Easter Morning 2015
Worship Center Message // Pastor Chuck Allen
1 Corinthians 5:7
For some reason, Easter is marked by candy, peeps, and new clothes. Instead of a candy-carrying bunny, Easter is much more about another animal. Easter was all about a lamb.
When Jesus lived, lambs were a central part of the spiritual life of Israel. For centuries, Lambs had died for the sins of the nation. Inside the walls of the Temple, two lambs died every day (Exodus 28:29-31), one at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. When the lamb died, a priest would sound the shofar, a ram’s horn, and even people who didn’t witness the event would realize that a lamb had just died for the sins of the people.
It happened year after year. As shocking as a single sacrifice might be from our perspective, could there have been an opposite impact 2,000 years ago? Could the death of a lamb become so common that it had lost its punch? Could so many lambs have become – in a sense – invisible to the people who were so used to religion? The lambs weren’t invisible on Passover.
Maybe that’s why Passover was such an important holy day for the people. For a few days, every family in Israel would have a lamb, and every person in that family knew that the lamb in their home would have to die for sinful choices he or she had made.
Most families didn’t have flocks of sheep … most families would depend on the shepherds to bring the lambs to Jerusalem every spring. A few days before the holiday, each family would purchase a lamb.
The father bargained for the lamb, and bought it. The family took it home, and you can imagine what an impact it had on that home. Families had to house the lamb for a few days. Children would pet it. Mothers would feed it. Everyone would hear it and smell it.
That’s what made Passover so different. Unlike the daily sacrifices, which most people didn’t see, everyone lived with the Passover lamb for a few days. And everyone realized why this lamb would die when the hour came. “This lamb,” a child would quickly come to understand, “will die because of my sin.”
Jesus died while the entire nation of Israel was celebrating Passover. That’s not a coincidence. It was the most remarkable object lesson in all of history, and it shouldn’t have surprised those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus.
Isaiah the prophet had included the idea in his writings about the Messiah.
Christ, he said, would be like a lamb led to slaughter. John the Baptizer had proclaimed it down at the river: “Behold the Lamb of God, who comes to take away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)
Peter called Jesus “the Lamb” in his first letter, and Paul called Jesus the ultimate Passover lamb. In Revelation, John refers to Jesus as the Lamb 28 times.
Our main scripture passage this morning is a short one. It’s from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, and the passage, in its context, has nothing to do with Easter. He is in the middle of writing a word of correction to his church in Corinth, But in that word of correction, he says this: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Paul made such an assumption that we would have a clear understanding of the lambs of Passover, he didn’t even explain it. He just said it in passing: “Jesus was our Passover Lamb … and he’s been sacrificed.” If we wrote a letter to Paul, he would have to dig to understand our world – So we have to dig to understand His.
Now, the Lamb of God sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus is powerful, majestic, and completely worthy of worship. The song of heaven is this, according to Revelation 5:13: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
What made the difference? What transformed this image of a lamb from a silent, defenseless, small lamb dying for the sins of the world, to a suddenly powerful, unstoppable, worthy-of-worship Lamb of God in heaven? The resurrection made the difference. It’s Easter that made the difference!
Here are some of the truths the Bible tells us about this Lamb of God.
God Said I Love You through Jesus’ death Why the Middle East? Why in such a time? Couldn’t there have been a more efficient place and time? But, it was the perfect place and time. In that day, Israel was the physical crossroads of the world. Israel was literally the most visible, accessible place in the entire world, at the very time the world was finally prepared for a fast dissemination of the most important story ever told. What greater way than to tell them through the most significant time and experience of their day?
The message of that story? That God loved us. He had loved us so much, God had actually given His only son to die … and whoever believes that message will have eternal life. The people at the center of the story had been prepared for centuries on the significance of an innocent lamb dying for a sinful people. For more than 2,000 years, lambs had been dying as a sacrifice of sin.
Through Jesus’ death we understand His Worth You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for messed up people like us. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
It’s the sin that is so painful. Had a family ever lived an entire year sin-free, they could have released their Passover lamb. But none could ever do such a thing. No one could today. The Lamb had to die.
It was our fault. Jesus was convicted by a Roman ruler, and carried away by a mob intent on bloodshed. But the reason Jesus died, exactly where he died, and exactly when he died was to pay for our sin. Mine and Yours!
The Resurrection Makes the Ultimate Difference in Our Life There’s a sense that the rules all changed with the resurrection. Never again would a lamb die for the sins of people. The Lamb of God died, and it was truly, forever finished.
The tomb was empty on Sunday morning. God the Father loved the Son so much, that not one second of morning sunlight would be wasted. When daylight came, the earth shook, the stone moved away from the entrance, sleepy soldiers fell down as if they were dead, and angels waited for the first of the believers to come and see the difference a resurrection would make.
It would make a difference of joy. Mary’s tears of heartbreak turned to speechless celebration because of the resurrection. Each one of the disciples was transformed, because of the resurrection. Thousands began to believe, and then millions, because of the resurrection. In time, over the last 2,000 years, entire governments, cultures, and educational processes have been changed, because of the resurrection. Time literally was split in half!
Ironically, a war raked over Jerusalem just 40 years after the resurrection, and from that day until now, Passover lambs haven’t been sacrificed. Could it be that God was sending another message to the world, that since the Lamb of God had died for sin, there was no need for further loss of life?
Because of the Resurrection, We Win We can have abundant life. We can have a life free from the bondage of sin. Remember the passage from Corinthians, when Paul quickly referred to Jesus as our Passover Lamb? The context of that passage was a call to a major change in our hearts, minds and souls
The resurrection makes a difference in every aspect of our lives … if we choose to let it make a difference.
It was the 1st World War. One of the men had been terribly wounded, and he knew he has only moments to live. He had a friend with him, one who had already seen a bad start to a bad life. He’d made wrong decisions. He’d already served time in prison. In fact, he was wanted, back home, by the police again.
The wounded & dying man, pulls the wanted man down to his face. He takes his dog tag, and presses it in the hand of his buddy. “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a bad life,” he said. “Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my dog tag, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.”
That is the same offer the Living Christ makes to us through his saving death on the cross – and his life-changing resurrection. Jesus, the Lamb of God, still offers to take your sins to the cross with him. And because of the resurrection, you can take his good name … Christ … you can be a Christian … and live in freedom.