When hosting a meal for a large group of people there are many things to be concerned about, but what is almost always one of the biggest concerns – and maybe even the biggest concern — that a host or hostess may have? Will I have enough food? I imagine that you yourself may have had the experience of having leftovers left over for days and days on end rather than risk having people left out at the serving table.
What was the concern that God had when he told each family of the Israelite community to host a Passover meal to commemorate the event when he rescued the children of Israel from the land of Egypt? Look at verse 4 of our lesson that Pastor Casmer read earlier: “If any household is too small for a whole Lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.” Instead of being concerned about having enough food, they were to be concerned about having too much food. And what about leftovers? Go down to verse 10 near the end of the large paragraph: “Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.” No leftovers. In other words, the lamb was not to be too large – too big – for their needs.
Thankfully each of us can say when it comes to our needs – and the reasons we have gathered here on this Maundy Thursday evening this evening as the household of Christ – that when it comes to the one who came to finally fulfill all that that first Passover pointed ahead to: “This Lamb Is Not Too Big!” While I want to share what Christ has done with others, I can be thankful that I never have to worry that I might get a lesser share of what he has done because there are too many people to share it with. The Lamb of God is just what I need.
And that is good because “I need a Lamb to pass over me.” I need a Savior who is just the right size – just the right person – to assure me that what he did really means I am okay with God and that I can live with him in heaven after I die. Otherwise, there really is no reason to gather like this or to even be alive in the first place.
That is vitally important for every single one of us to remember because every single one of us has the desire at times to say to God, “God, don’t pass over me. Pass by me.” What I mean is that the things we do wrong – our sins – can lead us to say, “Don’t look at me, Lord. Pass by me.” “God, don’t make me think about how I haven’t forgiven that person. God, don’t make me worry about what I’m letting my eyes look at or my mind think about. God, don’t bother me with your rules that make me seem so weird to anyone I work with or want to be friends with. God, just go away. Pass by me.”
Doesn’t that make it all the more important to instead say to our God, “Lord, I need a Lamb to pass over me.” And the kind of Lamb we need to pass over us is the one who was the human fulfillment of what all those hundreds of thousands and millions of lambs over the centuries pointed ahead to. Let’s think about that for a moment on this night that we are thinking about that one night when Jesus reclined in that room with his disciples, eating what would be the Last Supper – the Last Passover Supper – with them. What kind of a Lamb was in that room breaking bread and blessing wine with his disciples? It was the one who did in a far greater and far more important way what those other lambs did through the ages.
Look at verse 5. There we are told that the Passover meal lamb was to be without defect. Who was the final Lamb who truly was without defect? The sinless Lamb. Look at verse 6. There we are told that the Passover meal lamb was to be slaughtered. Who was the final Lamb who, though sinless, was slaughtered not for his sin, but for the sins of all others? The sacrificial Lamb. Look at verse 13. There we are told that God would pass over the homes of all the people who had the blood of their without defect, slaughtered lamb sprinkled on their houses. Who was the final Lamb whose sprinkled blood caused the rescue of people not from a foreign land where they would otherwise have been slaves for a while, but from a hopeless life where they would otherwise have been damned forever?The saving Lamb.
Brothers and sisters, that’s the Lamb whom we need to pass over us – the sinless, sacrificial, saving Lamb. And that is the Lamb who has passed over us. Tonight we are here to express our sadness over how we caused the suffering and death of the Lamb of God, but what we need to turn that sadness into joy every day of our life is what we also celebrate tonight precisely because of the suffering and death of the Lamb of God. He has taken away the sin of the world. Don’t ever think that God will pass you by because you are too bad. God has passed over your bad because he is so good – so perfectly good that he had his perfectly good Son be the Lamb of Passover for you.
And he gives me something more that I need – a continuous assurance that reminds me again and again that this really is true – and that God has not forgotten me – and that he will not ever forget me – because he has forgiven me – and that he continues to forgive me with that same blood that he poured out on the cross and has now sprinkled on my heart. One beautiful way he does that is by having a meal with me. I need just the right-sized Lamb – the sinless, sacrificial, saving Lamb — I need a Lamb to have a meal with me.
God told his people back then to have this Passover meal every single year to remind them again and again what was so easy to forget – that God loved them and that he had rescued them and that he would never stop loving them and rescuing them. And every year they could wonder, “Is this the year when the final Lamb will come so we can see how all this will work out in the end?”
Well, the year that the final Lamb came to put an end to all those meals was the year of his death when he had this last meal with his disciples. And this last meal with his disciples was one that he then told all of us going forward to do it as often as we do it in remembrance of him. Verse 8 helps us think about what God’s people remember when they come forward to enjoy the meal that many of you will be receiving this evening. Verse 8: “That same night they are to eat their meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread without yeast.”
If you remember, having no yeast or leaven in their bread was a reminder of what happened on that first Passover when God took them out of Egypt and told them that they had to be so ready to leave quickly that that they shouldn’t even put yeast in their bread because that would make them have to wait longer as the bread would rise. That is why the Passover meal had unleavened bread. The thought of leaven or yeast infiltrating the bread also was used later in the Bible as a picture of the yeast of sin infiltrating our lives. When we come forward tonight, we come forward as people who say to God, “I am sorry for the sinful leaven that continues to rise up in my life. I need to have a meal with you, because you love me so much to forgive me.”
They also ate bitter herbs, we are told. As their faces perhaps grimaced from the strong taste or aroma, that was to remind them of how bitter life was for their people back when they were slaves in Egypt. When we come forward tonight, we come forward as people who say to God, “I am so burdened by the bitterness of life. I need to have a meal with you, because you love me so much to comfort me.”
That forgiveness and that comfort we do receive when we come forward tonight, because what we receive is not just a bite of bread and a bit of wine, as they received at all those Passover meals. With that bread and wine ever since that first Maundy Thursday we are receiving in a miraculous way the body and blood of the Passover Lamb – the sinless, sacrificial, saving Passover Lamb. And while that is too big for us to comprehend, it is not too big to believe. This Lamb is not too big. The almighty God came to earth to pass over our sin, and the almighty God continues to have a meal with us which assures us that his forgiveness never stops and that his living with us will never end. After all, there is one more never-ending Supper still to come, no matter how many more of these suppers your dear Lord allows you to attend. Amen.