The Liberation of Passover

“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’” -Exodus 12:26

Read Exodus 12:25-28

Soft candlelight sets the mood. Wine glasses signal celebration. The ornate plate is set with parsley, herbs, an egg and chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and honey. A salt water bowl completes the setting. A quiet hush marks the sacred moment. Christians are celebrating Passover.

Aside from the question of whether a Christianized Passover is offensive to practicing Jews, the romanticized setting is far removed from the Exodus event. Anyone who’s participated in the Jewish Seder with children present remembers a more chaotic event. The contested honor of being the youngest child able to ask the Seder question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” ends in a hullabaloo. From there the well-planned dinner descends into chaos.

This is only fitting for Passover. Israel’s exodus from Egypt was a bloody mess with lamb’s blood smeared everywhere in Hebrew homes and the God-awful death of the firstborn elsewhere. Jesus’ last Passover was interrupted with arguments about betrayal, descending into the violence of Jesus’ trial, flogging and crucifixion.

The Exodus of the Old Testament people of God and the cross of the New Testament are the great liberation chapters in the story of God. The empire flexes its violent muscle. God liberates terrorized, terrified people. What makes this night different is not serenity. What makes this night and—in light of the cross—life itself different is God’s promise to order chaos, free slaves and put an end to terror. Different. Hopeful. What God has begun in the Exodus and at the cross awaits completion on the day of Christ.

Liberating God, in the chaos of our unjust world, give us courage to await full liberation with hope and to work for right with persistence.

Lynn Jost, Ph.D., Professor of Preaching and Old Testament,
Director of the Center for Anabaptist Studies, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary