Sermon: The Lamb Will Be Handed Over

Goedenmorgen. Bedankt voor het vacantie in Nederland. Wij vinden het veel leuk. Onze kinderen houdt van de dierentuin. Elijah zegt, “I want to do it again.” (Good morning. Thank you for the vacation in the Netherlands. We really liked it. Our children love the zoo. Elijah says “I want to do it again.”)

It is good to be back. This week, we will begin to hear the story of the Passion of Christ from Matthew chapter 26 and 27. We will start the story this week with the first thirty verses of Matthew 26 and finish the rest of the story next week. Matthew is in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew 26:1-30. We call this story the ‘Passion of Christ,’ because originally the word ‘passion’ meant suffering. This is the story of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. But before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s Word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why such waste?” they asked, “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed through the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then one of the Twelve – whose name was Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” Then they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparation for you to eat the Passover?”

Jesus replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: my appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples in your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man. It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took the bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 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 from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

There is so much richness in this story. There is beauty and betrayal. There is a feast and an inquisition. The disciples are indignant and cut to the heart. And it ends with singing. I would love to spend hours chewing over every phrase and detail, but as I listened eagerly this week for what God is saying to us, I could not get past the first two verses: When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Jesus knows what is about to take place and he still went through it. At the outset, Jesus tells us what will happen and when it will happen. Both, as I hope we will soon see, draw us into the depths of the salvation he brings.

As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

What will happen? The Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

“The Son of Man” is one of the more common phrases Jesus uses to refer to himself. Jesus states that he will be handed over. That wording is intentional. Fourteen times in the two chapters telling of his suffering and crucifixion, Jesus is described as being handed over. To hand something over is to give it to another and place it in that person’s power. We hand over our car keys to a friend or hand over our passport to the customs agent. There is a giving involved, but also a submission. We hand over a test for the teacher to grade, submitting to their judgment. We hand over the remote so our friend can choose what to watch on TV. There is a giving and a submission involved in handing over.

In the Bible, handing over is primarily associated with judgment. To be handed over is to be handed over to face judgment. Again and again, when the people of God wander from the LORD, they are handed over to the enemies. They are placed under the destructive powers of their enemies as a form of God’s judgment. Here is a clear example from Judges, chapter 2: Once Ehud was dead, the Israelites again began doing what is evil in the LORD’s eyes, and the LORD handed them over to Jabin king of Canaan…the Israelites then called to the LORD” and the LORD sent Deborah for salvation (Judges 2:11). God handed the people over to the Canaanites, and that handing over was a form of judgment.

When Jesus declares that what will soon take place is his being handed over, we are clued in that something related to judgment is about to take place and that Jesus himself is the one who will undergo that judgment. It is not disobedient Israel or the wandering Gentile nations that will be handed over to judgment, but Jesus Christ – the Son of Man, the holy and righteous one. However, there is a specific passage in the Old Testament that should be ringing in our ears when we hear again and again that Jesus is handed over. It is Isaiah 53. Three times the word for handed over is used in this chapter. I want to share it with you and I have tweaked the translation a tiny bit to help us hear the echoes more clearly:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the LORD has handed over to him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.

Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death,

those he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because his life was handed over to death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sins of many,

and for the sake of their transgressions was handed over. (Isaiah 53:6-12)

The beautiful and powerful ministry of Jesus will soon look like it is falling to pieces. Everyone is looking to hand Jesus over. The very next sentence after Jesus’ declaration is a plot of the religious leaders to arrest and kill Jesus. One of his own disciples – Judas Iscariot – goes to the priests offering to hand him over and then watches constantly for an opportunity to hand him over. Judas hands Jesus over to the priests, the priests hand Jesus over to Pilate, Pilate hands him over to the soldiers, and the soldiers hand him over to death.

It will look, soon enough, like it is the will of wicked men that is working its way out in history, but the oft repeated phrase handed over is like a shining beacon proclaiming “This is not so.” Yes, the hands of men will hand him over to suffering and death, but the echoes of Isaiah 53 remind us that Jesus let himself be handed over.

For the sake of the human salvation Jesus hands himself over. What did Jesus say in John 10? The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:17-18). The suffering and death of Jesus is a giving, not a taking. It is a service, not a theft. Jesus hands himself over to judgment. The iniquity of us all was handed over to him, his life was handed over to death, and because of our transgressions, he was handed over.

As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

People hand Jesus over. Jesus hands himself over. But also, God the Father hands over the Son. The great fact of Christ’ passion is that God handed over the Son, who willingly handed himself over, so that in his crucifixion, every wrong we have ever done, every perverse thought or twisted desire, and every square inch of creation that groans for freedom might receive salvation. Jesus was handed over, of his own will, so that by his wounds we would be healed and by bearing our sins, he might carry them away.

As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.

When it will happen? During the Passover. The timing of Christ’s passion is also crucial for understanding what is taking place. It is no accident that Jesus handed himself over during the feast of the Passover.

Centuries earlier, the people had lived in oppressive slavery in Egypt. God sent Moses and did mighty wonders to break the power of Pharaoh. After nine such plagues, God promised one last act of power that would set the people free. He told every Israelite to choose a spotless lamb for their family:

Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframe of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire – with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

This is the day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever east anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one of the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. (Exodus 12:6-17)

At the Passover, the blood of the lamb on the doorposts covered over the people so that they would not suffer death. When Jesus heads to Jerusalem at Passover, he accomplishes the greater Passover, the New Passover. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus by the Jordan, he proclaimed, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! All those lambs long ago, and all the lambs sacrificed in the temple for centuries afterward, pointed ahead to the great Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. This Lamb would have his blood painted not on the wooden doorframe of houses in Egypt, but upon the wood of a cross outside Jerusalem. This Lamb would not guard the people from physical death, but from the second, eternal death.

Jesus is the Passover Lamb. It is no accident that he is handed over to be crucified during the festival where the lamb was sacrificed to remember God’s protection of the people from death and his deliverance of the people from oppression. It was no accident that Jesus sat around that Passover meal with his disciples and said of the cup, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The true Passover Lamb has come. By trusting his blood shed on the cross, both Jews and Gentiles are covered and delivered from the judgment.

By being handed over to be crucified, Jesus underwent judgment so that those who trust in him would never face it. By dying as the Passover lamb, Jesus will endure death so that death would lose its power.

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Jesus knew. He knew what being handed over would mean. He knew death and burial were upon him when the woman anointed him with perfume. He knew Judas would betray him. He broke the bread knowing his body would be broken the next day. He poured out the cup, knowing his blood would be poured out the next day to forgive the very disciples sitting around that table and all those joined to him by the Spirit. He knew the suffering he would undergo. He knew the pain of death and the weight of sin he would bear on the cross. He knew. Jesus knew and he still did it.

There is so much detail in this passage that I would love for us to dwell in. Yet I could barely get past the first few verses once I saw that Jesus knew. He knew and he loved enough to hand himself over for me. For you. Knowing this, I better understand the response of the woman in the home of Simon the Leper. Knowing Jesus’ love and what he willingly endured for me, how could I not pour out all that I am in an extravagant offering of thanks.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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