Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas based on Luke 2:40-52
Dear people who celebrate the New Passover: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
All male Jews were required to make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (Ex. 23:14-17; Dt. 16:6). But it was customary to make it a family event and the heads of the houses would bring their wives and children with them. So, as was their yearly custom, Joseph and Mary travelled with Jesus, at this time twelve years old, to Jerusalem for the feast.
The Passover celebration involved the liturgical slaying of the Passover lamb at the Temple. The family would then gather together to eat the lamb after sundown. This feast celebrated the great Exodus event, when God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt.
The Egyptian’s had oppressed the people of Israel and enslaved them. They set taskmasters over them afflicted them with heavy burdens. They made their life bitter with hard service and beat them and whipped them to keep them working. Despite this harsh treatment, the Israelites still grew stronger and greater, so the Egyptians started murdering the boys that were born to the Israelites by casting them into the Nile River. The Egyptians refused to let the Hebrews out of slavery, so God sent Moses to rescue them. Through signs and plagues, God showed His might. God inflicted the Egyptians by turning their water into blood, and by sending frogs, gnats, and flies. He killed their livestock, and sent boils and hail, locusts and darkness. Finally, the tenth plague was the angel of death killing all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, but he “passed over” the firstborn of the Israelites because of the blood of the lamb on the lintel and posts of their doors. This final plague at last resulted in the Egyptian pharaoh letting God’s people go. (See Ex. 1-12) Thus the Passover was a commemoration of the angel of death sparing the firstborn son wherever the blood of the lamb had been sacrificed, and rescuing the Israelites from slavery and bringing them into the Promised Land.
Jesus Himself celebrated the Passover. This time, at the age of twelve, He travelled with His parents to Jerusalem for that purpose. Jesus remained in Jerusalem when his parents left, and was in the Temple. As we heard last week, it was necessary for Jesus to be in the Temple, His Father’s house. It was the fulfilment of prophecy. In His Father’s house, at the age of twelve, Jesus astonished the teachers with His wisdom and knowledge. The teachers of the Scriptures were learning from this twelve-year-old and didn’t know what to make of it.
Neither did His parents. When his parents found Him after three days, Jesus asked them why they were looking for Him; “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke reports, “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them” (v. 50). They did not understand why Jesus would need to be in His Father’s house, doing the work of His Father. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, there was much confusion and misunderstanding over His purpose and mission. Even His mother and disciples didn’t understand His purpose and mission until after His resurrection.
Luke also records another time that Jesus celebrated the Passover. This time it was with His disciples. The day before He was crucified, Jesus celebrated the Passover one last time. He also inaugurated a new feast, instituting the Lord’s Supper (see Luke 22). Jesus and His disciples then chanted a hymn, likely Psalms 113-118 which were commonly chanted at the end of the Passover meal. Then they headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested (Mt. 26).
Jesus’ first recorded celebration of the Passover anticipates His last celebration of the Passover. Just as when He was twelve, this last time in Jerusalem Jesus also taught in the Temple (Lk. 21:37). Luke also identifies being “lost” with being dead and “being found” as coming back to life. Thus Jesus tells of the prodigal son who was lost but then was found (15:32). As a twelve-year-old, after the celebration of the Passover, Jesus was “lost” to His parents and then three days later “found”. This foreshadows this last Passover, after which Jesus was “lost” to His disciples when He died and three days later “found” when He rose from the dead.
Of course Jesus was not truly lost either time, but because His parents and disciples at that time did not understand His purpose or His mission, He was lost to them. Once they later understood His purpose and mission, they remembered these things that they had treasured up in their hearts (v. 51; Lk. 24:8).
So the first Passover celebration anticipates the last. During the last Passover celebration, Jesus institutes something new to remember. He said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:24-25) Jesus instituted a new remembrance meal. The Passover meal remembering the delivery from slavery to the Egyptians has been replaced by the New Passover feast remembering the delivery from slavery to sin. And the Lord’s Supper isn’t just a meal of remembrance, but in the very meal we actually receive deliverance. We receive the very forgiveness of sins as Jesus promised. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
Jesus gave Himself as the Passover Lamb. Thus I Corinthians 5(:7) says, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world gave His life on the cross for our sin. He is the sacrifice for us. His blood keeps the angel of death from us, so that he passes over our doors. Jesus’ blood keeps us alive. And because of the shedding of Jesus’ blood, we have been freed from our slavery. Jesus has freed us from our slavery to sin and death. We are no longer enslaved to sin so that we have to obey its passions (Rom. 6:6-14). Because of Jesus’ death we are now free to serve Him instead of sin (Rom. 6:17-18). So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (1 Pt. 2:1). Instead, come to the Lord’s altar and receive the forgiveness of your sins.
Come and eat the true body and blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed. Come; receive the forgiveness of sins. Come; receive the strengthening of your faith that keeps the angel of death at bay. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has defeated the devil, so we have been granted an exodus out of slavery to him and have been given the Promised Land as our inheritance.
Do not misunderstand Jesus’ purpose and mission. He came to die. He came with the very purpose of being our Passover Lamb. His purpose and mission was to take away the sins of the world. His purpose was to give us new life in Him. So come, let us celebrate the New Passover feast with joy, receiving the new life Jesus gives to us. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.