Original Fast-Food

Delivered September 5, 1999 by Dr. Ronald W. Scates

Sermon Text:
Exodus 12:1-14
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,
2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each
man is to take a lamb [1] for his family, one for each household.
4 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.
5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may
take them from the sheep or the goats.
6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of
the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the
doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter
herbs, and bread made without yeast.
9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire–head, legs
and inner parts.
10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.
11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals
on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s
Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every
firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of
Egypt. I am the LORD.
13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see
the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I
strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall
celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.

If you saw the movie The Prince of Egypt, or better yet, if you have read your Bibles, you know that when the Scripture passage that I am about to read actually occurred, the nation of Egypt was pretty beat up. God had visited upon her a number of plagues because she had refused to release the Israelites from the bondage of slavery. Someone has said that the Old Testament contains the New, and the New Testament explains the Old. And I am one who firmly believes that you and I will never quite fully understand what is going on in the New Testament until we are rooted and grounded in the Old Testament, its foundation for the New.

And as we come to this table this morning, I think that it is very appropriate that we sit under an Old Testament passage. A passage which really is the bedrock for this sacrament. The sacrament where we come and celebrate the mystery of the real presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. A sacrament based on that first Passover meal that took place on the night before the children of Israel fled from Egypt.

I would invite you to turn with me, and keep your Bibles open during the sermon to the book of Exodus, the twelfth chapter. This morning, let’s take a look at the first 14 verses of Exodus 12. Exodus the twelfth chapter, beginning to read at the first verse. This is the word of God:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 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. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire- head, legs, and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: With your cloak tucked into you belt, your sandals on you feet and your staff in you hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring a judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance.”

Join me as we pray: And now Father as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But as my words should stray from your word, may they be quickly forgotten. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

It is kind of odd what you remember after 24 years. But I distinctly remember Henry Smith who is the author of the song that we will sing at the close of worship this morning, Give Thanks. I remember Henry Smith preaching on this very text that I read in a Preaching 101 class at Union Seminary in Richmond. The reason that I remember him preaching this is because of a hand motion that he used. He kept gliding his hand over his fist every time he said the word “Passover.”

The Passover meal that we have just read about was eaten by the children of Israel on the eve of the day that they were to leave Egypt and be delivered out of Egyptian bondage. At the heart of the entire Old Testament is the Exodus, when the children of Israel fled from Egypt. That event is at the very heart and soul of what the Old Testament is all about. That is the defining event of what it means to be a Jew. That is the way the Jewish people always identified themselves. By that historical event, the Exodus.

That is until recently. Ask most Jewish people today, ‘What is the historic event that most defines who you are?” and they will tell you what? The holocaust. In fact, there are many rabbis today that are very concerned about that. I read a piece by one of them and he says, “It is time that we put the holocaust behind us. Not forget it, but put it behind us as the primary thing that defines who we are as a people. We need to reclaim the biblical Exodus rather than the secular holocaust as what we use to self-identify with.”

And there is a good word of caution here for you and me as believers in Jesus Christ. Everyone of us is tempted to primarily define ourselves by secular parameters: Height, weight, psychology, sociology, geography, race. To define ourselves that way, rather than primarily through the lens of Scripture. Primarily, I am not Ron Scates, a six foot, two hundred pound, forty nine year old white guy who happens to luck out and become pastor of Central Presbyterian Church. I am Ron, a child of God, whom he thought of before the foundation of the world. A broken sinner whom Jesus Christ has regenerated, saved, called out of bondage, delivered from my sins and from eternal death, and called to ministry, and gifted by his Holy Spirit in order to do ministry until the day I die, or Jesus returns, whichever comes first.

So you see, the Exodus is my story too. And at the heart of he Exodus is the Passover meal. The meal celebrated on the eve of the Hebrews fleeing from Egypt. And we see in this text that this Passover meal is not something Moses or Aaron thought of. No, this Passover meal comes directly from the very heart and mind of almighty God himself. He lays out precise directions when and how the meal is to be prepared, the hour, the time that it is to be shared, the attire that is to be worn, and even the speed at which it is to be eaten.

Now let me confess, I wrestled all week long whether to use the title I chose for this sermon, Original Fast-Food. I agonized over that because I asked myself the question, “Does that title trivialize the Passover meal?” And more than that, “Does it trivialize the Christian meal that is based on the Passover?” But I kept being drawn back to verse 11, where the Israelites are told to wolf down the lamb. They are to be dressed and ready to go as soon as God gives them the word. They are to eat that meal in haste. Israelites and fast-food, that combination still makes the papers today. Did you see last week the controversy over that Burger King on the West Bank. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘Have it Yahweh.”

