Sunday, July 19, 2020


    Passover, along with the Feast of Weeks and the Festival of Booths, is one of three ‘Pilgrimage Festivals’ celebrated by ancient Israel (and modern Israel as well, although they no longer require pilgrimage). Passover is an early spring festival. Pentecost (Weeks) is an early summer festival celebrating the early harvest-first fruits. Booths (or Tabernacles) is a late summer festival celebrating the final harvest. All three required making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and presenting the appropriate sacrifices. Passover has been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Pentecost was fulfilled by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost-the first fruits of the New Passover (Acts:2-ff). Booths has yet to be fulfilled.

            Passover is a festival of redemption and release, marking the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham:

GOD told Abram: "Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you.
I'll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I'll make you famous;
you'll be a blessing.
I'll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I'll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you
." Genesis 12:1-3 (italics mine).

            Passover is also the conclusion of an epic (if one-sided) battle between God and Pharaoh. Every plague signified the defeat of one of Egypt’s many gods, culminating in Pharaoh himself (and his army) being crushed in the Red Sea. Israel went down to Egypt an extended family and came out a company of freed slaves, ready for God to mold into the nation which would become God’s special treasure, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). This is how Israel would be called to live out her vocation to bear the image and demonstrate the likeness of God who called her. This is how all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham. During her desert formation the Tabernacle in the wilderness would become a significant part of Israel’s life and call and we will come back to it, but for now we will simply say it is the place where God first comes to meet his people-the place where heaven and earth come together.

            This then will be-more or less-our key to understanding Passover in light of the cross, where ‘Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures’. The Israelites were freed from slavery to Egypt so that they could become God’s chosen nation, called to bring God’s presence to earth and to live-corporately and individually-as God intended life to be lived. In this way they would become the means by which all the families of the earth would be blessed. That was the plan, or so it seems. It didn’t quite work out that way.

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