Wanting To Be Passed Over - Exodus 12:1-14 (Holy Thursday)
Do you remember those days from elementary school? The days from physical education, gym, or recess when it was time to play kickball, basketball, baseball, or some other team sport. Two captains were selected and everyone else lined up and waited. We waited for one of those captains to call our name. With each round that passed, when we still didn’t hear our name called, we became more and more discouraged, perhaps our hearts and spirits a little more broken, as we were passed over time and time again.
Maybe the feelings are fresher than our childhood days. Maybe we have applied for a job or job promotion. We have submitted application after application, résumé after résumé, and perhaps gone to interview after interview. However, when the phone call, letter, or conference with our employer came, it has always been the same: “We want to thank you for your interest in the position. Unfortunately we had a lot of qualified candidates, and we have decided to go with someone else.” We receive those words, and possibly sinking into depression, we think about having to start all over again.
Passed over until last for the recess kickball team. Passed over for a job promotion. We don’t like being passed over in those ways. It hurts. It gets frustrating. It makes us want to give up.
Yet, are there times when we want to be passed over?
I can think of a couple.
Going back to the school days…there were times we may have wanted to be passed over. Remember those nights when we decided to hang out with our friends rather than do all the studying we were supposed to do? The next day when we got to class and the teacher started asking questions from the reading we supposed to have done. Those days we try to sink lower and lower into our seat, so that when the teacher calls on folks to answer, we hope that we might be passed over.
We are enjoying our job, but we have noticed that the company is have more and more difficulties financially as the economy continues to struggle. One day we hear that the company is going to have to downsize to stay afloat. Notices of layoffs will be coming soon. We see those notices starting going out. The person in the office next to us gets a notice. One of our office friends gets a notice. Every day we show up, we hope that the powers that be in our company feel like we are doing essential work and we will not receive that notice. We want to be passed over when it comes to the job layoffs.
There was a time when the Hebrew people were glad to be passed over. They were slaves in the land of Egypt. God was using Moses to try and get the Pharaoh to set them free. The Pharaoh refused. As a result, God was sending plagues upon Egypt in an effort to convince Pharaoh that he should let the people of God go free. The Hebrews had had to endure the water being turned to blood, the stench that was involved with that, and the shortage of water to cook and clean with, not to mention drink. They had also endured the mess of frogs that had come upon Egypt with the chaos that brought, frogs jumping all over the place getting in the way. But that was only the start of it…there was no sleeping because with incessant croaking, there was not a moment of silence to relax. If the frogs that God brought upon Egypt was not bad enough, the Pharaoh’s magicians had to go and duplicate the plague to prove their power…essentially doubling the number of frogs that covered the land. They endured the gnats as they descended upon Egypt, filling every space of breathable air, landing and crawling on their bodies.
The Hebrews were glad, therefore, when God placed a protective barrier about them as the flies swarmed down upon Egypt..their animals were spared when the livestock of Egypt became sick and died…their skin stayed clear when the Egyptians started breaking out with festering boils. They were able to take cover from the thunder and hail that came upon the land. However, the Hebrews had had to endure the locusts coming upon all of Egypt and devouring everything, and yet, they were spared the three days of darkness in Egypt.
Then the Hebrews got word of the final plague that was going to descend upon Egypt. It did not take long for word to pass through the Egyptian land of Goshen of what was about to happen. Because of the hardened and sinful heart of the Pharaoh, a darkness worse than the pitch blackness that had just been lifted was about to happen. The darkness of grief was coming, as all of the firstborn in Egypt would be struck down.
This was definitely a time when the Hebrew people wanted to be left out, skipped, passed over…
And God gave them a way for that very thing to happen…a way for them to be passed over…we heard it moments ago:
“…they are to take a lamb for each family…then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…it is the Passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
The blood of the lamb was a sign for God to pass over them…the blood of the lamb was their salvation that night…the blood of the lamb helped them escape the judgment coming down upon the land of Egypt…and they would commemorate that grace by repeating these steps and telling the story annually during their Passover celebration.
My brothers and sisters, the prophets promise of the coming Day of the Lord. They, in the face of sin, tells us that it will be a dark and dreadful day when God will rain judgment down upon all those on the earth who have turned from Him. It will be like that day in Egypt…it will be a day of death and destruction. O that we might mark our doorposts and lintels and be passed over as the Hebrew people experienced in the land of Egypt.
The thing is, we can. No, we are not to go and slaughter a lamb and take its blood and put it on our doorposts and lintels…if that were the case we would have to do it daily, because, unlike the Hebrews who knew when that night of death was coming, we have no idea when the Day of the Lord will arrive. Christ promises that it will come like a thief in the night. Rather than put it on our doorposts and lintels, we must be washed in the Blood of the Lamb…not just any lamb out of any field, but the Lamb of God, the only perfect, unblemished human to have set foot on this earth…the one who died the death we deserved…an innocent man, crucified like a common criminal. It is his death that frees us from sin. How do we wash in His blood? By surrendering our lives to Christ, turning to Him as our Lord and Savior.
Without Christ, when that Day comes, if we are not passed over, there is only death and hell, eternal separation from God. However, if we have given our lives to Christ, been marked with the blood of His sacrifice, we will be passed over. God will look down and not see our sin, but see the complete obedience and self-sacrifice of Christ. Just as the Hebrews obtained freedom from slavery in Egypt through the blood of the sacrificed lamb, so do we received freedom from our bondage, slavery to sin and death, through the blood of Christ.
It is that sacrifice that we come here to remember tonight. We come and remember that as Jesus and his followers gathered together and celebrated the Hebrew Passover meal, Jesus did something a little different. He took bread, asked God’s blessing upon it, broke it, and said to those around him, “This is my body, broken for you, take and eat.” When the meal was over, Jesus took a chalice of wine, “Prayed over it, and said, “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Just as Jesus and his disciples continued the Passover Meal of Remembrance of their faith, He sets before them a new meal, to be celebrated, not just annually, but every time they gather…that they may remember that with His broken body and in His blood, when that Day of Judgment comes, and it will come, they will be passed over.
Tonight we remember that night this meal was begun…tonight we come to feast on that same meal, the bread and the cup…thankful that we to have the opportunity to be passed over.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen!