One of my dearest friends is Jewish; and another one is Greek Orthodox. And of course, a great number of my friends are Christian. So when it comes to this time of year, I usually reflect on the different religious rituals and beliefs and re-read parts of Exodus, the book where so much of the Passover history is first revealed. The Christian Easter happened last Sunday, the Greek Orthodox Easter is this coming Sunday, and Passover started on the evening of April 6th and will run through April 13th.
While we all acknowledge that there are differences between the various religious beliefs, there are marked similarities in the Passover celebration and the Easter events. And don’t worry; there are many deep theological treatises written on all this, but I don’t plan to bore you – just a few of the more obvious connections between the observances. Because most of the time, we are familiar with our own traditions, but sometimes we just don’t take the time, or have the inclination, to understand the connections between the major faith traditions.
For example, in the Passover story of Exodus we are told that lambs without blemish were to be sacrificed. The blood was to be spread on the door frames so the inhabitants of the home would be protected from destruction. In the story of the crucifixion, Jesus was considered the perfect lamb – the lamb without blemish, who was sacrificed for the sins of everyone. Of course, in the Jewish tradition, sacrifices of animals were made for the sins of the people – the same was the case with Jesus. We call this practice substitutionary atonement – the primary difference is that the Christian position is the the sacrifice of Jesus was once and for all – no further sacrifices necessary.
The lamb used in the Passover was not to be divided. People were to invite neighbors or family to share the lamb, but the lamb was not to be divided between households. In the Christian tradition, the Scripture tells us that the crucifixion of Jesus would not include the breaking of his bones – in other words, like the Passover lamb, the sacrifice would not be divided.
We are also told that each person had to partake of the lamb at the Passover. As simple as it sounds, each person had to eat for themselves – one could not eat and have another person satisfied in the process. The same is true with salvation doctrine in the New Testament. Each person must partake of the “lamb”, Jesus Christ, for themselves. One person can’t obtain salvation for another, just as one person can’t eat for another. Each must have a personal encounter with the lamb.
And just as the Lord passed over the homes with the blood on the doorframes and spared the lives of those inside, Jesus provides eternal life to all who accept him and believe that He is the Son of God. While it would be foolish to not acknowledge all the differences, you can see that there are certain similarities in the belief systems of both traditions.
Passover is not the only event in the Old Testament that has ties to Jesus. The story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac is another example that has strong parallels to the life and death of Christ. So once again, the Jewish and Christian worlds share similar elements.
The verse tonight is from Exodus. It is a reference to the Passover and the idea that the people are to remember what happened that evening. From Exodus 12:14, we are told, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.” However, we could also say that the same kind of celebration occurs at Easter every year. We remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday and the resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.
My encouragement this evening is that regardless of your faith tradition you will use this week as a way to draw closer to God. And my prayer is from the Old Testament, the book of Numbers to be exact, when we are told in 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Enjoy the remembrances of your faith traditions during these Holy weeks. Grace and peace,