(Based on Rev. Kevin Parviz’s 2000 Lenten Series, published by Concordia Pulpit Resources)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Esther 9:20 Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all
the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and
far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar,
and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22 because on those
days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which
was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a
holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and
sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor. 23 Thus the
Jews undertook what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had
written to them. 24 For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the
adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them
and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them. 25 But
when it came to the king’s attention, he commanded by letter that his
wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on
his own head and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.
26 Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And
because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this
regard and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and made
a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who
allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these
two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed
time annually. 28 So these days were to be remembered and celebrated
throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city;
and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their
memory fade from their descendants. (NASB)
The Feast of Purim commemorates events that took place between 400 and
500 years before the birth of Christ and just before the intertestamental period.
The events and the Feast are recorded in the Book of Esther.
Thus far we have covered four Jewish Feasts. The first three, New Years,
the Atonement, and the Feast of Booths were all feasts commanded by God. They
were given by God and had specific themes and sacrifices associated with them.
Last Wednesday we covered the Feast of Hanukkah, Dedication, which is a feast
commemorating the revolt of the Maccabees against the Syrians, which took place
between the Old and New Testament.
This feast was different from the others. The Old Testament makes no
mention of this feast and there is no command from God that it be celebrated. It
simply became a tradition and was a long standing one by the time Christ was
born. The only mention of the Feast of Dedication is in the Gospel of St. John.
Jesus appears to have observed it at least once in the Gospel records because He
was in Jerusalem at the portico of Solomon as the Feast was being celebrated.
So three feasts commanded by God. One feast not in the Old Testament and
not commanded by God. This week then we have a feast that is “in between.”
The institution of the Feast of Purim is in the Old Testament. I just read it,
but it is not commanded by God. It was instituted and decreed by Mordecai the
Jew and Queen Esther. 28 “So these days were to be remembered and celebrated
throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and
these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade
from their descendants.”
The Book of Esther covers a time between 500 and 400 B.C. when the Jews
had been exiled from Jerusalem and were scattered throughout the land. During
this period of time a Persian king named Ahasuerus, in Greek Xerxes, ruled 127
provinces from the Upper Nile to India.
Now the story recorded in the Book of Esther looks something like a
Shakespearian play. In fact, some think the book of Esther served as a model for
some of what Shakespear wrote.
I will do my best to give you a bit of the history here, while keeping in mind
that this is a sermon ultimately about Jesus Christ.
Xerxes had a wife named Vashti, who was a pretty bad wife and caused the
king a lot of trouble. So he set her aside. Eventually he took a liking to a pretty
young lady named Esther, a Jew, though he did not know she was a Jew at the
Now Esther was orphaned. She was raised in Persia and was adopted by her
Jewish cousin Mordecai. He was a father to her and when it became known that
King Xerxes was interested in Esther and wanted take her to be his wife, Mordecai
advised Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, which she did.
In order to keep tabs on his daughter, Mordecai often hung out at the gate of
the palace. One day, he overheard a plot to assassinate the king. He passed that
information onto Esther and Esther to the king. The coupe was cancelled due to
the death of all the participants.
Time passed and a man named, Haman found favor with King Xerxes.
Xerxes wanted to honor Haman who had proven very helpful to him for reasons
unknown. So he commanded that all should kneel down before Haman whenever
he passed by. Being a faithful Jew, Mordecai could not do that. That displeased
Haman greatly, especially since Mordacai and Haman’s paths crossed outside the
gate on a regular basis.
As punish for Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman, Haman not only wanted
Mordecai dead he wanted the entire Jewish race in all 127 providences
exterminated. At the urging of his wife, Haman builds a gallows to hang Mordecai
and devises a plan to exterminated all the Jews. All that was needed was a date, his
own “D-day.” So he had the pur or lots cast to determine the month when he
would have Mordecai hung and all the Jews exterminated. While the king knew
and approved of Haman’s plans to exterminate the Jews, he seems unaware of the
Now while Haman was busy going about the business of planning the
extermination of every Jew in the land, especially Mordecai’s, King Xerxes
decides to do some reading late one night. So he reads the official chronicles of
his own reign and is reminded of how Mordecai saved his life and his kingdom
from a coupe and asked himself, “Did I ever thank Mordecai for what he did?
Ooops I forgot.”
He tells Haman that there is a man who has been of great service to him, but
who still to this day has not been probably thanked. He asks Haman his advice on
how to thank the man properly. Haman, the ego maniac that he was, though that
the king was talking about him. So he suggested royal robes, a great parade on
horseback, and proclamations telling one and all what a great man he was.
Xerxes follows his advice and orders that the plans be made. While Xerxes
makes plans to give Mordecai a parade fit for royalty, Haman builds a gallows for
very same man.
The plan to exterminate the Jews is known by Esther and Esther tells her
father. Mordecai pleads with his daughter to tell her King of her heritage and to
intercede for her fellow Jews, but at first she is too afraid, afraid for her own life.
