Passover and Its Deeper Meaning of Deliverance
Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. (Exodus 12:17)
Monday, April 14 marks the first day of Passover, the holiday that recognizes the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. While Jews often commemorate Passover with a Seder and eight days of eating unleveled bread, or matzah, the holiday is also important for Christians and people looking to deepen their relationship with Creation.
As the story goes, Moses was instructed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Because the Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and let the Israelites go, God sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians. The last plague was the worst: every firstborn in every household in Egypt would be killed. But God spared the Hebrew households that had painted the sides and top of the doorways with lambs blood.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)
Because the holiday is so often associated with the deliverance of Israelites out of Egypt, its meaning for Christian deliverance is often lost. But according to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Last Supper occurred during the Passover Seder.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)
Although Jesus was betrayed during the Last Supper and eventually killed, his death isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Christians. Like the lamb that was sacrificed to spare the firstborn of the Hebrews’ houses, Jesus was sacrificed to deliver Christians from the slavery of sin. For both Jews and Christians, Passover represents a time of renewal and deliverance — a time when we should give thanks for God’s blessings.
And the celebration of the holiday in the spring shouldn’t be overlooked. Another name for Passover in Hebrew is Chag He-Aviv, which in later Hebrew connotes Festival of the Spring. Many aspects of the Jewish Seder, from the fresh herbs to the hard boiled egg, recognize a renewal in nature. Perhaps it’s a reminder to us all again that God has the power to deliver us from the barren and cold winter to the beautiful fruits of spring.
If you decide to celebrate Passover this year, you may want to consider thinking about our relationship to nature. Have our addictions to oil and material possessions enslaved us? Does technology hold us captive and remove us from nature? And if so, how can we be saved? Maybe this time God is looking for us to deliver ourselves.
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