On the night of the first Passover, as described in Exodus 12, no one was permitted to step outside. We are experiencing something very similar in this year of 5780.
Passover is the biggest and most important holiday of the year. It declares the gospel in such a direct way. God brought us from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the Promised Land, from sin to grace.
Every year I usually give a small teaching to my family and our guests on how this holiday might feel outdated in the modern world. Why celebrate freedom when we have so much of it? We are living in a modern democracy, a world so free our ancestors could only dream of it. Then I explain how God’s freedom differs from the world’s conception of freedom. God’s freedom is not the “free to do whatever I feel like”-freedom.
But this year we didn’t feel “more free than ever.” It was just the family (and the lamb puppet that we make Pesach sketches with). The regular teaching I used to have didn’t feel right anymore. We are all imprisoned in our homes. Our ability to move and travel is highly restricted. This has caused some people to go the opposite way – how can we celebrate our Passover freedom when we have no freedom? Pesach felt irrelevant again – but for the opposite reason!
The amazing thing about Passover is that it is timeless. Our current situation doesn’t matter for the Passover story. It’s there anyway. The Jewish people has celebrated it during plagues and during healthy times, during prosperity and during holocausts. Jewish slaves throughout history must have celebrated it too (and we can only imagine what that must have been like). The ancient story of the Exodus, of how God supernaturally brought us from slavery to freedom, never gets outdated.
Why is that? It’s because wherever we are, it connects with our past, present and future. It speaks to us on a national level, but also on an individual level. It incorporates God’s plan of salvation, and it reveals to us God’s character.
Past – It actually happened. It was a real historic event. God took a people of slaves, brought them out of Egypt, and made them his possession. Three and half thousand – ish years later, this people is still around, still speaks the same language, and still lives in the land God gave them. They also “just happen to” be the only people in world history that have returned to an ancient homeland and revived an ancient language. How anyone can see this and not believe that the God of the Bible is real is frankly beyond me.
But it didn’t just happen that one time. God filled the holiday with clues and indications on how he would fulfill it. Yeshua came along and fulfilled it point by point. The lamb of God, whose blood makes the angel of death pass over anyone who has applied the blood of the lamb. The event which brought us out from our slavery to sin to our freedom in the Messiah. This also actually happened in the past, but with incredible significance in our day and age. Billions of people have had their lives changed and turned around by putting their faith in him. Again, the one person who claims to be this lamb of God, also just happens to be the most famous Jew in world history who has brought more people than anyone to believe in the God of Israel – is this again just a coincidence? I don’t think so.
But it also connects with us on an individual level. If you are a born-again believer, this also signifies your own past. You were a slave to your sin, your urges and passions. It was not a “freedom to do whatever you feel like” – it was a slavery to your sinful desires. At some point in your life, God reached out and saved you. He brought you from death to life, and into his kingdom.
When we celebrate Passover, we are not only talking about the past – we are reliving it. We taste the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs. We drink the wine leaning to the left. We reduce the second cup of wine with one drop for every plague, reducing our joy and signifying our grief for what happened to the Egyptians when they turned their backs to God. After the festive meal we relive the first communion. We find, “resurrect” and eat the afikoman, the unleavened bread which before the meal was broken and buried, symbolizing the body of the Messiah which was broken, buried and resurrected to bring us from slavery to sin. After that we take the third cup of wine, known by the Rabbis as the cup of the Messiah, symbolizing the blood of Yeshua. We are not just retelling – we are reliving what God has done for us.
That is the glorious past that Pesach symbolizes – our justification.
Present – Pesach is not just about past events. The freedom we obtained at the Exodus wasn’t temporary. It’s not just a story to tell kids to help them fall asleep. It’s a freedom we bear with us today as well. Wherever our people has been, whatever we have been through, whether pogroms, plagues, persecutions or slavery – we still carry that original freedom with us. No one can take that away from us. Free people, freed by God in a supernatural way, is who we are. It’s the Jewish spirit that has enabled us to endure so much.
This is true about you too, on the individual level. God’s grace, taking us from slavery to freedom, is still ongoing. He brought us out to a desert. It’s hard out here. We sometimes long back to our slavery. Life was easier, in a way. But we shouldn’t forget that it was slavery, and we must never go back. We must keep our eyes focused on the Promised Land, where God wants to take us. This is the present aspect of Pesach. Your personal salvation is not depending on one event in the past, that you at some point decided to follow Yeshua. If you made that decision, but didn’t follow through, didn’t express it through a changed life, didn’t actually leave your slavery, then you are still in Egypt. Your salvation today is determined by whether your life is still marked by your love for God. Of course, there are spiritual ups and down, but in the long-term we should always be on a steady uphill journey. Being saved needs to be who you truly are – and no sin, problem, issue or pandemic will ever take that away from you.
That is the glorious present that Pesach symbolizes – our sanctification.
Future – All Israel shall be saved. This is a prophecy that Paul the apostle told the Romans. I don’t know if it will happen within my lifetime, but I do believe with all my heart that it will happen. God has a special place in his plans for the people of Israel, and he will fulfill it. Just a few hundred years ago people told C. H. Spurgeon that he was crazy for believing, based on the prophecies on the Bible, that a State of Israel would one day come into being. He was right. If God fulfilled that part of his promise, the physical restoration of Israel, then he will also bring about the spiritual restoration.
On the individual level, God has a plan for you as well. He knows your heart, and he knows exactly what his plans are for you, even if you don’t. Yeshua defeated death and sin once and for all. If you have put up the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of your heart, death will Pass Over you too, and you will find yourself in the Kingdom of Heaven. Think about that for a minute. It is actually going to happen. Within less than a hundred years you will be there. The end times will, much like the Exodus, be filled with plagues and great miracles of God as well. That’s also part of the future aspect of the holiday. This plague might be an early “birth contraction” of that. Eventually we will be at the wedding of the lamb, and we will see the true meaning of Pesach, and then nothing else will matter.
That is the glorious future that Pesach symbolizes – our glorification.
This article originally appeared on Tuvia’s blog, April 10, 2020, and reposted with permission.