The Passover: History and Ourstory
By Raje Ballagan
Few celebrations can compare with Passover for Believers; it is an opportunity for us to celebrate and honour God for redeeming us and allowing us to participate in the liberty of his people, from slavery, bondage and oppression in Egypt, into a full life, provision and safety in the Promised Land. What grace!
During this festival, through the Seder meal, the Jewish People both teach and celebrate their rescue from Egypt; the beautiful details and key themes are commemorated during the Passover meal: the story of their exodus is read out loud with careful pauses for incorporating sacraments which represent the sacrifice, protection, vindication, and redemption this story signifies, as God’s providence for His people.
As we see in the book of Exodus, the extrication of the Jewish people from state sanctioned bondage and restriction was tumultuous. As a nation, Egypt was gaining from the labour of the Jewish people and the loss of such volumes of free output was not conducive to Pharoh’s ambition and wealth. His greed led him to perpetuate his cruelty and so in delivering vindication and justice, God had to mete judgement.
This came in the form of devastating plagues, but even in His judgment, God is merciful and He allowed a way of escape to demonstrate His love; He provided an atonement through the sacrifice of the sinless, in the form of a spotless lamb. The innocent blood of the lamb represented atonement and as such, when the Hebrews painted their entrances with this blood, death and judgment could not enter their homes.
Not only did God provide the atonement, He made every other provision His people needed; a leader in the form of Moses, a priest in the form of Aaron, financial provision from the Egyptians and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea by His very own hand, to allow His people to cross into a new land where they could thrive, be free and have national sovereignty in their own right.
When Judgment for sin came to Egypt, it came to all, for all have sinned (Romans 3:23), and God is just and fair. This means that death would have visited the homes of the Hebrews as the Egyptians, except for the grace of God in providing a substitute, a payment for sin at the hands of another. Now, for centuries, the grace of God to the Hebrews stands as a testament to God; revealing to the world that God’s heart is for reconciliation, and that with Him, there is mercy. As David declares to God; “But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:4).
The mystery behind the atoning blood of the Passover lamb, has been revealed in the glory of Jesus! We know that Jesus made clear that He delighted to celebrate the final Passover meal of His life with his disciples (Luke 22:15-16), and He demonstrated that He Himself fulfilled the rescue of God’s children by providing a perfect and final sacrifice, true redemption and eternal salvation through His own death and resurrection:
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Luke 22:19-20
With such clarity, Jesus explained that He is the spotless, innocent, Passover lamb, bearing the burden of human sin, that we may be redeemed from its wages, which are death (Romans 6:23). He went further, declaring in the scripture above, a new covenant that is made by the pouring out of His blood. What is this new covenant exactly?
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.” Hebrews 8:10.
The new covenant makes us the Chosen People, adopted into God’s own family as co heirs with Jesus and sharing those traits which define filial relationships; the similarities, the defining and unique features of inheritance, character and continuity. Think about how glorious this is, that not only are we set free from that which differs and thereby separates us from God, sin and depravity, but we are now able to think, feel and act in accordance with God’s ways of being!
We can fulfil our obedience, we can now be Holy and perfect in the way God has called us to be, because we “have this, the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). We are able to think about things and approach matters, with a Christlike world view because the Holy Spirit renews our mind with a Kingdom mentality.
This is what the bible calls transformation! (Romans 12:2) But this is a heart and mind transformation for our God is Sar Shalom, He has designed us as whole and integrated beings and we worship in wholeness: heart, soul and mind (Luke 10:27). This style of worship is about embodying the very story of God’s love for us as His creation, we worship as those who are the subject of God’s love and our worship is the expression of our heart and mind desire to reciprocate His love, to pour it back to Him in adoration and gratitude.
This embodiment of the lived story of being in relationship to a God who reveals Himself, is defined as a foundational principle of the Torah:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up Write them down, and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gate.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
A clear pattern is laid down in this scripture: worship, declaration and enacting of symbols and sacraments. This is how we take our story from our intellect, into our lived experience; we live it! Acting out the beliefs and stories of our faith in God means that we take ownership of the story, we possess and profess it as ours, as we possess and profess Jesus as our Saviour.
The understanding of this principle has been glorious within the Judeo-Christian tradition; from the very first Passover in Exodus, centuries of tradition have been formed, combining liturgy and sacrament based on Jesus’ instruction to continue in remembrance and re-enactment of the act of love and sacrifice, providence and redemption that His fulfillment of the Passover signifies.
From the recently revived Celtic Christian practice to the Coptic Christian traditions that they are in fact based upon, and the Anglican and Catholic rituals so easily recognisable by us in the UK today, their foundation is in the ancient story of God’s sacrificial act of redemption and reconciliation with the descendants of Abraham in Egypt. We who are drafted into Abrahams’ line through the true prerequisite of faith, can and should be living out our story so that it becomes ingrained into our minds and hearts, defines our belief about ourselves and our world, and stands as a witness to all around us. Let’s begin now by joining in the Passover celebration as the feast of redemption, the feast of the new covenant in Jesus!