1st-born died! Isr found out, too – that their God was more powerful than all the gods of Eg, & He is the God who kept His word to Abraham.
2. In the cross, we learn something else about God: the depth of His love, even for fallen, sinful humanity. Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16.
3. There was ample evidence of God s love before Jesus died:
Adam & Eve, covenant with Ab, the Exodus from Eg, the prophets. – But nothing quite disclosed just how much He loves us until Jesus went to the cross.
4. Now we know – & b/c we know, there can be no holding back from Him!
D. Required both Divine Initiative & Human Obedience.
1. No question about it: Passover & Exodus were God’s doing. He sent Moses to Phar, & He brought the plagues on Eg, & He parted the sea. W/out Him, there was nothing Isr could have done to free themselves.
2. But once God acted, it was up to Isr to obey & receive what God was offering them. That’s what the detailed instructions re Passover are all about: did they believe Him enough to obey Him? If so, they would live; if not, they would die.
3. No question about it: The cross was God’s doing. Nothing we did or could ever do could motivate God to offer up His Son. Now that He’s done it, it’s up to us to trust & obey Him.
a. God s initiative is what Scrip calls grace – giving us what we need, but in no way deserve.
b. But grace cries out to be accepted. Otherwise, we remain in bondage. Acts 2:36-42
4. Make no mistake: His initiative has priority. But our faithful obedience is a necessity.
Obviously, there are many parallels between Passover & the Cross. But there s also one enormous difference that we dare not overlook: What God did in the Passover was for the benefit of His chosen people, Israel – to free them, to make them a unique people. What Jesus did on the cross was for everyone, w/out regard to nationality, race, or prior history. 1 Tim 2:4. He desires all to be saved.@ That means Jesus went to the cross for every one of us – for you! Now He waits to see if you want to be under the blood.