Passover for the Lord

Ole Henry Halleraker




Let us first get the language out of the way. I choose the word “Passover” as it corresponds better with the content of the holiday. The reason why I choose not to use the word “Easter” is not as much its pagan background, as the confusion of chicken and bunnies.


I do not believe I am the only one who struggles a bit with this most important holiday. There is no way I can place myself in a state of mind where I can take in the immensity of what happened during Passover that year three crosses were erected outside the city wall of Jerusalem. Neither I am convinced that that is the focus of the message.


The suffering was incomparable, the ramifications eternal. God redeeming mankind is on a level I hardly can take in. There is a chasm that cannot be closed, as I am human, and He is perfect. So, when I try to read the texts as the days of Passover go by, I find I am trying to penetrate the impenetrable. I will never be able to mentally align myself with what happened, despite passion plays and music, worship services and well-written books.


Do I need to?


Let us look briefly at Passover both in the Old and the New Testament to find clues as how to relate to these events.


Delieverance


The twelve tribes of Jakob were slaves in Egypt. They were treated horribly, even to the point of ethnic cleansing, when God decided to intervene.


God is a longtime planner. Eighty years before the burning bush, he prepared the exodus of the sons of Jakob, through the birth of Moses. On the mountain God revealed himself to Moses. He presented himself in holiness and power, and he even entrusted Moses his name, forever holy. The plan was laid, and the man was sent.


Of course, Pharaoh was not going to let his whole workforce leave, of course the divine among the gods of Egypt was not going to bow to the God of a people of sheep herders. Freedom is never volunteered by the oppressor. Freedom is claimed and taken.


And so, the peoples of Egypt were dragged through nine plagues to bend the unyielding will of Pharaoh. And then there was the tenth. God was, however, not letting the firstborn of the sons of Jacob die alongside the sons Egypt. A lamb was slaughtered, a people prepared, blood was put on lintel and posts, night descended, a wail of terror rang from numberless families at the loss of their firstborns, and the exodus was in effect.


Not as much the blood around the doors as the faith and obedience of the sons of Jacob freed their firstborn from death. The angel of death passed them over. This is Passover - death passes you over.


And yet, freedom was not to be found in Egypt. Freedom was to be found with God, and God was in the desert. To own freedom, loss was needed. They must leave life as they knew it, home as they knew it, daily rhythm as they knew it, food as they knew it, comfort as they knew it, worship as they knew it. God as they knew him.


One of the great encounters in human history took place in the desert as twelve tribes and one God met to decide the future. Terms were set, agreement was reached, and twelve tribes were forged into one nation. An unbreakable covenant for eons.


Passover is basically concerned with three terms: death, freedom, and nation.


Our Passover lamb is Christ[1]


He suffered, and he was slain for the atonement of sin for all mankind[2]. Does this mean that the content of Passover changed through his death and resurrection?


I wish to submit to you that the content in many ways is the same, but with a deeper understanding of the necessity of atonement.


Death and resurrection

During his earthly ministry Jesus raised several individuals from the dead, but these acts were signs of the kingdom, and not necessarily a message of life beyond the grave. These individuals were later interred.


There is an understanding of being spiritually dead in The New Testament, but it is not possible to confuse the spiritual and physical death, as the former is clearly understood from the context[3].


Death is death for all mankind, and it is physical. It is how man leaves time and is no more. Death is the prerequisite for resurrection. So, when the Father raises the dead[4], a grave is robbed of its inhabitant. Anything else is ludicrous.


Death is the mother of all fear[5]. Man dreads death, and our most dire and final separation comes from the death of a loved one. No cost seems too high to check death[6], and pending death is the ultimate weapon in the hands of any despot. Death is our final enemy[7].


The understanding of physical death and physical resurrection is very present in The New Testament. The foundation is God presented, not as the God of the dead, but the God of the living by referring to the resurrection of Abraham, Isak, and Jakob. Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection[8], an expression revealing that those who believe in him also will be raised from the grave. It may transcend our understanding when Jesus stated that those who keep his word, will not ever see death. He even stated that those who live and believe in him will not ever die[9].