And then at the very heart of the Passover meal is blood. It seems that there is just no way that God can do true deliverance for you and me out of the bondage of sin and slavery, and destruction and death, that is not messy, and costly, and sacrificial, and bloody. True deliverance always involves the sorrow and bitterness of repentance. And so the Israelites were commanded to eat bitter herbs as a part of this meal.

When God does a true deliverance it jerks us out of one direction into another, and someone’s plans and dreams always go unfulfilled; and so the unleavened bread is a reminder to Israelites and to you and me, that true fulfillment can only be found outside of Egypt.

And then at the heart of it all is the blood. The blood of innocent lambs. And oh how we wish that Passover wasn’t so gory. Those poor little lambs, and not just any but specifically young males, perfect, valuable, innocent. You see, any time God delivers you and me from sin and bondage, it always means the death of innocence. We don’t like the fact that those little lambs were killed. And then gore of all goriness, their blood, literally gallons of it, were to be splattered all over the door frames. Blood dripping down upon the welcome mats of thousands of Hebrew homes. We kind of go ‘Yuck!’

The people of Egypt, the Egyptians? Their front door treatments stayed intact. There homes still had curb appeal. But it would cost them. It would cost them the lives of their first-born children and animals, as God brings his judgment upon this nation of Egypt.

Look at verse 12. God says, ‘I’m going to judge them.” But God also says that when the angel of death comes over the land, when he sees the blood on the door frames of those Hebrew homes, he will pass over them.

Now, I don’t want to let verse 12 sneak by us without pointing out something else. Apparently God is not all that excited about religious pluralism. God says, not only is he going to do this, but he is going to bring judgment upon all the gods of Egypt. In other words, all the other spiritual options that are out there.

Friends, this is a reminder to you and me that when it comes to the one true living God, there is only one true living God. And bad theology, which is any spirituality that is not directly hooked up with the God of the bible, bad theology always hurts people. Our sin always results in the suffering of the innocent. But God in his grace and mercy, promises to pass over those homes that are literally under the blood.

Now it is pretty easy to make the connection between Passover and the Lord’s supper. Do you see how they fit together? Do you see the foundation here? On the night when he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus celebrated the Passover. But he did more than celebrate it, he transformed it. Jesus Christ, our deliverer, our savior, God become flesh, actually became the Exodus. Our Exodus, your Exodus, my Exodus out from under the judgment and condemnation of God and into eternal life in and with Christ. Jesus Christ himself actually became the Passover. And he invites you and me to get up out of our pews and make that short but public journey to this table. And when we do so authentically, we bring the bitter herbs, those broken hearts, that feeling of unworthiness. Yes, only come to this table if you feel unworthy. If you feel worthy, you probably ought to go out into the concourse until this meal is over. Unworthiness, repentance, sorrow. Those are good approaches to the table. And when you and I come and receive communion authentically, then what happens is that we come and we find unleavened bread. We realize that Jesus is the only thing that can fulfill our lives. We come and we find the cup, the blood, the blood of the slain lamb. The lamb of God, the lamb who was slain before the foundation for the world. The lamb, the only lamb who can save you and me ultimately.

A couple of hundred years ago, some workers were building a church in Germany. One of them fell off the roof. The others scrambled down expecting to find him dead. He wasn’t. He was stunned, but he was lying there alive; for his fall had been cushioned. Cushioned by a lamb who happened to be grazing next to the church. The lamb was crushed and killed, but the worker was saved. That worker out of his own pocket, had a stone monument carved in the shape of a lamb. It exists to this day in the church yard as a memorial to that lamb that saved his life.

Folks, this table is not a memorial to the lamb that saved us. Memorials are for dead people. The lamb of God, Jesus Christ is alive, bodily risen from the dead. He is present here this morning, and you and I have the unique opportunity to meet him at this table as in no other way. And when you and I come to this table, authentically with a truly broken heart, a repentant spirit, then we come under the blood. The blood of Jesus Christ is splattered over the door frames of your life and mine. Here you and I are ushered into the presence of Christ and into eternal life with Christ.

Are you and I ready to leave Egypt? Do we have our cloak tucked into our belt, our sandals on, our staff in our hand? Are we ready to get up and go like the Israelites to a home they had never seen? When you trust Christ you are able to go because you know he is leading.

