Remember, Remember!
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Remember, Remember!

Esther 9:20–32  (ID: 2986)

Forgetting is easier than remembering. Alistair Begg explains that Purim was instituted to help the exiled Israelites remember their deliverance from Haman and his murderous plot through God’s providential care and protection. This feast was announced by Mordecai, accepted by the people, and confirmed by Queen Esther. Their deliverance, and the celebration that followed, reminded them of what God had done and pointed forward to the greater deliverance to come in Jesus Christ.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Esther

The Unseen God Esther 1:1–10:3 Series ID: 11703

Sermon Transcript: Print

Esther 9:20:

“And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month [of] Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

“So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the [appointed time of] every year, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.

“Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. The command of [Queen] Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.”


Well, just a brief prayer:

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me yourself within your Word,
Show me myself and show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.[1]

For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot![2]

How many of you learned that at school? Not a single person. There’s no surprise in that. Someone at the back. Oh yes? We have two Brits in there. I was going to say “two educated souls,” but that would not be nice at all. No, there’s really no reason why you would, and you looked at me as I read it.

The words are actually from a poem celebrating the intervention that foiled Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was a Roman Catholic who, along with others, was seeking to blow up the Protestant-controlled Houses of Parliament in 1605, quite a long while ago—in fact, a long time ago from when I was a schoolboy and others like me. But yet, some three and a half centuries after that event, it was still regarded as such a significant event in British history that I and my friends would learn this poem. And the reason, straightforwardly, was to recognize that those who ignore history are almost inevitably doomed to repeat it—that for most of us, it is far easier to forget than it is to remember. And so many times throughout the Bible, the people of God are called to remember things, to remember events, and actually put in place certain things in order to aid with that recollection.

And the events that are described here in Esther chapter 9 underscore the importance attached to remembering what we’ve been referring to as “the great reversal” or as “the great deliverance.” And you will have noticed as I read that the comprehensive commitment to doing so is there, for example, in verse 28: they decided “that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation” and “in every clan” and “province” and “city” and so on.

Throughout the Bible, the people of God are called to remember things, to remember events, and actually put in place certain things in order to aid with that recollection.

Well, what were the things that they were remembering? Well, verse 24 and following give to us a very helpful summary. They summarize helpfully, for some who haven’t been studying Esther with us, the essential deliverance that is at the heart of the book. Because you will see there in verse 24 the references to Haman, who “had plotted against the Jews” and had done so by casting lots. And they had cast a lot in the prospect of the ruin and destruction of the Jewish people. But what they had determined to do had actually boomeranged on them and had come back upon the head of Haman and on his sons. And as we studied last time, we saw that where destruction was apparently the prospect of the people of God, it ended up being liberation; that whereas before their lives had been marked by fasting and by lamentation, now they were to be marked by feasting and rejoicing, and sorrow had been turned to joy. And the little summary is there in 24 and 25.

There is also, then, in the same section and in verse 26, an explanation of the name Purim. Some of us have grown up with a background of understanding this, but for many of us, we’ve no idea what it means. Pur, p-u-r, is the Persian word for “lot,” and in its plural form it is purim. And what it is is a commemorative festival that underscores the fact that although the activity of Haman, which was malevolent and engendered from within his own sinful soul—although that he did all of that and encouraged others to that end, what he was to discover and what unfolds in the story is what Proverbs 16:33 records: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” In other words, the issues of contingency are under the sovereign control of God. If you want to stay up late at night thinking about a big thought, if you can’t get back to sleep, you can think about that. “The lot is cast into the lap”—an apparently haphazard throw of the dice upon which a decision is made—and yet Solomon says that even in that, “every decision” is ultimately “from the Lord.”

And so, as we have studied Esther together, we’ve been discovering that the fate of God’s people is not decided by the throw of a dice—that the people of God are not bobbing around on a sea of chance, that the people of God are not held in the grip of blind and deterministic forces, but the people of God are under the providential care of the one who is working all of the events of life out according, as Paul says in Ephesians [1], to the eternal counsel of his will,[3] where ultimately he will bring all things in heaven and on earth underneath the jurisdiction of King Jesus, so that every piece of history, every discovery of science, every dramatic production ultimately will serve to the end that before King Jesus men and women will bow. It certainly puts a different spin on our preoccupation with the news. It chides many of us for our long faces and our continual carping and complaining when we realize that although “the lot is cast [in] the lap” and so much seems to be unfolding in a higgledy-piggledy, haphazard way, nevertheless, “every decision is from the Lord.”

Now, in this section that we’ve read, you will see that this Feast of Purim is, first of all, recorded by Mordecai. That begins in verse 20. Then, in verse 23, we’re told that it is accepted by the people. And then, in verse 29 and following, it is confirmed by Esther. And that gives us a fair framework from which to begin. Now, remember that as with all the other feasts—the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Passover—as with all these other things, the reason for the establishing of Purim is in order that the people of God will not forget. If we understand that, then we have the big idea.

Mordecai Records Purim

First of all, then, let’s notice how Mordecai recorded these things, if you’ll allow your eye just to scan from verse 20 and on.

There was a spontaneity about what had happened, as you see it in verses 17, 18, and 19. This great deliverance that the people had enjoyed led spontaneously, if you like, to celebration. When people are happy and they have enjoyed the overturning of circumstances that seem to be against them, then it’s no surprise that they would sing songs, that they would eat together, that they would say, “Isn’t this fantastic! Now we were moving towards this particular day of the year in the prospect of our destruction and our ruin, and yet this has all turned out for our deliverance.”

And so, the spontaneous celebration, if that’s what it is, in verses 18 and 19 is now standardized, if you like, by Mordecai as a result of his position as second only to the king and to the queen. He is, if you like, giving this celebration official status in order that the sort of natural reaction of the moment may not be lost over time, so that there would be captured for the people for all time the reality of this deliverance, especially as you get further and further and further away from having ever experienced it, as generation follows generation. That’s why, incidentally, the war memorials are badly, many of them, in need of repair: ’cause it’s a long time since 1945 and ’46. That’s why we consider these things under the little phrase “lest we forget.” So Mordecai says, “Even though you’re rejoicing in this moment, it’s going to be important that we make sure that other generations understand this.”

And this, of course, is in keeping with the pattern of the Jewish people throughout all of their story, isn’t it? For example, remember when the instruction is given by Joshua to set up the stones in the middle of the Jordan. It seems like a strange thing to do. And they set the stones up in the middle of the Jordan. And the people would say, “Why are we setting this stones up in the middle of the Jordan?” Joshua says, “So that in years to come when your children ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ you will be able to tell them. But if we don’t put the stones there, there will be no reminder; therefore, there will be no point of reference.”[4] “If we don’t celebrate the feast, if we don’t keep it as part and parcel of our history, then there will be no ability to reflect upon it.”

It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? That’s why we have monuments. I mentioned to you Simon Winchester’s new book The Men Who United the States. It’s now out. I’m sure you all bought it on the strength of my recommendation. And if you have, you’ve begun to read it, and you know that Ohio features immediately in the book. I was very excited to discover that Ohio is right there, front and center! And not only Ohio, but East Liverpool, Ohio, a place I have never been and had no intention of going until I read the opening chapter of the book and discovered that the conveyancing and the surveying of land pushing westward all began in East Liverpool, Ohio, and that there is an obelisk, or there is a statue, or there is a monument there, which is pictured in the book—which is largely ignored by the entire community, surrounded by litter and parked cars—testifying to the significance of what happened when they determined, “We will apportion the land, and we will make it available for sale.” It all started right back there.[5]

Now, I can tell you’re intrigued by that, and you’re all planning on going this afternoon, aren’t you? Probably not! But it was put there so that we wouldn’t forget—and none of us even knew. That’s the point! That’s why Mordecai does what he does: in order that this would be a commemoration.

We understand the word commemoration. It is instituted in order to commemorate. To commemorate what? The days that brought relief. You can see that in the text: “as the days on which the Jews got relief,” or rest, “from their enemies.” That’s a recurring story throughout their history. And to commemorate “the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday.”

“So, the reason we’re going to standardize this,” says Mordecai, “is in order that we might commemorate, and secondly, in order that we might celebrate,” so that they would “make them days of feasting and gladness”—this is verse 22—“days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” Okay? Makes perfect sense: “We rejoice in the deliverance that is ours. We celebrate it on a horizontal basis, sending provisions to one another as an indication of God’s kindness to each of us, and we do not do it in a way that is selfish, but we dispense some of this largess to those who are in need and to those who are poor,” so that nobody would say, “Oh, this is just a very selfish celebration.”

So, that’s the first point. It’s there. You can follow it up. Mordecai recorded these things.

The Jews Accept the Celebration

Secondly, verse 23, the Jews accepted these things: “So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written.” And then, in that little summary statement, you realize that they understood that there was a higher throne than the throne of Ahasuerus, that ultimately their fortunes had been reversed because of the intervention of God himself—a God whose name is never mentioned and yet a God who appears everywhere. There’s surely none of them would have been in any doubt whatsoever as to the source of the relief that they enjoyed.

And so we’re told that they didn’t merely accept this directive that came by way of the letters that Mordecai had written to them, but we’re told in verse 27 that they “firmly obligated themselves.” They “firmly obligated themselves.” So it wasn’t a case of “Well, that seems like a good idea. We might do it, we might not.” No, they said, “No, we’re definitely going to do this.” That’s the nature of obligation. That’s the nature of duty.

Obligation is almost a dirty word now, isn’t it? You know, we tell people, “I don’t want to make you feel obligated in any way.” Oh yes I do! I want my wife to make me obligated to her entirely. I want my children to be obligated to me in the jurisdiction of parental authority—not when they’re beyond it but when they’re in it. And the obligation that extends throughout interpersonal relationships is first of all an obligation on the part of the individual to God. And they recognize God has provided this deliverance. This feast is a celebration of God’s activity. “Therefore,” they said, “we will obligate ourselves.” You will notice, verse 27: they “obligated themselves and their offspring”—their offspring, their children!

You see how this challenges the sort of contemporary approach to child-rearing? “Do you want any breakfast, honey?” “Nah.” As opposed to “Would you eat your breakfast! You’re gonna die, clown.” It doesn’t sound very nice. You don’t say it like that. I’m not suggesting that. But you have a responsibility to obligate them to eat, don’t you? And not to eat what they want to eat. They obligated their children: “We’re going.” “I don’t want to go. What are these stones for? Why do we have to go stand by the stones again? People think we’re nuts.”

Or think about in Nehemiah’s day, when the Book of the Law came out, and they discovered the Feast of Tabernacles, and they realized they hadn’t been doing it, and they said, “What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna go up on our roofs, and we’re gonna build little places, and we’re all gonna sit up there.”[6]

Can you imagine the kids going, “No we’re not! Nuh-uh-uh-uh! I’ve got to go to school tomorrow. Don’t… We’re not doing that! And if you’re doing that, you and mom and dad, you can go up there, but I’m not going up there.”

“Oh, you’re coming up! Yes you are! Not only are you coming up, but you’re gonna like it.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are. It’s an obligation.”

“Who says?”

“God says. I said.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m your dad, let’s go.”

Contemporary Judaism has a lot to teach us about a lot of these things. They’re not as concerned about this as the average gentile. No. They understand this line. They “obligated themselves,” they obligated their children.

It was going to take obligation, you see. That’s why in Deuteronomy 6 you have that classic passage that we read at the time of baby dedications: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. And these things today shall be upon your hearts, and then you will teach them to your children when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”[7] The progression is vital. If it’s not on your heart, you will never obligate yourself to it, and you’ll never obligate your children to it—if it’s just sort of a construct, if it’s just “something we do,” if it’s just “Well, if there’s nothing else going on.” “Well, we might celebrate Purim, but I don’t know. We may skip it this year.” No. They “obligated themselves” to it, and “their offspring” to it.

