Thursday, April 21, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

It's Passover, and if I weren't currently touring some of my favorite Southern cities (and people!), I would love to be attending a Seder meal somewhere tonight.

Seder meals--the true Jewish ones--are such instructive celebrations of the heart of God for His people. During the Passover meal, Jewish families impart the history of Israel's redemption to their children through the reenactment of the first Passover. Appropriately, today's Lenten readings include Exodus 12, the Passover story.

And today, on Maundy Thursday and on many other days throughout the life of the Church, Christians reenact Passover through the method given us by Jesus himself, the Lord's Supper. We read in Matthew 25 that it was on the first day of the feast that Jesus invited his twelve closest friends to observe the Passover with him. There in the upper room, Jesus breathed new meaning into the Passover wine and unleavened bread, commanding them to remember him each time they partook of this meal. Still, they did not understand that he was their final Passover Lamb, the one who would remove the barrier of sin forever.

We find in this meal the significance in John the Baptist's remark, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). To a first-century Jew, it would have been remarkable to think that one lamb could absolve the whole world of its sin. R. Kent Hughes points out (in a book excerpt in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross) that during the Passover feast, more than two hundred thousand lambs were slain in Israel. He continues:

"John mentions in [chapter 18] verse 1 that "Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley." A drain ran from the temple altar down to the Kidron ravine to drain away the blood of sacrifices...So when Jesus and his band crossed the Kidron [following the Passover meal and their vigil in Gethsemane], it was red with the blood of sacrifice."

I love the lengths Jesus went to in order to help his disciples understand what was happening.

Since I'm in Birmingham, visiting my baby sister at her new home away from home, Samford University, I went to a Maundy Thursday service tonight at Christ the King Anglican Church, which meets in Beeson Divinity School's beautiful Hodges chapel. I'd never been to a Maundy Thursday service before, but it was a beautiful way to begin Easter weekend--and I loved worshiping with Evangelical Anglicans.

Dr. Lyle Dorset, a Beeson professor and the father at Christ the King, spoke of the way in which the Communion meal ushers in Christ's presence for us. Before we took the bread and wine together, we sang one of my favorite Easter/Communion songs, "Behold the Lamb of God" by Keith and Kristen Getty.

I know this post is getting long, but I have to share these lyrics with you:

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death's cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we'll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

No comments: