Pesach means 'passed over,' and God passed over, or left them out of the plagues of Egypt, especially that nasty last one. Can you imagine getting your mind around the instructions they were given? Splash some lamb’s blood on the door posts of your house to prevent death. They couldn't exactly refer to old Vacation Bible School lessons to get a grid for this. I know they were accustomed to pagan worship practices which surely involved spilling blood. But I doubt they’d ever been told to do such a thing before— especially by a guy who’d killed another guy and then ran away, like forty years before. So, for most of the slaves, Moses was basically a stranger with a bad reputation. At least a few had to be thinking, Sure, Moses, we’ll get right to that. But he’d been right when all the other plagues came. And it sure looked like Moses’ God was powerful. More powerful than Egypt’s gods. A God like that might be one to trust. I love that He didn’t give them the law until after He’d set them free. Just like us, He freed them first, then taught them His ways. He’s so good!
So they trusted. They swiped blood on their door posts and ate their slaughtered lambs with unleavened bread and the greens they scrounged from their meagre family gardens, nervously wondering what that night would bring. Imagine the next morning, when they woke to find that death had visited Egypt, but passed over them. They barely had time to take that in before they were thrust out of Egypt. We can criticize their whiney desire to return later, but might that have been a case of ‘better the monster you know’? Egypt was bad, but Egypt they knew. In the desert, every day was an exercise in trusting themselves to a God who was unknown to them. Just like us, trust did not come naturally.
Then later, when He gets Moses writing things down for the people to remember, God says that this event is important enough they should have an annual reminder. So the Seder was born…a dinner that contains symbolic components of that long ago event. In the Seder, each generation is to consider the Exodus as if they themselves were coming out of Egypt. Which is interesting, because haven’t we also been rescued out of impossible bondage?
God carefully constructed His plan with all the details He wanted to use, both to set the people free and to set as a pattern for the Passion of Jesus, thousands of years later. The annual celebration became a trail of bread crumbs to signal Jesus’ identity, when He walked the earth. Sadly, only some recognized Him, but how great was the joy of those who did! The earliest believers—who were mostly Jewish—had the delight of discovering the meaning beyond the symbolism in feasts they had known all their lives. And we embark on a similar journey of discovery when we celebrate the Lord's feasts.
So Passover is an opportunity to remember the Hebrew slaves’ deliverance from Egypt, and celebrate our own deliverance from sin and death. To marvel at the perfection of God’s plan, which He’s been unfolding for a very long time—and which will be fulfilled, to the smallest detail. To renew our determination not to return to the familiarity of Egypt, but to press forward into the sometimes scary ways of freedom. To choose every day to depend on God, whom I am still learning to know after 40 years in the faith. A God who never changes, but offers new mercies each morning. A God who makes great by bringing low, invites the last to be first and calls leaders to be servants. The God who makes me hungry for more of Him, so He can give me more of Him, in order to make me more hungry for Him. The paradoxical God who bound Himself over to death (though it could not hold Him long), so I could live free, through my own personal Passover.
"Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who has set us apart by His word and has commanded us
to kindle the light of Passover."