This Good Friday sermon was originally preached in 2019.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:26-29 ESV
I’m sure you’ve heard this story before, but it bears repeating.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was called Israel because he wrestled with God, the son of Isaac, who was called laughter because he was long-awaited promised offspring to his father, Abraham, who was called the man of faith and the first Hebrew, this Joseph was his father’s favorite son. But he was also the scorn of his ten older brothers. Such was their hatred for Joseph that they beat him, cast him into a pit, and sold him into slavery, where he arrived in Egypt. Yet by the providence of God, Joseph left the prisons of Egypt to ascend to being second in authority only to Pharaoh over Egypt. As he wisely led Egypt through a severe seven year famine, Joseph’s father and brothers were brought to dwell in Egypt as well by the same famine. So they settled in Egypt, away from the land that God promised to Abraham, and there they were fruitful and multiplied greatly throughout the land. And they became a strong and numerous people.
Yet a new king assumed the Egyptian throne who did not know Joseph and who saw the Israelites as a threat to national security. He forced them into slavery, and the Hebrews groaned under their burden to God for rescue.
To limit the Israelite population, Pharaoh ordered newborn males to be killed, yet a Levite woman bore a son and hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she placed him in a basket in the river, so that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who ordered a Hebrew woman to nurse the boy. So it was that Moses was nursed by his very own mother, even as he was adopted into the household of Pharaoh.
When Moses became a man, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and seeing no one else around, he killed the Egyptian. The following day, he found two Hebrews fighting with one another and when he tried to resolve the dispute, they asked if he would kill them as he killed the Egyptian. Knowing that his murder was no longer hidden, he fled to Midian, where he married, had children, and worked as a shepherd.
One day when he was shepherding near Mount Horeb, Moses saw a bush engulfed in flame yet unburnt. From the fire, God spoke. Identifying Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God declared that He would rescue His people from their captivity through Moses as His prophet. He, therefore, commanded Moses to demand the Israelites’ freedom on God’s behalf.
But when Moses spoke, Pharaoh refused to yield. As the supposed god-king with divine blood in his veins, the king of Egypt would not negotiate, let alone obey, with any other authority. He was authority personified, after all.
Finally, after even Ra, the sun god and chief deity, was turned black by the Hebrew God for three days, Pharaoh still would not yield. So God delivered one final plague.
According to God’s command, the elders of Israel slaughtered lambs without blemish and used a branch of hyssop to wipe the blood upon their doorposts. At midnight, God swept through the land of Egypt, killing every firstborn in the land. From slaves to Pharaoh, no household was spared, except those of the Israelites which were marked by the blood of the lamb.
So Pharaoh relented, and the Israelites were delivered from their slavery in Egypt. Through Moses, God accomplished the exodus of His people.
1500 years later, on a Thursday evening in Jerusalem, an itinerant rabbi named Jesus sat down with His disciples to celebrate Passover. Rumors were constantly circulating that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the one who, like Moses, would deliver Israel from their oppressors (this time from Rome). After witnessing His authority and miracles, His disciples were probably convinced of this. After all, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus’ glorified state upon a mountain while Jesus talked with Elijah and Moses about His exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Moses himself said this would happen, and Jesus lines up. Like Moses, He was almost killed as an infant but found refuge in Egypt. Even Jesus’ most famous teaching was given from a mountain (like Moses from Sinai) where He presented the true meaning of the Laws that God gave through Moses.
Yet as they were eating, Jesus grabbed a piece of bread, and as He broke and gave it to His disciples, He said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then giving them a cup, He said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Although His disciples didn’t fully understand, by three in the afternoon on Friday, the true Passover had taken place. Upon the cross, Jesus’ body was hung broken and His blood was spilled. What His followers saw as a defeat was actually the greater exodus taking place. From Genesis 3 onward, humanity has been enslaved to a taskmaster far more insidious than Pharaoh. Humanity was held captive to sin. Because sin is anything that violates God’s design and command, our sins made each of us into Pharaoh. We harden our hearts to God, treat ourselves as gods, and refuse to submit to Him. Every one of us has openly rebelled against God. This crime against the Eternal One warrants an eternal judgment. It demands far more than the physical death of the firstborn; it requires the spiritual death of every soul that has ever lived.
Yet God, being rich in mercy toward us, sent Jesus. As the greater Moses, Jesus not only delivered us from our sins; He did so by becoming the Passover Lamb for us. He has died in our place, and now because of His blood, God’s wrath passes over us. We are spared. We are saved.
This is why we call this Friday good because Jesus died so that in Him we can live. It is the good news, the gospel.
On Sunday, as with every Sunday, we will celebrate that He did not stay dead, but that He rose back to life. Indeed, John received a vision in Revelation 5 of Jesus as the Lamb who was slain and yet lives. He then hears all of heaven worship the Lamb.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Like the hosts of heaven, we too worship the Lamb who was slain. So, as we partake in the Lord’s Supper, I invite you to worship at Jesus’ feet. As we eat the bread and drink of the cup together, may we remember His body broken and His blood shed to spare us from the death we rightly deserved.