This is a collaborative post to my blog, spurned by a light-hearted conversation and a visual of me anointing my door post this Passover with Lysol. All jokes aside, there are many parallels in our world today to the world of Israel leaving Egypt. I’ve pulled our thoughts together here. You will find some direct quotes from my brother Lloyd and my dear friend Sophia. May God continue to be our deliverer and may we acknowledge, observe, and share the Passover tradition as Christ did leading up to Ressurection.Nathalie
The majority of today’s world (that grew up outside of Israel and are not Jewish) know very little about Passover. Even the large base of Christians who incorporate the Torah (also known as the first 5 books of the Bible) into their study, minimally acknowledge the practice when Holy Week approaches.
I could barely speak on this with enough detail to constitute a working knowledge of the holiday. “It’s the Jewish version of Thanksgiving.”
Some thoughts came up in our conversation. Why don’t we as Christians observe the Passover? As ‘Jesus followers’ wasn’t this His practice before Crucifixion, don’t we want to emulate what Jesus did? Isn’t there more significance to the Hebrew calendar than our own? What is so important to remember every year so elaborately as to not forget in our own lives today? On the surface level, it’s at least obvious we are facing a pandemic similar to a plague of the Bible times, but maybe there is more to the Passover than we realize. Understanding the roots Passover today can help how we engage with our world today. Revisiting the Passover story and exploring its significance across the Testaments up to today is a grounding experience. It caused me to reflect on God’s sovereignty and how He was and still is concerned about the details.
To simplify this, I decided to challenge us to come up with reflections about the Passover after some research. I’ve combined them here:
- Time with your family
- The importance of faith and obedience
- Following orders in a time of crisis
- The importance of eating together
- What does it mean to remember – taking time to remember
- Freedom from slavery
- Community cleanliness – community healing
Time with family
As with any holiday, this time is usually spent with family, but in the historical context, this time with your family was a direct order. The first 9 plagues of Egypt happened to the Egyptians and not the Israelite slaves. That doesn’t mean the slaves weren’t affected but that they were not the target of the plagues… All except the last plague; death of the 1st born in the land of Egypt. Those that followed, this order spared a life in their household. Even though families are often dysfunctional I’m sure after seeing the first nine plagues they were more than willing to come together.
Today we live in a world where families are separated by thousands of miles and several time zones. We often build lives apart from each other and this time has illuminated to somehow isolated/unsupported they are away from their family. We are often missing the everyday struggles and accomplishments of our relatives and our shared experiences are minimal. Christmas and Thanksgiving are wonderful times to share over meals but it pales in comparison to the cultural bond these families had. It left me wondering “how did this instruction get passed down clearly to every enslaved Jew to do exactly all that was required?!” If you missed one aspect your family would be devastatingly impacted.
As states started shutting down, several of my friends packed up to go stay with immediate or extended family. Some got this direction from our news and some got scolded from their mothers. For us today, family can still be an active refuge in a time of uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is no Moses to look to. Who is our leader? What are those exact instructions?
The importance of faith and obedience
It led me to consider that the enslaved Jews needed to have faith and belief that Moses was sent by God to deliver them. I mean, after seeing nine devastating plagues over nine weeks, you’d think it would have brought them to some confidence. Supernatural things were happening all around them: their masters getting boils, water turning to blood, swarms of frogs and locusts… If it wasn’t devastating to them it was at the very least entertaining.
I think its important to note that God told Moses to start this practice of Passover before they even left Egypt! (Exodus 12:14) The Israelites demonstrated faith for what is to come by following this command. But even more so, if they believed that the God of Moses was there for them they needed to act and OBEY the instructions Moses decreed from the Lord. Where were they gonna find the perfect 1 year old lamb to keep for 15 days and slaughter? Put the blood on the doorpost on the 15th day; Eat in haste, standing up dressed ready with unleavened bread and bitter herbs…? Sounds like a spell or something out of Harry Potter. Yet, those that did it were spared anguish no one would wish for.
The lambs’ blood the children of Israel used in Egpyt to cover their doorposts to ensure the death angel would pass over was only a shadow of the blood Jesus would shed centuries later. The remedy for sin is death and God always knew that only He could cover the price for all of humanity. The blood of an unblemished lamb could only ever be a momentary substitute. A temporary fix for the sins of the entire world. The Passover represents a time to remember that God always provides, and He always provides the best. And just as the Jews could only be spared by actively applying lambs’ blood to their doorposts, so must we actively accept salvation through the blood of the Lamb. JESUS!
Following orders in a time of crisis
Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I cannot help but make a comparison to
our obedience of simple orders to social distance, stay at home, and wash your hands
thoroughly and often. Three simple rules you would think would be straightforward and easily executable…and yet… What grand act of faith do we currently need in order to come to the belief that we will not be affected by this virus if we choose not to obey. Even at the threat of death of ourselves or a loved one, there are still those who would consciously risk their lives and their loved ones lives just to keep doing what they’ve been doing… to keep a sense or normal or not experience FOMO. It begs to wonder, if people wanted to live, if people wanted a better life than they currently have, if people knew or felt that they were in bondage would they act differently?
