Sermon: Moses and the Passover

Moses and the Passover
Exodus 12:11-14
September 24, 2017
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

Every Friday night until his death in 1973, an old man would visit a broken down pier on the southeastern coast of Florida. He always had a large bucket of shrimp, and he would feed the sea gulls.  The old man did this out of a sense of gratitude.  It all began many years before, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s B17 bomber had run out of fuel.  The crew was forced to ditch the plane in the South Pacific Ocean.  For many days, Rickenbacker and his crew lived in a raft where they battled salt water, the sharks, and the scorching sun.  After eight days, their rations had run out and they were desperate for a miracle.  That particular morning, the crew held a worship service in that small raft; they prayed for divine deliverance.  After the final Amen, Rickenbacker pulled his hat down over his eyes to keep out the glare of the sun and perhaps to get some sleep.  All of a sudden, something landed on his head; it was a sea gull.  In one swift motion, Rickenbacker grabbed the gull.  Its flesh provided necessary food for the crew and bait to catch fish.  The crew survived and, in time, was rescued.  However Captain Rickenbacker never forgot the sacrifice of that gull and honored its memory every Friday night when he fed shrimp to the other gulls.

My scripture test is Exodus 12:1-14. This is the story of how Moses and the people of Israel sacrificed the Passover Lamb and applied the blood on the door posts.  This was done so the death angel would pass over them.  This story relates to us because the Passover lamb in many respects reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; it is important that we remember in our worship and our deeds.

The Institution of the Passover
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2“This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. 3Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each must take a lamb for themselves according to their families—a lamb for each household. 4If any household is too small for a lamb, the man and his next-door neighbor are to take a lamb according to the number of people—you will make your count for the lamb according to how much each one can eat. 5Your lamb must be perfect, a male, one year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You must care for it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community of Israel will kill it around sundown. 7They will take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and top of the doorframe of the houses where they will eat it. 8They will eat the meat the same night; they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast and with bitter herbs. 9Do not eat it raw or boiled in water, but roast it over the fire with its head, its legs, and its entrails. 10You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning. 11This is how you are to eat it—dressed to travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.
12I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the Lord. 13The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see the blood I will pass over you, and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt.
14This day will become a memorial for you, and you will celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—you will celebrate it perpetually as a lasting ordinance.

The Jewish people had suffered as slaves in Egypt for almost 400 years. Because of this Moses uttered those famous words, “Let my people go.”

And every time Pharaoh refused, there was a different plague.

  • First, the Nile was turned into blood.
  • Second, frogs came up on the land.
  • Third, the Egyptians were infected with lice.
  • Fourth, swarms of flies were found everywhere.
  • Fifth, there was a deadly virus that infected Egyptian cattle.
  • Sixth, hail ravaged Egyptian crops.
  • Seventh, there was an epidemic of painful boils.
  • Eighth, hordes of locusts wiped out the rest of the vegetation.
  • Ninth, there was a violent wind storm from the desert that caused total darkness.

Then there was the 10th and final plague which was the death of the first born son in each household.  To avoid judgment, the Lord told Moses to direct each family to follow his instructions carefully:

  • Pick out a lamb.
  • Sacrifice it.
  • Collect the blood in a basin.
  • Smear the blood on the sides and top of the door posts.

When God passed his judgment in Egypt, he didn’t punish those who followed these instructions, passing over the houses in question without harm. Since that time Jews from all over the world remember the Passover sacrifice and deliverance.

For Christians, the blood that was smeared on the doorframe was a foreshadow of Jesus death on the cross. The sides of the doorframe represent the hands that were nailed to the cross.  The top signifies the head of Jesus where he wore a crown of thorns.

As Jews remember the sacrifice and deliverance at Passover or Pea-sak, we remember Christ’s death at our communion. I consecrate the elements when I say, “This is my body which is broken for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

We set aside times to remember great sacrifices. Several weeks ago, the Governor and the Lt. Governor of the State of Connecticut held a special 9/11 Remembrance ceremony in Westford where they remembered 161 people with ties to Connecticut. On Memorial Day, the towns of Vernon, Ellington, South Windsor and other places will remember the fallen military in parades and ceremonies.  This is done so that none of us will forget.

As people of God, part of our religious faith is to “not forget” and keep alive Christ’s name, his life, his sacrifice, and his work in our lives.

Salvation and sacrifice is similar to what happened on August 16, 1987. Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed shortly after it took off from Detroit International airport, killing 155 people.  There was only one survivor, four year old Cecilia Crocker.  Investigators first assumed Cecilia had been a passenger in a car that had been struck by the aircraft, but when the passenger register for the flight was checked, Cecilia’s name was on it.  She survived because her mother unbuckled her own seatbelt, got down on her knees, and wrapped her arms around the little girl.  It was due to the sacrifice of her mother that Cecilia survives.  Unfortunately, she not only lost her mother, but father and brother too.  Cecilia Crocker remembers their sacrifice every day with a tattoo of an airplane on the inside of her wrist.

What Cecilia’s mom did is a picture of the mercy and love of God. Christ wrapped the sacrifice of his own body around us, to save us.

The Jewish and Christian faith is founded on sacrifice and urges its followers to remember.

Let me close:

  • Captain Eddie Rickenbacker remembered the sacrifice of the seagull when he gave shrimp to the other gulls.
  • Those of the Jewish faith remember the sacrifice of the Passover when they gather once a year to commemorate their great deliverance.
  • Christian believers remember Christ’s sacrifice when we invite him into our hearts, when we partake in communion, and when we serve in Jesus’ name.

An important part of our faith in worship is that we remember and not forget.