ďA New BeginningĒ
March 27, 2005
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
The most significant event in the history of
ancient Israel was the Exodus from Egypt.
The most significant event in the history of the Church is the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Through the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea God set Israel
free from the tyrannical slavery she suffered under Pharaoh.
By the resurrection of Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday God
sets us free from slavery to sin and the fear of death.
Before the Exodus, the blood of lambs was shed.
Before Christís resurrection, He shed His blood as the Lamb of
God. Before the Exodus, the
blood of the lambs was painted on the top of the doors and on the
doorposts. This caused the
angel of death to pass over those homes.
This is why it was called the Passover.
Where the angel of death saw no blood, he claimed the firstborn
son of that home. Jesus is
the true Passover Lamb. He
shed His blood on the cross. Where
faith lays hold of the blood of Jesus death passes over because Jesus is
the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Just as the blood of the lamb on the lentils and posts of the
doors protected Israel from Godís judgment against sin, so the blood
of Jesus Christ, Godís Son, washes away all our sin.
There is no judgment against those who are in Christ Jesus.
In the Epistle Lesson for Easter Sunday St. Paul
joins the Exodus and the Resurrection and shows us Christians the true
meaning of the ancient festival of the Passover.
In so doing he teaches us the true nature of the freedom we enjoy
as Christians. In His
wonderful Easter hymn, Martin Luther beautifully applies to us
Christians the true meaning of the Passover:
Here the true Paschal
Lamb we see,
The Old Testament festival of the Passover lasted
for seven days. On the
first day, the Israelites were commanded to rid their homes of all yeast
or leaven. Nowadays we buy
yeast in the store. Itís
the ingredient that causes the dough to rise.
In the olden days people would make their own yeast simply by
taking some fresh dough out of a batch and setting it aside to ferment.
The fermented dough has within it the yeast or leaven that can be
mixed with future batches of dough to cause it to rise properly.
In this way one batch of dough is organically connected to the
succeeding batches of dough. The
bread you eat is always a part of the bread you ate.
You are what you eat, they say.
But you are being set free.
You are beginning a new life.
You must break with the past.
You must not bring your past slavery into your newfound freedom.
Get rid of the yeast. Donít
take into your bodies anything that will bind you to Egypt.
Donít take into your bodies or souls anything
that will enslave you. Jesus
has suffered and died to take away all your sins.
Do not permit anyone to rob you of the freedom for which Christ
has died. He is our
Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us.
There is no leaven from the past.
There is only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Easter is an historical event. It happened. Jesus
died. The spear brought
water and blood out of His side. His
dead body was put into the tomb. He
rose bodily from the dead. The
Exodus was a miraculous historical event.
Christís resurrection was a miraculous historical event.
Witnesses testified to it, wrote about it, and preserved for
posterity accurate accounts of this central even of human history.
But Easter is more than history. It is our life. We
worship on Sundays for a reason. No,
God didnít command His Church to replace a Saturday Sabbath with a
Sunday Sabbath. We donít
set aside Sunday as our day of worship because of a legal command.
We do so in order to make a gospel confession. We believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead is Godís declaration to the entire world of sinners that all of
their sins are washed away and forgiven.
We believe that Christís resurrection is the worldís
absolution. There was no sin for which Jesus did not suffer on the cross.
He rose from the dead after He blotted out the sin for which He
died. Had Jesus failed to
take away the worldís sin He would have remained dead.
But He was raised again because of our justification.
His resurrection is Godís emancipation proclamation to all the
spiritual slaves in this world. We
lay bound in chains to our own evil desires.
We were slaves to the judgment of the law that revealed to us our
own guilt. We were children
of the devil who tormented us by alternately leading us into sin and
then accusing us of that very sin. Then Jesus became our Passover Lamb. He died and rose. God
then proclaimed to all sinners everywhere this gospel truth: You are
free! See your freedom
purchased on the cross where Jesus shed His blood.
See Jesus face your death and destroy it.
See the angel of death sheath his sword at the sight of
Christís innocence bearing your sin.
And look at the open tomb and see Jesus walk out of the grave.