I heard a pastor say years ago, that the word translated as obedience in the bible also implies that the obeyer follows the orders WILLINGLY and JOYFULLY. Such a definition immediately convicts me and causes me to ask and reflect on whether I think the mandates of my faith are a burden or am I motivated to do them willingly and with a joyful heart.
The importance of eating together
In all of my travels, I’ve come to understand that there is no better way to establish trust than having a meal with someone, especially in their home. That is something that only happens around a dinner table. During Passover Jewish families gather to partake in Seder a dinner/service whose menu holds intense and purposeful symbolization. In this time they are able to remember what God has brought them through by partaking in each course.
This time of year Jewish families around the world gather to remember a miraculous story of escape. Of provision. They eat unleavened bread that represents an escape so quick there was no time to wait for bread to rise. Bitter herbs that symbolize the sting of slavery. And, among other elements, greens to represent the new life to which they were freed.
The word Seder literally means order… and after seeing all that is involved in preparing this feast experience you would say it was named properly. In Luke 22:1-8 Jesus commands the disciples to go and prepare the Passover feast… Now, I understand that would include, wine, horseradish, apples, raisins, nuts, honey, vegetables, songs, unleavened bread (Matzah) with the Matzah linen bag, candles, a special plate for the 6 food symbols, lamb shank bone, a venue to seat all 12 disciples, Jesus, and Elijah, enough wine cups and plates etc…
What does it mean to remember
Ultimately this entire practice is about remembering. If we don’t know our history then how can we expect to correct and prepare ourselves for the future. This practice has allowed the Jewish culture to have a shared memory, the same narrative. Something our country could benefit from greatly. As a Christian, I practice this act of remembrance with my prayer journal so I can recall God’s answered prayers over the course of my life. Remembering God’s faithfulness quells the uncertainty and fear.
I make it a point to remember what others have prayed for and bring it up during prayer when those prayers have been answered because I find, like the prevailing theme in the bible of the forgetful Israelite people, we all are very forgetful about how God is answering prayer, Jesus is pulling an overtime shift interceding for us, and the Holy Spirit is constantly in our proverbial ear guiding us in certain and uncertain times. It is an inner purpose of mine to always acknowledge to the Lord what He has done and is currently doing in my life to show I am mindful of His work NOW! I want my remembering to be a testament that God is not fictional, distant, or some fairy tale but THE Real, True, Living, and Active Being right now!
Freedom from slavery
I remember joking to a fellow Jewish classmate in college, calling ourselves, Brothers of Oppression because we related to enslavement through our respective cultural histories. Yet, in this reflection, it rings ever truer that if we do not remember how we were brought out of the enslavement, bondage, and persecution of our forefathers how easily we are apt to repeat it and not even recognize it when it is happening. Moreover, it begs me to constantly consider whether I am living in an enslaved mindset or am I making active steps to live and behave as the free person I am in Christ.
The blood still works. As my family used to sing…It reaches to the highest mountain. It flows to the lowest valley. The blood that gives me strength, from day to day, will never lose its power.
I keep coming back to Passover being just the beginning of this freedom journey. They didn’t reach the promised land until 40 grueling years later (including enduring another pandemic). There was a new generation at that point who had never experienced Egypt! Freedom from bondage is honestly just the beginning of the journey. We need to have the discipline to practice remembrance and hold to the promise and hope to get to our destined land.
Community cleanliness – community healing
“There is no individual health without community health.”
This was one of the best quotes to come from this time of pandemic. I’ve been on a soapbox recently about people learning to embrace community healing. This new cancel culture has started to overshadow stories of redemption and healing. Rarely do you reach healing alone. At the beginning of this pandemic, I predicted the best way for us to be successful would be to stop movement and the government mandating a shutdown…of everything. The thought of that seemed pretty ridiculous, but when things get bad or you personally lose a loved one, retroactive action isn’t helpful. Passover had collective participation, everyone bought in, they didn’t question.
I would be remiss in this reflection not to mention the amount of times during the Seder one is called to wash their hands. Urechatz, is the Hebrew word in the Seder for washing of the hands after blessing the wine and before eating the Matzah. It is a symbolic cleansing to prepare yourself for the feast. In Christianity and Judaism 101 you learn that Jews must keep Kosher lest they become unclean and be separated from the righteous. If you didn’t follow the 600 plus laws of the Levite law you were unclean, cast out, and even killed in some instances!
Today we are asked by our government, the CDC, WHO, and everyone else to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to stop the spread of this novelle coronavirus and yet this is convicting many in their hygienic practices. This is a cultural practice for the Israelites, and today we need to culturally come together for our community wellbeing. What would it look like for us to focus on systemic holistic health? Healthcare we didn’t have to leave our neighborhood for? Rehabilitation and healing that is accessible and attainable for everyone?
God will always be the ultimate healer and restorer, He created us! Let’s not forget that.