Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Vigil 2014, Shaftesbury

Gen 22:1-18
Every Easter we recall, and celebrate, Christ’s victory.
Tonight I want to focus on one of symbols of that victory, namely, the victorious lamb.
This year, and we vary it every year, our Paschal Candle has a wax image of Christ represented as that Lamb:
He was, we know, the lamb that was slain. But, in this image He is pictured not dead but “standing”. But, nonetheless, He is pictured “slain” also –he has a sword sticking into Him. Both these parts of this image are taken from the book of Revelation that refers to the Lamb in glory of Heaven. The text describes the throne of God, of how all the earthly powers cast their crowns before Him, and there, standing before the throne, is the Lamb, the Lamb “standing, as though slain” (Rev 5:6).

He is pictured this way IN HEAVEN. i.e. he is FOREVER “slain”
–forever He stands on our behalf as the one slain for us, the one forever presenting this sacrifice on our behalf, what is therefore the one “eternal” sacrifice (Heb 9:11).
-the one eternal sacrifice that is the very same sacrifice, the very same Christ, made present in the sacrifice of the Mass upon the altar here.
But, note, though He is presented as “slain” He nonetheless “stands”
–forever He is victorious, forever He is triumphant, forever He “stands” having defeated Satan.
And so, in this image, He carries His triumphant banner.

The “lamb” is the pivotal sacrificial animal in the Old Testament.
In the Passover, it was a lamb that was sacrificed: 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old” (Ex 12:15). And, if you recall, the blood of that sacrifice was smeared upon the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites, so that when the mysterious Angel of Death (or ‘destroyer’, Ex 12:23) passed over Egypt it would see that these were households faithful of the Lord, faithful to doing what the one true God had commanded them, in this case: keeping the ‘passover’ ritual, so that the Angel of Death ‘passed over’ them and spared them.
The Passover is symbolic at many levels, but in terms of sacrifice, it is symbolic of our need to have our sins ‘passed over’ –WE TOO need some sacrificial blood that will be the sign smeared on us, so that we too might have our sins ‘passed over’.

There was a ‘type’ a ‘foreshadowing’ of this, in our second reading tonight: Abraham, Isaac, and another lamb.
Isaac didn’t know what was happening, of course as it turns out Abraham also didn’t know what was going to happen either,
But Isaac DID know that if they were going to sacrifice they needed a lamb: “here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen 22:6)
He, himself, was to be sacrificed, to be the lamb.
But, as Abraham said, in words he may well have not expected to come true, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”(Gen 22:8)
And so Isaac’s life was spared.

As I preached some years ago, those words of Abraham echoed down the centuries as a prophecy, “God Himself will provide the Lamb” –the Lamb to be our sacrifice, the Lamb to take away our sin.
So that, when John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus by the River Jordan he cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God”(Jn 1:29), -Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.

What we celebrate tonight is that there was such a ‘lamb’.
A lamb who was the burnt offering for our sins,
Who, through sacrificed, was not defeated,
Who rose again, Who is forever victorious, who “stands” forever before the throne on our behalf.

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