And you will notice not only that but “all who joined them”—“all who joined them.” Remember the end of chapter 8? Some of the people said, “Hey, we want to be Jews as well.”[8] Pragmatists, some of them. But maybe some of them said, “Goodness gracious! If God intervenes in this way, we want to know this God. We’ve got all kinds of gods here in Persia, but we want to know the true and living God.” And they said, “Well, come along. We know who the true and living God is.” And so they obligated them to it as well.

Just let me say something to you in passing: our unwillingness to obligate, if you like, those who are in the framework of our influence speaks to them about the things that are important and vital to us. So, for example, let’s say that you routinely come to the second service in the morning. And then Aunt Mable from Minnesota, who doesn’t really like church, she came to stay with you over the weekend. Are you going to say to her, “Well, now that you’re here, Aunt Mable, we need to give up our obligation”? Or are you gonna say, “Hey, Aunt Mable, if you want a ride to the airport, you gotta come with us to the second service”? Now, there’s great skill and wisdom in this, and I’m not laying down a law of the Medes and the Persians. But you’d be surprised how many times the Aunt Mables will actually come along—if they know this matters to us, if they know this is on our hearts, if they know this marks our steps. But when we suggest that their visit can overturn the routine and the rhythm of our lives, then we convey something about ourselves, and we convey something to them about exactly what’s going on. I wouldn’t want to overstate that. I’ve stated it.

You will notice how comprehensive this obligation is in verse 28: “[And] that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation.” So this is not a sort of “We’ll do this for a couple of generations and let it go.” No, “every generation in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.” That’s quite a commitment, isn’t it? “You see how amazing the deliverance was? We faced absolute ruin and destruction. We were dead. But now we’re alive. We never want to forget what God has done. So we’re gonna do this, and we’re gonna obligate ourselves to do it, and we’re gonna make sure our children understand it, and we’re gonna make sure that everybody everywhere in the 127 provinces, both near and far, that they all understand it as well. And we will never allow this to fall into disuse. We pledge ourselves to that.” And here we are, two and a half thousand years later, and it still goes on.

Did you check with your friends this week? I did. I asked questions, anyone that I could find. I phoned the folks at the Maltz Museum. I found a lady who was kindly, and I said, “Talk to me about Purim.” She told me in Reformed circles they don’t hold as tightly to it, but in Orthodox circles it is imperative that the Orthodox Jew, on the occasion of the celebration, attends for the entire reading of the Megillah, which is the Scroll of Esther, and that it is incumbent upon them to have rehearsed in their hearing these things. And on the following day, as it goes from the evening of one day into the new, then the children will be part and parcel of that. The celebratory aspects of it will emerge from the solemnity of the reading of the scroll. And apparently the children all dress up—some of you have come from this background, and you know this—and some would dress up as Mordecai, some would dress up as the queen, and some poor soul would have to dress up as Haman. And cookies are made by the mothers, and the cookies are called hamantaschen, which apparently means “Haman’s ears,” and so the children would eat Haman’s ears. And as they celebrated and as they shouted, every time the name of Haman was mentioned, then they would take their groggers (which I got from the local synagogue), and every time Haman’s name was mentioned, they would drown it out: “We don’t want to hear the name of Haman!” Two and a half thousand years on.

You say, “Well, this is Cleveland. There’re a lot of Jewish people in Cleveland.” Mm-mm. This is everywhere. Just randomly, I went on the website at Harvard University. I thought, “I wonder if there’s anything about Purim at Harvard.” Sure enough, February 23, 2013, 6:30 p.m., the celebration and Megillah reading in Smith Hall. The invitation is “Join us to celebrate and retell the story of Purim.” I said, “Well, let’s go to the West Coast. Let’s go to Stanford.” Same thing: “Join us for the reading of the Megillah and the celebration of Purim.” Why? Because of Esther chapter 9. Because of the obligation of these people. Because they said, “We will never allow this to fall into disuse. We will never allow the generations that follow us to be unaware of what God did when he intervened in our behalf.”

