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Jesus is Better

A Passover Lamb

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(8/26) Part4 - As we open the pages of Scripture, I’d ask that you go to Esther 2:19. I mentioned to the youth Friday night that as we study God’s Word one of the things that will help us understand and here in Esther in particular, is to be looking for the sins, the mistakes, and the tragedies, to see how they complicate the story and how they bring pain into people’s lives. You see God put these stories here for our instruction that we could learn from other without subjecting ourselves to the same painful consequences.

So, as we pick up the story we’re going to begin in chapter 2:19.

Esther 2:19-3:15

19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai's instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.

21 During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. 23 And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

3 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

3 Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?" 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai's behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business."

10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 "Keep the money," the king said to Haman, "and do with the people as you please."

12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman's orders to the king's satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews — young and old, women and little children — on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.

15 Spurred on by the king's command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered. NIV

1. Esther’s Private Faith

So, at this point, nobody knows that Esther’s Jewish, because Mordecai had told her, "Don’t let anyone know of our belief, our family background, and our nationality as belonging to the God of all creation. So, it’s like, don’t click that box on your Facebook page. Don’t let anybody know. Don’t Twitter or tweet anything out. Whatever you do, don’t let anybody know that you believe in the God of Israel."

Now, let me just say, that sometimes it’s okay not to lead with that. Let’s say you’re going into a job interview and they say, "Well, tell me about yourself." And so you’re like, "Well, I love Jesus with all my heart. Every day, I read about Jesus, I pray to Jesus, and I sing to Jesus. Do you know Jesus? You need to know Jesus. And I’m here to tell you about Jesus." You see that may explain your unemployment. Sometimes it’s just not the best way to start a discussion.

But on the other hand, if your whole life is concealing your relationship with God because you don’t want to suffer publicly, you don’t want to be mocked, you don’t want to be opposed, you don’t want anybody to not like you, then what you worship is not Christ, but ultimately, your convenience and your comfort. I believe that Esther and Mordecai’s decision was one of comfort. So it was like, "If everybody knows what we really believe, some people won’t like us, and it could hurt our position and status in the community; therefore, let’s hide it."

Some of you have been taught that faith, religion, or spirituality is a private thing... It’s something that you need to hold within you, but the God of the Bible wants you, if you belong to him, to be public with that faith. Jesus said,

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matt 10:32-33).

So faith must be public… it’s never private. The Bible says it this way…

"How can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Rom 10:14)

We want others to know the goodness of God… a God who loves us… a God who gave himself for us… so that they might love him too. You see, we are a means by which others come to hear about the God of the Bible, and if we conceal our relationship with him, we are being unfaithful to him… but for so many, their income, their job, their politics, their family, their social network, their relationships, their comfort, and their convenience trump Christ. And that is the way it was with Esther and Mordecai… Mordecai’s instructing her… "Don’t tell anybody we believe in the God of the Bible."

But you and I, we want to have a public faith. We want to go public with our faith… We want to be baptized… We want to stand up in worship with hands raised high… We want to take Communion together because that’s a public thing. We can’t stay quiet, because for us, it’s Christ over comfort!

2. Mordecai’s Public Faith

So in verse 19, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, he’s transacting business, and he overhears these two men making plans to take out the king… these two guys are going to try and kill the most powerful man on earth. It’s an assassination plot. This would be the lead story on CNN. This would be international news.

So Mordecai "told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king..." So, the king’s officials go out and research it because this is treason… this is serious… so it’s investigated and they found out it was true. The assassination attempt was uncovered and the two officials were hanged in the gallows.

Now you’d think that Mordecai would get an award, a gold star, a lifetime supply of jellybeans… or something, right? What does Xerxes do? Chapter 3, verse 1 says, "After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman..." He promoted Haman… He gets a throne. He’s like a little king. He’s a little god, but here’s the problem. Haman sits on this throne and Mordecai doesn’t bow. So it’s an awkward moment… everybody’s bowing and Mordecai’s just standing there giving Haman the evil eye.

All of a sudden, Mordecai’s gotten tough hasn’t he? Up to this point, he’s been a total coward… I mean they come along and say, "Hey, we’re taking your teenage daughter to the Persian Playboy Mansion to sleep with the king." And he doesn’t say anything… he doesn’t do anything… he doesn’t fight it… he just goes along with it. But now all of a sudden he’s like, "That’s it! I’m going to take my stand here on this bowing thing! You can sleep with my daughter, but bowing that’s where I draw the line."

And that’s a weird place to draw the line isn’t it? You know here’s a Jewish man and sleeping with his teenage daughter is okay… that’s not a problem… but this bowing thing… he can’t do that. That is some mixed up thinking isn’t it?

So, in verse 3, the king’s officials asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?" Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai's behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew."

Uh-oh. Now things have really escalated haven’t they? Day after day they spoke to him and Mordecai is holding his ground. He wouldn’t listen to them, and all of a sudden he pulls out the trump card… all of a sudden he tells them he’s a Jew… all of a sudden, he pulls out his religious beliefs. "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you guys that before, you know like for forty years. Whoops. Oh yeah, I’m Jewish."

How many of you are like that? You keep your faith a private matter until it benefits you, and then all of a sudden you’re totally committed…

You see up to this point, Mordecai’s living in Persia… he’s not supposed to be there… he’s in rebellion against the God of the Bible… there’s no evidence that he loves God… that he prayed, read the Scriptures, tithed, went to synagogue, or sang songs of praise. I mean he doesn’t even defend the honor of his daughter. He’s eating the king’s food; you know with a little bacon on the side… doesn’t care if it’s kosher… he’s a total compromised hypocrite, and as soon as he gets in trouble. He’s like, "Oh, I’m Jewish, don’t I get a ‘get out of jail free’ card? I have a religious exemption."

Let me ask you this: how many of you have found yourself in that place? There is really no evidence that you’re walking with God… but you’ll pull out the card when it’s for your convenience. That’s what Mordecai does. "Oh, I’m Jewish, doesn’t that help?"

3. Haman’s Retaliation

No… it doesn’t help at all. Look at verse 6: "Having learned who Mordecai's people were, (Haman) scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead (He) looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes."

So the whole "I won’t bow down thing" sort of backfired on Mordecai didn’t it? Now Haman is infuriated and he’s like, "Then I’ll kill you and everyone else who’s like you!" Haman attempts to become the first Hitler… he sets in motion a plan to destroy an entire community of people… to annihilate them just because they’re God’s covenant people.

And yet in this passage there’s a glimmer of hope… we miss it because their calendar is different… but here in verses 7 and 13 of chapter 3, it gives us an indication of the timing. It reminds us that in every generation, there are those who would rise up to destroy God’s people, but God our Savior delivers us from their hand time and time again. You see, Haman’s decree for the murder of God’s people, is sent out just before the Passover, which connects us, which takes us all the way back to Exodus chapter 12. And there we find God’s people in a different nation: it’s not Persia, now it’s Egypt. There’s a different ruler: it’s not Xerxes, it’s Pharaoh. But the similarity is that both are worshiped like a god, both are ruling over God’s people, and both are abusing them.

And the problem is that God’s people are in exile away from home on both accounts, because of their disobedience and the discipline of a holy and righteous God. And so they need to deal with their sin so that they could be delivered from their slavery, their bondage, and their exile. And so in Exodus the announcement is made that death is coming to every home with one exception… except those homes that acknowledge their sin and repent of it.

And so the faith of God’s people is an inward conviction that becomes an outward action.

And the Israelites take, based upon God’s commands beginning in Exodus chapter 12, a perfect lamb without spot or blemish, identifying it as a sinless substitute, and they take that animal and they slaughter it so that the animal dies and it’s blood is shed. It’s an illustration that the wage… the penalty… the cost for sin is death, and the innocent animal dies as the substitute.

And then, in faith, as a demonstration of their faith, the Israelites take the blood of the animal, and they cover the doorway to their home, showing outwardly and publicly, unlike Mordecai and Esther who want to have a private faith. That this is a public faith, that they worship the God of the Bible, that they acknowledge they’re sinners, that they deserve death, hell, and the wrath of God… but that there’s a perfect substitute that has shed its blood, paid its life, without spot or blemish, a lamb was slain for us.

And then that night, death comes through the nation, and it brings death to the first-born son in every home with one exception… those homes that are literally covered there doorways by the blood of the lamb in faith and repentance.

And so the decree from Haman is made just prior to the Jewish Passover. And just as God delivered the Jews from Egypt, he will deliver them from Persia, and all of this is leaning toward, pointing toward Jesus. And you see the whole Bible is one story with one hero and His name is Jesus. Jesus is better! So Jesus comes and just like Mordecai and Esther worked together as family, Jesus worked with his cousin, John the Baptist. And when John sees his cousin Jesus coming toward him he said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

You see like Xerxes, Jesus is a King, seated on a throne, but he does something that Xerxes never does. He gets down off his throne, and he comes into human history, and he humbles himself to not just see us, but to become one of us, because our King Jesus loves people, he serves people, and he knows people.

And so God becomes a man… the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… he is the fulfillment of Passover… This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7: "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." Jesus is our Passover, and what happens is Jesus comes, our King is better than Xerxes, our King has a better kingdom, yet like Mordecai to Haman, we don’t bow down to him. We are sinful and arrogant and yet in spite of our arrogance Jesus doesn’t act like Haman. He doesn’t initiate a spiteful, angry, vengeful assault against us. No instead he loves us and serves us.

And like the two men that we read of in Esther chapter 2, we plot the King’s murder. We conspired to murder the King of kings. And unlike Xerxes, he doesn’t have us crucified. He allows us to crucify him. And our humble, loving, gracious, servant King, looks at the very people who have plotted to kill him and says, "Father, forgive them…" (Luke 23:34).

Jesus forgives all of our sins, Jesus works out all the mistakes, and Jesus takes the worst thing that could have ever happened and turns it into the greatest glory as He rises from the dead. Only Jesus, because he is so much better and this whole Book is about him. Jesus is better!

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