What are those things that hold you and me in bondage this morning? Racism, nominal Christianity, yuck!! Religion? Sexual addition? Alcohol, pride, egotism, sniffing after the gods of Egypt? Sprinkle a little Jesus on top of course to make it all look proper. What are those things that hold you and me in bondage? Christ is here this morning. He is the deliverer. He wants to break that bondage. He wants to set you and me free. He shed his blood not so that we could be happy, but so that you and I might be freed to really become all that God wants us to be.

A lot of people criticize fast-food. If you come here with a worldly appetite, there is not much here. Matzo crackers, and you dip it in a little bit of wine. You don’t get a whole lot. If you come to this table with a heavenly appetite, if you come here really looking to meet Jesus Christ, then you and I leave filled. He shed his blood so that you and I might come to his table.

In his great Chronicles of Narnia, the fourth book by C.S. Lewis is entitled, The Silver Chair. And toward the end of the book is this great scene that gives you and me some insight into what the blood of Christ does for us. Listen to this:

“Son of Adam,” said Arlan, “Go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there and bring it to me.” Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier. “Drive it into my paw son of Adam,” said Arlan. Holding up his right forepaw and spreading out the great pads toward Eustace. “Must I?” said Eustace. “Yes” said Arlan. Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the king. At the same moment the doleful music stopped and the dead king began to be changed. His white beard turned to gray, and from gray to yellow, and then got shorter and vanished all together. And his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened. And his eyes and lips both laughed and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them.”

When you and I meet Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the blood of Christ. How long will you wait? How long will you wait to really turn your life over to Jesus in its entirety. Tomorrow is Labor Day. A lot of us are going to be off, have a nice relaxing day. That would be a great time to maybe sit down and give your life to Christ. Except for one thing, it might be too late. Today is not too soon, nor too late.

There is a rabbinical story about that first Passover night, that says there was a Jewish household and the oldest child was a young girl, but she was sick and she was in bed. And throughout the evening she kept asking her father, “Have you splattered the blood on the lintel.” He kept reassuring her that he had told the servants to do just that. She kept pestering him to the point where he finally went and looked; and low and behold, there was no blood. He ran back into the house, grabbed the basin that held the lamb’s blood, got a hyssop branch, and began to splatter the blood all over the door posts of the house; and as he was doing so, suddenly he was overshadowed by darkness. And he looked up, and he saw the Angel of Death pass over his house. Talk about dodging the bullet at the last second.

We can argue that Ty Cobb was possibly the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball. He played in more games than any other player ever had, three thousand and thirty three. He scored more runs than any baseball player ever has, two thousand two hundred and forty four. He stole more bases than any player ever has, eight hundred and ninety two. For years he had more hits than any player, four thousand one hundred and ninety one, until Pete Rose came along and topped that. But listen to this, Ty Cobb finished his career with a batting average of 367. Now those of you that don’t know baseball have no clue what I am talking about; that is really high! Three times Ty Cobb batted 400 or more in a season. Catch this, twelve straight years, Ty Cobb lead the American League in batting. Think that is cool? Twenty three straight years, Ty Cobb hit 300 or greater.

This guy could play baseball. But as a human being, Ty Cobb was a jerk. There was probably not a more profane godless person on the face of the earth. On July 17, 1961 as Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth’s home run record, Ty Cobb lay dying in a hospital room. A pastor went in to see him, told him how to be born again. To which Ty Cobb replied, “Preacher, are you here to tell me that a lifetime of sin can be wiped clean by one deathbed repentance?” And that pastor said, “Mr. Cobb, no I am not here to tell you that a deathbed repentance can wipe clean a lifetime of sin. I am here to tell you that the blood of Jesus can.” And that day, Ty Cobb opened his heart to Christ, invited him in. That day, the blood of the lamb splattered over the doorpost of Ty Cobb’s life. That day, he came under the blood. Are you?

Are you under the blood? Are you sure? Dead sure? Make haste, quick, to be sure you are under the blood.

Join me as we pray:
Father, you, our gracious loving God have provided all that we need for our salvation, all that we need for eternal life. Not a life that just begins when we are dead Lord, but a life now in Christ. Lord, as you invite us to this table this morning, move our hearts. Enable us for the first time or once again, to surrender who we are to you. To put our lives under your mercy, under your blood. To quit living the myth that we can possibly save ourselves by how good we are, or how much we hustle through life. Help us to surrender Lord to the lamb. To the only lamb that can save, Jesus Christ. For we ask this in his name, Amen.