Loved ones, I jump ahead of myself, but that’s the whole point about the nature of the gospel, and the celebration of the gospel, and the holding of the line, and the instilling it in our children, and the ensuring that it passes from one generation to another generation: so if Christ does not return in a thousand years from now, there will be those who stand forward and say, “Were it not for my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, I would never be here.” Because we held the line in our day. Because we were obligated when people said, “You don’t have to be obligated to anything. Don’t you understand the world in which we live? You just do your own thing. It’s all about you, and it’s all about now, and it’s all about the moment.” No, it’s not. It’s all about God. It’s all about then, and the then giving significance to the now, and the now having a place in the future.

Esther Confirms Purim

Mordecai recorded it. The people accepted it. And thirdly and finally, Esther confirmed it: “Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew… ” Remember, it says in the Bible that things should be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Well, here we have the two cousins side by side, and these letters have been sent to all the Jews. And they’ve been sent out, verse 30, “in words of peace and truth.” Lovely phrase, isn’t it? “In words of peace and truth.” The shalom of the rest of the people of God, the truth of God as revealed in his dealings with his people—not an occasion for triumphalism but an occasion for charity and for sincerity. And in the same way, we’re told in verse 31, that the people had obligated themselves and their offspring with regard to their fasts and to their lamenting, now “Esther confirmed [the] practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.”

Because, you see, the history matters. And the history here is the history of the people of God. And the tradition that is established matters. Matters! That’s why Fiddler on the Roof still plays on Broadway. That’s why it’s still worth resurrecting the CD, and playing it again, and listening as Tevye, as the whole thing opens up: “Tradition!” Remember? And how he stops all the time and makes those little statements: “Tradition teaches us who we are and what God expects of us.” And later on he says, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… As… As a fiddler on the roof!”[9]

Now, let me finish in this way. We’ve been studying the Bible long enough now for you folks to understand that all that has been written for us in the past has been written in order that “through endurance and … the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,”[10] so that the deliverances of the people of God in the Old Testament are pointing forward to the great deliverance that is provided in the Messiah, Jesus. That’s why I say to you frequently, “It is important that we learn to read our Bibles backwards.” Because when we read in the New Testament about the deliverance that is provided in Jesus and we go back into Esther, we say, “Well, this, like the liberation of the bondage of Egypt, is pointing forward, so that the people of God might look yet again—as they did—for the one who was to come, for the one who was the Messiah of God, for the one who would intervene and ultimately grant them freedom from their enemies, set them free.” But “he came to his own and his own did not receive him. But to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become the children of God.”[11]

Why wasn’t the sinless Son of God delivered from the cross? The answer is because he was delivered up for us.

Now, you’ll have to do this in follow-up on your own. Let me just get you started on this line of thought, and then you can continue from there. You needn’t turn to these things, but let me just quote to you from Matthew chapter 27. Jesus has now been crucified. And as he hangs upon the cross, they’ve put a charge over his head which reads, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” “Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests”—yes, the chief priests!—“with the scribes and [the] elders”—in other words, those who were in the lineage of Mordecai and Esther, five centuries preceding this, those who are the beneficiaries of all those great interventions, those who are the forefront of the religious orthodoxy of Judaism in the day—the chief priests and the elders “mocked him, saying, ‘[Hey, you know what?] He saved others; he ca[n’t] save himself. He[’s] the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe … him.’” Here we go: “‘He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.’”[12]

“Let God deliver him.” God delivers his people. So why doesn’t God deliver him? There’s the question for the ages, isn’t it? That’s the question that the two fellows on either side were ultimately wrestling with when one of them says, “You know what? We are up here getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. This is a great injustice. What in the world is he doing here? We’re thieves and robbers. This is the crime, this is the punishment. We accept that. But he hasn’t done anything! Let’s see if God will deliver him.”[13] Why wasn’t the sinless Son of God delivered from the cross? The answer is because he was delivered up for us.

Listen to how Paul puts it—and he does it again and again when he introduces his letters. You can go virtually to any of his letters. Let me just give you a couple. Galatians 1:4: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”—here we go—“who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”[14] Why was Jesus delivered up to the cross? So that we might be delivered from the punishment that he bore on our behalf. He does the same thing when he writes to the Colossians. Colossians 1: “He has”—again, the word—“delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us [in]to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of [our] sins.”[15] And classically, he works it all out in Romans chapter 4. But in Romans 4:25, describing Jesus: “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Now, here, my friends, is the great sadness: that our Jewish friends refuse to reckon with the fact that the great relief from their enemies, the great deliverance from bondage, is actually in Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah—that their prophets wrote of him when they wrote, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”[16] “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” In other words, in the same way that here, all those years before—and “that’s why we celebrate Purim: God intervened in order to turn our mourning into dancing, our sadness into joy, our fasting into feasting”—in the same way, and in a far more miraculous way, here now, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgiveness is there for us.

But Paul tell us… And you know his own agony as he mentions it in Romans, how he agonizes for his own people. He wishes, he says, that he was “accursed” that his own people would trust in Jesus as Messiah.[17] And when he writes to the Corinthians, he says the problem is that “their minds [are] hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, [the] same veil remains unlifted”—and here’s the line—“because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.”[18]

And I know that when the rabbi’s wife gave this to my assistant to give to me, that she was intrigued that I would be remotely interested in Purim. And our contemporary world would then say, “Oh, isn’t that nice? I guess we’re all on the same page. I guess we all believe, ultimately, the same things. I guess we’re all in this together.” And the answer is no, we’re not. The only way the veil is taken away from your eyes or from mine is when we understand who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. And our affection for our Jewish friends, our jealousy of their commitment to live opposed, alienated, maligned in a world that pays scant interest in them does not then bring us to the point where we say, “Well then, let’s just stop talking about the things that divide us.” Because my Jewish friends say that Jesus was not the Messiah, and I believe that he was the Messiah. And we cannot logically both be right.

How does this translate to us? Every Sunday is Easter Sunday. Every time we celebrate the sacrament, or the ordinance, we do it in remembrance of Jesus. That’s why Jesus gave to his followers just another simple feast. They were familiar with the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Tabernacles, all of those feasts. Now he says, “Listen here. This is a feast. This is the new covenant in my blood. When you break this bread, when you drink this wine, you remember what I did when I died on that cross:[19] that I bore for you the punishment that you deserve, and I opened up a way for you to walk. And remember this. And remember this too: that I’m coming back for you. I’m coming back for all who are ready to meet me.”

Till we know how blind we are, we’ll never understand what it means to see.

Do you get that? Do you know this great deliverance? Or is your spiritual experience a sort of “Well, I’m kind of interested in these things.” There’s all the difference in that and saying, “You know, I was blind, and now I see. I was trapped, and now I’m free. I was dead, and now I’m new.” Till we know how blind we are, we’ll never understand what it means to see.

Well, let’s pray together:

Lord, as these people all these years ago gathered and shared food with one another, so, when we come together on the occasion that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we share food with one another too. And as they distributed their provisions to those who were in need, so we recognize that you have asked us to do the same, so that it is a day of good news, but we don’t keep it to ourselves. It is a day of celebration, but yet we realize that the longing of our hearts is that others may come to celebrate with us. So, write your Word in our hearts, we pray, and grant us the gift of remembrance today. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Lyrics modernized.

[2] “The Fifth of November” (c. 1870).

[3] See Ephesians 1:11.

[4] See Joshua 4:1–7.

[5] See Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible (New York: HarperCollins, 2013), 10–12.

[6] See Nehemiah 8:1–18.

[7] Deuteronomy 6:5–7 (paraphrased).

[8] See Esther 8:17.

[9] Sheldon Harnick, “Tradition!” (1964). Paraphrased.

[10] Romans 15:4 (ESV).

[11] John 1:11–12 (paraphrased).

[12] Matthew 27:37–43 (ESV).

[13] Luke 23:40–41 (paraphrased).

[14] Galatians 1:3–4 (ESV).

[15] Colossians 1:13–14 (ESV).

[16] Isaiah 53:4 (ESV).

[17] See Romans 9:1–5.

[18] 2 Corinthians 3:14–15 (ESV).

[19] Luke 22:19–21; 1 Corinthians 11:24–26 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.