When we claim that our Christian faith transcends death, we are not talking about religious language fashioned to comfort us in the face of death, but a factual and true hope that alters our understanding of our own end. We do not see grave, we see life eternal. We see Christ.


For the faithful, death does not have to represent fear, as Jesus came to deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives[10]. Faith in Jesus, in the consequence of his death and resurrection, sets you free from the terror of death.


Death has been conquered and robbed of its victory for all those who are in Christ, through the forgiveness of sin[11].


Your sin is passed over as you bow down to Him and are forgiven.


Different blood, different door, but similar result.


Freedom for life


Freedom in The New Testament is to be found with the Lord, and to live that freedom we need to go to him where he is. Freedom cannot be practiced in our familiar surroundings, as that is the context of slavery[12].


Personal freedom is generally understood to be independence - that you are free to make whatever decisions you choose for yourself. This sounds great, as long as you are alone, which you are not. In a romantic relationship you will adjust your freedom to the one you love. In a family there needs to be some basic rules. Once there is society, there will be laws diminishing the individual freedom. One nation will have rules that need to be adjusted to the neighboring nations’ rules, affecting the citizens of both nations.

When you exert your freedom, someone else might get hurt, and you are guilty.


So, God gave his law to mankind, both in natural law, but also through the people of the covenant. The law expresses fellowship and integrity and is therefore summed by the word love. Knowing his law, understanding his will, and still exerting your personal freedom to the detriment of your neighbor, is not only sin, but also rebellion. This makes you double guilty, both towards your fellow man and God, whether you believe in God or not.

Now, guilt is a constant and unrelenting master, and living with guilt is slavery. And this is what the law does, it places you squarely under guilt. Guilt works basically the same way as a mortgage. You will be guilty until it is paid in full. The problem is that you cannot undo what you have done, so you remain in slavery under a terse master.


Passover is a trade. The collective guilt of this world was paid on that cross. Hence, God forced a deal on your master: Whenever a sinner repents, he or she will be forgiven. You are free.


You see, freedom is not an emotion, but a question of getting out from under your guilt towards both God and man.


Once you are set free, other freedoms abound.

· You have the right to be a son or daughter of God[13]. As a child of the living God, you are equal to every other child of God. There is no difference, be it gender, economic state, race, nationality, position – everyone is freed through Passover, and everyone has the same access to God.

· You may enter God’s presence without fear[14].

· You have the freedom of worship.

· You are freed from self-centeredness.

· You are free from the law in The Old Testament

· You have the freedom to love, and be loved[15]

· You have the freedom of knowing God.

· You have the freedom of living in the kingdom of God.

· You have the freedom of integrity.

· You are free to become what you were created for.


Different slavery, different circumstances, but the same Lord. Because of Passover you are free to leave the expectations and values of slavery, and enjoy the freedom God offers. Passover is your freedom for a life abundant.


Nation


Before Jesus suffered, he sat down with his disciples to eat the Passover meal. While eating he took a bread, broke it and said: “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ” [16]


This bread has been broken among his people ever since, and the bread signifies that his sacrifice for our salvation makes us one body together. As we all are partakers of the one bread, we are all one body. [17]


We live in a time where individualism is radically focused. Yet, it is true that we are saved into the kingdom one by one. We do have a personal relationship to the Lord.


Passover, however, makes is abundantly clear that the Lord through his death and resurrection created for himself a people, and that the collective is paramount.


Passover made us a holy priesthood,[18] to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Now, we know that Jesus was the final sacrifice, and that no more sacrifices for sin are needed. Our sacrifices, however, are of a different kind. The New Testament talks about two forms: Us presenting our bodies as a holy sacrifice[19] for the ministry and glory of God, and us worshipping the Lord with our lips[20]. A priesthood is one body made up by many individuals.


The New Testament also presents this priesthood as a temple. While there is only one temple, all the redeemed are living stones making up this temple, supporting and lifting each other.[21] The individualistic view is in danger of presenting a stack of building material, while Passover presents a spiritual house where God is worshipped and given glory.