But these words change Esther’s mind and give her the boldness she needs
to reveal herself to her husband and king. Esther 4:13 “Then Mordecai told them
to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any
more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and
deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s
house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for
such a time as this?’”
She tells the king the whole truth, her blood line, The Jews, Mordecai, the
gallows, and Haman. Out of love for her, the king repents of the plan and has
Haman hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
But the king had a legal problem. He had already given the order to attack
and kill all Jews at the appointed month, Adar, the twentieth month. It appears
there was a rule. Once a command of a king had been given, it could not be
rescinded by anyone, including the king. So the king issued a new order. The
Jews were given permission to attack and kill anyone who attacked them.
There are ten chapter in the Book of Esther. Eight of the ten are devoted to
the story of Esther and Mordecai and to the trust Mordecai had in the Lord God to
preserve His adopted children and to make good on His promises. Two of the ten
chapters are devoted to the bloody retribution by the Jews against their would-be
exterminators. The whole bloody mess lasted but two days. Facing extinction and
knowing the time when the attacks would come, the Jews rose up and in two days
slaughtered their would be attackers.
Thus “the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for
their descendants . . . so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days . . .
so these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every
generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim
were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their
Every year practicing Jew gathers together for this two day festival to read
the story of Esther and Mordecai and celebrate the victory. They celebrate the
events of the Book of Esther because the Jewish race was saved from genocide.
What they celebrate unwittingly is the salvation of the means by which the
The Jews celebrate the penultimate, the thing of secondary importance, the
thing second to the last thing. Christians celebrate the Ultimate – the last and more
important, the coming of the promised Messiah. Christians celebrate the
fulfillment of God’s promise to preserve the Hebrew line for the purpose of the
Hebrew Son, who would be conceived in the womb of a Hebrew girl and born in
the house and city of David.
Now both are important, but the prior serves the later. When non-Christians
and Jews (and unfortunately way too many Christians) read the Old Testament,
they see it as a book about war and blood shed for the purpose of establishing and
keeping a nation of Hebrews. To them it is a political story and the Messiah a
political character. The wars and blood shed that fill the pages of the Old
Testament are in the service of political kingdom of this world.
Right thinking Christians cannot deny the bloody history of the Old
Testament and the constant fight to preserve the Hebrew people. But this bloody
history happened and was recorded so that all would know that God had given a
promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed by Abraham’s Seed. The
Messiah would be born of a Hebrew virgin and in the house and city of David and
no plan of sinful man could prevent it.
Mordecai understood how the Lord God worked in history. He understood
that God would not break His promises. 4:14 “For if you remain silent at this
time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you
and your father’s house will perish.”
That should put all of us in mind of the explanation to the Second Petition
of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism: “Thy kingdom come. The kingdom
of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition
that it may come unto us also.” That’s the kind of faith Mordecai had.
The Book of Esther is an interesting inclusion in the Old Testament canon.
It is the only Old Testament book that does not contain God’s name. Some think
that the book of Esther was written at a time when the Jews were not allowed to
openly worship and reference the Lord God, Yahweh Elohim.
Yet in spite of this fact, the scroll of Esther was received into the Jewish and
Christian canons because of the story it told. To people of faith it shows how the
Lord God guided history to preserve the Hebrew line and to fulfill God’s promise
that from them, the Savior of the world would come.
Just as Jesus could not be killed by King Herod, or the people of His
hometown Nazareth, or by Pharisees and Jews who took up stones at various
points in the Gospel to kill Him, God the Father would not allow Jesus to be killed
until the time was right. So was the story of the Hebrew people in every time and
in every generation of the Old Testament. He saved His people in the flood. He
saved His people from famine when He led them into Egypt by Joseph. He saved
His people from slavery and likely extinction in Egypt. He saved people time and
time again from war and exile, century after century.
Mordecai got his parade, royal robe, and crown. Esther 8:15, “Then
Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and
white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and
the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.”
Esther and Mordecai had become the instruments of God’s hand. He saved
the Jews and kept His promise. Jesus was given a parade, a royal robe, a purple
garment, and crown of thorns. Jesus heard shouts too. Crucify, crucify Him. And
there was rejoicing. The priests, Levites, scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees all
rejoiced over their victory on Good Friday.
Jesus could have summoned an angelic army to stop the Jews and Pilate. He
did not. Indeed when Peter drew his sword and cut of the high priest’s servant’s
ear, Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which
the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” The only blood that would be
shed this time, was Christ’s blood.
Jesus’s first advent put to an end two types of blood sheding. His sacrifice
put to an end the continue blood sacrifices of animals for the atoning of sin. It also
put to an end, the history of war and blood shed undertaken for the sake of the
Messiah’s bloodline. No longer was the temple needed for sacrifices. No longer
were the Jewish nations and people of Israel and Judea needed. The Messiah had
come and our sins have been paid for.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord