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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

In The Beginning, The Lamb

Ash Wednesday


Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.


Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering - fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.


Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”


Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.


Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”


“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”


The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”


Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”


But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:1-16


Then one of the Twelve - the one called Judas Iscariot - went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So 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 Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”


He 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 at 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. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”


They were very sad and began to say to him 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 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.


Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:


“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’


But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”


Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”


“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”


But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Matthew 26:14-35


All things – except God – have a genesis, a beginning. God alone is eternal, without beginning, without end. In Him, under Him, through Him, all things have their beginning. So the Scriptures’ opening statement reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”


Out of the darkness, with a powerful word, the world was called into being. “Let there be light,” He said, and there was light. “Let there be grasses, and birds, and animals, and fish,” and the barren earth was foliated and filled with life in the sea and air and upon the earth. And God saw that it was good.


Genesis: In the beginning, the creating, God formed man out of the dust of the ground. He blew the breath of life into the man who became a living soul.


Genesis: In the beginning, God formed the woman from a part of Adam. He set them into the lush Garden of Eden, only forbidding them to eat from one tree.


Genesis: In the beginning, Satan, a fallen angel, came tempting the primal couple, choosing the form of a serpent for his seduction. With cunning words he created doubts about the authority of the Creator and the limitations placed on the creature.


Genesis: The beginning of sin. Adam and Eve reached for the fruit of the forbidden tree – and ate it! The beginning of the break in the relation of the Creator with His creature; of man with God.


Genesis: The discovery of God in His justice and judgement. God cursed the serpent, “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.”


Genesis: The promise of the Savior, who would right the wrong of Adam, and who would crush the power of Satan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”


Genesis: God speaks the Good News. Hope and faith are born into the world. Whatever God would say now to Adam and Eve, the Good News was there to temper it. Out of the garden, and into the world, God sent his creatures. They could not return. Paradise was forfeited – but hope had been born in the promises of God.


Genesis: A child is born, Cain, the firstborn. And then a second son, Abel. Abel grew up in his older brother’s shadow. As Cain assumed his prerogatives as firstborn, Abel accepted his lesser role as second son – the kid brother. To him was assigned the shepherd’s task.


Genesis: The beginning of worship, the response of man to his God. Cain brought fruit from his trees and grain from his fields. But God did not look with favor on Cain and his offering. Abel chose a lamb. God must have told them what a sacrificial offering should be, for we read in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” And God looked with favor on Abel and his offering.


Genesis: The issue of that little worship service was a beginning. Abel had come to it with faith in God’s promises. Soon faithful Abel will be martyred because of it. He will be the first of the saints to walk the streets of glory. Cain left that place disgruntled. His annoyance became anger. His anger smoldered into hatred. His hatred turned to murder!


As quietly as God allowed His Son to be born in a stable, just so quietly Abel laid a lamb on an altar outside of Eden. The lamb seems so insignificant in the story. You can miss it altogether if you don’t watch for it. Our attention is drawn from the content of the sacrifices to the people who offered them. The story seems more the story of Cain, who holds center stage. Abel holds that place for three or four sentences. Neither of them will be mentioned again in all the Old Testament, and only briefly in the New Testament. But the lamb will play an ever-increasing role. It is there at the beginning of man’s history just outside the angel-guarded garden, it will be in full focus on the closing pages of Scripture in John’s Revelation. This is the Genesis of The Lamb!


God used what we call “types” throughout Old Testament history to foreshadow the Christ, who was to come. Like the brazen serpent of Moses, lifted up to save those who were bitten by snakes, so Christ was lifted up on the cross to save us from our sins. And Jonah, three days in the belly of a great fish, is a type of Christ, who was three days in the heart of the earth. So the lamb is a type of Jesus. Again and again God sets a lamb into the history of His people as a type of the Christ.


There came that day when John the Baptist saw Jesus at the Jordan where he was preaching and cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”


Then came that night when the Passover lamb was placed on the table in the Upper Room – set before the Lamb of God, type meeting antitype, shadow meeting substance, the promise meeting the fulfillment. And then, for Abel, for Cain, for Caiaphas and the centurion, for you and me, the hours on the cross when “Christ our Passover Lamb was sacrificed for us.”


Even now we’re under the dominion of the Lamb who was slain, for He is given rule by the Father over all creation. And at the end we will be a part of the great supper of the Lamb, and guests at the marriage of the Lamb.


As silently as the type appears, as quietly as Christ became incarnate, so quietly Christ comes to us. In the silent waters of Baptism, He comes. In the Word, He comes. In the Holy Sacrament of the altar, He comes. He comes to the lonely and despairing. He comes to the sin-sick and the lost. He comes to the burden bearer and the frightened.


But we must let Christ come – with hearts open to faith – with repentance and hope. Through Him we bring our offering to God. We leave our sheaves of grain and fruit, our kindly deeds and generous acts, behind us.


We bring only the Lamb to offer in faith, our sacrifice on our altar. For, in the end, it’s only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who causes our Heavenly Father to receive us with favor. All praise to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.


Amen

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