Likewise, this priesthood is presented as one body, where the faithful are parts of the body, according to function.


The imagery of a tree is also used to present the collective: Christ is a vine, and we are the branches. We draw life from him, and our function is to bear fruit for the kingdom.[22] Another imagery is the cultivated olive tree[23], where the root and tree is what the believers are grafted into. There is only one tree, and both the gentiles and the Jews need to be grafted in, to become a tree of honor for God.


The church is also the bride Christ won for himself[24], and therefore a function of Passover. There is only one bride. There is only one church.[25]


And so, Jesus’ sacrifice during Passover created a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession[26]. This people recognize him alone as their sovereign and bow down to his Word. Due to the love he showed us in Passover, we respond through love towards him and his people.[27] In a world where a major question is: “What is in it for me?”, our ideal is a life where we die to our own will, and submit to him.


This nation is not a static organization with the purpose of maximizing its own outcome. It is, on the contrary, an ever-expanding organism that finds new disciples in every nation, tribe, language, and people. This is the nature of our holy nation, to make disciples. Therefore, we have a constant mobilization going on. In every generation, and in every congregation, we preach the necessity of forwarding the gospel, and we work tirelessly to equip more people to fulfill our given task – bringing the message of Passover to the world and seeing faith taking root in more and more people.


The collective created by Passover therefore has three purposes:


· Making disciples[28]

· Giving glory to God[29]

· Adding to the brotherhood[30]


A nation was formed by twelve tribes in the desert by Passover. A nation was formed by Christ through Passover, and it is drawn from every nation, tribe, tongue and people on the face of the earth.


Conclusion


Passover may be adorned by passion plays and beautiful music, and people may be inspired by unrighteous suffering on a cross. If so, they would be missing the point.

Passover is God’s intervention into a world of darkness and death. Passover is God giving his son as a sacrifice to save the human race from destroying itself in self-indulgence and pride, in unrighteousness and exploitation.


God is the subject of Passover – he is the acting party

You and I are objects of Passover – we are the beneficiaries of his actions.


I will never be able to relate to the suffering of Christ. My emotions will be limited to human empathy, which sets me up to misunderstand, turning that cosmic conflict into a human injustice.


I can, however, grasp and enjoy being set free from the fact and fear of death.

I can also understand and experience freedom from guilt and freedom to enter into God’s presence.

I can, furthermore, practice my citizenship in the holy nation.


Therefore, I choose to not try and force my imagination back 2000 years, to relive those terrible days in Jerusalem. On the contrary, I choose to receive and rejoice in what Passover gave me and every other member of his holy nation.



I have been given the gift of Passover.

And so, I celebrate Passover for the Lord.




[1] 1Co 5:7; Rev 5:12. While the name Jesus, as well as the name Christ, is used 4 times in Revelation, “Lamb” is used 34 times with reference to Jesus Christ. [2] Rev 5:9 [3] The people referred to are clearly physically alive, as in: Mt 4:16; Rom 6:2; Eph 2:1; 1Tim 5:6 [4] Joh 5:21 [5] Hence NT refers to death in some 370 instances, and makes it a high frequent term [6] Covid 19 [7] 1Co 15:26 [8] 1Co 15:8 [9] John 8:51; 11:26 (note that «keep» is a very different word than “believe”) [10] Hebr 2:15 [11] 1Co 15:54-56 [12] John 17: 24 [13] Joh 1:12 – a very real term, not to be confused with church membership [14] A term only understood by those who have entered into God’s presence [15] 1John 4:19 – love here is agape, love based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will [16] From Luke 22: 19-20 [17] 1Co 10:17 [18] 1Pet 2:5. A priest is by definition a person presenting sacrifices. [19] Rom 12:1 [20] Hebr 13:15 [21] 1Pet 2:4-5, Eph 2:21 [22] John 15:1-8 [23] Rom 11:24 [24] Rev 21:9 [25] Hence the distinction between the church of Christ and the churches of man. [26] 1Pet 2:9 [27] 1John 4:19 [28] Mt 28:19 [29] 1Pet 2:9 [30] 1Pet 2:17

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