There is your freedom! There
is your life! There is your
But there is something that would rob you of your
future and bind you to your past. It
is the leaven that is pure poison to your soul.
Purge out the old leaven. It
binds you to slavery. This
poisonous leaven takes on two forms that appear to be opposites but are
in fact twins. The one form
of the old leaven is the idea that since we are forgiven of our sins we
can live in sin without repentance and can celebrate doing whatever our
sinful flesh wants to do. This
was the problem the Apostle was addressing in Corinth.
Members of the church were arrogantly flaunting Godís standards
of right and wrong. One man
went so far as to carry on an affair with his fatherís wife.
It was public knowledge and the congregation did nothing about
People have always turned Godís grace into
license to sin. After Moses
went up to Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God he came down
to find the Israelites engaged in open revelry and immorality.
God had set them free and what did they do?
They returned to the very slavery from which God had freed them.
There is no freedom in being controlled by the desires of our own
flesh. It is in fact the
worst kind of slavery.
The poisonous leaven that would bind us to our past
sins also takes on the form of legalism.
Legalism and license appear to be perfect opposites, but they are
in fact twins. Legalists
think they know how to deal with people who turn the gospel into license
to sin. Their solution is
to protect the gospel with the law.
They teach that Godís forgiveness is not freely given to
sinners and received through faith alone without any obligation on their
part to do anything. Instead, they insist, you must conform to certain legal
standards in order to receive Godís forgiveness.
Legalists think that they are being responsible Christians
because, after all, we canít let people abuse Godís grace. We must oppose cheap grace, they say. They speak of Christian discipleship more in terms of
conforming to religious regulations and less in terms of receiving the
freely given forgiveness of sins that Christís death and resurrection
provide. In the process,
grace is obscured or even lost altogether.
Christians learn to base their faith on how they are living
instead of on the gospel of Christ.
Their own personal commitment to God overshadows the central
truth of our Christian faith, that Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed
for us. While Christ has
given them new and free lives to live they continue to live in fear of
the judgment of the law.
In response both to the leaven of license in
Corinth and the leaven of legalism in Galatia the Apostle wrote: ďA
little leaven leavens the whole lump.Ē (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians
5:9) Purge out the old leaven.
Purge out the leaven of malice and wickedness. The gospel has freed us from lives lived in service to our
own sinful flesh. Purge out
the leaven of legalism. Christ
has brought us freedom from judgment and we will not let anyone take
this freedom away from us. Christ
has risen from the dead. We
are not afraid of our sins, or death, or an unknown future.
We are not afraid of the threats of the law or an evil
The angels said to the women: ďYou seek Jesus of
Nazareth, who was crucified. He
is risen!Ē We have found
this crucified and risen Jesus and we have died and risen with Him.
We are joined to His death and resurrection in our baptism and we
have new lives to live. We
will purge from our faith any leaven that would bind us to past sins
that are washed away. We
wonít permit anyone to place us back under the condemnation of the
law. Jesus has born that
condemnation. He has turned
aside that judgment. He
faced the angel of death and He met deathís demands with His own
blood. By enduring death He
destroyed its power. The
angel of death sees Christís blood and passes over those who, through
faith in Christ, are covered by it.
We celebrate Easter by keeping the festival of
unleavened bread. We no
longer observe the ancient Passover.
It has long disappeared from the church.
But we keep the festival by purging the leaven and leaving it
behind. It remains in Egypt
while we cross into the Promised Land.
This is a land where there is no judgment to stand against us
because our Lord Jesus bore that judgment and removed it from us.
This is a land of freedom in which we may live our lives fully
absolved of all guilt. The law does not define our relationship to God, as if we
must look to see how good we are in order to know how much God loves us.
No, our lives begin anew every day, as we lay claim to the new
life, the innocent life, the eternally blessed life that is ours in our
crucified and risen Savior.
And when malice comes into our hearts and we fall
into sin we will not let it claim us.
We belong to Him who destroyed our sin in His own body.
He is our future. Our
past sins can neither condemn us nor can they claim us.
We are truly unleavened. For
the blood of Jesus Christ, Godís Son, cleanses us from all sin.
He is risen! We shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever,
even as Jesus is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus